If you believe your legal case was undervalued and under settled as a result of your solicitor’s negligence, contact our negligence experts free on 0808 164 080 or request a call back and we’ll call you.
The valuation of a claim is an important part of a Solicitor’s role. It can determine how much a claim is settled for, and ultimately how much compensation the client receives as a result. If a solicitor is negligent in valuing a claim, it may either not proceed as it should have done or it may settle for a sum below what it is really worth. As it is near impossible to reopen a settled claim, it is very important that a solicitor accurately values the claim at the time it is being run. If a claimant has their claim mistakenly undervalued and/or under settled, they will need to rely on instigating a negligence claim against the original solicitors working on the case to get compensated for the mistakes they made.
There are many ways a solicitor could undervalue a claim, causing it to settle for less than its worth. This includes mistakes made by less qualified staff who are handling the claim or failure to instruct appropriate medical professions to give their opinion on injuries sustained.
It is important to note that not every under-settled case will give rise to a negligence claim. In order for this to be the case, it must be shown that the actions of the solicitor fall outside how a reasonably competent solicitor practising their duty of care would have behaved in the same circumstances. Simply thinking your claim was worth more than it was settled for will not be enough to prove negligence.
Solicitor negligence may be apparent where the solicitor uses the wrong method of valuation, or where a claimant has been rushed into settling their claim, especially where they are unaware about the likely value of the claim or the implication of early settlement if they agree to settle.
Signs that the claimant was not aware of the fact they were settling the claim prematurely, or that the legal adviser should not have done so, include the following:
- The claimant was never made aware of the likely value of the claim and the correct approximate settlement sum
- They were rushed into a quick settlement by the legal adviser
- The legal adviser did not take the risk of future complications into consideration (meaning early settlement is not appropriate, perhaps because of future needs such as ongoing care or house adjustments)
- If the claimant does not have mental capacity to make their own decision about settlement and should therefore have been represented through a responsible person (which is called a ‘litigation friend’)
Along with these signs of negligence, there are many different ways that a solicitor’s actions could be viewed as negligent in valuing your claim, including the following:
Missing heads of loss
Valuing and settling a claim requires considering what we call the ‘heads of loss’. These refer to the various things that you lose out on as a result of the circumstances of your claim. They can generally be split into three categories:
These are for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity, which refers to the reduction in your quality of life following an injury. This might include changes to your work and social life. Depending on the extent of the injuries, and the individual circumstances of the person involved, the award will differ. Generally, most solicitors are able to value the ‘general damages’ side of the claim correctly, but they sometimes fail to take into account other losses under the heading of ‘special damages’.
Any financial losses and expenses you have endured from the date of the accident to the date the legal matter is concluded. These will include things like loss of earnings, if you have to take time off work following the injury, as well as costs for travelling to medical appointments, and the cost of getting cared for during your recovery. To substantiate these types of damages, the claimant will need to provide evidence such as payslips and receipts.
These usually only apply to serious injury claims whereby the injured person’s life has been drastically changed as a result of the accident. If this is the case, future losses should be factored into the overall valuation of the claim, such as loss of future earnings if the person has to give up work, loss of future pension and the cost of future medical treatment.
In order to value a claim appropriately, all three heads of losses should be carefully considered, if appropriate. If the solicitor dealing with your claim has failed to properly assess all the losses involved with your claim, they may have not valued it correctly.
Having junior or unqualified staff leading to first offers invariably being accepted
The structure of a law firm’s office might be such that junior members of staff are given a lot of responsibility. Whilst on the whole this can be effective, it can also mean mistakes are made more frequently, including the acceptance of lower than appropriate first offers of settlement.
Missing discrete injuries by not getting appropriate medical experts
In many personal injury and clinical negligence cases, the choice of medical expert is one of the most important aspects of the claim. This is because some injuries are very specific and as such require a medical professional who specialises in a niche area. A common example of this is where a neurologist is not used for a discrete brain injury or post-concussion syndrome.
Settling too early before the medical position has been finalised
Sometimes it takes a long time for medical professionals to give their opinions on an injury sustained. Multiple tests and visits to various medical professionals may be required, which can hold up the progress of the claim. If an offer to settle the claim is accepted during this process, it might be lower than what it should be had the solicitor waited to get the medical position. If the medical position supported the claim, the amount of compensation lost by settling before receiving it may be drastic.
What can I claim?
Each claim is different depending on the circumstances of the negligence. As a general rule, your compensation level will at least be equivalent to putting you back in the position had the negligence not happened.
What time limits are in place?
To bring a professional negligence claim, you must be in time, which is known as the ‘limitation period’.
Generally, if your solicitor has failed to perform to the professional standards required of them, and you have suffered damage or loss as a result, you have six years from the date of the negligence occurring. This is different to the limitation period for personal injury claims, which is three years.
There can be exceptions to this time limit, for example, if you were not aware of the negligence until a later date. However, it is important to seek legal advice as early as possible to avoid any issues with limitation dates.
How is the claim funded?
Our professional negligence lawyers are happy to discuss fee options and advise clients under a wide range of fee structures including working under:
- existing legal expenses insurance,
- a fixed fee,
- traditional hourly rate retainers, or
- a “No Win, No Fee” basis
The Next Steps
If you have been let down by an expert and want to find out more about, or start, a professional negligence compensation claim please call our professional negligence lawyers on Freephone 0808 164 0808 or contact us online.