Professional Negligence Solicitors - Claims against Lawyers

Sadly negligent solicitors do exist but, like other professional advisers, they are required to have Professional Indemnity Insurance to compensate clients where they have been negligent.

Ironically, to bring a claim against a solicitor you need a solicitor but one that specializes in professional negligence claims against other law firms & someone who will fight such claims on your behalf without fear or favour.

Like all professional negligence claims these can be complicated but not if you instruct the right people to help advise you as to whether your previous solicitor

  • failed to meet the required standard of care in acting for you
  • in failing to do so has been negligent as opposed to just providing a poor service
  • has been negligent in such a way that you have suffered financial loss or what is known as a “loss of chance”
  • has acted in such a way that you should lodge a formal complaint against the firm seeking compensation for inadequate professional advice if you cannot prove negligence

There are many ways in which a solicitor can be negligent & they include the following 

  • missing a limitation date – the date by which court proceedings have to be issued
  • not complying with a court order
  • not identifying losses you could have claimed
  • not issuing proceedings against the correct defendant
  • getting the law wrong
  • not instructing an appropriate expert
  • generally failing to properly investigate your claim & obtain appropriate evidence  
  • failing to advise you on Capital Allowances in a commercial property transaction

Missing a Limitation Date

All claims are subject to a limitation date i.e. a date by which court proceedings have to be issued. These can vary:

  • for a personal injury claim it is 3 years but then there may be what is called a “date of knowledge” calculation
  • it is different for children and other protected persons
  • for a professional negligence claim it is 6 years

However, calculating the limitation date is not always that simple and so it is best to get advice on that at the outset. The less time that is left in which to investigate a claim before proceedings have to be issued may mean that a solicitor will not want to take your claim on, so call us now or you may be too late!

If your solicitor missed the limitation date for your claim and the court has refused to allow proceedings to be issued late or, because of some other error by your solicitor, that will amount to professional negligence on the part of the law firm. You can then sue the solicitor.

You need to show that your claim had a reasonable prospect of success so that you have suffered a “loss of chance” & you can then claim damages from the solicitor

Failing to comply with a Court Order or to serve Proceedings in time

Once proceedings have been issued the court will “manage” the process that results in the claim coming to a trial. Judges do this by setting strict timetables for what each parties’ solicitor has to do. A failure to comply with a timetable set by a judge can see serious sanctions imposed on the party whose solicitor is at fault including the ultimate sanction of striking out the claim. That would leave the party disadvantaged by this sanction needing to get advice as to whether he could bring a claim against his solicitor.

Court proceedings have to be served within 4 months of the date on which they were issued. For a personal injury claim the claim form has to be served with

  • particulars of claim clearly identifying what you are claiming & why
  • a medical report
  • a schedule of your financial losses

If for any reason service of the proceedings is defective your claim may not be capable of being pursued further.

If you are prevented from pursuing (or defending) a claim which had prospects of success because proceedings have been struck out it is highly possible that your solicitor was negligent meaning that you could then bring a claim against his firm.

Not identifying losses you could have claimed

If you have a claim for professional negligence, we will investigate what losses you were likely to have recovered including losses your solicitor may have failed to identify or properly calculate. In the case of a personal injury claim these could include:

  • loss of earnings
  • the cost or value of care & assistance you needed
  • rehabilitation treatment charges
  • future losses – cost of surgery or ongoing treatment
  • your being at a disadvantage in terms of finding alternative employment
  • vehicle losses

These are just examples of what you might have been entitled to claim. If your solicitor did not advise that you could have claimed for these items he may have under settled your claim and, as a result, have been negligent. 

Not issuing Proceedings against the correct Defendant

Prior to issuing proceedings your solicitor should have established who the correct defendant was. The fact is that quite often errors are made

  • the name of the limited company for the defendant may be wrong
  • the defendant may not have owned the land where the relevant accident occurred
  • a company or individual may not have been responsible for your claim at the time it arose
  • some defendants have been overlooked & not joined in the proceedings

Problems can arise when the defendant is no longer trading or has changed its trading name. If the name of the defendant is wrong then your claim may fail and if the limitation period has expired there will be no opportunity to rectify this fault. You could then be ordered to pay the costs of the defendant against whom your claim should not have been brought – hopefully your solicitor will have taken out Insurance to protect you against that risk!

Providing incorrect legal advice (getting the law wrong)

You are entitled to expect your solicitor to know the law that is relevant to your legal problem or, at the very least, to find out what it is and advise you accordingly. The advice given may well dictate personal or business decisions you make that could have significant financial implications for you if the advice on which those decisions were based was fundamentally wrong!

If you consider that 

  • your solicitor has advised you incorrectly
  • that you have relied on that advice
  • that as a result of so doing you have suffered financial loss

then you may be able to allege professional negligence by your solicitor.

Your solicitor may have instructed a barrister on your behalf. The solicitor is still under a duty to ensure that any advice given by a barrister is accurate & correct. If it is not correct then that may entitle you to bring a claim against the solicitor.

Not instructing an appropriate Expert

If your solicitor fails to instruct an expert to prove your claim and/or your claim fails due to insufficient expert evidence your solicitor may be negligent. If, for example, your claim was that an architect had designed a building in a way that made it uninhabitable & your solicitor did not obtain a report from an independent architect identifying how yours had been negligent, then your claim would probably fail due to the absence of such an expert’s report.

Sometimes a solicitor fails to get permission from a judge to obtain and rely on evidence from an expert which can seriously prejudice the prospects of success of your claim or the damages you may be awarded.

This may amount to negligence on the part of your solicitor.

Generally failing to properly investigate your Claim

Your solicitor is expected to reasonably & properly

  • investigate the basis on which your claim can be pursued
  • contact witnesses to see if they are able to assist & if so take proper statements from them
  • obtain any other supporting evidence & to do so in a timely manner before it becomes impossible to do so

and if they do not do so they may be negligent. You would need to show that any negligence has resulted in your suffering financial loss. if you can establsih that then call us to make a claim against the solicitor.

Capital Allowances - Commercial Property

More and more negligence claims are being pursued where solicitors (and others) have failed to advise clients about the availability of Capital Allowances available to the owner (seller or buyer) of a commercial property.

This is a complex issue you can read more about by clicking on Capital Allowances - if you think you lost out on what could run into thousands of Pounds call us now on 0345 052 3529