Professional Negligence: Making a Claim

When you’ve paid good money for a professional service, you obviously expect a reasonable level of competence from the person or company you use. Unfortunately, even professionals can make mistakes or provide misleading advice. It can be especially disappointing when someone you trusted to take care of a matter properly fails to deliver to the standard you anticipated. While disappointment alone isn’t adequate grounds to pursue legal action, you may be able to bring a claim for professional negligence if you can satisfy certain criteria.

What do I need to establish in order to bring a professional negligence claim?

In short, as a claimant you need to prove that:

  1. The professional owed you a duty of care
  2. There was a breach of that duty of care
  3. You suffered harm or loss as a result of that breach

Duty of care

Broadly speaking, a professional is someone considered to have expertise in the services they provide. As such, they have a statutory duty of care to perform their responsibilities with reasonable care and skill. Their services should reach the standard of a reasonably competent person in the same industry, profession or trade, be that accountancy, finance or engineering, for example. A duty of care may also be set out in writing in a contract or terms and conditions. Although contracts may have clauses limiting professional liability, the courts can ignore these if they find them to be unfair.

Breach of duty

We all make mistakes. A small, honest mishap that a comparable professional in the same field might make probably wouldn’t be enough to qualify as a breach of duty. The advice or service given needs to have been demonstrably below the standard expected or be in breach of an express or implied term in your contract. When looking the professional’s conduct, the courts use a test of ‘reasonableness’. To prove a breach of duty, you need to show that a reasonable, responsible person in the same profession would not have acted in the same way as the professional in question.

Loss or harm

This can take different forms, e.g. financial loss, injury, property damage. Not only do you have to establish that you suffered loss or harm, but you need to prove that this was caused by the professional’s breach of duty, i.e. ‘but for’ their actions, you would not have incurred loss or damage. If you would have suffered the loss regardless of the negligent act in question, your claim would fail on the grounds of causation.

When assessing loss, the courts will compare the claimant’s actual position with what their position would have been had there not been a breach. It should be noted that any claimant is wise to be wary of committing contributary negligence. There is a duty for the claimant to take reasonable steps to mitigate the damage and refrain from doing anything that may increase the loss.

Who can help me with my professional negligence claim?

Professional negligence claims can be quite complex and need to be filed within certain time limits, so it’s usually best to seek expert advice as soon as possible. The key is to find a solicitor who has specialist knowledge in this area. They will be able to advise you on the strength of your case and guide you through the legal process should you decide to pursue a claim for compensation.

At Rowberry Morris, we understand how upsetting and stressful a professional negligence dispute can be, especially if you’re up against a large company. Our highly experienced mediation and alternative dispute resolution lawyers will do their utmost to help you reach a prompt and fair outcome.

If you have a claim you’d like to discuss, please get in touch with your nearest Rowberry Morris office for more information.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.