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Solicitor negligence compensation claims

We understand the impact that a negligent solicitor can have on an individual or business, particularly as you rely upon solicitors during key events in your life, such as buying or selling a property or business, drafting a will or inheritance tax planning; as well as when embarking on litigation. However, solicitors can fall below the standard expected of them in which case they may have been negligent.

If you feel that your solicitor has failed to act as instructed or in your best interests and that you have suffered a loss as a consequence, you may have grounds to bring a claim.

What is solicitor negligence?

Professionals, like solicitors, are required to exercise reasonable skill and care when acting on any matter. Occasionally the work carried out by the professional falls below the standard that is reasonably expected and as a result of the poor level of service an individual may suffer a financial loss. Situations where solicitors have been negligent include:

  • failing to act in accordance with client instructions
  • failing to advise a client as to their exposure to legal costs
  • providing negligent advice on property and business transactions
  • failing to issue a claim before the expiry of a relevant limitation period
  • providing negligent advice about whether it is prudent to settle a claim
  • missing court deadlines
  • mishandling litigation or employment tribunal claims

If you have suffered a loss because of your negligent solicitor, then we can advise you whether you have a claim, and we will help you to recover any losses you may have incurred.

How to bring a negligence claim against solicitors

Professional negligence is a very complex area of law, and it is essential to follow a specific set of rules (including the “Professional Negligence Pre-Action Protocol”) in order to bring a successful claim. In addition, there are strict limitation periods within which your claim in the courts must be started (for more detail see below).

It is therefore advisable to obtain early legal advice to avoid the pitfalls of bringing a claim. Our specialist claims team of professional negligence lawyers has the experience to advise you on the merits of your potential claim and help you to recover your losses. We will guide you through the process of bringing a claim against your solicitor.

If you believe that you have suffered a loss due to your solicitors’ negligence, then contact us today and our team will be able to discuss your options with you.

Key contact

Richard is a Partner and an elected partner on the firm’s board of management.  He is also Group Head of the ever expanding dispute resolution team at Hugh James. He conducts major commercial disputes frequently with an international flavour including commercial claims, mining disputes, shareholder and partnership disputes, professional negligence claims, contentious IT disputes, injunctive relief and insolvency.

Our professional negligence claims against solicitor’s experience

Recent and ongoing cases where we have successfully acted against solicitors include:

  • acting for a well-known sporting organisation in a multi-million-pound claim against its former solicitors. The claim against the negligent solicitors settled favourably before trial
  • successfully compromising a claim against a negligent solicitor on behalf of a client who suffered a catastrophic injury. Our client had negligently been advised to reject an initial settlement offer following their injuries. The claim was settled, and we recovered damages exceeding £160,000 for our client
  • bringing a claim on behalf of a vulnerable adult who was negligently advised as a minor following a personal injury claim. The initial claim was grossly under-settled as a result of the solicitor’s negligent handling of the claim
  • acting for numerous clients where deadlines for care-home fees have been missed
  • advising a company on the legal and financial implications of severing the final salary link in fetter of the scheme rules and deeds undertaken by the trustees of the company’s pension scheme. We are also assessing a potential negligence claim against the former legal advisers and actuaries
  • settling a high value claim against a negligent conveyancing solicitor who failed to carry out the necessary pre-purchase searches which resulted in the later discovery of a footpath running through the land
  • acting for a seller of land whose solicitor negligently failed to include proper provisions to retain rights of grazing over common land at the time of sale
  • representing a client whose solicitors negligently failed to secure a charge over the defendant’s property at the conclusion of a trial which resulted in the defendant selling the property and removing his assets from the jurisdiction
  • acting on behalf of a client in a high value claim against a firm of solicitors who negligently settled our client’s claim at an undervalue
  • recovering costs awarded against a client where the solicitor had negligently failed to follow the relevant pre-action procedure
  • acting on behalf of a client whose solicitor failed to provide advice about relevant funding options for litigation and failed to advise on the costs’ implications of not accepting an offer to settle. The amount awarded at trial did not exceed the settlement offer and our client was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs
  • acting in conjunction with our nationally renowned Nursing Care Department, we regularly advise clients in respect of claims against negligent solicitors who handled applications for the reimbursement of continuing healthcare costs. Often these claims arise from the solicitor having failed to take action within the relevant limitation period which prevented our client from recovering their money from the relevant health board

Your questions answered

The thought of having to stand up in a court room in order to recover your losses can be a very daunting prospect. But litigation is often the last resort and many claims settle long before reaching trial. There are many different “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) options available that can be used to attempt to settle a claim, including mediation, arbitration and negotiation. These may be more cost effective than proceeding to trial. Our lawyers have vast experience of successfully settling cases via ADR and will advise you whether this option may be appropriate for your case.

There are time limits that apply to bringing a claim in professional negligence. Generally, if you wish to pursue a professional negligence claim it must be brought within six years from the date of the breach of contract (in a claim for breach of contract), or within six years from the date when the damage is suffered (in a negligence claim).

If, however, the document that formed the contract was written as a deed then it is possible that the relevant time limit for bringing a claim is 12 years. For example, if your accountant negligently prepared your annual returns on 1 January 2017 then the breach occurs in contract on the date on upon which the negligent act occurs, i.e. 1 January 2017. You would have until 31 December 2023 to bring a claim. However, if your loss only accrued when those accounts were filed which resulted in you paying more tax than you should have, then the date of loss will be the date on which you made the payment. If that payment was made on 1 May 2017, then you would have until 30 April 2023 to bring a claim. If, however, you did not become aware of your loss within the initial six year limitation period then it may be possible to bring a claim after the initial limitation period has expired. In these situations, you may be able to bring a claim within three years of the “date of knowledge” of the negligent act, providing the claim is brought within the “longstop” period of 15 years.

In addition, different time limits apply for professional negligence claims involving personal injury, or negligence in respect of latent damage not involving personal injury. Bringing your claim within the relevant “limitation” period is the essential first step to bringing a successful claim. The rules can be extremely complex and full of pitfalls. It is therefore important to seek legal advice as early as possible to ensure that you are able to bring a claim.

No, not necessarily. As a general rule, the default position is that the unsuccessful party in the litigation will be ordered to pay the successful party’s costs. However, it may be possible to purchase appropriate insurance cover to negate the risk of having to pay the other side’s costs. We have extensive experience in obtaining appropriate cover and have links with a wide range of After the Event insurance (ATE) providers who may offer insurance that will ring fence these adverse costs from the outset of a case. ATE is a type of legal expenses cover taken out after a dispute had arisen and is designed to protect against the risk of having to pay an opponent’s legal costs if you are unsuccessful in your claim. The policy is usually taken out prior to proceedings being issued and before any significant legal costs or disbursements are incurred. In some circumstances the cover can also be extended to cover your own disbursements incurred during the litigation process such as your own counsel and expert fees. The level of cover is determined on a case by case basis by the insurance providers. The application process involves supplying the insurance provider with full details of the claim and a view on the likely prospects of success. This assessment will be undertaken by us and counsel during our initial review of the claim. We can therefore complete the application process for you and obtain quotes on your behalf.

There are many different options available for funding a claim. We have outlined some of the most common funding options below: Many clients choose to fund their cases privately. In these circumstances, we will charge a standard hourly rate (agreed with you at the start of the case) and you will be required to pay this regardless of the outcome of the case.

If you are funding the case privately, you should consider your exposure for both your own legal costs as well as any liability for your opponent’s costs before bringing a professional negligence claim. You will only become liable for an opponent’s costs once court proceedings have been commenced and if you were ultimately to lose or discontinue the action.

Alternatively, it is possible to fund a claim using Conditional Fee Agreements (CFA’s). These arrangements are commonly known as “no win, no fee”. Under the terms of a CFA, our fees will only be payable if the claim is successful and the majority of these costs will be met by the losing party to the action. If, however, you lose the case you will not be liable for our fees and any expenses that are subject to the CFA (although you will be required to pay your opponent’s costs).

We will determine the merits of any potential professional negligence case at the outset and should the prospects of success appear favorable to you, your case can qualify for funding via a CFA. It is also possible that you may have legal expenses cover under an existing insurance policy, such as your household insurance policy, or your motor vehicle insurance policy. This is known as “Before the Event Insurance”. If you think your legal expenses may be covered by such a policy then please provide us with a copy of the insurance policy when we initially discuss your claim and we will assess whether this may be an option. We are happy to discuss the circumstances of your case with you and identify the most flexible and appropriate way to fund and run your case.

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