What is Professional Negligence, and Who Can I Claim Against?

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Professional negligence may occur when a professional acting for you does something wrong, which results in you suffering financial loss.

The type of professional you can bring a claim against is someone you have paid to provide an expert service to you, such as a solicitor, barrister, surveyor, architect, accountant, financial advisor, or tax advisor.

This is because the professional has a duty to act for you with the care and skill expected from a reasonably competent professional acting within that area of expertise.

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What is Professional Negligence and Who Can I Claim Against

Limitations to professional negligence claims

You cannot bring a professional negligence claim against public bodies such as the NHS, local councils or Government departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions or the Department for Health and Social Care.

These bodies may owe you a duty of care under a different area of the law, but they would not satisfy the legal test for negligence.

Professional negligence claims cannot be brought against trade unions, although those unions may refer you to a professional, such as a solicitor or legal representative, who you may be able to bring a claim against if they are negligent.

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Limitations to professional negligence claims

Is poor service different to negligence?

It may be the case that you have received poor service from a professional, and they may not have dealt with your matter as well as they should have done.

For example, you may have had to chase them for updates, or they may not have returned your calls and emails as quickly as you’d have liked, or at all.

Whilst this is understandably frustrating, poor service is not the same as negligence, and a professional negligence solicitor will not be able to assist you in bringing a claim for poor service.

In that scenario, you may be able to claim compensation through the Legal Ombudsman.

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Is poor service different to negligence

Complaints about poor service

If you have experienced poor service from a professional, there are steps you can take without needing to instruct a solicitor:

  1. Firstly, look at any engagement letter provided to you by the professional. This will usually set out the firm’s internal complaints procedure, which you must follow if you want to complain about the service you have received. The first port of call is to speak to the individual who has daily conduct of your matter, their supervisor, or department head. The engagement letter should also provide you with the name of the firm’s Complaints Manager or Partner who will deal with your complaint if it cannot be satisfactorily resolved in the first instance;
  2. If you weren’t provided with an engagement letter or the above information was not provided to you, you can sometimes find the contact details for the Complaints Manager or Partner on the firm’s website. Alternatively, ask your contact at the firm for the Complaints Manager’s details, or as a last resort, you can address your complaint to the directors or partners of the firm;
  3. A firm’s complaints process will generally provide up to 8 weeks for them to respond to your complaint, which will need to be a formal written complaint;
  4. If at the end of that period, the firm has either not responded to you or their response is not satisfactory, you can usually escalate your complaint to an Ombudsman (either the Financial Ombudsman or the Legal Ombudsman if your complaint is against a solicitors’ firm) which is an independent body and is a free service for you to use;
  5. You must ensure you have followed the firm’s complaints process and allowed the designated time for a response before the Ombudsman will consider your complaint. If the firm does respond to your complaint, they should provide you with details of how you can complain to the Ombudsman within their response.

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Complaints about poor service

Time limitations for complaining to the Ombudsman

It is important to note that you only have a limited amount of time to complain to the Ombudsman.

If you want to complain to the Legal Ombudsman about a solicitor or barrister, you must make your complaint either within:

  • 1 year from the date of the problem happening;
  • 1 year from the date on which you found out about the problem; or
  • 6 months from the date of the firm’s final response.

If you want to make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman, you will usually need to do this within six years of the problem happening.

If that date has passed, the Financial Ombudsman may still consider your complaint if you make it within three years of becoming aware (or when you should reasonably have become aware) of the problem.

In any event, you should not delay in complaining to the Ombudsman.

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Time limitations for complaining to the Ombudsman

Compensation through the Legal Ombudsman

The Legal Ombudsman has the power to order a legal professional to pay you up to £50,000 in compensation.

The amount the Financial Ombudsman can award varies depending on when the problem occurred and when the complaint is made.

The compensation awarded by the Ombudsman can be in the form of a refund of fees you have paid to the professional or in a compensatory capacity for the poor service you received.

If, upon receiving the Ombudsman’s final decision, you choose to accept that decision, this will usually be binding and will prevent you from bringing a legal claim against the professional.

You should seek the advice of a solicitor before accepting the Ombudsman’s final decision if you are also considering bringing a professional negligence claim against the professional.

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Compensation through the Legal Ombudsman

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If you feel you have suffered due to professional negligence, please contact Myerson Solicitor's Dispute Resolution team on: