Having instructed a professional to act on your behalf, it is unfortunately not uncommon for you to feel unsatisfied with the service you have received or the work which has been carried out on your behalf. We are regularly instructed by clients who feel that they have been let down by accountants, barristers, construction professionals, financial advisers, solicitors and surveyors, to name but a few.
Clients who believe that they have suffered a loss as a result of professional negligence often seek to bring a professional negligence claim against the professionals who have acted for them. It is important to understand the steps that need to be taken in order to best protect your position as a claimant and make sure as best you can that you do not encounter any otherwise avoidable pitfalls when looking to bring a professional negligence claim.
1. Duty of care and loss
If you wish to bring a professional negligence claim it will need to be established that:
- The professional owes (or owed) you a duty of care;
- The duty of care was breached;
- You have suffered a loss; and
- The loss occurred as a result of the breach of the duty of care.
Your solicitor will be able to advise on this in detail, and the more evidence you have, the better. Which brings us on to…
From the earliest possible stage, you need to gather together as much information as you can. It is always advisable to keep records of what advice has been given to you, what course of action has been recommended and, ultimately, carried out. Keep copies of all paperwork and correspondence (including invoices) given to you by your professional, in particular any documents which you are particularly concerned about. Where possible, also make notes of telephone calls between you and the professional.
Keep the above documents in a well-organised bundle. It will assist your solicitor (should you instruct one) when reviewing the papers if they are orderly.
3. Internal complaints procedure / Ombudsman
You may wish to raise a complaint with the professional via their internal complaints procedure. This should be done in writing and should be set out in a clear and concise fashion. It can often assist to provide copies of documents which you feel support your complaint, with an explanation as to why that is the case. In the event that your complaint is not dealt with to your satisfaction by the professional, there may be a professional body or ombudsman which can assist you in taking the professional to task.
4. Obtain the papers
At an early stage you should seek to obtain a copy of your file of papers from the professional. Sometimes a fee may be payable – check your terms of engagement carefully. The file of papers could include crucial evidence in support of your case. Some professionals will require that their fees are paid up to date before releasing papers. This is called exercising a ‘lien’ and professionals such as solicitors are typically entitled to do this.
5. Act promptly
Make sure that you act quickly and speak to a solicitor. Professional negligence claims are subject to time limits and if you leave things for too long you might not be able to bring a claim at all. The sooner therefore that you speak to a solicitor, the better.
In some cases, clients believe they might have a good claim and it turns out that they don’t. In others, clients are unsure, but as evidence is gathered, it transpires that they do have a good claim. You can call a specialist professional negligence solicitor for a free telephone consultation. They will listen to what has happened and let you know what we can do to assist. In certain circumstances we may be able to offer to act for you a “no win-no fee” basis and we will not charge you a success fee.
If you would like to speak with a solicitor, call us on 0800 988 7756.