Legal liability for negligent practice
If you have been the victim of inadequate advice or improper conduct from a qualified, professional person and lost out financially as a result, you may be entitled to make a claim for professional negligence.
Professionals are legally bound to exercise “reasonable skill and care” when dealing with clients. If they fail to do this and their mistake was one that a reasonable professional working in the same field would not have made, and the client lost money as a direct result of the mistake, then they are liable for damages.
Disputes arising from professional negligence can involve all manner of professionals, including:
- Financial advisers
- Insurance Brokers
- Tax consultants
For a professional negligence claim to be successful, you will need to establish the existence of a duty of care on the part of the professional, and that this duty has been breached.
As mentioned above, the standard test of breach in professional negligence claims is whether the defendant has matched the abilities of a reasonable person in the same profession.
If it is clear that the duty of care has been breached then it is also necessary to prove that your financial loss came about as a direct result of the negligent professional’s actions. It is only possible to claim for losses that are reasonably foreseeable.
When making a claim, it is advisable to use the services of specialist professional negligence solicitors. Solicitors can provide you with essential advice on:
- existence of a duty of care
- scope of that duty
- quality of the advice that is given by the professional
- issue of causation
- duty to mitigate, and;
- measure of compensation
You must follow certain procedures when making a claim for professional negligence, if you don’t you run the risk of incurring cost penalties or your case being thrown out completely. By following the right procedure this will show that there has been co-operation between you and the defendant in an attempt to settle the case without going to court.
These procedures are set out in the pre-action protocols which were introduced by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 1998. Basically, they involves corresponding directly with the negligent professional in question either by yourself or via a professional negligence solicitor and setting out the factual and legal basis of your claim. This is known as the Letter of Claim.
According to the protocol, the Letter of Claim should include the following:
- A chronological summary of the case
- Allegations against the professional
- Confirmation of whether an expert has been appointed
The professional must acknowledge receipt of the letter within 21 days of receiving it, and three months to investigate the matter.
If no settlement is reached then you may take your case to court. Most professional negligence claims are heard in the county court with the exception being high-value and complex cases which may go to the High Court.
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