Professional Negligence FAQs

There are several ombudsman services that can help in resolving cases of professional negligence. Using an ombudsman to resolve a dispute can be less expensive and time-consuming than launching full court proceedings.

The UK’s ombudsman services include:

  • The Financial Ombudsman Service (0800 023 4567) — for complaints about banks, insurance companies and finance firms.
  • The Pensions Ombudsman (020 7630 2200) — for complaints about pension schemes.
  • The Legal Ombudsman (0300 555 0333) — for complaints about lawyers.
  • The Local Government Ombudsman (0300 061 0614) — for complaints about care homes and care services.
  • The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (0345 015 4033) — for complaints about NHS-funded doctors, dentists and hospitals.

Before contacting an ombudsman, you may want to make a free initial enquiry to a lawyer to check whether that is the best option for your circumstances.

The results of experiencing negligence when you’ve paid someone for their professional services can be distressing, sometimes costly and occasionally a dangerous threat to your health.

In most cases, you need to bring a court case within six years of the date of the negligence.  You may still be able to bring a claim after that period if the negligence only comes to light at a later date. 

If you want your complaint to be dealt with by an ombudsman, other time limits also apply. Typically you have six months in which to contact the ombudsman after receiving a final response from the adviser you are claiming against.

If in any doubt, it’s probably best to register your issue with a lawyer, who can then advise.


Think you’ve suffered as a result of professional negligence?

If you feel you have grounds for a claim, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. 

Getting a good solicitor can help to take away the strain you’ve undoubtedly felt since suffering from professional negligence.  Taking legal advice can help you to feel like you’re taking back some control over your circumstances, and of course it may lead to compensation payment too.

Call QualitySolicitors now on {{phone}} and have a quick free five- or ten-minute chat with one of our legal representatives.  Taking five minutes to tell us about what’s happened will enable us to tell you what we could do next to help.

Any legal dispute can involve significant expenses, particularly if a case goes all the way to court. But disputes can usually be resolved much more cost-effectively, with a negotiated settlement.

If you are concerned about the potential costs, you can take legal advice. A free initial enquiry will help you understand your options and their likely costs. Where the best option is to take legal action, it may be possible to agree a no-win, no-fee arrangement — so any legal fees will only be paid if you win your claim, using part of the compensation you receive.

A situation like this can be frustrating but the basic steps to take are the same as for any case of professional negligence.

Make sure that you have all of the paperwork on file for each of the advisers — contracts, written agreements, specifications, schedules of work, etc. Prepare a written record that shows the services provided by each adviser, when those services were supplied and what went wrong.

Taking legal advice, particularly in cases where different advisers are disagreeing about your claim, should help to clarify the issues and highlight the most effective legal route to take. 

Care needs to be taken when putting a monetary figure on an opportunity, as opinions will vary about how it can be valued.

For example, a property valuation can be subject to market fluctuations, and different surveyors could give a range of prices on the same property. The courts will often use a mid-point in terms of the range of values, which might be less than what you thought the property was worth.

It is easy to use hindsight to put a price on a missed opportunity, but you must be able to show the actual costs involved and how they were calculated. Any claim must be based on the knowledge that was available to the adviser at the time that the advice was given.

You may also need to accept a lower amount of compensation if the missed opportunity was not a guaranteed winner. For example, a solicitor might have mishandled a legal claim — so that you missed out on a potential award worth £100,000. But if there was only a fifty-fifty chance that you were going to win the case anyway, you loss might be assessed at £50,000.

In order to make a successful claim — either through an ombudsman or mediator, or through court proceedings — you need to show three things.

First, you need to show that your adviser owed you a duty of care — typically because you were paying them for their expert advice.

Second, you need to show that the advice they gave you was not up to the standard you could expect from a reasonably competent professional working in the same field. For example, could other surveyors be expected to notice the structural problems that your surveyor missed, or were the problems so well hidden that no surveyor could have known about them?

Third, you need to show that you suffered a loss as a result of relying on their advice. This might include the additional costs of fixing a problem, or the revenue lost as a result of a poorly-worded contract.

If you can prove that these issues apply to your case, you may well be able to make a claim for professional negligence.

Taking legal action may be an option if you are unhappy with a proposed settlement.

Ideally you should take legal advice from the outset of your dispute. But if you have already used an ombudsman, talking to your legal adviser can be invaluable in reviewing whether the proposed settlement is reasonable and assessing your options.

You should take legal advice before accepting the settlement. Once you have agreed to an ombudsman’s decision, it can be very difficult to take legal action later.

Whether you use a mediator or the courts, if the case is decided in your favour you should receive up to the amount of loss you suffered. This might include not just the costs of putting things right, but also the losses you suffered in the meantime as a result of the problems they have caused.

Compensation may be reduced if any of your own actions contributed to the loss, or if the loss was made worse by other factors that were beyond your adviser’s control.

Your first step should be to make sure you have as much evidence as possible to back up your claim. Keep as much paperwork as possible and make notes of what was said in any phone calls or meetings.

You should also make a written complaint to the adviser who you think has been negligent. They should then acknowledge your complaint, explaining their complaints procedure and how quickly you can expect a full reply.

If you have any concerns about the best way to make a complaint, or are unhappy at any stage with the way the adviser is responding, you should take legal advice. A free initial enquiry will help you understand how strong your case is and what your next steps should be.  

Using an ombudsman can be a good option, particularly if you have only suffered a small loss. Where possible, the ombudsman will resolve complaints relatively quickly and without charging you. The ombudsman may be able to award substantial compensation, but a more typical award is around £1,000.

For larger claims, mediation can be a useful approach, provided both sides agree to its use. Instead of the case being argued out by lawyers on each side, the mediator (typically a specially trained lawyer) works with both parties to help you negotiate an agreement between yourselves. Successful mediation can help you reach an agreement in a matter of days, and with lower legal costs.

Like many legal disputes, going to court should be a last resort. Costs can be high and cases can take months or even years to resolve. Wherever possible, you should aim to negotiate an agreement.

Talking to your legal adviser at the outset will help you to decide on the option that is best for you, in terms of time, costs and the amount of compensation you might receive.  

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