From time to time, we all rely on the advice and services of experts to help us. And if that service is negligent and results in harm or losses to you, you may be able to claim compensation.
In order to make a successful claim there are three areas which you must satisfy:
- Negligence: The service or advice you received was so bad that it fell below a reasonably acceptable standard for the particular trade, industry or profession.
- Causation: The advice or error caused you harm – such as financial losses, injury or other suffering. It is important to realise that to win a claim you must be able to prove not only the negligence but also that this was the cause of your harm (and you would not have suffered them anyway - even without the negligence)
- Valuation: This is proving the value of your harm or losses (also sometimes called “quantum”).
You might also be able to claim compensation if the service you received from the professional broke their agreement or contract with you to provide their service. Even if that contract (sometimes called “terms of business”) doesn’t cover what they did wrong, the law will often treat the contract as covering the issue (this is called “a breach of an implied term of the contract”). Often this contract point is also made at the same time as a professional negligence claim.
Read our guide to ‘Professional Negligence: How bad must the mistake be’ here
If it appears you will have a good claim for compensation, we’ll review several further issues with you, including:
Time limit: Are you within the legal time limit to be able to make the claim? The time limit on starting a claim is called the limitation deadline. It is a complex area of law and you will need to take specific advice on how they apply to your particular case. However, very generally:
- Usually the time limit is six years from the date of the professional advisor's negligence or the date that you suffered loss.
- In cases where the negligence causes a physical injury (such as a dentist or doctor’s medical negligence), the time limit is usually three years.
However there are many exceptions to these two rules. You may sometimes be able to apply to the court for an extension of time in limited circumstances where you were not aware of the negligence at the time (such as where the negligence was deliberately concealed from you). These rules are more complicated than can be covered here and we can give advice if they apply to you.
Your opponent’s ability to pay: It’s obviously only worth making a claim if your opponent (the professional considered to be at fault) has the means to pay you the compensation awarded by the court or agreed by negotiation.
Individual opponent: Are they bankrupt? Do they own their own house? Do they have home insurance that would cover them for the claim?
Business opponent: Are they still trading? Are they in receivership? Did they have business insurance (called ‘professional indemnity insurance’) to cover them for any claims brought for negligent advice?
However, with most professional negligence cases, the person who gave bad advice is likely to have insurance to cover them. When they do, our negotiations on your behalf (step 4) will be with their insurers. This is usually a good thing as the insurers will not take the claim personally and are more likely to take a realistic approach – wanting to reach an agreement that reflects the financial risk of you taking the case to court and winning.
Assessment of chances of winning: At this early stage there will be a lot of gaps in your knowledge of exactly what your opponent did or didn’t do. However we can help you assess your prospects of winning your claim. This assessment will look at four separate questions:
- What did your opponent do wrong?
- Does this amount to negligence (rather than an error a reasonable professional might also have made)?
- How did this cause you to make a financial loss (that you would not have otherwise have suffered)?
- How much is your loss (compared to if your opponent had not done something wrong)?
To find out if you can make a claim for compensation following the error or bad advice of a professional, then the first step is to chat to one of our friendly, expert lawyers about what has gone wrong and the financial losses you have suffered.
Our lawyers will be able to give you an initial view on whether what has happened sounds like the type of situation where it may be worthwhile investigating further bringing a claim for compensation. They will also be able to explain what is involved in bringing a claim. This costs nothing with our Free Initial Assessment telephone service.
Sometimes the situation will be too complicated to give a view in just a 10 minute Free Initial Assessment phone call. Also you may have some crucial paperwork that needs to be looked through or have questions about your specific situation. If this applies to you we can offer our specially priced £99 Ask the Legal Expert service where you can have a 45 minute face to face meeting with a specialist lawyer. This is a chance to ask questions and explore your potential claim. It can look at how the law is likely apply to your particular circumstances (including what you would need to be able to prove). It should leave you far more knowledgeable about your options.