What is Professional Negligence?
Your Lawyer has acted in such a way that no reasonable Lawyer would have done, this has resulted in a loss.
Proving Your Claim
In order to pursue your claim for professional negligence ALL the following criteria must be met:
- There was a duty of care owed to you
- There was a breach of that duty of care
- You sustained a loss
Here is a more comprehensive summary of those points:
If you instructed your lawyer to act for you to pursue a personal injury claim, then that lawyer will owe you a duty of care.
If they did not pursue that claim properly for you, the work they did fell below that of a reasonably competent lawyer, then it may be that they breached that duty of care.
If you did not recover the compensation you expected, or you did not recover any compensation at all, then you have suffered a loss. A loss however does not always have to be financial.
If you can answer yes to all the above, then you may have a professional negligence claim to pursue.
When Should You Claim?
In most cases you would need to bring your claim within 6 years of the date of the negligence. If you were unaware of the negligence you may be able to extend the time limit by up to 3 years from the date you knew, or should have known that there was some negligence.
There is a maximum time limit of 15 years.
It is always best that you claim as promptly as possible – the earlier you can, the better chance you have of success.
If your claim is still on going but you have concerns or have lost confidence in your lawyer, you should either raise your then with the lawyer’s supervisor directly and/or request a copy of the firm’s complaints procedure.
If you are still dissatisfied and have concerns that your claim is not being properly handled, you are not receiving a reasonable service, or that the lawyer may in fact be negligent, do not delay. You should seek alternative advice from a reputable firm as a matter of urgency.
Here are just a few of the most common examples of how professional negligence can occur.
I Have Had Unexpected Deductions from My Compensation
Your Lawyer must advise you of any deductions that will be made from your compensation. This should be done when advice is given to you about a settlement. This is to ensure you are making an informed decision.
Common deductions from compensation which Lawyers often fail to tell you about include:
- When responsibility is split between you and the other side
- Benefits received relating to the accident
- Paying the other sides costs
- Success fees and insurance premiums
If you believe you weren’t given sufficient information on deductions, then you may have a claim against your Lawyer.
I Received a Lot Less Compensation than My Lawyer’s Original Advice
Your Lawyer will advise you once all the necessary evidence is gathered as to how much your claim is worth. Lawyers usually provide a range for compensation if your case proceeded to Court. Valuing personal injury claims is not an exact science, and lawyers rely on various legal documents and personal experience to reach a valuation. The documents they generally use include the Judicial Studies College Board Guidelines and previous case law.
Therefore, if you were advised to accept a much lower amount of compensation than previously estimated and you’ve not been given an explanation as to why it’s lower, you may have a claim against your lawyer.
My Lawyer Made Me Settle My Claim When I Was Still Suffering
You cannot re-open a claim at a later date to receive more compensation once a claim is settled. This is why your Lawyer has to carefully consider your claim if you’re still suffering from the consequences of your personal injury.
Take this as an example:
- The medical expert who examined you and prepared a medical report said you should recover from your accident related symptoms within 12 months of the accident
- No explanation is given in the report as to what would happen if you were to suffer symptoms after that time
- 9 months later, your Lawyer values your claim and you proceed to settle it on the basis you do recover within the 12 months
- 15 months after you are still suffering
Your Lawyer should have advised you to delay settlement of your claim until the 12 month period was up. This way you could see whether your symptoms resolved at that time, and if so your case can be valued and settled appropriately. If not, as is the case in this example, a re-examination with the medical expert should take place. Your Lawyer should have advised you that whilst you could settle your claim at the 9 month mark, once it is settled it cannot be re-opened at a later date, and you cannot claim further compensation.
If you believe you were not given the correct advice then you may have a claim against your Lawyer.
My Instructions Were Ignored – What Can I Do?
Lawyers can only act upon instructions from you, their client. For example, they cannot agree a settlement figure for your claim without your authority beforehand to settle for that amount.
If you believe your instructions were ignored, or were acted upon without your consent and this caused a loss, then you may have a claim against your Lawyer.