What is professional negligence?

Being able to claim for professional negligence is a method of protecting people who use professional services such as a lawyer, accountant, architect, or financial adviser, helping to ensure that they are provided with the service that they are paying for.

Professional negligence is defined as “when a professional fails to perform their responsibilities to the required standard or breaches a duty of care. This poor conduct subsequently results in a financial loss, physical damage or injury of their client or customer.”

The law explains that the professional must carry out the job with ‘reasonable care’, which is defined as “the degree of caution and concern for the safety of the self and others an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in the same circumstances.”

When somebody employs the services of a professional, there is a level of service that can be expected, and professional negligence laws help to ensure that these standards are met. A professional should have the skills and experience to provide a service that someone outside of the industry does not have.

If you think that you might have a claim to make against a professional for professional negligence, you must be able to prove that the service that they provided was below reasonable expectation levels and this has had negative consequences for you.

An example of professional negligence

Medical negligence is something that happens frequently in society. There are many examples.

If, for example, somebody hires a personal trainer who neglects to ask them about previous injuries that they might have, resulting in them getting injured during the workout, this can be medical negligence and a claim made against the personal trainer.

If, for example, you run your own business and seek financial advice, that does not alert you to your tax liabilities, meaning that you suffer penalties from HMRC and an unprecedented tax bill, this can be classified as professional negligence and you could have grounds to make a claim against the financial advisor.

How to prove professional negligence

Making a claim for professional negligence can be daunting, especially as you will be making a claim against someone who is a professional, and who we have always believed is a responsible person.

However, if you think that you have the case to make a claim, you should try not to be put off by this. If you decide that you want to make a claim, the most important thing is to be able to prove it.

When making a professional negligence claim, you must be able to prove three things:

  1. That the professional person had a duty of care towards you
  2. That the professional breached this duty of care
  3. That you have suffered or lost out as a result of this breach of duty of care

It is often the case that expert evidence will be sought in order to establish what the normal standards are. So, for example, if you are making a professional negligence claim against an architect, expert architect evidence will often be used to compare the behaviour. This evidence can be used to see how a typical, responsible architect would behave and the court would then be able to compare the two.

How to claim for professional negligence

If you have experienced a situation where you think that you could make a claim against a professional for professional negligence, it is not only important that you can prove that the person was negligent. You also need to be able to prove that the negligence has resulted in some sort of financial, or physical damage or loss for you.

If you decide that you can make a claim, the first step of the process is to send a Letter of Claim to the professional. This is known as the pre-action protocol, and the professional has three months to respond and give a reasoned reply. In many cases, this leads to both parties agreeing to a settlement before the case goes to court.

If, however, an agreement cannot be come to, the case proceeds to court. A claim form is issued at court and both parties can then lay out their cases in writing. The court will create a timetable for the dispute to be resolved, giving details about exchanges of the written evidence as well as any expert evidence that might be sought, and a date for the trial.

The whole process usually takes about two years to go through, and it is important to bear in mind that you can settle at any point during the entire process.

Contact Waldrons solicitors

Whatever your query, get in touch with us here at Waldrons today.

More information on Professional Negligence

Back to all Insights


Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Joseph Norton who is a Director and Head of Compensation