Even the most experienced of people can make a mistake and for that reason claims against professionals for acts of negligence are not uncommon. Mistakes can be easily made but the consequences to a client can be devastating.
To establish a claim in negligence you must prove that the professional owes you a duty of care. Where you engage a professional to provide services, it is very likely that they do owe you a duty of care. They must then have breached that duty. Liability results from falling below the set standard, which for a professional is set higher than that of the reasonable person, since they hold themselves out as having specialist skills and abilities. A breach is doing something that a reasonable person with the same skills and abilities would not do, or not doing something they would do. You can be compensated for any loss which you would not have suffered but for the negligence, but you must prove that any loss was caused as a result of the negligent act.
In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of professional negligence claims arising out of mis-handled personal injury claims. This can include such things as:
- Missed limitation periods (usually 3 years from the date of injury)
- Missed Court deadlines resulting in the claim being struck out
- Undetected injuries (such as subtle brain injuries)
- Under-valued claims, such as where the claim is settled before an injury has healed or without medical evidence on the timeframe for recovery
- Failure to claim for loss of earnings or care provided by family members
- Failure to compensate future risks, such as development of arthritis from a broken bone in later life
- Failure to compensate the adverse effect on job prospects caused by some injuries
- Failure to investigate a claim for future care or the cost of medical treatment
- Failure to claim for any future loss of earnings caused by the injury
- Failure to claim the cost of any equipment/facilities such as bespoke prosthesis or adaptations to the home
- Failure to claim other out-of-pocket expenses such as private care, gardening and DIY costs
- Failure to give financial investment advice on large settlements resulting in a loss of means-tested benefits/tax credits
- Failure to explain the conditions attached to a Conditional Fee Agreement
- Failure to obtain After The Event insurance cover to protect against adverse costs
Claims for professional negligence have a limitation period of six years, during which the claim must be issued at Court, otherwise it will be statute-barred. Most professionals are required to have in place a policy of professional indemnity insurance, under which any claim will usually be dealt with.