Professional Negligence

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As you may have suffered a loss as a result of a professional’s mistake, you could be entitled to claim compensation.  Professionals who are often subject to professional negligence findings include but are not limited to accountants, solicitors or surveyors.  At Harris Fowler we specialise in getting you the compensation you deserve. This page will set out the elements of a claim we will need to prove and some hints and tips to help your claim go smoothly.

When bringing a claim against a professional there are more than one way to bring a claim.

Breach of Contract

The first is to bring a claim for breach of contract in relation to the original contract for services that were agreed with the professional.

If it is not an express term of the contract that the professional will carry out the contract with reasonable care and skill then the Consumer Rights Act 2015 will place into the contract a term that the professional will carry out the service with reasonable care and skill. For claims before the 1st October 2015 then the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 performs a similar role. Whether there is a breach will depend upon the contents of the contract and the scope of the service to be provided by that contract.

In order to bring a claim you therefore need to show that the professional has not carried out the service with reasonable care and skill. This will depend upon the facts of the case as to whether this has occurred and the court will consider evidence firstly to decide how a reasonable skilled professional in that field should have acted and then compare this to the actions your professional took.

If you are able to show that the professional has not performed the work with reasonable care and skill you may able to seek compensation for the loss suffered as a result.  It is worth noting that such claims can be brought up to six years after the date of the breach of contract.

Common Law Negligence

If you are not a party to the contract with the professional it may not be possible to bring a claim for breach of contract. However, even where there is a contract you may also be entitled to bring a claim in common law negligence in addition to that under contract. For example you have received free advice from a lawyer about whether you had a claim for injury, the lawyer stated you didn’t have a claim but you later find out you did and now it’s too late to bring a claim.

In circumstances such as these, as no contract is likely to exist it is unlikely you can bring a claim for breach of contract and you will need to instead look at other ways you can claim compensation.

The most likely way for you to bring a claim in the above circumstances is for the common law negligence of that professional.

In order to make a claim for compensation following a professional’s error where there is no contract you have to prove three things

  • That the other party is found to have owed you a duty of care or assumed responsibility
  • That the other party fell below the standard of care expected of them
  • That their failure to meet the standard of care caused you loss

The First Part – Duty of care

For the most part this is the easiest part of a claim to establish, courts have already established duties of care between a number of parties, for example banking surveyors and purchasers, legal advisors and beneficiaries of a will. Alternatively, there are a number of circumstances where the actions of a party have resulted in that party assuming a duty of care, even where the courts might not have imposed one. So it is important to consult our specialist professional negligence lawyers about your claim.

The Second Part – Breach of Duty

The second part of a claim is to show that the other party has failed to take such care as is reasonable in the circumstances either by doing something or failing to do something.

The courts when considering what should reasonably have been done they will first consider what an ordinary, skilful, average professional should have done and then consider whether the professional has fallen below that standard.

Breach of duty in professional negligence is often established by showing the professional has failed to do something making an omission or error.

For example a surveyor employed by the bank to prepare a valuation survey states that no repair works are needed to the property. You proceed and buy the property in reliance on that report and very shortly after moving in the chimney collapses damaging the roof. You may be able to bring a claim against the surveyor for the negligent preparation of his report.

Each case is different which is why it is important to seek the advice of a specialist professional negligence lawyer who will be better able to advise you on the facts of your case.

The Final Part – That breach caused loss

The third and final part of bringing a claim is demonstrating that the professional is responsible for causing the losses being claimed, this is commonly called causation.

In some cases this might be obvious, your lawyer receives an Unless Order (an order to do something or the claim ceases to exist) from the court to pay a court fee. The lawyer fails to note the letter, doesn’t pay the fee and your claim is struck out. In such circumstances your inability to recover compensation is likely because of the lawyer’s failure to take action.

However the case may not be as straightforward as this and the court will assess whether the losses being claimed have arisen because of the breach of duty. If the losses have arisen for another reason, for example, your own failure to take action or follow advice then the court may not award compensation.

Claims in professional negligence are by their very nature complicated as they involve evaluating whether the action a professional such as a lawyer, surveyor or accountant has taken was reasonable. Such considerations require a detailed understanding of that professional’s role and the codes of conduct they are required to meet. As such it is important that you contact our professional negligence lawyers as soon as possible so that they can help you claim the compensation you deserve.

“Harris Fowler are the only ones I would trust. They make everything clear, easy and always deliver total honesty – Thank you to all who worked on my claim.”

Mrs Wendy Filkins

Christian Bryan


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*Cases issued and finished between 01.01.2019 and 31.12.2019

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*Cases issued and finished between 01.01.2019 and 31.12.2019

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