How to claim professional negligence against solicitors


When you instruct a solicitor to handle a matter for you, whether you are buying or selling a property, entering into a business agreement, getting divorced, or involved in litigation, you expect your solicitor to get things right. 

Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and solicitors can and do make mistakes. Sometimes, these mistakes can be very costly for clients, if you lose the chance to bring a claim, settle for too little, or end up having to rectify problems with your property. 

The good news is that solicitors' firms have to be insured, so when a solicitor makes a mistake that causes you loss, you should be able to obtain compensation. 

You have six years to bring a claim against a solicitor who has made a mistake. This time can start running when the negligent event occurs, such as when a solicitor misses a vital deadline, or when you enter into a settlement agreement on the basis of bad advice, or when a property is sold. If you have any doubt about when the six years might expire, you should take expert legal advice straight away. There are some circumstances where the six year deadline can be extended, but usually once the six year deadline has passed, your right to bring a claim will be lost.

Once you are convinced that your solicitor has made an error, you should make a complaint using the solicitor's own complaints handling system. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint, you can make a further complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and ask them to investigate. 

At the same time, it is a good idea to instruct another solicitor to look into what went wrong. When we are instructed to look at a professional negligence claim against a solicitor, the first step is to obtain the negligent solicitor's file. We are usually able to do this for no charge, or for very low fees. 

Once we have your previous solicitor's file, we will be able to tell you whether you have a negligence claim. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain counsel's advice.

Assuming that we can identify that the solicitor has been negligent, the next step is to prepare a letter of claim under the Professional Negligence Pre Action Protocol. This sets out in some detail the basis of the claim and the losses suffered. The solicitors' firm would then have an opportunity to respond.

In the vast majority of cases, it will be possible to negotiate a settlement with your previous solicitor. This can either be through correspondence, or at mediation. In a few rare cases, it is necessary to go to court, but this is the exception rather than the rule. 

At Samuels Solicitors, based in Barnstaple, Devon, we have a wealth of experience in dealing with the niche area of professional negligence claims against solicitors. Our senior partner, Jan Samuel, has been a member of the Professional Negligence Lawyers' Association for many years. 

We will assess any matter initially for free, and if you have a good case, we will discuss funding options with you, which can include conditional (no win no fee) arrangements for appropriate cases. 

Contact us today for a free discussion about your claim against your solicitor.