Solicitors negligent for advising client to settle for too little
It is very important for solicitors to advise clients properly about making offers to settle claims at the appropriate time. It is equally important for solicitors to advise clients properly about whether offers made to them ought to be accepted.
Incorrect or negligent advice from a solicitor about settlement offers can mean clients do not receive the compensation they are entitled to.
In the recent case of Perry v Raleys Solicitors 2017, the Court of Appeal was asked to decide whether the solicitors' advice to a claimant, to accept an offer made by a defendant, was negligent, as the offer was for too little.
Court of Appeal agreed that the solicitors had been negligent, and said that their client had lost the chance to bring the full claim as a result of settling for a lesser amount than would have been reasonable. The Court of Appeal also gave some useful guidance about the approach to damages in loss of chance cases, for professional negligence claims against solicitors.
The correct approach in a professional negligence case against a solicitor, is for the court to decide the percentage chance that the underlying claim would have been successful. For example, if the underlying claim had a value of £100k and a 60% chance of succeeding, it would be negligent for a solicitor to advise the client to accept an offer of £10k. In this example, loss of chance claim against the negligent solicitor would have a value of £50k.
In a loss of chance case, the Court of Appeal noted that it would be very unlikely that the court would ever award 100%, or 0% of the value of the underlying case, unless it was "overwhelmingly clear" that the claim would succeed or fail.
In an interesting addition to the judgment, the Court of Appeal criticises the negligent solicitors for mounting a "full scale challenge" to the claim. The Court of Appeal was also critical of the negligent solicitors as they only admitted they had been at fault, very shortly before the trial was due to start, and as a result the court ordered them to pay interest of 8% on the claim.
Judith Thompson, litigation partner at niche professional negligence firm Samuels Solicitors, says: "This is an important decision, as it reinforces our understanding of how loss of chance claims should be dealt with. If a claimant has been advised to accept a bad offer, and has ended up with too little, it is possible to bring a claim against the solicitors who gave the negligent advice, to top up their compensation."
Samuels Solicitors is a specialist litigation practice, with a particular niche dealing with negligence claims against solicitors and other professionals. If you think that a solicitor advised you to settle your claim for too little, we may be able to help.
Contact us today for a free initial discussion about your case.