What are the signs of professional negligence?

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21 August 2023

Having paid for the services of a professional, it can be upsetting to receive a substandard service. However, in cases where you suspect that the service received fell short of what was reasonably expected of the professional in question, and where this has resulted in financial or other losses, in addition to the cost of the service itself, this can be extremely distressing. For many, the only way of seeking recompense in these circumstances will be to pursue a claim for professional negligence.

The following blog looks at the common signs which may provide a clear indicator for a case of professional negligence and, as such, when expert advice from a professional negligence solicitor should be sought to help recover compensation to cover the extent of any losses or damage suffered.

What is professional negligence?

Professional negligence is where an error or omission, or a catalogue of errors or omissions, have been made by someone instructed to provide a professional service. This could include accountants, financial advisors, insurance brokers, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, valuers, technology or management consultants, and even solicitors, barristers and other legal professionals.

However, to be able to recover compensation in the context of a professional negligence claim, you must be able to show that the professional owed you a duty of care, they breached that duty and, as a result of that breach, you suffered financial or some other type of loss, including physical damage to property or even personal injury. As such, provided you can prove the losses flowing from any alleged breach, you may have, for example, a negligence claim against a financial adviser, a construction negligence claim against a building surveyor, a clinical negligence claim against a healthcare provider, or even a negligence against a lawyer or law firm.

What are common signs of professional negligence?

Any mistake made by a professional can have serious financial and other consequences, either for you personally and/or for your business, depending on the basis upon which their services were sought. Still, the mere fact that a professional has been involved in a process which has resulted in an adverse outcome does not necessarily mean that the professional in question was negligent, although the unexpected and negative nature of the outcome may, of itself, be a sign of wrongdoing.

Other common signs of professional negligence could include:

• conflicting advice: if the advice given by a professional appears to be inconsistent, or where they have constantly changed their mind, this may be a sign that they are not adequately experienced or knowledgeable to meet the standard of care expected them. Still, it is important to recognise that professional advice may naturally evolve or change, depending on the circumstances in which that advice is being given. For example, when providing legal advice in the context of litigation, the more evidence gathered may serve to either strengthen or undermine a client’s case.

• slow communication or slow to act: if the professional involved has been consistently slow in providing advice, relaying important information or carrying out instructions from a client, this can often be a clear indicator that the service they have provided is substandard. In many cases, a professional who fails to act quickly can be the sole cause of a client’s loss. Again, adopting the legal negligence scenario, a solicitor or law firm who fails to meet procedural deadlines or submit any necessary paperwork can directly lead to devastating financial losses for a client.

• making excuses: if a professional constantly makes excuses for things not going according to plan, or where their advice fails to pan out, this can often be a red flag. Regrettably, it is only once things have gone irretrievably wrong that a client will fully appreciate the unacceptable level of service that they have received. This could be where, for example, a client has made a sizeable investment in line with recommendations from a financial adviser which have resulted in significant losses, only to realise they were not warned of the risks involved in their investment.

What should I do if I suspect professional negligence?

If you suspect that things have gone badly wrong and that someone is fully or even partly to blame for the end result, either because of the advice you were given or any possible act(s) or omission(s) when acting on your behalf, you should seek immediate legal advice. Your solicitor will be able to assess the merits of your case based on the facts to determine if any negligence is likely. They will also be able to seek pre-litigation disclosure to help further that forensic assessment, where necessary.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained within this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This blog does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law in England and Wales and should not be treated as such.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, either express or implied, is given as to its’ accuracy, and no liability is accepted for any errors or omissions.

Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert advice should always be sought.

© Melissa Worth August 2023

The Dispute Adviser

A legal blog by Melissa Worth
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