Anytime you instruct a solicitor, it’s likely to be pretty important, so you need to have confidence in your legal representation. Unfortunately, like any profession, there are times when solicitors drop the ball and fail to provide the standard of expertise expected.
In these instances, it can be hard to define what went wrong and how liable your solicitor is. In many cases, individuals may be completely unaware that their interests were not best protected.
If you have the slightest suspicion that your solicitor may have acted negligently, it’s important to confirm this one way or the other. To help you do just that, we’ve laid out some of the common bases for solicitor professional negligence claims below.
If you see an example that strikes a chord with your case, it’s possible that you did not receive the duty of care you should have from your solicitor. However, even if you don’t find an example on our list that does not mean you don’t have a case.
Like any element of the law, professional negligence claims against solicitors have to be judged on their individual merit, so if you suspect you may have a case, ensure you explore it further by seeking professional legal advice.
General Forms of Negligence
The law is made up of many different elements, from personal injury to property. However, while these may seem very different, they all stand on some very similar foundations.
It is possible to look at some forms of solicitor professional negligence that may apply to a variety of cases, such as…
Missing limitation deadlines
If you wish to make a claim against another party, it’s likely that there is a deadline by which it needs to be actioned. A solicitor may be negligent if they miss this deadline.
Under-Settling on a Claim
A solicitor may be negligent when they advise you to accept a settlement from another party that is too low. Conversely, a solicitor may also be negligent if they advise you to reject a claim and you later receive less at court.
Suing the Wrong Party
While it seems unlikely, there are cases of solicitors acting negligently because they brought proceedings against the wrong party, whether because that party is related to the intended group, or simply has a similar name.
Errors in Drafting Legal Documents
Whether it is a will or contract, ensuring legal documents are drafted accurately is essential to ensuring your legal rights are recorded and therefore can be upheld. If a solicitor fails to do so they may have acted negligently.
Failure to Follow Instructions
While you may lean heavily on your solicitor for advice, the decision of what legal steps you take is ultimately up to you. Therefore, a solicitor may be negligent if they do not follow the instructions you give.
Providing Advice that Results in a Loss
While a solicitor’s advice should never be taken as a guarantee, there are instances where advice falls well below reasonable, commonly in situations where a solicitor advises on law they are not an expert in.
Causing a Claim to be Struck Out by the Court
If a solicitor fails to comply with a court order or misses deadlines, the result could be that your claim is struck out by the court.
Not Advising on All Funding Options
A solicitor should advise on all funding options available to you, including things like the use of legal aid or legal expenses insurance. If they don’t and you end up spending more than you needed to, you may have a claim for professional negligence.
Personal Injury and Medical Negligence
Injury or illness can have huge ramifications on how you live your life and the quality of it going forward. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to be involved in a personal injury or as the victim of medical negligence, the last thing you need is to have this compounded by a solicitor who fails to provide the requisite duty of care.
Below are examples of how a solicitor may act negligently when pursuing this type of claim:
- Instructing an inappropriate expert who’s evidence goes on to damage your claim or cause it to fail.
- Failure to approach a key witness whose evidence may positively impact your case.
Conveyancing and Property
For most of us, a property is the single most expensive purchase we make. So, when you’re spending hundreds of thousands of pounds, you need to be sure that (1) you won’t face an unexpected bill after purchase for unknown maintenance and (2) you have the best possible chance of not having to sell it at a loss later in life.
Your solicitor plays an important role in this, and examples of negligence include:
- Not checking property plans to identify the boundaries of exactly what you’re purchasing.
- Not advising you on restrive clauses in the lease of a business or residential property, which impacts its value.
- No identifying property defects because of a failure to ask for building regulation certificates.
Preparation of Legal Documents
Legal documents are the first line of defence in a dispute, both personal and professional. Whether you’re drafting your will or paying for a new employment contract, you need to be confident that they reflect your wishes and are put together legally and accurately.
Examples of negligence relating to the preparation of legal documents include:
- Errors included in legal documents.
- Failure to reflect your wishes within a legal document.
- Not drafting a will within a reasonable time, despite the testator being seriously ill.
- Failure to ensure the will is valid.
Family and Divorce
It’s fair to say that legal cases including family matters or divorce come with a heightened sense of emotion. In these instances, a lot of faith can be placed in a solicitor to provide logical, reliable advice.
Examples of solicitor negligence relating to family and divorce include:
- Not properly investigating the other party’s finances during a divorce.
- Failure to account for pensions when settling financial matters.
- Failure to apply for or obtain an injunction, resulting in a client facing injury or distress.
- Not taking adequate legal steps to prevent a child being removed from the jurisdiction.
The majority of our waking lives are spent at work, so ensuring your professional rights are protected is vital. Where disputes arise in the workplace, solicitors play an integral role in helping you navigate this stressful time.
Examples of solicitor negligence in relation to employment include:
- Failure to submit a claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination or redundancy before the deadline.
- Not gathering key evidence to strengthen your claim.
- Failure to obey instructions from the court, which result in evidence being excluded.
Do You Have a Claim?
Above are a few ways a solicitor may act negligently, but the list is by no means exhaustive.
Whether you’ve seen an example you think applies to you or not, if you suspect your current or former solicitor has acted inadequately it is important to take steps to identify whether you have a claim.If you do think you have a claim, there are steps you can take to pursue your claim, so don’t ignore it. Get in touch today to learn how Glaisyers can help you.Back
David is a Partner and head of the Litigation team. He is consistently ranked in the Legal 500 for his tenacious problem solving and business acumen, acting in complex, high value disputes for successful entrepreneurs and corporates.
David Jones - Partner
To discuss how Glaisyers can assist you contact David Jones on David.Jones@glaisyers.com or via 0161 832 4666.