It’s never good when you are let down by a professional, and even less so when it’s your solicitor. We put our trust in our legal professionals, and given that they often deal with important matters, you could be considerably out of pocket when they make a mistake and things go wrong. If you have been the victim of one of these legal mistakes, that’s where a professional negligence claim comes in.
Looking for help with a solicitor’s legal mistake? Call our specialist Professional Negligence team on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or one of our 4 local office numbers for FREE expert initial phone advice – no strings attached.
Legal Negligence – what happens if my solicitor makes a mistake?
Receiving bad service from your solicitor is not enough in itself to amount to professional negligence– you need to have suffered a financial loss.
If your solicitor’s mistake was bad client care rather than negligence, then the remedy for bad service is to complain, not to sue.
In order to prove a claim for professional negligence and successfully win financial compensation, you will also need to show that your solicitor has not given you the sort of advice that you would expect from a competent legal professional – and that their incorrect actions or advice caused you a loss i.e. that they have been negligent.
Click here to read more about making a Professional Negligence Claim
So what kind of errors are solicitors making which could result in a case of professional negligence? Here are some of the most common legal mistakes:
1. Solicitor conveyancing mistakes – one of the most common reasons for a professional negligence claim against a solicitor is some sort of error made in the buying or selling of property. Solicitor conveyancing mistakes which are commonly made include;
- not spotting a right of way crossing a property
- making mistakes in the legal title of the property
- failing to carry out proper searches
- failing to advise properly when the properties owned is to be jointly – not properly explaining the differences between “tenants in common” and “joint tenants”
- not advising correctly on restrictive covenants – which restrict the use of land or property
- not identifying errors in leases
- not telling clients about planning restrictions on the property
- not carrying out the appropriate anti-money laundering checks when dealing with property sales or purchases
- a lack of proper checking of identity to combat mortgage fraud, especially in the self-certification mortgage market
- failing to identify situations where inappropriate mortgages were mis-sold, or not recommending to buyers that they get unbiased financial advice.
And lastly, with the increasing reliance of conveyancing solicitors on technology, law firms are increasingly susceptible to both cyber attacks and data breaches. Conveyancing, with the large sums of cash flow electronically our particular attractive to organised crime.
Now given that with the average UK house price now at £260,800 (according to Hometrack’s UK House Price Index in January 2023), buying a house or flat is often the most expensive transaction any individual will ever make, it’s not surprising that legal mistakes when it comes to conveyancing can prove very expensive indeed.
Can I claim compensation? In theory, yes.
Click here to find about more about how to sue my conveyancing solicitor.
2. Settling a claim for too little – these kind of legal mistakes are sadly becoming more common, especially with accident claims handled by large “claims factory” companies who too often use junior members of staff who have no legal training or experience whatsoever and are left without adequate supervision from experienced solicitors.
Far too many clients are advised to settle for sums well below what they should have received. That can prove a very expensive mistake.
Arriving at a valuation is not an exact science, and it involves producing an estimate based on the degree of loss suffered by the claimant, taking into account the potential damages which could be awarded in court by a judge. The valuation is looked at in terms of what the claimant would ideally like as well as what the defendant thinks they should pay. Inexperienced lawyers can get these calculations wrong, and if this happens a claimant could be eligible to make a claim for professional negligence.
In contrast, our personal injury and medical negligence cases are run or supervised by highly experienced and Panel Accredited Solicitors – never junior or unqualified staff.
3. Suing the wrong people – it sounds unbelievable, but solicitors do make these kind of legal mistakes regularly. It’s most common where a case involves one or more companies as the solicitor has to make sure they sue the right individual, or the right company.
4. Missing deadlines – it’s a simple mistake, but happens time and time again.
Some legal cases involve some very strict time limits. For example, if you are making a claim for compensation after an accident, you have three years from the date of the accident in the majority of cases to start the claims process. If your solicitor delays and misses the deadline, you could entirely miss out on the compensation you are entitled to.
5. Errors in drafting a will – these type of legal mistakes also happen far too often. They often involve an error with the wording of a will or even failing to follow what the testator wished. Solicitors can also make mistakes when witnessing signatures and executing the will.
And it’s not just solicitors who make this kind of error. Unqualified, and often uninsured, will writers are responsible for a significant number of these drafting mistakes.
When it comes to Will writing there are three types of legal mistakes that can be made. These are:
- Errors in content – this mainly involves putting in or missing the wrong word or term in a Will.
An example would be where the testator gives instructions for their Will to leave specified property to A, but the will writer incorrectly includes a gift to B.
- Errors in meaning – this refers to the situation when a word or term is intentionally included when drafting a will – but its meaning is unclear or has been misunderstood. An example would be a clause leaving property to the ‘issue’ of the testator, when they mistakenly believed that they were including step-children
- Errors in motive – this is slightly different to an error in meaning. It refers to the situation where a particular term is deliberately drafted into a will and where its meaning is clear, but there’s been a fundamental misunderstanding as to its effect on the will.
- Errors in content – this mainly involves putting in or missing the wrong word or term in a Will.
And there are a number of other areas where negligent will writing can give ground to claims, including;
- negligent solicitors can fail to consider inheritance tax properly, if at all. In these cases the direct financial loss [e.g. the need to unnecessarily pay more tax] can be substantial and grounds for a successful professional negligence claim
- negligent delays in drafting a Will, in particular if the testator died before the Will was correctly executed due to a delay in completing the drafting by the solicitor or Will writer involved
- if the Will was drafted when the testator was without sufficient mental capacity (which is a legal requirement)
- if the Will was not correctly executed e.g. it was not signed in the presence of two witnesses
6. Drafting Mistakes – solicitors are used to draft a wide range of legal documents for clients – anything from business documents such as a shareholder agreement or partnership agreement to personal accident claims and divorces. Sometimes legal mistakes are picked up early and there is no financial loss. But, sometimes what appears to be a simple error in wording a document can be extremely costly.
Suing for a legal mistake? Make sure you instruct a specialist professional negligence solicitor
If you think that you have grounds for suing a solicitor, you need to know that there are not many solicitors who specialise in this complicated area of the law.
Take your time when looking around for a solicitor to take your case on. Get someone with lots of experience who knows this area inside out – a genuine specialist in professional negligence claims – even if, to pick the right solicitor, you have to instruct one who isn’t based in your nearest town.
Here at Bonallack & Bishop, we are members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association [PNLA] – the only organisation for specialist professional negligence solicitors. There are currently well over 140,000 qualified solicitors, plus countless legal executives and unqualified legal staff in England and Wales. Only a few hundred are members of the PNLA.
So if you thinking of suing your solicitor following a legal mistake, instruct one of our team and you’ll know you’re getting advice from an experienced professional negligence specialist.
Legal mistakes claims – Can I Use My Own Solicitor under My Legal Expense Insurance?
In general terms, the answer is yes.
It often comes as a surprise to hear that your insurance company cannot can’t force you to use their panel solicitors. It’s entirely up to you which solicitor you instruct under your legal expenses insurance.
Each insurance company has their own panel of preferred solicitors who offer a range of services to the insurance company’s policyholders. Their services may well be just what you need, but there are often situations where a case needs specialist knowledge or expertise which none of the solicitors on the panel possess.
Furthermore, some clients just prefer to work with a local solicitor. In these instances, we can help policyholders to use their rights to choose their own solicitor.
Here at Bonallack & Bishop, we have a specialist professional negligence team. So, for example, if you are covered for legal costs under your insurance policy for a professional negligence dispute, while the panel solicitor might be perfectly adequate for a simple trip and slip personal injury claim, we might be better placed to give you expert help on suing a solicitor or other negligent professional than a panel solicitor recommended by your insurer.
Thinking of making a claim? Don’t delay
Professional negligence claims have a standard time limitation period of 6 years – although it may sometimes be possible to extend that period if the negligence was only picked up sometime after the negligent act. That’s why it’s important to start investigating your claim as soon as possible – as missing that deadline could mean missing out on the right compensation entirely.
Victim of Professional Negligence from your Solicitor? Thinking of claiming compensation for a legal mistake? Call us today
If you’ve been on the receiving end of professional negligence from your solicitor, our expert Professional Negligence team can help you recover the compensation you are entitled to.
We offer FREE initial phone advice and no win no fee arrangements for legal mistake claims – so you don’t have to worry about paying legal bills.