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Professional Negligence: Claims against Solicitors and Accountants

Everyone needs a solicitor at some point in their life when legal issues arise.  All businesses, and many individuals, will also need the expertise of an accountant to deal with financial matters.  However, sometimes things go wrong, resulting in potentially significant harm and loss to clients and to businesses.

Solicitors and Accountants owe a legal and professional duty of care to their clients. Where this duty of care is breached and a client suffers loss as a direct result, a professional negligence claim is likely to follow. The specialist London professional negligence lawyers at Selachii provide strategic and robust legal representation.

The numbers of claims against Solicitors and Accountants have increased in recent times in the wake of the global recession.  Though many claims are without merit, many more are successful.  However robust the regulation of such professionals, negligence and incompetence can never be eradicated – and the law provides a remedy for victims of professional negligence.

Solicitors are undoubtedly an important part of people’s lives at various times.  But it’s not unknown for solicitors to advise on areas of law in which they are not specialists (meaning wrong advice is highly likely to be given), or because they make negligent or careless errors.

Accountants are vital to the smooth running of a business, and enable businesses and individuals to keep accurate financial records, pay taxes when they fall due, improve profits and effectively protect their wealth and business finances.  

Where there are negligent failings in the advice and services provided, the implications can be devastating for the client, for their family and for any business concerned. 

If you are the victim of negligence, you will need to demonstrate that a duty of care was owed to you, and that this duty was breached - causing you loss.  To make a successful professional negligence claim against your Solicitor or Accountant, you must have relied on the advice given to you and, in doing so, suffered loss (usually financial loss).  Both sides are likely to need expert evidence to support a claim or defence.

Claims against Solicitors

If you instruct a Solicitor, you rely on their professional expertise and experience to give you best possible legal advice and representation that will result in the best outcome in your unique circumstances.  This may, for instance, involve drafting a Will that will give the most tax efficient results on your death; or a company solicitor setting up a company structure that best suits your proposed business model; or negotiating the terms of a commercial lease that will sufficiently protect you should a dispute arise.

Sometimes, however, a solicitor falls short of the standard expected of them.  For example, the advice may be negligent (or just plain wrong); important deadlines can be missed; a failure to advise a property client about a planning or environmental issue that directly impacts the client’s planned use of the property; critical errors made; and financial settlements that fall well short of what a client could have expected to achieve. 

The client may suffer sometimes significant financial loss as a direct result, and a compensation claim for professional negligence should then be made against their Solicitor.

If you have a potential claim, we suggest you first raise your complaint directly with your Solicitor.  This gives them the opportunity to investigate the issue and settle the matter before you take further steps.   You can also make a complaint directly to the Legal Ombudsman.  Clients who have received a poor service from their Solicitor but cannot pursue a claim for professional negligence, may be able to claim compensation that is ‘proportionate’ and reasonable in the circumstances, under guidelines from the Legal Ombudsman.    

Claims against Accountants

Negligence on the part of an Accountant can leave a significant financial mess causing serious financial problems for individuals and families, and businesses who are directly affected.  No one expects to employ an Accountant to look after their accounts - only to then suffer a financial loss. 

Example of negligence on the part of Accountants can include negligent audits, erroneous tax advice, missed deadlines, and errors in valuing business assets.  Where things do go wrong and you suffer loss as a result of your Accountant’s negligence, you should have a good case for a compensation claims.

Accountants are independently regulated either by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) or (if chartered) by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).  If you have a potential claim against your Accountant, both the ACCA and the ICAEW have a complaints procedure which you may consider before taking legal action.

Proving professional negligence on the part of an Accountant can be tricky because you will need to provide strong evidence that their actions (or inactions) amounted to a breach of their duty of care towards you, and that you suffered financial loss as a result.  A mere delay in providing you with accountancy services would not ordinarily be sufficient to found a claim for professional negligence.

The standard of care expected of an Accountant will vary depending on the work involved.  For example, an Accountant who undertakes work of an unusually specialised nature will be under a higher standard of duty to exercise a higher degree of skill and care in performing their duty than a more junior Accountant.  

A professional negligence claim against an Accountant may be complicated by the involvement of a third party.  Where, for instance, an Accountant’s report is issued, a question may arise as to the extent of the Accountant’s duty of care to a third party who sought to rely on the report.  Where your claim involves a third party, our experts will advise you on the potential duty of care.

What should I do?

If you have received a negligent or substandard service from a Solicitor or Accountant, contact us straightaway.  You may already have made a complaint direct but have not had the matter resolved to your satisfaction. 

Contact us now for expert advice on making a claim for professional negligence claim.  We will take full details and advise you on the action we can take to secure the compensation you deserve. It is important to note that legal proceedings must usually be started within six years of when the professional negligence took place (or when you first became aware of it).

How can we help?

Our specialist London professional negligence lawyers deal strategically and robustly with claims against Solicitors and Accountants.   At Selachii, we know how disastrous professional negligence can be for the victims – whether individuals or businesses.  Our calm, professional and strategic approach will help alleviate the distress and worry.  Find out how we can help you by calling us today.  Contact us for now urgent, strategic, calm advice and representation.

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