Legal Guides

We use plain and simple English to give you an overview of the most common areas of law.

An Introduction to Professional Negligence

Professional negligence is a concept within tort law that deals with negligence in situations where people or organisations have represented themselves as having more than average skills and abilities.

What makes professional negligence different from other types of negligence?

Professionals, regardless of the industry they work in, are expected to exercise a reasonable degree of skill and care in their work. That duty will almost certainly apply if you paid for the services that they provided to you.

In negligence law, courts apply a test to establish whether a defendant has breached the duty of care they owed to the claimant. Usually this test involves a comparison with the skills and abilities of a reasonable person.

However, professional negligence claims differ in that the defendant will have held him or herself out to have skills and abilities that are beyond those that an average or reasonable person might have. Therefore in a professional negligence claim, the standard of service provided by the defendant is compared against that of other professionals who claim to have similar skills and abilities.

In what situations might the law of professional negligence apply?

Any professional who you employ on a fee-paying basis can be brought to account if, through the poor standards of their work, they have breached the duty of care they owed you.

It is important to understand that cases of professional negligence are relatively rare, and that the vast majority of professional people will work to a very high standard the vast majority of the time. However in every profession there are cases where these high standards are not met. Often these incidents of professional negligence occur because professional people, just like everyone else, can make genuine mistakes.

There are also situations in which professional negligence occurs as a result of the complacency of the professional person or someone working for them, or because they have acted dishonestly and attempted to cut corners.

Professional negligence doesn’t just cause financial hardship, for example if you have been let down by an accountant, an estate agent or a financial advisor.

The professional negligence of a builder, an architect or an engineer in respect of work done on your home could leave you living in a building that might be harmful to your health or even outright dangerous. In some of the worst cases, homes or offices have been left uninhabitable by the negligent actions of professionals in the building trades or by and architect or an engineer.

What can I do if I’ve been the victim of professional negligence?

If you have suffered a loss as a result of failure by a professional person or organisation to provide an acceptable standard of service then you can bring a claim for professional negligence against them.

The professional person is required to act towards you, the claimant, in such a way that you do not suffer any physical harm or financial loss. This can cover financial losses and any unreasonable inconveniences you suffer as well as the effects that professional negligence might have on your health and that of your family.

How do I make a professional negligence claim?

To make a successful professional negligence claim, it is up to you to establish that you have suffered a financial loss because the professional you employed breached the duty of care they owed you.

Any professional negligence compensation claim you choose to make will also take into account the financial impact of the defendants negligence on your business and other members of your family, for example if poorly executed building work on your home has left it uninhabitable.

Seeking out independent legal advice from a Professional Negligence Solicitor can be very important if you are considering making a claim. Professional negligence can be a very complex area of law and one which requires specialist legal knowledge to ensure that all losses are identified.

It is also important that your claim is made within the relevant time limits, which in most cases state that a professional negligence claim must be made within 6 years from the date that the negligence occurred.

Author: Sean Carty

Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors directly.

Published on 18th February 2014
(Last updated 7th May 2021)