What is Professional Negligence?

To answer the question ‘what is professional negligence?’ we first need a simple definition of professional negligence:

Professional negligence is when your professional adviser is negligent and you lose out as a result.

We will explain what being ‘negligent’ is in more detail below.

How We Can Help

Donoghue Solicitors are expert negligence solicitors who represent people in claims against solicitors in civil litigation cases involving:

If you have a professional negligence claim for something else, we suggest you try the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor service.

We  can help if:

  1. you instructed a solicitor under a retainer (legal contract);
  2. they were negligent in the work they did for you; and
  3. you have suffered a financial loss as a result.

If this sounds like you, call 08000 124 206 or fill out the online form on this page to start your professional negligence claim today.

What is Professional Negligence? – Definition of Negligence

The standard definition of negligence covers three parts:

1. someone owes you a duty of care;

2. that person fails in their duty; and

3. you suffer a loss as a result.

Professional Negligence Definition Explained

So what is professional negligence against a solicitor and why is it different to the standard definition of negligence?

The first and third parts are relatively easy to explain:

1. The Duty of Care

In the definition of negligence above, the duty of care is usually established by the retainer (legal contract) between solicitor and client (and sometimes others, known as ‘neighbours’ in law).

(For the purposes of considering ‘what is professional negligence?’ we will deal only with solicitor and client relationships established under contract.)

Solicitors owe their clients a duty of care in the work they are contracted to do. This means that they must take proper care to avoid ‘injury’ to their clients (and/or neighbours in some circumstances).

An ‘injury’ in a professional negligence claim is a loss which the client suffers.

2. The Solicitor Fails in Their Duty

Solicitor negligence law has established that solicitors will be held to a higher standard than the ‘reasonable person’ when considering if they have failed in their duty of care to you.

The ‘reasonable person’ (or ‘reasonable man’) test was established in 1837 when a judge said that the defendant’s conduct should be compared to the ‘caution such as a man of ordinary prudence would observe’.

If his conduct fell below that standard of ‘ordinary prudence’, the defendant would be found to have been negligent.

But when a professional like a solicitor is involved, the courts are interested in finding out if the lawyer has failed in their duty compared to a reasonably competent professional in their field.

This test is more strict, but also more subtle. It requires the court to consider the level of expertise of the solicitor accused of negligence, usual practice, and other factors.

3. You Suffer a Loss

Although the courts cannot turn back time to undo the damage done by your solicitor’s negligence, they can financially value the loss and try to put you in the position that you would have been in if the negligence had not occurred.

For example, in a personal injury claim, if your solicitor fails to issue proceedings in time and you lose your right to claim, the value of your claim could be quantified using medical evidence, expert accountants, and others. This amount can then be used when claiming compensation from the negligent solicitor’s insurers.

In civil litigation claims (e.g. personal injury accident claims or actions against the police) the ‘loss of chance’ to claim compensation can also be calculated. As no case is ever guaranteed the courts can look at the likelihood of success (before the solicitor’s negligence) and award damages based on that. They can also reduce the value of compensation claims for contributory negligence, failure to mitigate losses, and other reasons.

Read our professional negligence case studies for how this works in practice.

As you would imagine, it helps to have an expert claim assessment from a solicitor who knows the law, and the ins and outs of the court system, in the field where the solicitor’s negligence occurred.

Donoghue Solicitors are experienced compensation claims solicitors who specialise in accident claims and actions against the police. We can give an expert view on these types of cases and have access to the necessary experts to help value your claim.

This deals with the third part of the definition. The second part of the definition is what makes professional negligence different and more complicated in law.


Photo of Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director who answers the question 'what is professional negligence?'

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director who answers the question ‘what is professional negligence?’

Legal Negligence Solicitors

As you can see, legal negligence is difficult to prove, and answering the question ‘what is professional negligence?’ is not easy.

As well as legal negligence, you may also have a claim under contract law for breach of contract among other things. (This is why we represent people who have a formal legal retainer, or contract, with their solicitors.)

Professional Negligence Law Help

The law in professional negligence cases is complex and ever-evolving. Don’t chance your case with anyone but an expert.

As a member of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association, Kevin Donoghue is dedicated to helping people who have professional negligence claims.

Read our case studies and see how we help people claim after they have been let down by their solicitor.

We represent people in claims against solicitors based in England and Wales. Our offices are in Liverpool, but we can meet you in London or Bootle (Merseyside) by prior appointment. And with email, phone, and old-fashioned letter, we can help you wherever you are. Contact us for help if you are uncomfortable about suing your local solicitor.

We help people who have claims of £15,000 or more against their civil litigation solicitors.

We can help if your civil litigation solicitor under-settled your claim or caused you to lose the opportunity to claim for some other reason, such as a missed deadline.

Read more about the types of cases we take in our Professional Negligence FAQs.

If suitable we act as professional negligence no win no fee solicitors, so you have nothing to lose, and valuable compensation to gain.

Contact Kevin Donoghue at Donoghue Solicitors for a FREE initial assessment of your professional negligence claim.

Call 08000 124 246 or complete the online form on this page to start your professional negligence claim.

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