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For many people the most daunting professional to seek redress from is a solicitor or lawyer.
Although the majority of lawyers and solicitors adhere to high professional standards, mistakes can be made or poor advice given which can cause a financial loss to you.
If you have suffered a loss because of a lawyer or solicitor's negligence, you can claim compensation for your losses by suing them. Negligent advice can take many forms such as when acting for you in the purchase of a property, undervaluing a claim they are representing you in, or failing to comply with court deadlines.
You are of course able to make a complaint to a law firm using their internal complaints procedure. If this does not resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, you can complain to the Legal Ombudsman and the Office for Legal Complaints, who can award some compensation. However, this route is not appropriate in all circumstances, particularly where your complaint is about more than poor service or an unexpectedly high bill.
It is important to seek legal advice before deciding whether you want to sue your solicitor or complain to the Legal Ombudsman or the Office for Legal Complaints, as their decision can be legally binding and may mean that you cannot then sue your solicitor, which could leave you out of pocket.
If you want advice about suing or changing a solicitor, want to talk to us about taking over a case on your behalf or simply want to have an informal chat please call Access Legal on 03700 868 686.
How do I make a claim against my solicitor
Your solicitor must act for you with the skill expected of a reasonable person in their profession, however inexperienced they might actually be. Making a claim for compensation against a professional, especially a solicitor, can be very complicated and you should always obtain advice from a solicitor first. It can cost a lot of money to take a professional to court and there are other ways of resolving disputes which can be much quicker and cheaper.
Bear in mind there is a strict time limit for pursuing these legal claims (usually within six years of the negligent actions you're complaining about) and while those alleged negligent actions may be immediately obvious, their consequences may not become apparent for some time. The best course of action is to consult a lawyer for advice sooner rather than later and let them deal with the complexities of a professional negligence claim.
Rather than getting to the point of taking legal action against your legal advisors, you have every right to change solicitors if you feel uncomfortable or unhappy about any aspect of the service you receive. There is no legal obligation to continue any relationship with a firm of solicitors, even if they have accepted your instructions and started to work on your case, and you are free to appoint any other solicitor you like at any stage. You can talk to us if you are thinking about changing solicitors.
If I can change my solicitor
You don't have to stay with the solicitors your insurance company nominates, the law firm you're told you 'must use' or your local family solicitor if you feel they don't have the expertise you need.
There is no legal obligation to continue any relationship with a firm of solicitors, even if they've accepted your instructions and started to work on your case. Many people do worry about the implications of 'changing horses in mid race', but you are free to appoint any other solicitor you like at any stage.
In most cases you won't have to pay anything to your previous solicitor if you do change firms. The new solicitor you select will simply send them a form and agree to recover the costs they may have incurred from the other side at the conclusion of your claim or action. Changing solicitor won't invalidate any legal expenses insurance you may have either, since your right to choose or change solicitor is enshrined in Regulation 6 of the Insurance Companies (LEI) Regulations 1990.
Whatever solicitor you decide to appoint, don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions so you can get an idea of how knowledgeable, professional and responsive they are. It's also important that whoever you appoint understands your situation and can manage your claim with professional skill and a degree of empathy that suggests you are regarded as a person rather than just a case number.
If I have a case against my solicitor
What sort of case you may have against your solicitor or lawyer depends on the nature of the work they carried out for you and the loss you feel you suffered. If your problem lies with the service they provided or the unexpectedly high amount of their bill, there may not be grounds for making a claim for professional negligence.
You can however make a complaint in those circumstances and you could be awarded compensation if, for example, the Legal Ombudsman upholds your complaint. They can ask your solicitor to put things right if more work by them can correct what went wrong, pay you compensation (up to a maximum of £50,000) and refund or reduce the legal fees they charged.
Making a claim for professional negligence against a lawyer or solicitor depends on you suffering damage or more likely an actual financial loss as a direct consequence of their negligence. If you are unsure about whether you have a professional negligence claim against a solicitor, you can call Access Legal for an informal chat.
We have acted for clients against their previous solicitors who have been negligent in failing to get the appropriate compensation for personal injury and in the administration of the estate of a deceased person. We have also acted to recover damages for financial losses suffered due to negligence when conveyancing in a property sale or purchase.
more about claiming against a solicitor
Unfortunately a case handled by a negligent solicitor can only be re-opened in exceptional circumstances. The verdict or ruling given at the conclusion of a case, even if conducted negligently, will normally stand.
If you lost a possible compensation claim because a negligent solicitor failed to meet court submission deadlines for example, then as a general rule there is nothing we can do to re-open or revise those proceedings. We will advise you at the outset if there is anything that can be done to re-open your case
What we can do in such cases is argue that if your solicitor had not missed those deadlines through their negligence, the probable result of a court hearing would have been such that you were likely to have been awarded a sum in compensation. We would have to show that the negligence directly caused the loss or damage you suffered. If such 'causation' cannot be established, there can be no claim.
A further example of solicitor negligence is if a solicitor acted for you in the purchase of a property and failed to carry out all of the necessary searches, and you later learn of a problem which your solicitors should have picked up on, and which decreases the value of your property.
My work involves disputes such as challenges to the validity of a will, claims for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, claims for proprietary estoppel, disputes with executors and professional negligence claims.View full profile
I am National Head of the Personal Injury team in Access Legal Solicitors, I have been a personal injury lawyer for over 26 years and I act for individuals who have sustained injuries that have had a significant impact on their quality of life and a lasting impact on their families.View full profile
'You need to have a legal team who are caring, who you absolutely trust and who will tell you the truth. Certainly from our point of view Denise Stephens from Access Legal has been absolutely amazing.'
Access Legal is the private client arm of Shoosmiths, a national law firm with offices throughout the UK. Our best in class lawyers work with individuals and their families to achieve the best result & solve their practical problems.Why Access Legal