What’s the difference between a lawyer, accountant and a surveyor?

Emma Slade of Slee Blackwell Solicitors | Business Action | independent North Devon-based business magazine | North Devon business news

Emma Slade of Slee Blackwell Solicitors, sponsor of the Outstanding New Business Award 2020, discusses professional negligence

I would like to say that the question above is the beginnings of a great joke and then sock you with a hilarious punchline. But sadly, I can’t.  As a solicitor who specialises in professional negligence claims, I can say that in fact, there is very little difference between them.  Or indeed any professional.  They can all be negligent and they can all be sued.

In fact, any individual can be considered negligent but when it comes to professionals – usually defined as those who are members of a professional body and/or are obliged to hold Professional Indemnity Insurance – it is their expertise in that profession that is being put to the test.  

So what do you need to prove to bring a claim for professional negligence?

Firstly, you need to show that there was some sort of special relationship between you and the professional.  This can be quite simple.  If you asked them to do something for you in their professional capacity and they agreed to do so, they will owe you a duty of care to act reasonably and to a reasonable standard.  Funnily enough, an exchange of money (an invoice) is not always necessary to show that a “special relationship” or duty of care is owed.  You just need to show that the professional knew you would be relying on his advice.  Obviously, evidence of payment does help – but then as a solicitor, I probably would say payment helps if you can believe half the lawyer jokes doing the rounds on the internet!!

Secondly, you need to show that they breached their duty of care to you.  Not very easy because if you employed them, you probably don’t have that expertise yourself.  But that is not the test.  The test to see whether a professional has been negligent is whether the professional was acting in a manner that is acceptable to a similarly qualified and experienced professional.  

And finally, to bring a claim, you have to show that the breach has caused you to suffer a financial loss.  Don’t think that simply because you are out of pocket, it ticks the box for this third requirement.  There must be a direct and foreseeable link between the breach and the loss.  For example, if your surveyor missed the existence of damp in a property, you may have lost the opportunity of getting a reduction in the house value.  But if you crash your car when you hear how much it is going to repair, you can probably see that the cost of the car repair is a little too remote to claim.

Although complicated, to be honest, it is relatively easy to find out if there is a claim.  Quite simply, call Slee Blackwell.  My team and I are more than happy to have a chat with you and give you a free risk assessment of any claim you may think you have.  

• Details 01271 372128 or sleeblackwell.co.uk/legal-services/professional-negligence.