Can I sue a Solicitor For Negligence
Solicitors are not above the law and they are human and also prone to making mistakes. If a solicitor causes you loss then you may be able to make a claim against them requesting they compensate you for any losses that you sustain as a
result of them failing to carry out your instructions or them being negligent in some regard. Examples of negligence include a solicitor missing an important date, not doing something you had asked them to do which resulted in you suffering a loss, failing to issue a claim in time resulting in your claim being time-barred, also known as statute barred.
The first step is to take some specialist legal advice from a solicitor who undertakes solicitors negligence work to work out whether the solicitor has in fact been negligent and whether you have incurred a loss as a result of that particular negligence. You will be required to show a connection between the alleged negligent act and the loss being claimed which should flow from the negligence being complained of. You may also wish to make a complaint against the solicitor and follow the solicitors internal complaints procedure in the first instance which at least enables you to receive a formal response to your concerns which you can then forward to a new solicitor to consider as to whether you have any good case against the solicitor in negligence.
The expert negligence solicitor will then probably write to the former solicitor and send a pre-action protocol letter or a letter before claim setting out your concerns alleging negligence and mentioning the losses you have sustained as a result of the various negligent acts. The pre-action protocol process allows four months for the former solicitor to respond and he may be required to instruct his insurer’s solicitors to respond to the letter before claim by serving a letter of response, either accepting or denying liability. Unless you have a very clear-cut case of negligence it is unlikely that the letter of response shall admit to any negligent act or loss which will mean that you will be required to then instruct solicitors to prepare a claim form and particulars of claim and issue proceedings by paying a court fee and proceeding to court. The defendants solicitor will then have 14 days to acknowledge the claim and a further 14 days to file a defence to the claim setting out their case as to why your claim should not succeed. If you at that stage to are advised that the defences weak you have the option to make an application to court to either strike out the defence or proceed by way of summary judgement in seeking a mini trial in seeking to dispose of the claim in a summary fashion without having the delay and expense of proceeding to a full blown out trial. It is essential that you obtain expert representation during this process as if you lose your claim you will probably be required to pay significant costs to the defendants solicitor’s firm, such costs being also known as adverse costs.
Some solicitors will be prepared to take on cases on a no win no fee basis aka conditional fee agreements albeit they will insist on a specialist barristers written opinion being obtained in the first instance stipulating that you have over 65% prospects of success in bringing the claim against the alleged negligent solicitors. Funding is also sometimes available for larger cases although a funder will be expected to firstly receive a slice of any damages which are payable. No win no fee agreements and insurance funding is sometimes invaluable to enable a client who does not have the funds or who cannot afford to being exposed to adverse costs being able to access justice, which had been the rationale of Parliament by allowing no win no fee agreements in the first instance and as a result of the severe cutbacks in legal aid funding.
The advantage of sending a detailed letter before claim to the solicitor is that your solicitor can assess prospects of success when a response is received and you will not be exposed to adverse costs unless and until you proceed to court. It is always best to engage a solicitor with a strong record of success of pursuing successful claims against negligent solicitors and you should also ask for statistics such as how many cases they have won and lost to enable you to best decide on who to engage as your preferred litigation solicitor.
It is also sensible for you to obtain realistic cost estimates in advance so that you can make a well-informed decision as to the amount you are likely to receiving damages from the opponent, how strong your cases in percentage terms and what success fee percentage terms the solicitor will charge for acting on a no win no fee basis bearing in mind that the success fee used to be reclaimable from the opponent although it no longer is and therefore you need to be aware that the uplift or success fee will be borne by you from any damages you receive hence you must undertake the calculation at the outset and appreciate the likely figures and likely damages you are to receive as a result of pursuing your intended solicitors negligence case.