You could see it as being a lawyer’s job to sue other people, but this make them immune from liability for negligence?
The lawyer-client relationship represents a duty of care, and if a lawyer, solicitor or other legal professional breaches this duty of care, then they may be found to be professionaly negligent. This may create the conditions where you can sue your lawyer for misrepresentation.
However, as well as establishing the duty of care, and that the lawyer has breached it, you must also show you have suffered a loss because of this breach.
Compromising your trust
If a legal professional lets you down, it can profoundly impact you. This goes beyond any financial loss you may incur (though this may be considerable). It is about compromising your trust.
This can happen in a variety of ways, and more often than not it might be down to procedural errors and inefficiencies, but this does not lessen the impact. if your trust is compromised in this way, and you suffer a loss as a result, should you not be able to claim for professional negligence?
What does misrepresentation mean?
Under the law of contract, misrepresentation can apply where a statement made during negotiations turns out to be untrue. However, in the context of professional negligence in the UK, in layman’s terms, it is about a legal professional’s breach in their duty of care to a client. They are not representing their client’s interests adequately.
This may be down to incompetence rather than dishonesty, but the impact on the client is profound all the same. Therefore, many times, you are more likely to make a professional negligence claim against your legal representative than sue them for misrepresentation.
Just because your lawyer or solicitor did not win your case does not mean they were negligent. But, negligence may have occurred if you suffered a loss which, but for their actions, you would not otherwise have suffered.
There are three critical components to this:
- Establishing that has been a breach in duty of care
- Establishing that there has been loss or damage as a result of this
- Establishing that your legal representative’s negligence was the cause.
Duty of care
Duty of care must first exist before you can establish that there has been a breach of it. Examples of a breach of this duty of care can vary quite widely:
- Your lawyer might have missed a court deadline for filing documents, which ends up with your case being dismissed, for example
- Or, they have under-valued a compensation settlement
- They could have drafted a will which turns out to contain errors that affect the probate process
- They have given you bad advice about a property purchase.
Loss or damage
Whether you can take legal action against someone in these types of situation will depend on whether you believe you have suffered some sort of loss or damage as a result of their breach in their duty of care.
- If they have undervalued a personal injury claim, you might have ended up with several thousands of pounds less in a settlement than you were entitled to.
- Mistakes in drafting a will could mean a drawn out, expensive and litigious legal process.
- You could act on their advice and purchase a property with undisclosed land issues which have a significant impact on its true value.
If you have established these two key components, the breach in duty of care and the loss suffered, you must then link the two together.
This goes beyond simply experiencing a poor level of service, or dealing with incompetence. It has to have had a demonstrable impact on you financially.
- If your representative fails to carry out a proper search on the purchase of a house
- If they gave you incorrect legal advice
- If they drafted a will carelessly so that you were cut out of your inheritance
- If their slow communication resulted in your case missing a legal deadline, stopping your claim in its tracks.
What can you do about it?
Negligence occurs when someone causes loss or injury to someone else because their own behaviour is reckless or careless.If you instruct a legal professional such as a lawyer or solicitor to act on your behalf and their actions cause you loss or damage, then you have grounds to make a claim against them.
If you can show that you have suffered more than bad service, then you could be in a position to sue. You expect a legal professional to act with your interests in mind, to execute their duty of care.
The fact that they have legal expertise, that they work in the legal sector, should not deter you from taking action. What you must do, though, is seek the right kind of specialist legal advice first. The law can be complex, but if you have a good case for a claim, then you should feel confident to put it forward.