Professional Negligence: Do I have a claim?

Professional Negligence: Do I have a claim?


In the words of Alderson B in Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks Co [1856] “Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do”

In a professional setting, negligence occurs when a professional i.e. accountant, surveyor, lawyer, fails in their responsibilities to the required standard. 

In order to succeed in a negligence action, you must prove that:

  1. The professional owed you a duty of care;
  2. The professional was in breach of that duty;
  3. You suffered loss and damage, which was caused by that breach of duty; and
  4. The loss and damage was not too remote.

Duty of care

Usually, a professional such as a lawyer, accountant etc. who is instructed to act on your behalf will automatically owe you a duty of care to act with reasonable care and skill. These types of relationships are recognised relationships where a duty of care is established by precedent.

Breach of duty

In law, the standard of care in a professional negligence claim (as formulated in the case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957]), is that of ‘reasonable skill and care’. Skill and care are generally measured by the standard of whether the service or advice you received was so poor that it fell below a reasonably acceptable standard for that profession. Although Bolam was a clinical negligence case, the test has been approved as being of general professional application.

Causation and remoteness of damage

Even where breach of duty has been established, professional negligence claims can often fall foul of the difficult questions of: –

  • Causation — did the negligence causally contribute to the loss? (the ‘but for’ test). The But for Test is a legal standard used to determine whether the defendant’s actions were actually the cause of the claimant’s harm or loss. If the harm would not have happened but for the defendant’s actions, then the defendant may be held liable.
  • Remoteness — if it did, what is the extent of the loss for which the defendant ought to be held liable?

How Pinney Talfourd can help

Bringing a professional negligence claim involves multiple hurdles, requiring careful preparation, strong evidence, and legal expertise. The Commercial Litigation team at Pinney Talfourd offers expert advice to both claimants and defendants. For further information, please contact Nick Hatchett or Emma Hardie.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Emma Hardie, CILEX Lawyer in the Commercial Litigation Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2024.



Emma Rayner

Emma Hardie

CILEX Lawyer

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