It is not unusual for solicitor’s to make mistakes that may amount to professional negligence and cause their client a significant financial loss. In most cases the solicitor will correctly advise their client to seek independent legal advice. The solicitor should also report the mistake to their indemnity insurer in most circumstances.
But what happens if a solicitor owns up to making a mistake but then offers to pay their client as a consequence of that mistake? Should the solicitor’s offer be accepted?
The answer is “not without independent legal advice”. The reason for this is that there is a risk that the solicitor will try and buy off the affected client as cheaply as possible, perhaps without considering the full implications of the mistake and cost to the client.
An example is Mr B who had a personal injury claim. He fell and injured his knee and back when a floor panel on a restaurant floor gave way. He instructed a solicitor who made a personal injury claim. Liability for the accident was admitted and medical evidence was obtained that indicated Mr B should make a full recovery within 2 years of his injury. However, the medical expert stated he was not an expert in respect of knee injuries and a specialist report should be obtained in respect of Mr B’s knee. Just before the 2 year period expired Mr B was advised to accept an offer of £20,000 in full and final settlement of his claim and not cautioned by his solicitor that the medical evidence did not report on the full extent of his injuries and he should consider being examined by a knee specialist.
Some two and a half years after the accident Mr B was still having significant problems with his knee. He returned to his solicitor who told him the settlement of the claim was full and final. The solicitor realised a mistake had been made in that Mr B was not given full and proper advice before settling his claim and offered him a further £6,000 in exchange for agreement that Mr B would not pursue a professional negligence claim arising from the advice and representation provided in the injury claim.
Fortunately, Mr B sought a second legal opinion. He was advised to make a professional negligence claim against his former solicitor which he did. Full medical evidence was obtained from a knee specialist which supported a value in respect of the original injury claim of £50,000. Mr B accepted an offer of £35,000 from the solicitor’s insurer.
The lesson here is that if you become aware of your solicitor making a mistake and you are offered money in lieu of making a professional negligence claim, seek independent legal advice. If you don’t you may be under-compensated and left substantially out of pocket.
If you think your solicitor has been negligent and you have suffered a loss as a consequence, Jordans have a dedicated Professional Negligence team who may be able to help. You can contact us free on 0330 300 1103 or by requesting a call back and a member of our team will contact you.