When someone believes a professional has failed to perform their responsibilities to the required standard, or has breached a duty of care, you may be entitled to make a claim for professional negligence.
A claim can be made against those who say they have expertise in the services they provide, such as technology businesses, management consultants and surveyors. For a claim to be successful, there must be sufficient evidence that the service provided fell below the standards of their profession and resulted in loss.
Professional negligence claims can cause lasting financial and reputational damage. They can be complex, so it is important to take preventative measures to limit the potential of a claim being made against your business.
By taking the time to make sure all employees understand the requirements expected by the business and the customer, you can ensure you deliver good products and services which will exceed clients’ expectations and add value to their projects.
Listed below are some practical steps you can take to protect your business against professional negligence claims.
Keep a trail
If you are faced with a claim for professional negligence, it is essential that you have a record of events in case you need to provide evidence to support your version of what took place. You should retain emails and documents for at least six years to ensure you have a paper-trail of correspondences and agreements.
It is always good practice to have in place a written and signed contract which clearly sets out the agreed work as this will be a reference point of your evidence should a client question your work.
Remain within your remit
Mistakes happen, we are all human. That said, there is a higher risk of a professional negligence claim arising if you undertake work which is outside your skillset or expertise.
If you have little or no experience in an area and agree to take work on, you are increasing the risk of a claim. It may be tempting to take on such projects, but it may also be a mistake it if it does not go to plan.
By being clear on your remit from the outset, you can avoid taking on projects or work outside your skill set. Look at your workforce and decide what is within their skillset and what is outside it.
Decide whether the project is realistic for you
Avoid pushing your business outside of the limits of what it can physically and safely manage in the lifetime of the project.
Undertaking projects with extremely tight deadlines can sometimes set you up to fail, as it can lead to rushed work that is not completed to the highest of standards you normally undertake.
Outline what you require from your client to complete the project, whether this be information or the supply of certain assets.
Ensure all communications are in writing and keep notes of telephone conversations – make sure you have a comprehensive record of what you have asked for and when.
Be open and transparent about what you can do, as well as what you cannot do to avoid any misunderstanding on the process and results.
Document and provide this information to your client and your team. This will clearly show the scope of work and will ensure that everyone working on the project knows what is expected of them and within which time scale.
Professional indemnity insurance
Make sure you have the appropriate professional indemnity insurance in place. This will give you some peace of mind if a claim is made against you. Check if the policy enables you to claim for legal costs in defending a professional negligence claim.
You will need professional indemnity insurance if you provide advice, professional services or design work to your clients, or if you are contractor, consultant or freelancer.
What to do if your business faces a negligence claim
If you find yourself faced with a negligence claim, the first step is to seek legal advice from an experienced dispute resolution lawyer who can help you with the claim. Your lawyer will work alongside you to defend your position.
Mediation can also be an important option in professional negligence claims. Participating in mediation may lead to settlement, but if not, it helps all parties understand their own, and the other side’s position.
and a specialist in professional negligence claims.