HomeFWJ TakeawayResourcesWhat rights do I have to complain about a professional?

When we think about the possibility of professional negligence claims, one of the key areas to consider is the applicable standard required and expected of the professional involved who has committed the breach

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If you think that you have suffered a loss as a result of professional negligence then it is important to establish quickly what avenues are available to you for the purposes of making a claim.

At Francis Wilks & Jones we can guide you through the various options available to you to make sure that your claim is directed to the correct authority.

  • as a client, when you instruct any professional you are entitled to expect that the work they will carry out for you will be done to a reasonable standard. 
  • if that work falls below that reasonable standard then it is likely that professional negligence has occurred.

The law protects consumers rights when buying goods and services and this is reflected in the avenues available to consider complaints and deal with them alternative to court proceedings.

The first step is to follow the internal complaints procedure where there is one with most professional firms having a complaints handling procedure. 

Where the outcome of that is not satisfactory there are alternatives available to court proceedings which can often be a quicker and smoother way of resolving a complaint.  They can also be financially beneficial overall with complaints services being free but also having the powers needed to order compensation.

For example,

  • depending on the industry, an ombudsman may investigate complaints for free and may be able to resolve a complaint without the necessity of going to court. 
  • where you might have a complaint against the work undertaken by a surveyor RICS is responsible for the regulation and conduct of its members but cannot order compensation. 

If you wish to complain about your accountant then depending on which governing body the accountant is affiliated to conciliation is a process available to help facilitate a financial settlement of a complaint.

That said, generally, regulatory bodies do not have the power to order compensation and are limited to taking disciplinary steps against members. 

For compensation, a complaint must be referred to someone with that power which for example can be an arbitrator, ombudsman or alternative dispute resolution provider.

Legal Ombudsman 

A complaint against a solicitor can be referred to the Legal Ombudsman depending on the size of the claim.  We have had much success in assisting clients pursue a complaint via the Legal Ombudsman rather than issue court proceedings by preparing the letter setting out the complaint in full.  The Legal Ombudsman will often want to make further enquiries and we can assist by responding fully to those. 

  • legal costs incurred in processing your complaint in this way can not be recovered unlike in litigation
  • however in our experience you can expect a material cost saving in the claim going through the Ombudsman rather than court proceedings which ultimately could result in a better financial position overall.

We can advise as to which of the two options of either a referral of your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman or the issue of court proceedings (depending on the claim and the value of it) and prepare the letter of claim for you.  If we recommend a referral to the Legal Ombudsman then we can take carriage of that for you.

Compensation Fund Application

Another avenue for pursuing a claim for loss as a result of negligence of a lawyer is to apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for compensation from their Compensation Fund.  That said, the fund is limited to assist those who have suffered financially as a result of the dishonesty of someone regulated by them or that they have not accounted properly for money or perhaps they were not covered by insurance against the negligence.

There are limits to the value of claims and ideally a claim should be made within 12 months of becoming aware of it.  We can advise if your claim might fall within the remit of the fund and assist in preparing the claim and processing it for you.

Professional indemnity insurance and insurance limits

Regulatory and governing bodies require that their members are adequately insured against claims for loss or damage suffered as a result of negligent services or advice offered.

  • it is not a legal requirement to have professional indemnity insurance but failure to be adequately insured can debar a professional from membership of a regulatory or governing body. 
  • for example, law firms are obliged under the Solicitors Regulation Authority to have professional indemnity insurance. 

For many business sectors who provide professional services business comes with the risk of service based disputes arising and being insured against that is sensible.  Accountants, financial consultants, surveyors or engineers are all likely to need professional indemnity insurance due to requirements set by their respective industry bodies.

  • where a claim is made out against a professional, the professional is obliged to notify it’s insurer of the potential liability as early as possible.
  • upon being notified, an insurer will often appoint it’s own legal advisors to deal independently of the professional who has received the complaint.

The amount of PI cover needed by a business will depend on the nature of the services being offered.  Obviously, larger organisations will likely necessitate a higher level of cover particularly where they are heavily regulated.


If you have a claim against a professional adviser – contact our friendly professional negligence team today and we can help. We have won many claims for our clients, including claims against solicitors, accountants, tax advisers and surveyors. Whatever the nature of your claim – we can help.

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