If you have ever had the misfortune of being given poor advice by a professional, then you will have the option of considering a negligence claim against that professional, for breach of their duty of care.
Whether you have a potential claim against a solicitor for negligence, or an accountant or a financial advisor, the standard of care for professionals is the same; the law requires you to prove that the professional acted in a manner that, at the time the service was provided, was below what was widely accepted in Australia by peer professional opinion as being competent. In other words, what would a solicitor, accountant or financial advisor that was competent have done and what was it that they did not do that shows that they have breached that standard of care? If you are able to show that the standard of advice was below that, then you would probably have a successful claim for negligence. One of the things that can occur when professionals give advice, is that the amount of loss that a person suffers because of that poor advice can be sometimes millions of dollars and potentially and usually bears no relevance to the amount that the person paid for the service. It does not matter, in fact, even if you did not pay for the service or what the fee was. Why it may help to show that they did have a duty of care to act for you, the law does not have any concern with the amount that you paid for that service. For example, a solicitor may give advice for cost of say $1,000 to act on a deed. If, however, the deed is not properly prepared and a claim arises, the claim could result in millions of dollars of losses. This can occur where companies obtain a solicitor’s services to prepare documents such as terms and conditions of their contract and a liability can arise if there is a problem with the contract. A further complicating factor is that professionals all have the benefit, in certain circumstances, of limiting their liability. The Professional Standards Act in New South Wales, which has been in existence from 1994, limits the liability, for instance, for the majority of solicitors in New South Wales to $1.5 million. While certain criteria has to be met for that limitation, it is something that can have an impact on a claim. Suing a professional person for negligence is not something that anybody would do lightly but it is always important to bear in mind that where professionals do give poor advice, and a claim is taken, there can be limitations on recovery. As always, if you think that you may have been given poor advice by a solicitor, accountant or financial advisor, you should always obtain legal advice specific to your matter and do so without delay.