If you are considering making a negligence claim against a professional (such as an accountant, financial adviser, solicitor, barrister, insurance broker, surveyor or architect) then it is important to note any claim must be made within a certain time frame. If you try to commence proceedings too late then it is likely that your claim will be statute-barred.
Time limits for professional negligence claims
Primary limitation period
In general, there are two-time limits for professional negligence claims. They are either based on contract or the common law tort of negligence. Under contract law, a claimant has six years from the date of the breach of contract to bring a claim. Under the tort of negligence, a claimant has six years from that date when they suffer a financial loss as a result of a negligent professional. These periods are both known as the Primary Limitation Period.
If you try to make a claim after this point in time then it is likely that your case will be time-barred. The time limits are outlined in the Limitation Act 1980.
Secondary limitation period
In some instances (for example in claims that are for negligence only), the time limit may be extended if the negligence is discovered at a later point in time (e.g. after the Primary Limitation Period). This is known as the Secondary Limitation Period. The time limit in these instances is three years from the Date of Knowledge, which is the date you become aware (or ought to have been aware) of the negligence. However, proving this can sometimes be a tricky hurdle to tackle, as the Court may feel that you should have known about the negligent advice sooner, and is often open to an argument from the defendant.
Additionally, there is an absolute long stop of 15 years for professional negligence claims. This means that if someone discovers that they have suffered a loss as a result of negligent advice from a professional more than 15 years ago then they won’t be able to make a claim.
These time limits exist to afford the professionals a certain level of protection concerning their financial exposure on any work that they carry out for their clients.
Furthermore, there are other logistical advantages to having the time limits in place, including how long client files need to be kept by the professional and about indemnity insurance policies.
How can Nelsons help?
Daniel Brumpton is a Partner in our Professional Negligence team, specialising in claims against accountants, financial advisers, solicitors and barristers, insurance brokers, surveyors and architects.
Our expert team are experienced in every type of professional negligence claim. If you feel that you may have a claim for professional negligence then we can evaluate your case and assess your chances of success and the timescales and costs involved.