Help for litigants in person

We offer help for litigants in person making a professional negligence claim

Our professional negligence team provide help for litigants in person making a professional negligence claim. You can call upon our help as and when you need it, limiting your responsibility for paying legal costs to the time we spend dealing with a specific issue, rather than the whole case from start to finish.

Are litigants in person really on an equal footing?

The law requires courts to ensure that parties in litigation are on an “equal footing” and that “everyone is entitled to a fair… hearing”.  So surely, with this in mind, when a litigant in person is opposing a party who has full legal representation and seemingly unending resources, the court should play fair and try to level the playing field?

Yes.  But not quite as much as you would think.

This complex relationship was considered by the High Court in the case of Axnollar Events Ltd -v- Brake and others where the defendants, finding themselves as litigants in person, asked the claimants to provide them with a hard copy of the trial bundle without charge.  Faced with refusal, they asked the Court to intervene.

The claimants had brought proceedings against two defendants. Initially, the defendants were represented by lawyers, but funds ran out and they became litigants in person. 

The Directions specified that the trial bundle was to be supplied in electronic form.  However, the defendants complained that, with poor internet connection and lack of resources, they would need a paper copy. The claimants said that they could provide it but the defendants would have to pay their charges for copying the bundle and sending it by courier. The defendants said they were unable to afford those charges and applied to the court for a variation of the order.

To be fair, by the time the hearing occurred, the claimants had provided the paper bundle, but they had also sent a bill along with it.  The defendants felt that it was unfair and wanted the bundle to be provided without charge.

Years ago parties had always been responsible for preparing their own trial bundle. The claimant would send the defendant an index and the defendant then had to prepare their own copy, hoping that the page numbers would marry up.  New rules were then introduced putting responsibility on the claimant but they didn’t specify who should pay the cost.  The court therefore concluded that there was no requirement to provide a hard copy trial bundle free of charge.

The defendants made much of the fact that they were litigants in person and did not have the resources, or even the funds, to arrange for a copy of the bundle to be provided.  In response to this the judge said:

“I remind myself that, absent specific provision made in the rules, the position of a litigant in person is the same as that of a represented litigant, and it is generally not right to give advantages to litigants in person which are not given to represented litigants.”

He also quoted the case of Barton v Wright Hassall:

“At a time when the availability of legal aid and conditional fee agreements have been restricted, some litigants may have little option but to represent themselves. Their lack of representation will often justify making allowances in making case management decisions and in conducting hearings. But it will not usually justify applying to litigants in person a lower standard of compliance with rules or orders of the court.” 

The judge concluded that:

some expenditure by each of the parties is unavoidable.  Equipping yourself with the necessary papers for the trial process is part of that.”

So what about the “equal footing” that the rules refer to?  He dealt with that also:

Equal footing does not mean that litigation cannot take place unless all parties have equal resources

Ouch!

Professional help for litigants in person making a professional negligence claim

At a time when legal fees can be unaffordable for the average person – especially in claims that fall into the small claims court, where costs generally cannot recovered even if you win – it is understandable why many people feel they have no choice but to become litigants in person.  The courts will accommodate litigants in person, but only to a certain extent; their role is to ultimately enforce compliance with rules. The reality is that, in many instances, litigants in person will be at a disadvantage.

Here at Slee Blackwell, we recognise that. So, if the merits of a case are good and the value of the claim is substantial (ideally well above the £10,000 small claims court limit) then we are always happy to consider the possibility of no win, no fee funding.

In cases where it is not financially feasible for us to take on the case completely, we offer a service where we can assist you on an ad-hoc basis.  You will deal with the claim on a day-to-day basis and when you get to a point where you need help, we are there to assist you. You then pay our charges for the time we spend dealing with the specific issue and not the whole case.

If you would like to know more about the help for litigants in person that we offer or wish to discuss your options then please do not hesitate to call our free legal helpline and speak to either Emma Slade or David Paull on 0808 139 1595 or email us at [email protected]

Claiming compensation for a short lease

Can I claim compensation for a short lease?

To find out if you can claim compensation for a short lease call our legal helpline for a free case assessment and details of no win, no fee funding. Call 0808 139 1595 or email details to [email protected]

You may be able to claim compensation for a short lease if your conveyancing solicitor failed to advise you about the problems commonly associated with short leases when you purchased your leasehold property.

Many properties in the UK are leasehold, particularly flats and apartments. Leases are granted by the freeholder of the land for a specific period. Leases are often granted for 999 years, which doesn’t cause any issues when you come to sell them on as there will be plenty of time remaining. However, some leases are granted for much shorter periods. this means that when they are sold on, the remaining term of the lease may be very short; as short as 80, 70 or even 60 years.

If you buy a short lease then it is likely that you will have difficulty is selling it on unless you pay for the lease to be extended. Lease extensions can cost a lot of money, and the shorter the lease is, the more money it will cost. You must also own a property for two years before you can extend.

This expense needs to be factored in when you are purchasing the property. It is therefore important that you are made aware of this when you buy. Most conveyancing solicitors will draw this issue to their client’s attention. This gives the buyer the opportunity to renegotiate the purchase price or withdraw from the transaction. It also allows you to ask the seller to serve a lease extension notice on the freeholder before you buy so that you can extend the lease without waiting two years.

However, lawyers do sometimes fail to warn their clients that the lease they are acquiring is short. When this happens then the unwitting purchaser may be able to claim compensation for the short lease from their solicitor.

The amount of compensation will vary from case to case. It may be the amount it costs to extend the lease or it could be the difference in value between the price you paid for the property and its actual value, taking into account the short lease.

We deal with solicitors negligence claims nationwide and are experienced in claiming compensation for a short lease. We will be happy to provide an assessment of your case free of charge, together with details of no win, no fee funding. Call us now on 0808 139 1595 or email details of your claim to us at [email protected]

Conveyancing mistake

When a conveyancing mistake is made are you entitled to claim compensation?

If you are looking for experienced solicitors to deal with a conveyancing mistake then call our free helpline for a case assessment and details on no win, no fee funding.

Buying a house or a flat is probably the single most expensive purchase you will ever make, so it needs to be done with a great deal of care. As a minimum you will want to make sure that all the walls are stable and not likely to subside, that the roof is sound and that you won’t be facing huge bills in the near future remedying building defects.  This is why most people arrange for a surveyor to inspect the property and prepare a report

But it isn’t just building and construction issues that you need to be concerned about. There are also important legal issues that need to be considered when buying a property.

The kitchen extension:  Is it legal?  Is there planning permission?  Building regulations approval?

The driveway: Does it belong to you?  Does your neighbour have a right to use it?  

The garden.  Do you own it?  Are the boundaries correct?

The septic tank:  Who is responsible for it?  Does it comply with current regulations?  Can anyone else use it and if so, what is their contribution to its upkeep?

There are so many legal questions that need to be considered when buying a property. Most people would never stop and think about them; which is why you use a solicitor to think of them for you.

In the vast majority of cases the purchase of a property will go ahead smoothly without any hiccups. However, things do sometimes go wrong and a conveyancing mistake is made.  The solicitor may for instance fail to notice that planning permission for the kitchen extension was never granted. Or someone starts driving over your property as a Right of Way wasn’t noticed.  Or the water pipes burst and you suddenly find yourself responsible for their replacement as ownership of the pipes was overlooked.  

In each of those instances, if the problem had been noticed before you completed on the purchase you would have had the choice to pull out of the transaction, negotiate a reduction in the price or obtain an insurance policy to protect you.  If the conveyancing mistake has denied you those options and you are now out of pocket as a result, you may be able to claim compensation.

We operate a free legal helpline for people who have suffered a financial loss exceeding £10,000 as a result of a conveyancing mistake. You can call us on 0808 139 1595 or send an email with brief details to [email protected]

We will be happy to undertake a brief free assessment of your potential claim and let you know if we can work on a no win no fee basis.

Solicitor messed up my divorce

My solicitor messed up my divorce. Can I claim compensation?

Divorce is never a pleasant experience, so when it goes wrong the effect can be devastating..  

As with most legal disputes, an element of compromise on both sides is needed in order to reach a settlement. This means that people rarely walk away from a divorce feeling 100% satisfied. However, while that sense of dissatisfaction is in most cases an unavoidable consequence of the divorce process, occasionally the outcome is made worse by the actions of a solicitor.

What can go wrong during the divorce process?

There is much that can go wrong during a divorce which can in turn lead to significant financial loss being suffered. Examples include:

  • Under-settling the financial claim;
  • Failing to identify a matrimonial asset;
  • Failing to prevent dissipation of matrimonial assets;
  • Incorrect valuation of assets, especially property and pensions;
  • Failing to comply with a Court order leading to all or part of a claim being struck out;
  • Incorrectly drafting any settlement agreements or court orders; and
  • Failing to implement a Court Order.

Can I sue the solicitor who messed up my divorce?

If your solicitor (or barrister) messed up and caused you financial loss, then yes, you may be able to bring a compensation claim on the basis of negligence. 

But bear in mind that simply because you did not receive all that you had hoped for, it does not necessarily mean that your legal team were negligent.  You will have to prove that they acted in a way that no reasonably competent solicitor or barrister (with similar qualifications and experience) would have done. Furthermore, you have to show that your losses stem from that negligence and not from any other causes.

How we can help

If you are thinking of making a compensation claim against the solicitor who messed up your divorce and you have suffered loss exceeding £10,000 then you can contact us for a free initial discussion. We will look at what you think the solicitor got wrong and the loss you have suffered as a result. If there are grounds for a claim then we will be happy to consider working on a no-win no fee basis.

Call us on 0808 139 1595 or email [email protected] for a free initial assessment of your case.

Compensation for an accountant’s mistake after client was told she had no case

We win compensation for an accountant’s mistake after our client’s previous solicitors give up on the case

If you are looking for experienced solicitors to deal with a claim for an accountant’s mistake then call us for a free assessment and details of no win, no fee funding.

We have successfully recovered compensation for an accountant’s mistake. But what made this case unusual was that our client had been turned away by her previous solicitors on the basis that her case had no merit.

Based in the North East of England, Ms A owned a property with her bankrupt partner, B.  B’s Trustee in Bankruptcy was looking to seize and sell the property to pay off some of B’s debts.  In order to keep her home, Ms A asked accountants for assistance.  

Some time later Ms A had reason to query the advice she had received. In reaching a settlement with the Trustee in Bankruptcy to buy B out, the accountants forgot to check with B’s mortgagee about their charge over his interest in the property.  If they had done so, they would have realised that there was no value in B’s interest due to negative equity.  If they had known that then they could have simply invited the Trustee to waive his interest in the house in favour of Ms A.  Instead, she was forced to pay many tens of thousands of pounds to buy out the Trustee to acquire something that was essentially worthless.

However, the accountants denied they had ever acted for her, even though it was clear that the firm had negotiated terms with B’s trustee in bankruptcy on her behalf, so they could not deny they owed her a duty of care.

The accountants refused to co-operate with Ms A’s enquiries, ignoring correspondence and then claiming that they had destroyed any papers they had on the matter.  Ms A made a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office, but the accountants continued to claim the papers had been destroyed and that they had never acted for Ms A.  As a result of this, her legal advisors (who had been appointed to represent Ms A under the terms of her Legal Expenses Insurance policy) claimed there were insufficient merits in the claim and the risk of taking legal action was too high.  They said there was nothing they could do to help.

This is the point we entered the picture. Ms A decided to seek a second opinion, and wisely on this occasion sought specialist help from ourselves. We specialise in professional negligence law and are highly experienced in dealing with negligence claims against accountants.

Emma Slade who heads up our ProNeg team disagreed with the previous solicitor’s analysis. In fact she was so certain they were wrong that she offered to take up the case on a no-win, no-fee basis.  

Despite there being such a small amount of paperwork available, Emma was convinced there was enough evidence to support a claim.  After much perseverance, the accountants and their insurers were finally persuaded and they reluctantly agreed to attend a mediation. The mediation was a success and a satisfactory settlement was negotiated.

Ms A was delighted with the outcome, thanking the team for their help.  “The real compensation is knowing that I was right.  After everything, the money is fine, but it feels better to be believed and acknowledged.”

If you are looking for solicitors to claim compensation for an accountant’s mistake, then call us for a free case assessment and details of No Win, No Fee funding. Alternatively, email us at [email protected]

Claiming compensation from a financial adviser

Claims for wrong financial advice

If you want to look after your hard-earned money then professional financial planning is an absolute must.  You may need advice on where to invest your savings, how to plan for your retirement or opportunities of reaping a better return on your assets.  While some people go to their accountant for this advice, others use the specialist services of an independent financial planner (IFA).  In most instances, that advice works out well, but occasionally it doesn’t.  That’s when consideration needs to be given to whether your loss is attributable to the inevitable fluctuations of the market or wrong financial advice.

Examples of wrong financial advice include:

  • Misunderstanding the risk profiles, resulting in the money of a cautious investor being put into high risk investments;
  • Encouraging people to enter into risky investment schemes without the relevant warnings or explaining the implications;
  • Suggesting a tax avoidance scheme which HMRC subsequently close down;
  • Promoting inappropriate investment schemes without checking their provenance or performance history;
  • Failure to ensure that the investor can actually afford the investment; and
  • Recommending unsuitable pensions and Self Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPS).

Whatever form the wrong financial advice takes and whatever loss it leads to, if the IFA failed to advise you to a suitable, professional standard, then they could be negligent and liable to pay you compensation.  

We specialise in financial negligence. So, if you feel that you have been let down by your your IFA, then call us and we will be happy to discuss your claim with you.   We can also look at funding options, including the availability of a no-win, no-fee. Do not delay in calling though: negligence claims do have strict time limits and they can quickly pass.

To discuss such a claim for compensation for wrong financial advice on a free, no-obligation basis, please call Emma Slade on 0808 139 1595 or email [email protected] .  We are here to help.

Construction projects gone wrong & the role of Project Managers

Professional Negligence solicitor, Emma Slade, looks at construction projects gone wrong and Project Manager negligence

For expert advice on construction projects gone wrong and project manager negligence contact us for a free case assessment and details of no win, no fee funding.

There is a multitude of reasons why a construction project may go wrong and end up in a legal dispute.  Poor workmanship, poor design and poor timetabling are all common.  But what about poor supervision?

Anybody involved in a build project will undoubtedly have heard of a JCT Contract.  In fact, there are a suite of contracts that have been prepared by the Joint Contracts Tribunal and have been created to “facilitate the process of delivering a building project. In simple terms they set out the responsibilities of all the parties within the process and their obligations to each other”.

One of the recommendations in a JCT Contract is to appoint a Contract Administrator (or a Project Manager under NEC Contracts) who will be the client’s representative throughout the project and is there to oversee the works themselves.  Customarily, the role will go to the likes of a surveyor or an architect, but it can be any number of professions.

However appointment of a Project Manager is no guarantee that things will run smoothly. Unfortunately there are lots of examples of construction projects gone wrong even where a Project Manager has been hires to oversee things.

Contruction projects gone wrong and negligence cases involving Project Managers can include the following:

  • Failure to ensure the contract is signed;
  • Failure to notice or report on defects;
  • Failure to comply with the timetable;
  • Biased decisions;
  • Allowing an overrun on costs;
  • Negligently issuing Interim or Final Certificates;
  • Failure to ensure insurance was in place; and
  • Recommending unreliable contractors.

And where negligence occurs, invariably a financial loss results: an overrun on the project; additional build costs; inability to recover against the main contractor; having a build fail due to incompetence are all common claims.

We are professional negligence solicitors specialising in construction projects gone wrong & project manager negligence claims on a national basis. We offer various funding options including No Win, No Fee.

For guidance on construction projects gone wrong or negligence claims involving a Project Manager call our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1595 or email details of your case to us at [email protected]

No Win, No Fee surveyor claim

Case study of a successful No Win, No Fee surveyor claim

Are you looking for experienced solicitors to deal with your no win, no fee surveyor claim? Call us for a free case assessment on 0808 139 1595 or send brief details of your case to us at [email protected]

Our client appointed a surveyor to carry out a full structural survey of a property they wished to purchase. The client happened to be present when the survey was carried out and was told that asbestos might be present in the artexing. However this warning was not mentioned in the written report. The client tried to follow it up with the surveyor, but their emails went unanswered and their telephone number was blocked.

After moving in, the client had new central heating installed. When plumbers entered the floor void they found large piles of asbestos. An asbestos report was immediately obtained and this found evidence of asbestos in:

  • the fireplace;
  • the kitchen cupboards;
  • lagging to pipework under the ground floor; 
  • lagging to pipework under the first floor; and
  • lagging in the attic void.

We agreed to take on the No Win, No Fee surveyor claim. But when we presented the claim to the surveyor he argued that structural surveys do not need to cover asbestos and that certain areas of the property where unreachable. This was despite the fact that he had mentioned the problem to our client himself at the inspection. The surveyor also tried to argue that it was our client’s fault for not following up on their ‘roadside’ conversation.

However, we countered that the RICS’s definition of a structural survey states that asbestos should be mentioned. No competent surveyor would have failed to detect the presence of the asbestos in the property and had the survey report included reference to this then the client would have followed it up. There had obviously been either a mistake/oversight when the inspection was done, or the inspection was not done at all.

Our arguments succeeded and the claim was settled out of court with our client receiving compensation.

If you are looking for a solicitor who is experienced in surveyor claims to handle your No Win, No Fee case call us for a free case assessment or send details to us by email and we will get straight back to you.

Homebuyers survey missed asbestos

Case study of a successful compensation claim made because a Homebuyers survey missed asbestos

If your Homebuyers survey missed asbestos call us for a free case assessment and details of no win, no fee funding.

Our client instructed a surveyor to carry out a Homebuyers survey on a property he wished to purchase.  The surveyor carried out an inspection and submitted his Homebuyers survey report. It made reference to Artex on the ceilings and the presence of plasterboard, but the report gave no indication that they posed a problem. Nor was any recommendation made for further investigations to be carried out at the property. Accordingly our client proceeded with his purchase.

Having moved in he commenced some building works. This led him to discover that the walls were in fact made of asbestos cement and that many of the rooms in the house had asbestos both in the ceilings and in the walls.  By the time this was discovered the asbestos had been disturbed. As a result our client and his family had to vacate the premises immediately.

We agreed to pursue a compensation claim on a No Win, No Fee basis based on the allegation that the Homebuyers survey missed asbestos.

The surveyor argued that by referencing the possibility of asbestos in his report this was sufficient warning of the existence of asbestos in the property. Furthermore, he said that he could not have ascertained whether the walls contained asbestos of not.

This defence was rejected by us. Even the most superficial inspection of the walls by a competant surveyor would have given an indication of their likely composition. Furthermore RICS guidelines are specific in that a surveyor must positively identify the risk of asbestos and recommend that it be investigated by an asbestos specialist if the surveyor is not qualified to investigate it themselves.

The case ultimately settled out of court with out client receiving a satisfactory level of compensation for the losses suffered by him.

If your survey missed asbestos and you are looking for experienced professional negligence solicitors to make a surveyor’s negligence claim on a No Win, No Fee basis then call our free legal helpline for a case assessment on 0808 139 1595 or send brief details of your case to us at [email protected] and we will get straight back to you with our recommendations.

Compensation claim for a bad survey

Case study of a claim for compensation for a bad survey

If you wish to make a compensation claim for a bad survey then call us for a free case assessment and details on no win, no fee funding.

We were recently approached by a gentleman who had purchased a property which turned out to be defective. He wanted to know if he was entitled to compensation for a bad survey.

He told us that a valuation had been required by his mortgage company prior to him purchasing the property purchase. A surveyor was accordingly instructed by the building society, but the surveyor’s fee was paid by the client.  No significant defects were noted in the surveyor’s report so the client felt happy proceeding with the purchase.

Shortly after moving in however, he noticed significant cracking. On investigation it was established that the bungalow he had boiught was constructed on a raft design, but due to subsidence the raft had snapped in two, splitting the bungalow down the middle and tearing it apart.

Obviously our client was devastated and wanted to know why this defect had not been picked up by the surveyor.

When he looked into it further he discovered that there were a number of indicators that should have been spotted by the surveyor. when he carried out his inspection. If the surveyor had noticed these then the serious defect would have come to light. The telltale signs included cracking, sloping floors and doorways and evidence of previous subsidence investigations.

We agreed to pursue his compensation claim for a bad survey and work on a No Win, No Fee basis.

The claim has now been presented to the surveyor who has denied that he is at fault.  He claims that his obligation was purely limited to carrying out a valuation of the property. However both the RICS guidance and the original instructions by the building society specifically stated that he should review anything which would affect the valuation, including subsidence. Needless to say we have rejected the surveyor’s arguments and the case continues.

If you have had a bad survey and are looking for experienced surveyor negligence solicitors who operate on a No Win, No Fee basis then call our Helpline for a no obligation, free case assessment. Call 0808 139 1595 or email us at [email protected]

An important update from proneg.co.uk

We wish to reassure everyone that we are maintaining a full service during the coronavirus crisis.

All our lawyers are working hard for our clients and can be contacted by telephone, email and video.

We are continuing to operate our popular free legal helpline service on 0808 139 1595.

Enquires can also be sent to us at [email protected]