Who is classified as a professional in the context of a professional negligence claim?
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The first thing to consider when you are thinking about bringing a professional negligence claim is the definition of a ‘professional’.
Although there is no definitive definition of a ‘professional’, or a fixed list of ‘professions’, there are some important points to bear in mind when bringing a professional negligence claim. These include:
- Whether the person was required to complete a professional qualification to do their job? A prime example here is a solicitor, who is required to go through multiple stages of learning to become a qualified, practicing solicitor.
- Does the person have insurance? It is good practice for professionals to have indemnity insurance since their positions come with high financial risk. If a surveyor is negligent, it could cost them tens of thousands of pounds in compensation, so, not only is it common practice for them to have insurance to cover these costs, many professional bodies make it a requirement for membership that PII is maintained.
- Are they regulated by a professional standards board? Again, using the solicitor example, all solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). These regulatory bodies will set standards for all professionals falling within their jurisdiction and non-compliance with those standards could be strong evidence of negligence.
The distinction between a professional person and someone who is not a professional is very important because professionals are held to a much higher legal standard, meaning any minor deviations from that standard could be deemed to be negligent if it can be shown that another reasonably prudent professional would not have acted in the same way. For non-professionals the bar is set much lower. The courts will not generally expect a non-professional to act the same way that a professional would in the same situation.
A list of the main types of professional negligence claim we deal with can be found here: https://www.sleeblackwell.co.uk/legal-services/professional-negligence.
Those who do not constitute professionals for our purposes are:
- The police
- The courts
- The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
- Casinos (The duty of care owed by casinos is minimal. See https://www.sleeblackwell.co.uk/legal-articles/suffered-gambling-losses-asked-self-exclude for more information.)
- Builders and other tradesmen (plumbers, electricians, plasterers etc.)
Doctors and other medical practitioners are considered professionals, but legal claims against them are treated separately to other professionals, falling under the term ‘medical negligence’. We have a separate specialist team dealing with medical negligence cases https://www.sleeblackwell.co.uk/legal-services/medical-negligence-claims)