Early offers of settlement and negligence claims against lawyers

30th January 2015 by

Making a negligence claim against a lawyer or solicitor for negligent legal advice can seem an incredibly daunting prospect, not least because the people you will be seeking to claim against are, by profession, adept at using the law to their advantage.

As such, when embarking on a negligence claim against a lawyer for allegedly negligent legal advice it is essential that you have a skilled and specialist legal team fighting your corner – whatever the moral force of your grievance and whatever the extent of your loss, if you are unable to effectively negotiate the law and the legal process it is likely that without a specialist professional negligence solicitor you will struggle to achieve any kind of satisfactory resolution.

Knowing when to settle

Every year the British courts hear negligence claims made by claimants who say that they have suffered significant financial loss as a result of mistakes made by solicitors or lawyers handling their disputes.

One of the most common mistakes made by law firms is a failure to accept an early offer of settlement from a defendant. Of course, such offers can sometimes be cursory or token gestures made in the hope of fobbing a claimant off and avoiding the toll of a more costly and appropriate settlement.

However, in some cases it may be in the interests of both parties to accept an early-stage offer. After all, once the protracted nature of the legal process and the cost of on-going legal fees have been factored in, the proposition of an early settlement made out-of-court can appeal to both claimant and defendant.

In the event a solicitor or lawyer dissuades a claimant from accepting such an offer but final settlement falls below the level originally offered, the claimant may wish to proceed with claim for negligent legal advice, particularly if the claimant has accrued significant legal fees or has been misled about the chances of success.

Levicom v. Linklaters

In 2011, a global law firm agreed to pay £13 million for negligently advising telecoms company Levicom against accepting an out-of-court settlement.

The Court of Appeal cleared the way for this settlement. Lord Justice Jacob stated: “When a solicitor gives advice that his client has a strong case to start litigation rather than settle and the client then does just that, the normal inference is that the advice is causative.

“Of course the inference is rebuttable – it may be possible to show that the client would have gone ahead willy-nilly. But that was certainly not shown on the evidence here.

“The judge should have approached the case on the basis that the evidential burden had shifted to Linklaters to prove that its advice was not causative. Such an approach would surely have led him to a different result.”

Professional negligence specialists at Healys LLP

If you need advice and guidance about making a negligence claim against a lawyer or solicitor, receive specialist support from our Brighton or London teams, simply contact us by using our call-back form, email a partner or call directly on020 7822 4106.