Professional negligence

JOSEPH BRIGHTMAN of Attwells Solicitors warns that strict time limits apply when bringing a negligence claim against a professional

WHEN bringing any type of claim, it is crucial to ensure you do not miss the prescribed timescale for starting the action at court.

The Limitation Act 1980 sets out the limitation periods for the different types of claims.

The limitation period of any claim is the period of time allowed to a claimant to bring a claim against a defendant.

These periods can be confusing as they run from different times and are for different lengths of time.


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The consequence of failing to understand the different limitation periods is that you may miss the deadline and be prevented from bringing the claim.

Even if you have a straightforward claim with a high prospect of success, failing to bring the claim within the limitation period means the case will be struck out and you may be obliged to pay any costs the defendant incurs in defending the claim.

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How then do limitation periods apply to professional negligence claims?

A professional owes clients a duty in both contract and under the tort of negligence. The periods themselves and the dates from which those periods start is different in each case.

Take the example of a solicitor acting for a tenant and failing to include a break clause within a lease.

The tenant may be able to bring an act for breach of contract or under the tort of negligence.

A claim for a breach of contract runs from the date of the breach and the period is six years. In the example above, the period runs from the date the solicitor fails to incorporate the break clause into the lease.

This may be the case, even if the tenant only finds out about the problem 10 years later, when it seeks to exercise the break clause. If the tenant seeks to bring a claim at this time, for breach of contract, the claim will be outside the limitation period and will fail.

A claim under the tort of negligence, however, can similarly be made within six years of the breach of duty.

Helpfully, as an alternative, the claim can be made within three years of the date of the claimant becoming aware of the relevant facts of the claim. In the example above, this would run from the date of the tenant first becoming aware of the break clause omission and may allow the tenant to bring the claim 10 years after completion.

There is an overriding limit of 15 years from the date of the original act of negligence.

It is important that your claim is brought within the relevant limitation period and, if necessary, a protective application is made. Contact Joseph Brightman of Attwells Solicitors Dispute Resolution Department on 01473 746083 or at joseph.brightman@attwells.com for a free half hour consultation about your professional negligence claim.

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