If you feel that you have been let down by your professional advisers, you need to move fast and launch proceedings as quickly as possible. The potentially grave consequences of delay were illustrated by the case of a road accident victim who claimed that his personal injury claim was seriously under-settled as a result of flawed legal advice.
After the man suffered serious injuries in the accident, he instructed a barrister and solicitors to represent him. On legal advice, he accepted £150,000 in full and final settlement of his claim. His condition worsened thereafter and, about eight years after the settlement was reached, his right leg was, on medical advice, amputated below the knee.
He launched proceedings against his former lawyers on the basis that he had agreed to the settlement in reliance on their negligent advice. He asserted, in particular, that there was a failure to inform him of the possibility of claiming provisional damages. Had that option been left open to him, he could have sought further compensation in the event that his condition deteriorated.
In defending the claim, the lawyers argued, amongst other things, that he had left it too late to sue them in that he had lodged his claim outside the six-year limitation period that applies to professional negligence claims. They alleged that time began to run either on the day of the settlement meeting or from the moment when he became aware that his condition had seriously worsened.
Ruling on the limitation issue at a preliminary hearing, the High Court noted that at the meeting, the lawyers had repeatedly advised the man that there was a risk of under-settlement if an operation to remove metalwork from his leg and foot revealed more serious problems. As his condition deteriorated, he would have become aware that that risk was eventuating.
The Court nevertheless found that his claim was lodged within the limitation period. The damage he was alleged to have suffered consisted of being left with a full and final settlement that made no provision for the possibility of a future serious deterioration in his condition. Only long after the settlement did he have reason to suspect that that damage might be attributable to flawed legal advice. The Court's ruling opened the way for the man's claim to proceed to trial.