Solicitors in Scotland have an excellent reputation and the vast majority of clients are happy with the services they provide. If you feel that your solicitor or a member of their staff may have been negligent in the way they have handled your case, then you may have a claim against them.
The Society arranges professional indemnity insurance for all Scottish solicitors in private practice. Known as the Master Policy, this provides insurance against losses caused by a solicitor's negligence. Well-founded claims are met even when the firm no longer exists and the solicitor is unable to pay.
Solicitors working for other businesses and organisations which are not regulated by the Law Society will not be covered by the Master Policy. However, many are likely to have other indemnity insurance arrangements in place.
The Master Policy, as with every other insurance scheme, is not a no-fault compensation scheme. It covers Scottish solicitors in Scottish firms.
The Master Policy is the compulsory professional indemnity insurance arrangement which covers all Scottish solicitors working in private practice. The Society arranges the Master Policy. Claims are handled by the Master Policy insurers. The insurance provides cover of up to £2 million for any one claim.
In a summary, if you make a claim against your solicitor, your solicitor is entitled to make a claim for indemnity from the Master Policy insurers. Provided it is established that you have a valid claim, the Master Policy insurers will meet the solicitor's liability to you to meet your claim.
Not every claim will involve the insurers. Whether or not the Master Policy insurers become involved, you still have to establish that your solicitor was negligent.
Depending on the circumstances, you may find that the Master Policy insurers (or solicitors instructed by them) become involved in responding to your claim. Where that happens, you will be sent a copy of the Master Policy claims handling philosophy, which is a statement of how the insurers seek to resolve claims.
Further information on the Master Policy may be obtained by emailing David Cullen at the Society.
Before considering making a claim, you should ensure that you have a case. It is not enough just to be dissatisfied with the outcome of a particular transaction, court case, etc. To establish that your solicitor was negligent and that you have a valid claim, the law requires you to be able to show:
(a) that your solicitor owed you a duty of care
(b) in what way your solicitor breached that duty of care, and
(c) the precise loss to you resulting from that breach of care
Making a claim and proving negligence can be complicated and you may need to ask a solicitor for assistance. Many claims are resolved by negotiation. Where negotiations fail, you may need to raise court proceedings, in which case the court will decide the outcome of your claim. There are time limits that apply to claims for negligence. After the expiry of those time limits, you may be unable to make a claim.
Scottish solicitors working in private practice have professional indemnity insurance cover for claims against them. This insurance means that, if you establish a valid claim for negligence against a solicitor, that claim will be paid - even if the solicitor is no longer in practice, no longer solvent or cannot be traced.
Clients who would like advice on whether they have a valid claim can consult a member of the Pursuers' Panel, which consists of nine solicitors with expertise in dealing with professional negligence claims against other solicitors.
The panel assists members of the public with advice about potential claims for negligence and will also pursue well-founded claims on their behalf.