Claims For Construction Negligence

As true specialists in our field, we act for clients nationwide in claims for construction negligence, as well as in claims relating to other areas of professional practise.

Resolving claims for construction negligence

From the outset, we focus not on making professional negligence claims on behalf of our clients, but on resolving them. In this way, we ensure that ours is a broader perspective and a more open mind.

Moreover, and by harnessing:

  • Our wealth of experience acting in claims against a wide-range of professionals
  • Our unique insight into the defence of claims for construction negligence
  • Our commitment to providing a client-centric service as part of our core values
  • Our innovative and highly efficient service provision

we ensure that our clients achieve better results for substantial claims, time and again.

The construction profession 

As a category of professional expertise, construction is one of the broadest. It also overlaps with other categories, such as emerging and surveying professionals. Amongst the most well recognised professions within this category are architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, civil engineers, quantity surveyors and building surveyors.

Professionals within these recognised fields will usually belong to a governing professional body, such as the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) or the Institution of Structural Engineers (ISE), and carry professional indemnity insurance to protect themselves and their clients in the event that financial loss is caused by their mistakes.

Common mistakes

Some common mistakes that can result in a successful claim for construction negligence are:

  • Failing to correctly measure and/or plot the boundaries of a construction site
  • Failing to identify hazardous or precarious ground conditions
  • Failing to comply with planning and building control regulations
  • Failing to produce a design that meets a client’s brief or is free of defects
  • Failing to prepare bills of quantities in accordance with standard methods of measurement
  • Failing to advise on the most appropriate form of construction contract
  • Failing to issue information or instructions within a reasonable period of time
  • Failing to identify construction defects during the course of an inspection

Assessing the merits of a claim for construction negligence

Before embarking on any claim against a construction professional, a careful assessment will need to be undertaken of a number of important issues, including:

  • The scope of the legal duties owed by the construction professional
  • Any actions taken by the construction professional to comply with those duties
  • The nature and extent of the loss caused by any breaches of those duties

This can be a complicated process and may also require an assessment to be made of the associated roles undertaken by one or more additional parties. This is particularly so where construction projects rely on a number of different professional disciplines, some or all of whom may have contributed to a loss suffered.

How to make a claim for construction negligence

In resolving claims against construction professionals, it is much more common for the parties to rely on arbitration or adjudication as an alternative to court proceedings and, depending on the terms of appointment of the professional, such dispute resolution processes may be either compulsory or voluntary.

However, and in the first instance, many claims for construction negligence are commenced by correspondence and by following the procedures set out in the Pre-Action Protocol for Construction and Engineering Disputes. While in some cases it may also be necessary to institute court proceedings, a considerable number of claims are resolved without the need to do so.

Answers to many of the practical questions we frequently get asked about making a claim are set out in our guide: Claim For Professional Negligence: Your key questions answered.

The advantages of instructing a solicitor

You are not obliged to instruct a solicitor to advise and represent you in a claim for construction negligence, but it is usually sensible to do so. Professional negligence claims are often complicated and time consuming and a successful outcome can very much depend on the way in which a claim is prepared and pursued.

To help you decide between instructing a solicitor and pursuing a claim as a litigant in person, we identify and comment on some of the key factors to consider in our guide: Professional negligence claims – Do I need a solicitor?

If you do decide to instruct a solicitor, you would do well to instruct one who genuinely specialises in professional negligence claims. While an ever-increasing number of solicitors claim to undertake work in this niche area, in reality there are very few solicitors who are true specialists. To assist you in identifying the best solicitor to act in relation to your claim, we have highlighted seven key features to consider as part of your search in our guide: Professional negligence solicitors: How to find the best

Compensation for professional negligence

Where a construction professional is found to be negligent financial compensation, usually in the form of ‘damages’, can be awarded for a wide range of losses. Using case examples, we identify and explain many of the different types of compensation awards available in our guide: Compensation for professional negligence: What can I recover?

As in other areas of litigation, the true value of any compensatory award is often dependent on the prospect of being able to successfully recover it. Fortunately, in claims for construction negligence, the defending party usually carries professional indemnity insurance to meet all or part of any judgment or award made against it. This represents a significant benefit to claimants, as we explain further in our guide: Professional Indemnity Insurance – A Claimant’s Guide

Even if the firm or practice at fault is no longer trading or has been dissolved, it may still be possible to make a claim and recover compensation. The support available to claimants in these circumstances is explained in our article: Claims against closed professional firms and practices

Mitigating loss in claims for construction negligence

As part of any professional negligence claim, it is important to consider what action, if any, might be taken to reduce the financial effect of any negligence. This is because all claimants who have suffered a loss are subject to a duty to take all reasonable steps to mitigate that loss and take no unreasonable steps which would exacerbate it. Where this duty is breached, the court is likely to prevent a claimant party from recovering compensation for that loss which it considers was unreasonably incurred.

The duty to mitigate can lead to much confusion and uncertainty, particularly at the outset of a claim, and further guidance on it is available in our article: The duty to mitigate in professional negligence claims

Time limits for claims for construction negligence

There are a number of important reasons for acting promptly when a mistake has been made or discovered. One of these are the time limits that apply to all professional negligence claims.

These time limits can be found in the Limitation Act 1980. In short, they require legal proceedings to be commenced within:

  • 6 years of the date upon which damage or financial loss occurs – section 2
  • 6 years of the date upon which the mistake occurred – section 5
  • 3 years of the earliest date upon which the claimant has both the knowledge required for bringing a claim and the right to bring a claim – section 14A
  • 15 years of the date on which the mistake occurred, even if the time limit prescribed by section 14A has not expired – section 14B

Therefore, where there are grounds for pursuing a professional negligence claim, a claimant will generally have 6 years from the date of wrongdoing or loss, but may have 3 years from the date of discovery, if later, in which to bring any claim, subject to a long stop of 15 years.

However, while these time limits may appear straightforward in summary form, applying them in practice can be much more challenging. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of cases in which they have been misapplied, not only by lay clients acting as litigants in person but also by solicitors and other lawyers who have themselves fallen into error.

Although limitation is a complicated area of law with a large body of case law relating to it, further information about it can be found in our introductory guide: Time limits for professional negligence claims – FAQs

Funding claims for construction negligence

Before embarking on any professional negligence claim it is imperative to consider how it will be funded. In comparison to other more routine forms of litigation, professional negligence claims can be more complicated, more time-consuming and more costly to resolve.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to fund litigation. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and can be more or less suitable, depending on individual circumstances. Further information about these different funding options can be found in our related guide: Fund a claim

Specialist legal advice

If you are contemplating making, or even currently pursuing, a claim for construction negligence and would like to arrange an initial consultation with us, free of charge or commitment, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 195 4983 or by email at mail@pnclegal.com.

We have experience of resolving claims against a wide range of professionals.

Using the links below you can learn more about specific professions and some of the common mistakes that give rise to negligence claims against them.