The Legal Ombudsman has now taken over all new complaints against legal professionals for individuals and small businesses. There is a link to its website in the links section of Matthew Wilkinson’s home page. There are important deadlines to comply with. Any complaint has to be brought to them within 12 months of the act or default complained about AND within 6 months of the final response of the firm to your complaint. All complaints must be made to the firm first. If the 12 month period is about to expire you could lose out even though you make the complaint to the Ombudsman within 6 months of the firm’s final response. There is discretion to allow late complaints but this should not be relied upon.
There is also a clear risk that if you refer a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and you have suffered as a result of negligence that if you accept an award you could be under compensated and have no right to pursue your negligence case. This is because once the Legal Ombudsman’s award is accepted it is legally binding. It is imperative that BEFORE you accept any such compensation that you get independent legal advice. For example, if your solicitor has negligently failed to ensure that there was a Building Regulation completion certificate for the property you bought the Legal Ombudsman might agree that their subsequent obtaining of Insurance cover for lack of such a certificate plus £1,000 for distress and inconvenience is a reasonable award. However, if after you accept the award we advise you that the Insurance will not cover this particular case or only in limited circumstances or is likely to be avoided you would no longer be able to claim the difference in value of your property which could be very substantial and cost you tens of thousands of pounds when you come to sell. The moral of this story is that the time to obtain good independent advice is before you accept any compensation and Matthew Wilkinson is very well equipped to help in these circumstances to provide the advice which will help you protect your own interests. Mr M B Wilkinson BA MPNLA Solicitor.
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