HOW DO I MAKE A CLAIM?
Where a practice no longer exists, it is usually the case that a claimant will initially make enquiries directly with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ascertain against whom any possible claim should be made or referred to. This will necessitate the completion and sending of a form/questionnaire known as the Professional Indemnity Insurance Disclosure Form to the SRA providing brief information about any potential claim. This form is obtained directly from the SRA.
The SRA will inform the claimant if this is a matter to be referred to an existing practice or other insurer, or if the claim should be made directly to SIF. If it is to be made directly to SIF, SIF’s address and contact details will be provided, including details of any successor practice information. This information will enable a claim to be made directly to SIF.
When making a claim, SIF will require a copy of the Professional Indemnity Insurance Disclosure Form provided to the SRA, including any attachments submitted in support. SIF will also require a copy of the communication that was received from the SRA informing about the ceased status of the practice and if any successor practice does exist. Until this information is received, SIF will be unable to progress the claim.
As an alternative to approaching the SRA, you may also approach SIF directly, if you have knowledge that the firm had ceased without successor for more than 6 years. In this event, SIF will ask you to complete a Claimant in Person Questionnaire Form. This will need to be returned to SIF, together with all relevant documents in support of your claim.
Once this information has been received, SIF will commence its enquiries to ascertain the ceased status of the practice and the location of ‘the solicitor’s file’ and the whereabouts of any prior principal(s) in order to confirm that this would be a matter for SIF to deal with in accordance with the SRA Indemnity Rules 2012. Only when the practice status has been confirmed will SIF be in a position to proceed with its initial assessment of the claim.
Irrespective of whether the claim information is received following an enquiry made to the SRA or directly to SIF through the completion of a Claimant in Person Questionnaire Form, SIF may ask for further information periodically. This will be requested in our ongoing communications.
If SIF has located any of the prior principal(s) of the ceased practice, SIF may send those prior principal(s) a copy of the Professional Indemnity Insurance Disclosure Form /Claimant in Person Questionnaire Form and any other correspondence received from you and will ask the prior principals for their views on your claim.
The prior principals will be kept informed throughout of any developments occurring.
SIF instructing a Solicitor firm or its Claims Handling Agent
At any stage during the course of handling a claim, SIF may decide to refer the claim to one of our solicitor panel firms or to our claims handling agent to deal with on our behalf. The panel firm or agent will thereafter manage the day-to-day handling of the claim, assess liability on the part of the ceased firm and consider the appropriateness of the amounts being claimed. The panel firm or agent will report periodically to SIF.
Panel firms cannot act on behalf of any claimant. Dealing with a solicitor’s professional negligence claim can be complex and it is important that consideration is given at all times to the taking of independent legal advice.
In the event that a claim lacks merit, is considered as being out of time, or does not fall within the scope of cover provided by SIF, then it is likely to be denied.
SIF, or its panel firm or agent, will consider, in all cases, if any limitation issues arise to ensure that claims made are within the statutory periods allowed for under the Section 14(a) and Section 14(b) of the Limitation Act 1980. We will not deal with any claims brought outside the limitation period.
Only once SIF, or its panel firm or agent, is satisfied that the claim has been made in time; determined that there has been a breach of professional duty; and taken account of any causation issues; will the claim be brought to a conclusion.