A driver who drove his car to the edge of a 100ft drop after he “slavishly” followed its SatNav instructions has become one of the first motorists to be convicted for placing too much trust in his SatNav.

When I noted this news story today I was reminded of a comment I make during my talks about how to avoid professional negligence claims. It’s in the context of evidencing ‘good practice’. One way of doing this is to comply with your professional body’s Membership Handbook. In normal circumstances you might expect that if you can show that your actions were in accordance with the guidelines contained in the Handbook you would have a strong defence against allegations of professional negligence. But this is not the whole picture.

During my talks I focus more on the practical and commercial issues  than on the legal ones as I have an accountancy and tax background rather than a legal one. In this context I make the point that, whilst the position is not free from doubt, slavishly following guidance that is patently wrong may not be a good enough excuse. There is some precedent for this in the world of medical negligence.

We need to recognise that some of the guidelines in membership handbooks may be out of date – and that the Courts will expect professional advisers to apply common sense. The test will be what would a reasonably competent accountant have done in the circumstances. If this would differ from the membership guidelines then you should have done so too. It seems the same is true for drivers – is it reasonable to follow your SatNav instructions if they are clearly wrong? The report today suggests the answer is ‘no’ – and you can’t get off by blaming your SatNav.

I don’t imagine that the recent ‘SatNav’ case will figure in future courses about professional negligence but it is a useful reminder that we are all expected to apply common sense rather than slavishly following generic guidance that may be out of date, irrelevant or dangerous.

I have written a 10,000 word ebook drawn from my talk on How to avoid professional negligence claims, containing tips and risk management advice for accountants in practice. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>