Clinical negligence claims are receiving increasing attention by the government. Claimants and their solicitors are being criticised for the perceived disproportionality between the amount of compensation the Claimant recovers and the legal costs which have to be spent in order to get that compensation.
In an attempt to keep Claimants’ costs to a minimum, in recent years many changes have been made to the way claims are funded and conducted. These changes include:
- Limiting the type of case for which Legal Aid is available
- Making the Claimant pay some of the legal costs out of their compensation.
- Setting budgets for how much each side is allowed to spend on investigating and running the
- Setting a new test of proportionality so that a Judge can disallow or reduce costs even if they were reasonably and necessarily incurred.
The NHS Litigation Authority, who deals with all clinical negligence claims against NHS Trusts, has recently published their annual report for 2015/16. Criticism for the legal costs of bringing such claims is a continuing theme throughout the report. The Chief Executive states that “the increasing disproportion in claimant legal costs and examples of excessive costs being claimed are highlighted in last year’s annual report and that trend continues this year” and that this is “against a background of high claims volumes including high numbers of claims being brought where there was no negligence.” This latter statement is misleading as figures in the report indicate that Claimants were successful in over 70% of the clinical negligence claims closed in the past year. The report also confirms that the number of clinical negligence claims reported each year has been steadily falling since 2013/2014.
Despite all the criticism regarding the costs of bringing clinical negligence claims, little mention seems to have been made as to why the costs are increasing. No mention is made of how regularly the NHS Litigation Authority denies liability at first but then goes on to settle the claim after much additional work has had to be done thereby increasing the costs. All of this drags claims out and increases costs unnecessarily.
Due to the changes that have been made to the way these claims are to be pursued, the further changes that are proposed (including introducing fixed fees for claims with a value up to £250,000) and the difficulties Claimants are faced with in bringing their claims, it is important to instruct a solicitor who is experienced in clinical negligence claims. Here at Armstrong Foulkes, we have specialised in clinical negligence for 24 years. Clinical negligence claims take up 100% of our workload. It is all we do here. If you think you may have suffered as a result of medical or dental negligence and would like some advice, please contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to talk to you about your potential claim.
Kathryn Watson – September 2016