The Law Gazette have revealed that clinical negligence claims of up to £250,000 could be subject to fixed fees under plans being considered by the government as they seek to reduce spending on clinical negligence claims.
Previously it has been assumed that fixed recoverable costs were only being considered for cases where damages are awarded up to £100,000. It is proposed that the new fixed recoverable costs would apply to all cases in which the letter of claim is sent on or after 1 October, 2016.
Fixed costs have previously been introduced in personal injury cases up to £25,000. Whilst the Insurance industry rejoiced at the savings this has made them in personal injury litigation, it has drastically impacted on the legal profession, reducing the level of experience and expertise of the people routinely conducting his litigation, so it can remain profitable.
Much of this work is now conducted by paralegals rather than solicitors, with no requirement for formal qualifications. However, a straight forward road traffic accident with relatively minor injuries is much simpler and quicker to run and much easier to commoditize than a clinical negligence case that might run for many years.
Clinical negligence is a very specialised area of law, whereby a profound appreciation of complex issues is required to successfully conduct the litigation, even in low value cases. Cases often require multiple experts and always require a forensic analysis of the patient’s medical records. These complex cases require solicitors with many years of practicing experience. It is hard to see how a “one size fits all” approach as seen under the fixed cost regime in personal injuries cases, can successfully work in this area of law.
It can only be hoped that the government do not forget about access to justice and the interests of injured people, when finding new ways to save money. At MDS Solicitors we see the devastation every day that can arise out of medical errors. It is essential the government do not compromise on patients’ ability to seek redress for devastating events, when considering what alterations to make to the current system.
This fear is shared by Law Society President Jonathan Smithers, who stated:
‘Fixing recoverable costs in clinical negligence cases may limit harmed patients’ ability to claim compensation for these life-changing injuries.’
Let’s hope the government is listening and they put the injured person at the centre of their future plans.