The Department of Health is seeking to limit its liability to pay legal costs to those negligently injured by the National Health Service by bringing in “fixed costs” for all clinical negligence compensation claims worth £250,000.00 or less.
Detailed proposals have yet to be published, but if the current proposals become effective, they will affect the vast majority of clinical negligence claims. They will cover claims for life changing injuries and fatalities. They will apply not only to claims against the NHS, but also to all clinical negligence claims, including claims against general medical practitioners, dentists, consultants paid privately, etc.
If the fixed legal costs payable by the wrongdoer are limited to such a low level that it is uneconomic for the claim to be pursued, solicitors will not be able to accept instructions to pursue such claims in the future.
As regards any claims pursued, substantial unrecovered legal costs may have to be deducted from the compensation paid to the injured party, particularly if the wrongdoer does not settle the claim as quickly as it should do.
Fixed costs were meant to be in place from October 2016, but as detailed proposals have still not been published, this timetable has been put back, although no new date has been set.
When the detailed fixed costs proposals are finally publicised, it is likely that the window of opportunity to make representations will be kept as short as possible.
Therefore, The Law Society, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), Action for Victims of Medical Accidents (AvMA) and The Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL) are striving to ensure that the relevant decision makers understand the implications of the Department of Health’s current proposals for injured victims of negligence and their families.
It is therefore possible that the detailed fixed costs proposals may vary from the proposals currently on the table.
What seems likely, however, is that changes will be made, and there will be little time to react to those changes before they come into force.
Our advice to those who believe they have grounds to make a clinical negligence claim is therefore to seek legal advice without delay. Otherwise, they may find themselves without legal representation at all, or face large deductions from their compensation award, or both.
For more information please go to the APIL website:
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Anyone opposed to the government’s proposals is urged to write to their Member of Parliament detailing their concerns. For advice on how to do this please contact APIL.
Iacopi Palmer Solicitors LLP