Date for clinical negligence fixed fees announced
Back in August, we reported that the UK Government was considering capping fees on clinical negligence claims as a way of cutting costs and reducing the 'excessive fees' that some lawyers apparently claim during clinical negligence cases. Now, despite a planned consultation never taking place, health ministers have said that fixed fees for clinical negligence claims will come into force by 1 October 2016.
Originally, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was planning to implement a limit on legal costs in clinical negligence cases valued at under £100,000. However, this figure has since risen to £250,000 as the Department of Health (DoH) now believes it can save even more money. The DoH first stated that they will save around £80 million by introducing fixed fees on clinical negligence claims valued under £100,000, now they say they will be able to find another £25 million in savings by increasing the limit to £250,000.
Both the MoJ and the DoH want the cost-cutting measures introduced because they believe that, under the current system, for low-value clinical negligence claims, more money is being spent on paying lawyers rather than on victims of medical malpractice.
Time is short for a public consultation
Health minister Ben Gummer responded to a written parliamentary question to confirm the start date for fixed fees in clinical negligence cases. However, he also stated that the new regime will come into force following a public consultation. This consultation was originally scheduled for November-December 2015, but it never happened.
No new date has been announced for the public consultation, but it is likely to last around 6 weeks, which means ministers will be left with very little time to make any changes if needed. During the consultation, ministers are likely to discuss the maximum value of clinical negligence claims that will be covered under the new regime. They will also discuss whether there should be any exemptions.
Mr Gummer continued by saying that, during the consultation, health ministers will look into ways of speeding up the clinical negligence claims process. He also stressed that the new regime will focus on the conduct of defendants and claimants as a way of improving the relationship between damages paid and recoverable costs.
Personal injury lawyers oppose the changes
Despite the government announcing a launch date, many personal injury lawyers and their representative organisations have opposed the changes. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and the Law Society have already been preparing for the changes and have asked clinical negligence professionals for their views. Many solicitors have also expressed their concerns, warning the government that fee restrictions could seriously hurt victims of clinical negligence by denying them access to justice.
If you have suffered as a result of clinical negligence, our team of experienced solicitors here at Fonseca Law are ready to help. To find out whether you could be eligible to make a personal injury claim, contact us today on 0800 156 0770, email: email@example.com or pop into our office based in Ebbw Vale.