Fixed costs for clinical negligence claims to be set at £25,000
Over the past 2 years, the government has been looking at ways to decrease the cost of compensation claims on the British justice system, and we have written about a number of its measures in the past, including the most recent decision to increase the limit in small claims court for all personal injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000.
While a lot of the government’s focus has been on road traffic accident claims, it has also been looking at ways to reduce the cost of clinical negligence claims, and one measure was fixing recoverable costs in medical negligence claims valued up to £250,000. However, when this announcement was made, many legal experts and bodies reacted with fury and lobbied hard against the proposals, and now it appears the Department of Health (DoH) has listened to these concerns and is set to only apply fixed costs on clinical negligence claims valued up to £25,000.
Why was the original limit so heavily criticised?
When the DoH revealed plans to fix costs on clinical negligence claims valued up to £250,000, legal bodies such as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL), the Action against Medical Accidents charity, and the Law Society argued that the limit would deny access to justice and compensation for many genuine victims. As a result, these organisations worked together to create a scheme where costs were fixed on claims up to £25,000 instead of £250,000; the groups agreed that this limit would cover around 60% of all clinical negligence claims in the UK today.
The news that the government is considering implementing the £25,000 limit was cautiously welcomed by all who opposed the original plans, but there are still concerns that the new fixed fees will leave some patients without access to the compensation they are entitled to. Many legal experts agree that for the fixed costs scheme to be a success, the fees need to be fixed at a level which makes the work of claiming viable. Experts agree that the DoH and solicitors need to agree on a balance that reduces the DoH’s costs, but also secures the rights of injured parties to find appropriate legal representation when making a clinical negligence claim.
The DoH appears to have also accepted that some clinical negligence claims, particularly serious or complex cases, such as fatal injury claims, claims involving human rights issues, or claims with the most vulnerable in society (children, the elderly, or people with learning disabilities), will always fall outside of any proposed fixed fee threshold.
APIL president Neil Sugarman commented on the proposed new fixed costs threshold, saying that the government appears to have listened to arguments that suggested that £250,000 was not a low-value case, and therefore didn’t constitute a fixed fee process. The Law Society added that it doesn’t oppose the principle of fixed fees as long as they are set at a fair and reasonable rate that doesn’t leave victims unable to claim the compensation they’re entitled to.
The DoH has stated that no final decision on fixed fees in clinical negligence claims has been made, but has said that once a final consultation has been published and responded to, it plans to introduce any new measures as soon as possible.
Here at Fonseca Law, we are happy to hear that the government is considering its threshold for fixed fees in clinical negligence claims, but feel more issues need to be addressed before the limit can be introduced to ensure no-one is unable to claim for genuine injuries. If you have been injured while in hospital, we can help you claim the compensation you’re entitled to. To find out more, please get in touch today on 0800 156 0770, email firstname.lastname@example.org or pop into our office based in Ebbw Vale, South Wales.