The Government’s consultation on the introduction of fixed fees in ‘lower’ (up to £25,000 damages) value clinical negligence claims closes on 1st May and we have been working hard on our response.
Our belief is that there is nothing wrong in principle with fixed fees. They reward efficiency.
But – financial value is not the only, or even the main indicator of complexity. The same claim can lead to completely different damages awards depending on external factors like an injured person’s age, or their income.
Cases where a family member has died because of negligence are always complicated, emotional and (where the lost relative is very young or very old) they don’t involve big sums of money. Bereaved families should not be priced out of the legal system and we think there is a strong argument to exclude these cases from a fixed cost regime.
Every day we work on cases that the NHS wrongly refuses to settle. I am working on two cases at the moment- both for the families of men who died because of missed cancer diagnoses. In one case the hospital admitted negligence in August 2015, in the other negligence was admitted in February 2015. In both cases we have had to issue Court proceedings and run the cases towards trial just to reach the stage where the NHS will make a settlement offer – offers arrived in April 2017 on both. We estimate that the approach taken by the hospitals’ legal teams will double their legal bill.
The National Audit Office is investigating whether the NHS understands why clinical negligence cases are costing more – we think we could point them in the right direction.