Troubled Times Ahead For medical Negligence Claimants
Nobody goes into hospital with the intention of pursuing a medical negligence claim. It is a sad reality that issues arise in the provision of medical treatment on a regular basis; sometimes due to an unavoidable sequence of events and sometimes due to the negligence of the healthcare provider. The problem may involve the actions of a single doctor or nurse, or the issues may be institutional and affect an entire hospital trust.
The majority of patients who experience below-standard care go on to make a full recovery. However, in a minority of cases the injuries sustained cause lifelong issues, disabilities or even death. Whether a patient in this situation goes on to make a full recovery or not, there is often a period of pain, suffering and loss of amenity coupled with psychological and emotional damage and the loss of earnings.
In the most extreme cases individuals may require round-the-clock care from trained professionals, or extensive aids and equipment to enable them to live their lives after an act medical negligence. Where the patient dies the bereaved family may want to seek answers to what went wrong and the deceased’s estate may be entitled to bereavement damages.
When faced with this situation an individual will often seek legal advice from a specialist medical negligence solicitor. In the event that the claimant is successful at trial or settles the case, the solicitor will seek to recover the legal costs incurred in fighting the case.
Recent reports from the NHS Litigation Authority indicated that it spent £1,169,506,598 on medical negligence claims in 2014. Up to £291,909,829 was paid to the solicitors, barristers and experts representing successful clients. More staggering is the statement that the NHSLA has made provision in its accounts for damages and costs of £28.6 billion over the next 80 years based on the claims that it is already aware of.
The Department of Health is to launch a consultation to review the costs paid to solicitors undertaking medical negligence cases. The DoH is pushing for fixed fees to be introduced to limit the fees payable to claimant solicitors and to reduce number of claims being issued.
Whilst the precise details of the fixed fee structure are awaited, it seems likely that the new regime will commence in October 2016 and may apply to claims up to the value of £250,000 which is likely to include claims for people with very serious injuries involving particularly complex issues.
Kenneth Lees, Medical Negligence Solicitor at Pearson, comments: “A disturbing parallel can be drawn to the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunals which saw a massive reduction in the number of claims being issued and represented a restriction of access to justice for many thousands of individuals with meritorious claims.
“The Government seems determined to attack medical negligence cases in the same way in the hope that by reducing the fees that can be claimed by solicitors, barristers and experts fewer claims will be issued. There is a significant risk that individuals who have been injured through no fault of their own may not be able to obtain the specialist advice that they need in order to recover the compensation that they are entitled to.
“Perhaps these efforts would be better focussed on improving the quality of care provided across the country through better training, increased staffing levels, effective use of new technologies and robust processes and procedures. In that way the numbers of people being harmed in the NHS will be lower and the bill for these cases will reduce in a more meaningful,” he added
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Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.
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