Patients who have been harmed by negligent care should be able to get the expert legal advice they need, the Law Society has insisted.
Responding to the Department of Health consultation on fixed recoverable costs in low value clinical negligence cases, Law Society President Robert Bourns said: ’This is an issue we have campaigned hard on and we are pleased that the government listened to us and other organisations and amended their proposals.’
The proposal as it stands is to apply fixed costs to claims up to £25,000. The original plan was for fixed fees to be applied on claims up to the value of £250,000, which would have included claims for people who have been very seriously harmed.
Robert Bourns added: ’It must be remembered that clinical negligence claims are brought by people who have been injured through no fault of their own as a result of negligent care. These patients need specialist legal advice to help them get the compensation they are entitled to in law.
’There is a considerable risk that those most affected by these proposals would be the vulnerable in society, such as the elderly and people who are disabled, whose cases can be complex and challenging but not necessarily the highest in value.’
If the Department of Health decides to introduce a fixed recoverable costs scheme, complex claims should be excluded and the fixed costs payable should enable expert clinical negligence solicitors to undertake even low value cases. If not, patients won’t be able to get the legal advice they need.
A fixed recoverable costs scheme could work in simple low-value cases if there is an accompanying fixed process. We believe that it will be key to set clear expectations for parties’ conduct and develop a streamlined regime that maintains equality for both sides.