For immediate release: Wednesday, 30 December 2015
MDDUS strongly supports the early implementation of a fair system for resolving clinical negligence claims that benefits the patients harmed rather than the lawyers supporting the claim.
MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny has written to Health Minister Ben Gummer MP in advance of a government consultation on reducing legal costs in clinical negligence cases.
In the letter, Kenny stresses the need for the government to act quickly and decisively to cap legal costs to ensure patients rather than the legal services industry benefits from properly advanced claims and settlements.
“MDDUS shares the government’s concerns about the rise in cost of clinical negligence cases, particularly costs levied in claims by claimant lawyers,” says Kenny. “We strongly support early implementation of this initiative.
“Money expended in compensating for clinical accidents should, as far as possible, find its way to the injured patient and not disproportionately to the lawyers supporting those patients’ claims.
“We have experienced cases where claimants’ lawyers’ bills have amounted to well over four times the damages awarded. One example involved a case of alleged delayed diagnosis of breast cancer where the case was settled for the sum of £35,000 with the claimant’s costs submitted at over £200,000 and eventually settled for £170,000.
“MDDUS has long believed that the object of a fair system for resolving clinical negligence claims should be timely, proper and just compensation for those wrongly damaged. It is our view that the distortion in the ratio between damages and claimant costs levels is having an adversely disproportionate and harmful effect, particularly, but not exclusively, in the lower value claims.”
MDDUS' experience in this field mirrors the published data from the National Health Service Litigation Authority, both as to increasing claims frequency and the ratio of costs to damages.
“It is by no means unusual for costs to exceed damages by a very substantial degree, even if the claims are promptly settled with the minimum necessary investigation,” adds Kenny. “This is due to the very considerable front-loading of legal cost by claimant lawyers before a claim is even intimated to the practitioner.
“We strongly support the introduction of a fixed recoverable cost scheme, especially for lower value claims. We acknowledge the need for fairness and access especially in the more complex higher value claims, but excessive outlay in claimants' costs needs to be curtailed. Access to justice should not be confused with unlimited licence to lawyers.”
For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note to editors
MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK.
For further information on MDDUS go to www.mddus.com.