MDDUS welcomes consultation on capping legal costs

MDDUS has welcomed the announcement of a government consultation on capping excessive legal costs in clinical negligence claims.

Responding to today’s launch of the Department of Health’s consultation Introducing Fixed Recoverable Costs in Lower Value Clinical Negligence Claims, MDDUS CEO Chris Kenny said: "We welcome the government launch of the long-promised consultation on capping recoverable costs in clinical negligence cases. The proposals are thorough-going and capable of early implementation.

"MDDUS strongly supports the early implementation of a fair system for resolving clinical negligence claims. The objective should be the timely, proper and just compensation for those wrongly damaged.

"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."

MDDUS' experience in this field mirrors the published data from the National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA), 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," Kenny added. "This is due to the very considerable front-loading of legal cost by claimant lawyers before a claim is even intimated to the practitioner.

"The proposals will ensure far tighter management of costs at the level of the individual case, but it will have the right incentive effects in ensuring that strong cases are selected and prepared in the most cost-effective manner. That enhances, rather than subtracts from, access to justice.

"MDDUS will continue to work together with NHS England and the Department of Health to ensure early and successful change. The impact will depend on a rapid transition period, final decisions on the level of the cap (which we believe could be arguably pitched at a higher level) and, vitally, a joined up approach within government so that the benefits for the NHS are not lost because of any decision by the Lord Chancellor to change the discount rate."