Solicitors costs have recently been in the headlines again... nothing new there. This time clinical negligence solicitors are in the spotlight whose costs, the Department of Health says, are ‘disproportionate’. The suggested answer to this is to limit recoverable costs to fixed levels, applicable to all claims up to a value of £250,000. The proposed value of costs allowed is yet to be known.
The problem is that the costs of clinical negligence claims depend on the conduct of the defendant. Solicitors only pursue viable claims. However, these claims are rarely sensibly received and settled by the NHS. Rather, their litigation authority seem to doggedly deny sensible legal argument and reasonable settlement proposals, racking up costs along the way. Therefore, a case that might have settled early for £20,000 with £5,000 costs incurred, ends up being settled 3 years later at the door of the court for the same sum, but now with costs of £25,000.
The proposal of a fixed costs regime is therefore ludicrous, unless the NHS also agree to take a different approach to claims made. A fixed costs regime will deny claimants the right to have their claims fully investigated and pursued by competent solicitors. The structure of the law means that, usually, a similar level of work is required for any value of claim, and so, the fact that claims over £250,000 will escape the proposed fixed cost regime is of limited relevance. As the President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), of which my litigation colleagues and I are members, pointed out in his recent open letter to the media, the outgoing chief executive of the NHSLA himself said in 2012; “if you stopped getting things wrong so consistently then you wouldn’t have to pay in the first place”.
Despite persistent challenges to the profession, we at Woodfines remain committed to obtaining deserved compensation for the victims of medical negligence. Call a member of our Litigation team for a free confidential discussion about your potential claim at our Bedford office on 01234 270600.