The Department of Health has launched plans to impose fixed limits on fees charged by lawyers for lower value negligence claims.
Introducing Fixed Recoverable Costs in Lower Value Clinical Negligence Claims highlights that 36% of clinical negligence claims against the NHS relates directly to the cost of litigation.
The document outlines plans to reduce the cost of claims by urging the government to reduce the cost of litigation and streamlining the litigation process.
‘Fixed costs for legal fees are long overdue as we are still seeing fees charged by claimants’ solicitors that far exceed patients’ compensation,’ John Makin, head of the Dental Defence Union (DDU), said.
‘In lower-value claims, the fees claimed by claimant lawyers are still, on average, above the level of damages awarded.’
Fixed legal fees
The consultation proposes fixed legal fees in awards of between £1,000 and £25,000, covering around 60% of claims against the NHS in England last year.
This is in contrast to the original pre-consultation paper the Department of Health produced, which included fixed costs for claims up to £250,000.
‘We are disappointed the caps are proposed only for claims where the level of compensation paid is between £1,000 and £25,000,’ John continued.
‘The original pre-consultation would have had a more immediate impact on disproportionate legal fees seen by the NHS and dental defence organisations.
‘Patients who believe they have been negligently harmed must have access to justice, but fixed costs are fairer and would make claimants’ lawyers’ legal fees more affordable and proportionate.
‘In the longer term we need root and branch reform of personal injury law to address the rising cost of compensation claims themselves, which are reaching unsustainable levels.’