The cost of clinical negligence claims will never fall unless the NHS Resolution’s bad practice is brought under control, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has warned.
APIL has responded to the Department of Health’s consultation Introducing Fixed Recoverable Costs in Lower Value Clinical Negligence Claims.
“It is pointless to impose fixed costs for clinical negligence work without fixing the process first,” said APIL president Neil Sugarman. “A fixed, predictable claims process needs to be developed, rather than imposing fixed costs on the existing, dysfunctional system.
“Taking an axe to how much the Department of Health pays does nothing to tackle the factors which drive costs, such as the ludicrously long waiting times for the recovery of medical records, or arduous expert reports. We propose that a claimant should submit an abbreviated expert report early on, for example, so that NHS Resolution as it is now called can decide early on whether to make an offer to settle.
“Fixed costs should only apply where the defendant admits liability in the letter of response,” he went on. APIL also proposes that cases of fatalities, claimants who have a short life expectancy, claims which include an allegation of breach of the Human Rights Act, and cases in which there are multiple claimants or defendants should also all be excepted from a fixed costs regime.
“Of course, while an efficient process is important, we must not lose sight of the fact that the injured person is at the heart of the compensation system,” said Mr Sugarman.
“The Department of Health seeks to advance its own cause, as a negligent wrong-doer, by changing the way in which injured people can succeed and the costs they can recover. It’s like a criminal dictating the length of his sentence,” he said.