Duncan Lewis Solicitors

Updates of Legal Affairs…

Scrapping of legal aid in medical negligence cases would affect families says campaigners

February 29th, 2012

Theodore who was left disabled with severe form of cerebral palsy due to the negligence of medical staff and was paid a seven figure sum by the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation.

His mother Sarah Sargent said it was not like they had won a lottery but in fact everything costs much more when a family has a disabled child. The compensation would give a reasonable life to Theodore and his family which is taken as granted by normal families she said.

Theodore’s case may be one of the last of its type to be funded by legal aid with the bill for scrapping legal aid in such cases approaching the report stage in the Lords, a proposal has been made that medical negligence in future should be dealt under “no win, no fee” arrangements.

Campaigners are worried that scrapping legal aid for clinical blunders will mean future cases are denied the same kind of justice that Theodore has enjoyed and the access to a reasonable life that compensation can buy.

The legal aid concept which started in England and Wales in 1949 to ensure access to justice available even to the poorest of the society had increased to £2bn. The justice secretary Kenneth Clarke determined to reduce it with plans he says will cut overall costs despite the opposition by the NHS own lawyers who say that NHS legal costs will jump massively.

They say that the ministry of justice may save around £10m on medical negligence but the new system will add three times to the NHS costs as the success fees will be added to the amount paid out in damages if the claimant wins the case.

Theodore’s solicitor said that the new regime would mean the firms will have to find alternative routes of paying up to experts who assess the damages to a child as well as the needs of the child into his/her adulthood. The families cannot afford the huge costs.

The government’s suggestion that specialist insurance policies would cater to the needs is being seen by many in the legal profession as dubious which would not work.

When Clarke announced the changes in March last year he claimed he was attacking Britain’s “damaging compensation culture”. But it was said that it was offensive to suggest that medical negligence claims have been inflated by so-called ambulance chasing.

But Clarke being adamant said that denying legal aid to claimants in medical negligence cases would not see them suffer. Putting the onus on the lawyers he asked them to change their practices saying that most lawyers would not dare to charge success fees to people who were paying on their own account out of their damages.