MDDUS urges fairer awards in negligence

By a staff reporter

Strong support for early implementation of a fair system for resolving clinical negligence claims that benefit the patients harmed – rather than lawyers supporting the claim – has come from defence body MDDUS.

The defence body’s chief executive Chris Kenny wrote to Health Minister Ben Gummer ahead of a Government consultation on red­ucing legal costs in clinical negligence cases.

Mr Kenny said that 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.

‘We have experienced cases where claimants’ lawyers’ bills have amounted to well over four times the damages awarded.

‘One example involved a case of alleged delayed diagnosis of breast cancer where the case was settled for the sum of £35,000, with the claimant’s costs submitted at over £200,000 and eventually settled for £170,000.’

The MDDUS believes the distortion in the ratio between damages and claimant costs levels is having an adversely disproportionate and harmful effect – especially for lower-value claims.

Costs can often substantially exceed damages even if claims are promptly settled with the minimum necessary investigation.

Mr 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.

‘We strongly support the introduction of a fixed recoverable cost scheme, especially for lower-value claims. We acknowledge the need for fairness and access especially in the more complex higher-value claims, but excessive outlay in claimants’ costs needs to be curtailed.’