Opinion Former Article

More work needed to control legal costs in compensation claims, says MDU

Some claimant’s lawyers are still recovering legal costs that are more than double the compensation their clients receive in clinical negligence cases, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) explained today as it called for further curbs to disproportionate costs.

Responding to a Ministry of Justice  review of Part 2 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which brought in reforms to civil litigation funding and costs, Dr Shabbir Choudhury, MDU senior medical claims handler said:

“There are signs that reforms aimed at reducing disproportionate claimant’s legal costs for medical and dental claims are partly working. In some lower value cases costs have halved but this is not a consistent picture.

“We still see cases where the patient’s solicitor’s legal costs are far greater than the award their client receives. For example, in one case we paid £30,000 to compensate a patient whose solicitor’s costs were £52,000. In another case the compensation award was £20,000 and the bill of costs totalled £48,000.

“It is not right that in some cases lawyers’ costs are still higher than the compensation the patient receives. We need further reform to make it fairer for defendants, especially when these costs are being paid out of NHS funds.

“The harsh medico-legal climate is not our members’ fault and we work hard on their behalf. For the last few years we have successfully defended over 80% of medical claims made against our members.”

The MDU has responded to the review by calling for the continuing disproportion in the cost of after the event (ATE) insurance premiums for medical expert reports, which defendants still have to pay for, to be addressed. In one case the insurance was £13,000 and the compensation payment was £20,000. In many cases high premiums are offsetting any reduction in claims costs brought about by the LASPO reforms.

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