The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) has received Royal Assent today and is now an Act of Parliament. This means that changes to the scope, eligibility and other aspects of the legal aid scheme are now law. These reforms are due to be implemented on 1 April 2013.
From that date, clinical negligence cases will no longer be eligible for public funding (legal aid) unless the claimant is a child with neurological injury resulting in severe disability which arises during pregnancy, child birth or in the eight week post natal period.
Whilst the good news is that children with serious birth injuries and lifelong disabilities will still have access to public funding and specialist solicitors to pursue their claims, it does now mean that other children and adults with serious injuries will no longer be able to access legal aid to investigate potential claims.
We remain concerned as to whether individuals who would currently have access to funding for claims without costs due to their limited means and be guaranteed a clinical negligence specialist solicitor to deal with their claim (where publicly funded), may under the new reforms find it hard to get solicitors to take on their case. They could end up using solicitors who do not have the same expertise of clinical negligence cases as well as paying significant amounts of their damages out by way of contribution to legal costs.