One of the reforms introduced by Lord Jackson was to impose fixed costs on many personal injury cases from April 2013. Medical Negligence claims are not covered by fixed costs. Insurers have revealed that they have been alerted by an increase in firms seeking “delegated authority” for insurance cover for clinical negligence claims. Authority is provided prior to a claim being brought and before experts reports have been produced.
There is a concern that following the restrictions imposed upon personal injury firms non-specialist solicitors are turning to clinical negligence cases in order to escape the limitations imposed by fixed costs in personal injury claims. This is a worrying trend as clinical negligence is a highly specialised area of the law and it is essential that Claimants are represented by lawyers who are specialists in this complex area.
As a senior medical negligence lawyer at Neil Hudgell Solicitors, and one who deals with a significant number of brain injury compensation claims, what I find particularly worrying is the sharp increase in the number of firms seeking after-the-event insurance cover for handling medical negligence claims. What this suggests is that inexperienced practitioners are turning to this specialist legal area to compensate for reduced income from personal injury work. The fear is that clients who are not represented by a firm specialising in clinical negligence cases will receive inadequate advice.
Richard Whale of insurer DAS Law Assist said that when a firm seeks delegated authority he asks to see its case statistics. The clear trend, he said, is that firms ‘either don’t have statistics or, where they do, they have settled no cases because they have only been taking on medical negligence cases in the past six to nine months’. Medical negligence claims, handled properly, will never be a ‘quick win’, he added.
Medical negligence cases are invariably complex and time-consuming, and should only be taken on by suitably experienced and qualified lawyers. The disturbing trends that have emerged since April 2013 go against everything that we as a legal firm value in terms of the quality of expertise and level of customer service we provide.