A doctors association has urged the Government to consider increasing the cap on medical negligence claims in which solicitors can only claim fixed recoverable costs.
Under current proposals, recoverable costs would be fixed for claims worth under £25,000 – approximately 60 per cent of claims against the NHS.
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the move would save approximately £45 million each year.
“What we often see in lower cost claims is a deeply unfair system where unscrupulous law firms cream off excessive legal costs that dwarf the actual damages recovered,” he said.
“We believe this creates an adversarial culture of litigation, which is inflating insurance premiums and drawing away resource from the NHS.”
However, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) argues that the Government should be more “bold” with its proposals by increasing the limit for fixed costs to £250,000.
Emma Hallinan, director of claims at MPS, said: “We fully support the introduction of mandatory fixed recoverable costs for claims of clinical negligence.
“In lower-value claims, it is not unusual to see lawyers’ costs exceed the compensation awarded to claimants. As an example, in a recent case involving a delayed diagnosis which settled for £4,000, legal costs of £35,263 were sought. This is simply not right.
“We do, however, question the £25,000 threshold proposed by Government. While we understand the argument for not capping legal costs for the most expensive and complex claims, we believe it is appropriate and viable to include claims up to £250,000.
“Disproportionate legal fees are still a significant issue for claims up to this value – setting the threshold at £25,000 would help, but the financial benefits to the NHS and the taxpayer would be greater if the threshold were set at a higher level.”
She adds that of the £1.5 billion paid out in clinical negligence claims in 2015/16, legal costs accounted for approximately 34 per cent.