Archive for October 2016

43% of Medical Negligence Claims against the NHS Settled Only When Court Proceedings are Issued

A freedom of information request has revealed that 43% of medical negligence claims against the NHS are settled only once court proceedings are issued.

During the last year, 5,795 medical negligence claims against the NHS were settled by the NHS Litigation Authority – 2,514 (43%) only after court proceedings were issued. Inasmuch as the proportion of claims settled at a late stage of litigation may be a cause for concern, the fact that the 43% of claims accounted for 76% of the NHLSA´s legal costs last year has angered certain elements of the legal industry.

In recent weeks, several national newspapers have published articles criticising “grossly inflated and morally questionable” legal fees paid to lawyers by the NHSLA – one newspaper alleging that lawyer´s legal fees are costing the taxpayer £1.5 billion per year. During 2015/16, the NHSLA actually paid legal costs for medical negligence claims against the NHS of £418 million.

One leading legal professional – Stephen Webber, chair of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers – has hit back against the front-page offensives in the media. He told the Law Society Gazette that the NHSLA´s failure to admit liability was extending the length of time it took to settle medical negligence claims against the NHS. “The NHSLA is defending cases too long and increasing costs”, he said.

The timing of Mr Webber´s counter-attack against misleading headlines is possibly deliberate. The government is currently conducting a consultation on proposals to limit recoverable costs for medical negligence claims against the NHS – proposals that lawyers are strongly opposed to due to the risk that claimants may be denied access to justice.

However, a spokesman for the NHSLA told the Law Society Gazette that Mr Webber´s interpretation of the data was itself misleading. He said that court proceedings can be issued for some medical negligence claims against the NHS to avoid claimants being time-barred from recovering compensation by the Statute of Limitations or because an agreed settlement for a child requires court approval.

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Judge Approves Compensation for Brain Damage due to a Mismanaged Birth

A judge at London´s High Court has approved a settlement of compensation for brain damage due to a mismanaged birth in favour of a woman in her thirties.

The woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was born with brain damage in the 1970s after her birth at the Southmead Hospital in Bristol was allegedly mismanaged. The woman has been looked after by her mother and sister since her birth; but, as her mother is now getting older, the decision was made to claim compensation for brain damage due to a mismanaged birth in order that the woman would be assured of professional care for the rest of her life.

The claim was unusual inasmuch as it had been made after so long a time. Initially, the Department of Health – against who the claim was made – contested its responsibility for the woman´s brain damage, but eventually agreed to a settlement package based on 50% liability without an actual admission of liability. The package consists of a £1.8 million lump sum in order that the family can buy a specially adapted home and annual tax-free, index-linked payments £120,000.

Approving the settlement of compensation for brain damage due to a mismanaged birth at London´s High Court, Mr Justice Foskett said the total value of the compensation package amounted to £3,345,000 due to the woman´s “greatly shortened” life expectancy. The judge commented that it was an “entirely sensible” package in the circumstances and paid tribute to the woman´s mother and sister for providing dedicated care for decades before taking legal action.

Also paying tribute to the “incredible care and devotion” provided by the woman´s mother and sister was William Wraight. Mr Wraight was in court representing the National Health Service said that Southmead Hospital “regrets the circumstances which gave rise to this claim”. Judge Foskett closed the hearing by saying the woman´s care was “very demanding, and has been over a number of years, none of which is her fault”.

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