Hundreds of solicitors have responded with alarm to the prospect of claimant costs capping in clinical negligence, stressing that there is no correlation between the value of a case and its complexity.
Fixed costs would seriously impinge upon access to justice, depriving the ‘most marginalised in society’ of legal advice and slashing compensation, they fear.
The Gazette revealed in August that claims of up to £250,000 could be subject to a fee cap under plans being considered by the Department of Heath. The profession’s many concerns about a forthcoming consultation in December are outlined in submissions solicited by the Law Society.
Solicitors also fear that the best experts will not work at capped rates, and that the vital role solicitors play in weeding out claims without merit that would otherwise be brought against the NHS will be severely compromised. If solicitors cannot afford to carry out screening, the costs could fall on the health service.
A further theme in the responses was the tension between conducting cases within a fixed-costs regime while ensuring compliance with professional duties. One respondent expressed the view that ‘…we would be restricted in the thoroughness of our ability to investigate claims’.
- The Department of Health must listen to practitioners, says Law Society president Jonathan Smithers.