Solicitors could receive as little as £500 for clinical negligence cases worth up to £25,000 in a proposed fixed costs pilot scheme drawn up by the NHS Litigation Authority.
In a document prepared by the authority and seen by the Gazette, the terms of the fixed costs are set out for all claims where liability is admitted.
Proposed solicitor fees are £500 for early admission with no negotiation, rising to £2,000 where expert advice is needed and the case has gone to arbitration. Fees differ based on the level of negotiation needed to reach a settlement.
The document is dated February 2013, but the Gazette understands the pilot is still some way from being realised. Claimant lawyers will be concerned that clinical negligence cases could be next in ongoing efforts by the government to fix fees for all types of lower-value claims.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has said negotiations are ‘nowhere near a conclusion’.
According to the authority, the pilot is intended to ensure claims against healthcare providers are resolved ‘fairly and promptly, and at a proportionate cost’.
While entry to the scheme would be voluntary, ‘there may be cost consequences if a claimant does not pursue an eligible claim through the scheme’.
An APIL spokesman said negotiations with the litigation authority and other organisations are ongoing.
A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘We support the principle of streamlining claims and the extension of fixed costs to other areas of civil litigation work, in the interests of resolving disputes as quickly as possible and at proportionate cost. However, the rise in costs of clinical negligence claims against the NHS is almost entirely explainable by increases in the number and severity of incidents.
‘Unless there is a culture change in the NHS we fear that the rate of medical accidents caused by negligence may increase. Streamlining the claims process and introducing fixed costs will not reduce the cost to the NHS and taxpayer unless culture change reduces the frequency of medical accidents.’