Solicitors blamed for rise in medical negligence claims

by Wright Hassall on August 14, 2014

The NHS Litigation Authority’s (NHSLA) recent annual report’s statistics relating to the rising number and cost of medical negligence claims have made alarming headlines – roughly translated as ‘medical negligence claims up by 18% – personal injury solicitors to blame!’

As with most stories, the reality is rather less straightforward; yes, the number of medical negligence claims is up by 18% from 2012/13 – but numbers of claims have been steadily increasing, year on year, for the past 10 years. As for personal injury solicitors shouldering the blame – again the reality is not quite so black and white.

Why are medical negligence claims rising?

Since the civil litigation reforms in 2013, which had a radical effect on personal injury market, a number of personal injury solicitors have indeed moved into claimant medical negligence work, admittedly some less successfully than others. But for the NHSLA to place much of the blame for the increase in medical negligence claims at the feet of lawyers is unhelpful. Changes to the way in which lawyers can recoup their fees after 1 April 2013 led many to lodge claims before the deadline which almost certainly would have led to a spike in the number of claims being defended. Other reasons for the increase in the number of medical negligence claims are a growing awareness among patients, partially though the easy dissemination of information via social media, that if their medical treatment falls below an acceptable standard they may have recourse against the medical practitioner responsible; and the well-documented pressure under which many hospitals are currently labouring leading to an increase in clinical errors and mismanagement.

Medical negligence law is complex

Nonetheless, the NHSLA assertion that 44% of the claims it receives lack merit is a much more serious charge and does infer that a lack of procedural knowledge on the part of non-specialist lawyers may be behind this figure. It needs an experienced medical negligence lawyer to ascertain whether or not a claim has merit and if a lawyer new to this field of practice does not apply the rigorous tests required to assess eligibility then the chances of lodging an unmeritorious claim is high. There are strict protocols to be followed and any lawyer who fails to follow them correctly, and thus fails to achieve the right level of compensation for their client, can find themselves facing a professional negligence claim themselves.

In short …

Jeanette Whyman, Medical Negligence Solicitor with Wright Hassall comments “pursuing compensation claims for victims of medical negligence is important for two reasons. First, it enables those individuals to pay for the necessary support and rehabilitation they need; second, it ensures that hospitals and clinical practitioners tighten up their procedures to ensure such mistakes do not happen again. Lawyers acting for claimants in medical negligence cases need to be experienced in this area of law not only to ensure that the claim has merit but also that the most advantageous compensation terms are secured on behalf of their client. The NHSLA’s assertion that the rise in claims is down to the increase in the number of personal injury solicitors entering the medical negligence market is far too simplistic, not least as any lawyer operating outside their sphere of competence is in danger of facing a claim for professional negligence themselves. A more thoughtful analysis of the reasons behind the year on year increase is overdue”


Wright Hassall
Wright Hassall is a full service law firm which acts for both regional and national clients across a variety of sectors.
Wright Hassall

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