The Department of Health has said it wants to crack down on certain “unscrupulous” law firms which demand “excessive” legal costs. The new government proposals plan to cap legal costs for coroner’s hearings and also in those cases valued at less than £25,000.
A hearing in a coroner’s court is often utilised for investigating failings and recognising improvements in medical establishments which can be implemented to benefit the wider public going forward. At present, grieving families who have lost relatives are often represented at a hearing for free by solicitors and barristers, who work on the provision that they will be paid after winning a subsequent claim for compensation.
The plans will see legal costs capped, meaning that families will no longer have the means of accessing legal representation by a lawyer because it will not be financially viable for them to act. The consequence of this means hospitals will not be challenged nor the potential negligence investigated. The cap on costs risks putting forward the impression that the NHS is never at fault, diminishing the importance of a patient’s right to be treated fairly, both in hospital and in the courts. With NHS failings going unheard, there is a higher chance that mistakes will be repeated rather than learnt from.
In addition to legal costs being altered with regards to a coroners hearing, the proposals also see plans to change how costs are applied for those cases where the value is less than £25,000. Within this category lies claims for negligent baby, infant and geriatric deaths. Following the scandal at the Bristol Royal Infirmary whereby babies died at higher than normal rates following cardiac surgery, the legal investigation into the concerning number of deaths resulted in the introduction of new measures which transformed clinical practice; by 2010 the death rate amongst children who had undergone heart surgery had decreased to 2.5%, compared with a death rate of 4.5% in the previous decade.
Elizabeth McCumisky, a Solicitor at the Medical Accident Group says, “It is clear that highlighting medical errors can have a positive effect in hospitals. If the new proposals become law it could be difficult to learn from mistakes; errors wouldn’t be made apparent because the public wouldn’t have the means to investigate them. Hearings are not only important, but are also very thorough and would be very daunting for grieving families without legal representation, so it is important that our services remain accessible to ensure the best outcome for victims and their families.”
Here at the Medical Accident Group we often represent families who have lost a loved one, at inquests heard in the coroner’s court. We can help you with getting an explanation as well as an award of compensation, and we can also arrange any future treatment should you need it. If you need legal representation following your own, or a family members medical accident, get in touch with our specialist team on 0800 050 1668 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org