The 600 per cent rise in civil court fees last week has raised fears that the move may be denying access to justice to people on all but the highest incomes.
The changes to fees, which affect claims for money, including compensation for medical and clinical negligence or personal injury, are now based on the size of the claim – for instance, if you are claiming compensation as a result of medical negligence, and are claiming £200,000, you will have to pay £10,000 just to issue that claim. Before the change, the fee for such a claim was £1,515.
The changes, heralded in February, saw law firms urging their clients to issue their claims ahead of the deadline. The rise has been strongly opposed by the Law Society – Andrew Caplen, the Society’s president, said: “These [increases] will price the public out of the courts and leave small businesses saddled with debts they are due but cannot afford to recover.
“State provision for people to redress wrongs through the courts is the hallmark of a civilised society. If there is not justice for all, there can be no justice at all.” The Law Society is petitioning the Government for a change to the new limits – you can sign the petition here.
A recent case, one of the highest-ever medical negligence claims, might never have come to court under the new system of fees – Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland had to pay out more than £5m in compensation after mistakes at a birth left the little girl with cerebral palsy. The trust denied liability until just before the court case.
Inez Brown, Partner at Medical Accident Group said: “The new scale of fees might well influence those on middle or low incomes against pursuing a claim which otherwise would have an excellent chance of success. These costs are astronomical and often, because liability is frequently denied until a claim is issued, a client will have been forced to lay out this money, even if they don’t eventually need to go into court. Those suffering as a result of negligence in this way are under great stress as well as often suffering physically – our system of justice should support them, rather than being stacked against them.”
If you have been the victim of medical negligence and seek advice, then the Medical Accident Group has expert lawyers with experience of dealing with these stressful and difficult cases. We will provide support, help and offer the finest advice to ensure you are not in this alone. For more information please contact Inez Brown, Partner, on 01905 744823 or email firstname.lastname@example.org