Legal action in cases where the still birth of a child could have been prevented but for the negligent actions of NHS staff and other fatal incidents caused by the mis-treatment of patients by medical staff, are likely to be put at risk of not being brought if the Government plans to limit legal fees goes ahead.
Inez Brown, Partner at Medical Accident Group recently acted for a client, Lisa Kirby, who gave birth to a daughter who was stillborn in April 2014. Days before, hospital staff had ignored her warnings that she was suffering pain in her abdomen, sending her home without any scans. When she began to experience contractions, midwives at Royal Berkshire Foundation trust found that her baby had no heartbeat, and she was delivered stillborn.
An inquest found that the baby had been starved of oxygen, and died just six hours before the delivery. Had she been delivered earlier, she was likely to have survived, the inquest found. After three years, the trust paid out £15,000 in compensation, after Medical Accident Group took on the case.
Under new Government proposals, where damages awarded in a successful claim for medical negligence are likely to be less than £25,000, a cap on legal fees means that responsible firms who currently diligently take such claims forward would find themselves in the position of being unable to represent the families as their costs would not be covered
Britain is ranked 33rd out of 35 in the developed world for its stillbirth rates, while the NHS is facing soaring numbers of cases where babies are left brain-damaged. The charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) said the new rules would mean those bereaved by blunders would be unable to find a lawyer willing to take their case, because the fees would not cover the costs of investigating the failings.
Chief executive Peter Walsh said the changes would deepen a culture of “deny and defend” in the health service, with trusts knowing that the bereaved could not afford to take them on. This would lead to massive lost opportunities to learn from mistakes,” he warned.
Steve Webber, chairman of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL), said the NHS already defended far too many cases for too long when they should admit early liability. “The NHS is not learning from its mistakes,” he said. “We see this with the same claims coming from the same hospitals again and again. These claims are then denied and dragged out unnecessarily for far too long.”
Inez Brown, Partner from Medical Accident Group said “This news will be of concern for many patients who have experienced tragic consequences of negligent medical treatment and fear that they may not be able to obtain legal redress. In many cases, these claims are not about the financial gain, but rather allowing grieving families to feel that their voices have been heard. Under the new system, we would not have been able to take on the case, because the fixed fees would not cover the costs of our investigation. If the trust would simply agreed to settle sooner – instead of waiting until proceedings are about to be issued – the costs would be far lower ”.
Inez was also quoted in the Daily Telegraph on 27th July 2017, please find the article here
As an experienced local firm, we have managed to secure an award of compensation for many clients similar to Lisa Kirby who have experienced negligent medical treatment. If you have suffered from poor treatment, Medical Accident Group can help. We have a team of dedicated clinical negligence solicitors, with over 30 years’ experience, who will guide you through the process of making a claim. If you believe you have a claim, call the team now on 0800 050 1668.