The Dental Defence Union (DDU) said today the establishment of a Civil Justice Council working group to consider fixed legal costs in clinical negligence claims is a positive step in tackling runaway legal costs.
John Makin, head of the DDU, said:
“The announcement of a Civil Justice Council working group to examine excessive legal costs in clinical negligence claims is a delayed but still welcome first step. Proposals to make claimants’ lawyers costs more proportionate to the compensation their clients receive were first mooted back in 2015. We hope that things will move ahead faster now.
“Even with dental claims, which are generally lower in value than medical awards, the fees charged by claimant lawyers are still, on average, above the level of compensation awarded and that cannot be right. For example in one settled claim, the claimant’s costs were more than quadruple the settlement figure received by the patient.
“Patients who believe they have been negligently harmed must have access to justice, but fixed costs are fairer and will help to establish some much needed balance to the system.
“We will be happy to take part in the working party to represent our members’ views. However, disproportionately high costs charged by claimants’ lawyers are only part of the problem. The cost of litigation is becoming unaffordable for the dental profession and the NHS. The Government needs to take more decisive action. We urgently need more radical legal reform to restore balance to the system for clinical negligence claims.”