BBC news have today reported that the NHS are expected to pay vast sums in respect of compensation and legal fees for clinical negligence cases. My colleague, Siobhan Genever, who has over 25 years experience in dealing with these cases on behalf of claimants, expresses her thoughts below:-
'I feel that is important that both sides of the story are set out.
Firstly, and very importantly, compensation is only paid where there is proven or admitted negligence together with an injury. Negligence is not just a mistake or human error but substandard care which is below what should be expected. Many of our clients have suffered life changing injury, death of a loved one or brain injury at birth.
Unfortunately we often see the same types of incidents from the same hospitals, suggesting that lessons are not being learned and this will, of course, lead to an increase in cases being brought.
Secondly, most people come to us, not seeking monetary compensation. Our clients are often confused, wanting answers or an apology, and sometimes have not even been told what has happened. A commitment to a policy of transparency and openness by the NHS would stop many of these cases in their tracks.
Thirdly, legal fees. In many cases the legal fees are increased because liability is not admitted at an early stage leading sometimes to years of expensive litigation that could have been avoided.
Moreover it is a myth that claimant lawyers can charge exorbitant fees in these cases. Our hourly rates are strictly controlled and bills are scrutinised by the court. Most lawyers I have met who do this work are genuinely nice people who want to help others, rather than work in potentially more lucrative areas of law.'