Friday, April 08, 2011


The British government has changed the law on no-win/no-fee medical negligence cases. Under legislation drawn up by New Labour, claimant's lawyers could claim double their normal costs if they win a case. (Tony Blair was a lawyer). They can claim their usual fee plus a success fee of 100%. The whole package is payable by the losing defendant. The defendant is also liable to pay an insurance premium that the claimant takes out to insure against the possibility of losing. This system leaves the losing defendant paying out more in legal costs than they do in damages so that defensible cases are often settled rather than incur high legal expenses. In 2008-9 the NHS paid £312m in damages and £465m in lawyer's fees.

Under the new system losing claimants will no longer have to pay the winning defendant's costs so there will no longer be a need for insurance against losing. A losing defendant will pay the claimant's costs, but not a success fee, which will become the responsibility of the winning claimant, who will pay it out of damages won. The success fee will be capped at 25% of general damages.

The new regulations were welcomed by the Medical Defence Union which recently reported a case where the damages were £8000 and the lawyer's fees, £62,000.

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