Last week the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was considered again in parliamentary committee as it makes it way through the various stages before becoming law. There is growing opposition to some of the provisions in it which affect the civil costs system in personal injury and clinical negligence cases.
There has been recent publicity about the effect that these changes will have on injured claimants who want to claim compensation for their injuries caused by the negligence of another person or organisation. In particular, there is concern about people who have been injured as a result of a medical accident and may be unable to claim compensation because they cannot afford to do so.
The proposed abolition of legal aid for clinical negligence cases means that people who lack the financial means to pay legal costs will no longer be able to get legal aid funding. The Government expects all such potential claimants to have conditional fee agreements, often referred to as "No win No fee" arrangements, instead of legal aid.
Commenting on this proposal, Clare Carter a specialist medical negligence and clinical negligence lawyer at Trethowans Solicitors said; "Clinical negligence cases are by their very nature particularly complicated and expensive because of the complex medical issues usually involved. It is therefore likely that lawyers will not take on some cases due to the risk of the case being unsuccessful and therefore the lawyer not being paid under a conditional fee agreement."
"There is a real danger that people with difficult but meritorious cases will be unable to pay the costs of pursuing them and so will not receive compensation for very severe injuries caused by medical negligence."