The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has received notification from the Government that the introduction of fixed costs for clinical negligence cases will not be implemented on 1 October, as first planned.
The delay to the new costs rules, confirmed by the Health Minister Ben Gummer, will come as some relief to clinical negligence solicitors, who will now have more time to plan how their business models will operate under a fixed costs regime for claims worth less than £250,000.
Julie Say, a partner and head of clinical negligence at Hodge Jones & Allen, said that it was now imperative that the Government would allow for a proper consultation on how clinical negligence cases are actually run.
“It would be very ill advised if not downright irresponsible for the Government to introduce a fixed costs regime without adequate consultation particularly given that the impact of the Jackson reforms is still to be assessed,” she said.
“As a consequence of the Jackson reforms, lawyers’ fees are already tightly controlled, capped and limited. Costs already have to be reasonable and proportionate before they are paid by the insurer or NHS and the Courts rightly already hold the power to reduce any bill found to be excessive.
“To seek to introduce further and somewhat draconian changes without waiting to see whether the introduction of costs budgeting will lead to the necessary improvement must, from any angle, be considered to be somewhat misguided and misconceived.
“The Government should be looking at remedying underlying causes of negligence by, for example, providing proper, more regular training, if they want to reduce the negligence bill,” she added.