Critics of “no-win, no-fee” litigation often trot out the tired cliché that it drains NHS funds, and often advocate a no-fault compensation scheme akin to that in New Zealand.
But that misses the fairly obvious point that pursuing claims on a no-win, no-fee basis in itself weeds out the speculative claim, as which solicitor would choose to pursue an unmeritorious claim in those circumstances? Of more concern, however, is the support of a no fault scheme.
Our existing system, under which the claimant has to prove that medical care has fallen below appropriate levels and caused injury, is conducive to audit and helps raise standards of care generally, highlighting potentially dangerous behaviour and systems. By contrast, the New Zealand scheme does little to encourage such scrutiny.
Anecdotally, deserving patients in New Zealand still face delays due to arguments about whether an injury was due to a pre-existing condition and would have occurred in any event, whilst the actual awards are fixed, inadequate and fail to compensate patients properly.
A young woman was awarded £8m damages, having been left brain damaged after her heart was punctured during surgery.
That sum, approved by the High Court, was designed to enable her to rebuild her life and in particular have the 24 hour care she sadly now needs for the rest of her life.
Yes, the sum is significant but it reflects her actual needs as evidenced by experts; perhaps more importantly, the Trust’s admission of liability will no doubt ensure a proper review of procedures and thereby hopefully help improve patient safety.
Under the New Zealand scheme the award would have been limited to a sum equivalent to approximately £65,000. No fault? No thanks.”
For more information about clinical negligence or if you have suffered any form of clinical or medical negligence, call freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online for a free No Win, No Fee consultation with one of our specialist clinical negligence lawyers.