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Over 40% of medical negligence cases take two or more years to settle, research reveals

Deborah Evans [1]

Evans: government figures based on old cases

It takes two years or more for 42% of medical negligence cases to settle or for damages to be awarded by the courts, research by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has revealed.

Figures from the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU), obtained through a freedom of information request, showed that only a third of cases settled within a year and 22% took between two and two and a half years.

Deborah Evans, chief executive of APIL, said insurance broker Lockton had estimated that for every year the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) failed to deal with a case, costs increased by 10%.

“The big issue with clinical negligence cases is that they take so long to settle,” Ms Evans said. “Delays cost money. If things could be speeded up, the costs could be reduced.”

Ms Evans said APIL was carrying out further research on claimant costs and damages in post-LASPO cases.

“The figures the government is using to justify these reforms are false, because they are based on old cases,” she said. “They should be concentrating on recent cases under the new rules.”

APIL is also collecting evidence on defendant medical negligence costs. “The figures quoted for defendant costs do not take into account a lot of work done by the NHSLA and the NHS trusts.

“The government reforms just seem to be about getting the costs down. If nothing in the reforms changes the behaviour of the NHSLA, nothing will change for those kept waiting.”

The figures from the CRU also showed that the proportion of successful claims fell in 2014-15, to 66% from 71% the previous year.

Ms Evans said APIL had set up a clinical negligence working party including Terrence Donovan, head of personal injury at Kingsley Napley; Muiris Lyons, head of clinical negligence at Stewarts Law; Ian Cohen, specialist group leader at Slater & Gordon; Alison Eddy, partner at Irwin Mitchell; and Russell Levy, head of clinical negligence at Leigh Day.

In its response to the government’s pre-consultation [2], APIL argued that it could “see the rationale” for fixing medical negligence fees for claimants in cases worth up to £25,000, where the NHSLA admitted liability.