Medical negligence claims and no win no fee agreements are the subject of heated discussion in the legal press currently, following a report from the Medical Defence Union that such compensation claims have seen an increase in 2010 of almost 20% – following a number of years when the number of claims remained relatively. Apparently over 50% of the claims that were made against GPs resulted out of a delayed or incorrect, with a further 15% as a result of a failure in referring patients and 10% arising from errors in medication.
The Medical Defence Union, the body indemnifying over 50% of UK GPs, suggests that the availability of no win no fee agreements may be the cause of the latest increase, although admitting that the recession may also have been a factor.
However, the Chairman of the, Consumer Justice Alliance ,Nigel Muers-Raby, has hit back against the MDU in the Law Society Gazette. Pointing out that the MDU have provided no evidence whatsoever for their claim, he argues that it is “curious” that the MDU believe the problem to be those individuals who have been the victims of negligent treatment and their medical negligence solicitors, rather than those medical professionals at fault.
I think Mr. Muers-Raby is right. Whilst no sensible person would rejoice in a culture unnecessarily obsessed with litigation, sadly, there are occasions when professional negligence does indeed take place – whether it be medical negligence or negligent accountant. Having a robust compensation system acts as a significant incentive to improving standards. The MDU is presumably not unhappy with people suing solicitors or making compensation claims in respect of, say, architect negligence – just opposed to clinical negligence claims. This strikes me as a very selfish position. Who can doubt the massive change that has place in the last 30 years or so with regards to workplace safety in general. Industrial injuries or workplace accidents used to be much more commonplace – many builders and roofers, for example, suffered permanent disability through the use of inadequately safe ladders.
Instead of blaming solicitors and no win no fee agreements, surely we should be congratulating ourselves on introducing a system which enables the people who have suffered injuries to receive the compensation they deserve, and which has seen health and safety at work standards rise significantly.