Why is it important to instruct an experienced and specialist solicitor when pursuing a clinical negligence claim?
I read recently that the NHS Litigation Authority, who manage all clinical negligence claims against NHS Trusts, reported that there was an 18% rise in clinical negligence claims brought between 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 and that they have also seen an increase in claims being registered by law firms who had not previously registered claims.
Recently, and potentially as a result of recent changes in the way in which personal injury and clinical negligence claims are now funded, it has been reported that there has been an influx of solicitor firms pursuing claims of clinical negligence against the NHS where they have never done so previously. The NHS Litigation Authority is concerned that the increase in the number of claims is partly as a result of purely speculative claims being brought by non-specialist clinical negligence Solicitors.
The report states:
“[The authority] is dealing with more than ever new claimant solicitors. We have also seen an increase in poorly investigated claims and claims where the care clearly was not negligent being brought by lawyers who do not specialise in clinical negligence work.”
I work for the Clinical Negligence Team, a large team of lawyers who undertake solely clinical negligence work and have over 30 years of experience in doing so. The cases that we deal with are often a complex mix of medical and legal issues for which my firm has the experience and knowledge to deal with appropriately.
We review each Clinical Negligence enquiry independently and assess each case on its own merits at that time, based on our own expertise of clinical negligence claims, and only advise clients to pursue a claim if we consider it has reasonable prospects of proceeding. We understand that it is not in anyone’s interests, especially not our clients, to pursue a claim which is unlikely to succeed.
I do worry that some people who are pursuing claims with the assistance of solicitors who are not specialist clinical negligence solicitors may not achieve the outcome they need or deserve either because these firms are taking on purely speculative claims or because they are not equipped with the necessary expertise to thoroughly investigate the claim. For example, when a patient has suffered clinical negligence it can be complex to investigate and prove how the patient has suffered harm as a result of negligence, because they were already undergoing treatment at the time. The law in this area is frequently changing and it is vital that lawyers understand this and keep up to date to ensure claims are brought correctly and achieve the best outcome for the patient who has been injured.
A rise in non-specialist clinical negligence solicitors may in turn mean that there are less, or lower, settlements for those people who need compensation to pay for ongoing treatment or therapy caused by the negligence of the NHS. Not least, claims being dealt with by non-clinical negligence specialists, if those claims as a result are not investigated and/or presented properly, may mean practice and procedure in the NHS may not change or improve in the long run, which will likely only mean that cases of clinical negligence will increase.
There are professional associations and panels dedicated to this area of work and our firm is a member of those most specialist and recognised panels. To achieve such panel memberships you need to prove, through rigorous application and interview processes, experience and expertise in clinical negligence work. We are a member of AvMA (Action Against Medical Accidents), The Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel, APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) and SCIL (Society of Clinical Negligence Law). We are committed to continuing our professional education and development, working to ensure that we have up-to-date knowledge in respect of legal issues and differing areas of medicine, to ensure we can achieve the best outcome for our clients. Follow this link for examples of some of our recent cases.
If you would like to speak with a specialist clinical negligence solicitor about a potential claim you have, please call or email us so that we can discuss your claim and offer you some free independent expert advice.