Back to News

NHS medical negligence costs: who pays the price?

Medical negligence costs in the NHS are soaring and need to be addressed, but who will pay the price?

More than £433million was spent last year on defending medical negligence claims against the NHS and costs are set to rise still further.

NHS Resolution has revealed that there were over 12,500 new claims in 2020/21, an increase of over 1,000 claims on the previous year.

The government response is to impose a cap on the legal fees payable for the lower value medical negligence claims. Here, they propose to limit the legal costs lawyers can claim for cases that are worth up to £25,000. This, they say will save the NHS almost half a billion pounds over the next 10 years. However, there are concerns that it could mean many injured people miss out on the compensation they deserve because law firms simply cannot afford to run the cases.

Perhaps there are better ways to save the funds desperately needed by the NHS.

Medical negligence compensation paid in the last year alone amounted to £2.2billion. While the average settlement was £50,000, around half of the costs were for brain injuries suffered at birth, which can attract compensation that runs in to the millions.

John McQuater, specialist medical negligence solicitor, said: “We work with families whose lives have been devastated by medical negligence, but who are then subjected to years of battling with NHS legal teams simply to obtain the justice they deserve.

“We see cases that have been unjustly disputed for several years, only to be settled literally on the court steps; this is totally unacceptable for the families and unnecessarily expensive for the NHS.”

Maria Caulfield MP, Minister for Patient Safety, said: “When things do go wrong, we must make sure lessons are learnt, and patients can claim the compensation they deserve if they have been harmed through negligence.

“We’re proposing to cap the legal costs lawyers can claim ….. we will also streamline the process to help resolve them more quickly, making it simpler and easier for patients.”

John added: “We welcome any move to ensure that claims are settled more quickly. Mistakes do happen, but if fault was admitted at an earlier stage, cases would not be as protracted and there would be less need for the expensive specialist reports in litigation.

“Prevention is better than cure, we would rather see NHS funds invested in training, staff support and better facilities to ensure that these events didn’t happen in the first place.”

Back to News

Firework injuries: compensation and the law

Every year thousands of people need hospital treatment for firework related injuries. These injuries are not restricted to bonfire night, although the numbers do increase in November.

Fireworks can cause a range of injuries, most often to the eyes, head or hands. Sometimes the burns are so severe that people can be left with visible scars for life.

Many are injured at private or family events where the risks have not been properly assessed.

Fireworks and the law

It is illegal to set off or throw fireworks, even sparklers, in the street or any public place. Fireworks must not be set off after 11pm, except on bonfire night when the cut off is midnight. On New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year the cut off is 1am.

For some useful tips and guidance see the RoSPA website Firework safety – RoSPA

How we can help

If you are unfortunate enough to be injured in a bonfire incident or as a result of fireworks and believe it wasn’t your fault, we can help you claim compensation.

Our personal injury team has experience in handling these types of claims and will be there every step of the way to support you.

You can be certain that our expert team has the skills needed to make sure you are properly compensated for your losses and your claim for compensation is settled as quickly as possible whilst providing you with support and empathy.

If you would like more information or just want to chat about your options, contact our team today – call 01302 320621.

Back to News

Low value road traffic claims – the future

Low value road traffic claims were overhauled earlier this year when the government introduced a new online system for claiming whiplash compensation.

As data for the first quarter of operation of the Official Injury Claims Portal (OIC) is published, Diane Parker, head of personal injury, takes a look at how it’s performing:

“The headline figures show that 45,718 claims were submitted onto the new portal but less than 10% of those (4331) were from unrepresented claimants – the very group of people the OIC was built and designed for.

What do these early figures tell us?

Claims for injuries for road traffic injuries are down; pre Covid there were around 60,000 uploads to the old claims portal per month, so this is a significant drop. Some of this reduction might be due to value, the old claims portal was designed to cover claims worth up to £25,000 whereas the OIC is only for those worth up to £5000, although statistically, most road traffic claims were typically valued between £1000 and £5000. Some of the reduction is due to Covid, there are still significantly fewer vehicles on the road even though traffic has been steadily increasing.

Where are the claims coming from?

Insurance companies have created an industry out of “third party capture” and some of their panel firms have worked with the insurers to come up with funding models so that the solicitors running these low value cases can continue to make some profit doing so. Third party capture is okay if you are a policyholder driver or family member involved in an accident – you report the claim to your insurer and they refer you to their panel solicitor who submits the claim on your behalf.

But what of the clients who don’t fall into this model? Examples of the clients that the third-party capture system misses are:

  1. Employees driving their employer’s vehicle
  2. Drivers of rental vehicles
  3. Bus and coach passengers
  4. Taxi and private hire passengers
  5. Non-related passengers in cars driven by the prospective defendant.

Is it these classes of victim that are the 10% trying to go it alone? The published statistics don’t tell us that.

How have they even found the portal? Unless an injured individual knows to search for “official injury claim”, and let’s be honest, if you’re sitting at home in screaming agony with your whiplash, are you going to think of that as a search term, then it is impossible to even find the portal, let alone start using it.

MOJ supporting billion-pound multinationals to increase profits – tick that box;

MOJ pulling the rug out from under average Joe – tick that box; although next year’s car insurance should be £35 cheaper, so that’s alright then.”

Injured but confused about next steps?

We’ve put a leaflet together that explains when you need to use the claims portal and when you can get help from a solicitor – rta flyer 1

Back to News

Injury compensation: benefits of using a lawyer

Injury compensation is a complex subject.

Following an accident that was not your fault where the other party has contacted their insurer, those insurers might contact you and attempt to settle your compensation claim directly with you.

You might, therefore, find yourself asking “why should I use a lawyer to handle my personal injury claim?”

The insurer might try and steer you away from seeking independent legal advice suggesting that a lawyer will delay matters and make things more complicated. They could also make you what appears to be an attractive offer of settlement.

Fair level of compensation

If this happens how would you assess the offer? How would you determine if it was a fair level of injury compensation? Often, an insurer knowing that you do not have a lawyer to represent you will make an offer much lower than the true value of your claim.

A personal injury lawyer will be able to assess any offers received on your behalf using guidance used by Judges and previously settled and decided cases with similar injuries to accurately consider the value of your claim.

Prolonged symptoms

A few months after accepting an  offer directly from an insurer, you might find that you are still suffering or need treatment such as physiotherapy. Unfortunately, once you have accepted an offer that is in full and final settlement of your claim you would not be able to return for further compensation or funding for any treatment required as a result of your injuries. You would end up having to fund any required treatment yourself. It is likely that, if you continue to suffer, an offer that you have accepted directly from an insurer will not have been enough to properly compensate you for your injuries.

Disputing the offer

If you receive an offer from an insurer and you want to dispute it, how would you go about this and on what basis would it be? A personal injury lawyer will be able to negotiate a higher offer of settlement on your behalf and will often have years of experience dealing with insurance companies.

Court proceedings

A final matter to consider is what would happen if court proceedings need to be issued? Even in a case where liability is admitted there are a number of reasons where it would be necessary to issue proceedings. An admission of liability could be withdrawn, or negotiations might be too low and not lead to a settlement. Court proceedings must also usually be commenced within 3 years of an injury, so what happens if you are approaching that time limit? Would you be comfortable in drafting the necessary court papers and dealing with the court yourself or would you prefer to rest assured knowing that a personal injury lawyer was dealing with the complicated process on your behalf?

If you have been injured in an accident on the road, at work or in a public place, check out all your options before accepting any direct offer of settlement. No win no fee is usually available. Call and speak to our personal injury team on 01302 320621.

Back to News

Accident at work forces career change

A woodworker was forced to make a career change after an accident at work left him with severe injuries.

Mr C, who was in his late 30’s at the time of the incident, sustained fractures and severe lacerations to four of his fingers when he was cutting timber with a table saw.

As he pushed the timber towards the blade, the timber kicked back forcing his left hand to come into contact with the rotating blade.

He was taken to hospital where he had surgery to amputate the badly damaged tip of his index finger, fuse his middle finger and stitch the lacerations to the other damaged fingers.

Mr C’s life was totally disrupted for the first 3 months after the accident at work. He was unable to go fishing or even do the DIY projects he enjoyed so much. He couldn’t drive for 6 months and had to rely on others to help out.

His injuries were so severe that he was unable to return to work for a year following the accident.

Once fit for work, he became so anxious about it happening again that he couldn’t face returning to his old job. He realised that he was going to have to change his career altogether, so took up a delivery job.

Fortunately, he has been able to settle into his new job, but he still has difficulty with all the basic things we take for granted, such as tying laces, doing up buckles, belts and buttons.

Shabana Ali, associate solicitor pursued a claim for compensation against Mr C’s employers. They denied liability saying they had given appropriate training to their employees and the machinery was functioning as it should.

However, after a lengthy legal battle and just days before the scheduled 3-day trial, Mr C’s employers agreed to pay compensation and an out of court settlement was reached.

See details about health and safety responsibilities on the HSE website.

If you have been injured at work see how we can help you recover compensation that will help you get your life back on track. Call and speak to our friendly professionals – 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Back to News

Legionnaires’ disease warning to businesses

As the lockdown restrictions ease and more premises begin to open, business owners are warned to be on their guard against Legionnaires’ disease.

With premises closed for the past several months, there is a danger that water in some storage or hot or cold water systems, including taps and pipes may have become stagnant.

Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection that can prove fatal. It is caused by inhaling legionella bacteria suspended in the air around contaminated water sources.

Because Legionnaires affects the lungs its symptoms, which can include pneumonia, a fever, muscle pain and a cough, could be confused with Covid-19. As a result, people may not realise they have been infected, yet in most cases it can be successfully treated with anti-biotics.

Lucy Wightman, director of public health for Northamptonshire, advised: “This has been a very challenging time for businesses, with many sites needing to close or limit occupancy for a considerable period of time.

“Businesses should seek to be proactive in assessing the risk of Legionnaires’ disease occurring within their workplace to minimise the risk caused by this potentially fatal illness as they prepare to re-open.”

Diane Parker, personal injury solicitor commented: “The effects of this disease should not be underestimated.

“We have dealt with several cases involving Legionnaires’ disease. In one recent incident, a couple ingested the legionella bacteria while using facilities at a spa. One of them recovered, but, tragically, the other one died.

“In regard to risk assessments, it is important to be aware that responsibility for safety doesn’t just sit with business owners. Anyone in control of the premises, including landlords, is under a legal obligation to ensure the premises are safe.”

The local environmental health department is a good place to start for anyone wanting help and advice on identifying and controlling the risks and ensuring premises can be safely used by all staff, customers and visitors.

Is your workplace at risk?

Full details on the workplaces most a risk and how to carry out a risk assessment can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website 

 

Back to News

Dog bites: owners warned to take responsibility

Following a string of incidents involving dog bites, Katrina Elsey, personal injury lawyer and specialist in animal claims has issued a warning to dog owners to take responsibility for their animals whilst out and about in public places.

Katrina said: “This is especially important now whilst many people are taking daily exercise and are frequently out and about in public places with their dogs.

“Owners are liable for negligent harm caused by their dogs. Even if a dog is on a lead and attacks, the owner or person in control of the dog at the time may still be found to be negligent.”

In a recent case, Katrina recovered £2,000 compensation for a client who suffered dog bites to his thigh. The man was out running at a local beauty spot near his home when he was suddenly surrounded by 5 or 6 barking dogs.

As he tried to calm the dogs, he was bitten on the back of the thigh, leaving two small wounds. The dog handler arrived at the scene shortly afterwards.

The man went to A&E at Doncaster Royal Infirmary where he was treated for his injuries and given a Tetanus booster and a course of antibiotics to prevent infection.

The dog owner denied liability but later agreed to an out of court settlement.

In another incident highlighted in a recent newspaper story, a woman out having her daily exercise during lockdown feared for her life when she was savagely attacked by two dogs.

Angela Harder, a security guard, was walking her neighbours Yorkshire terrier Ellie in the local park when two greyhound type dogs bounded towards her.

As they started ripping into Ellie, Angela hoisted the little dog above her head. But as she did, the dogs instead lunged towards Angela’s throat.

She had to throw the terrier into a fenced off play area to save her before fleeing the park. Angela commented: “I had no chance against these dogs. If I was a child I would have been killed”

Police are investigating the attack which left Ellie’s owner with a £500 vet’s bill.

If you have been bitten see the NHS advice on dealing with dog bites (and human bites)

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured by a dog bite or in a dog attack, contact us to see if we can help you claim compensation. Call and speak to our team on 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk

Back to News

Cohabitees to be eligible for bereavement damages

Cohabiting couples should soon be on an equal footing with married or civil partners when it comes to claiming bereavement damages.

At the moment, as bizarre as it seems co-habiting couples, regardless of how long they have lived together, are not entitled to claim compensation if their partner dies through someone’s negligence. Yet other couples who have been together even for a short-time are eligible to claim the benefit under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.

Once the changes come into force, cohabitants will be eligible to claim providing they have lived together for at least two years.

The eligibility criteria were found to be discriminatory and not compatible with Human Rights law. This was flagged up by a case before the Court of Appeal in 2017, where a cohabitee was unable to claim bereavement damages when her partner of 11 years died as a result of medical negligence.

For the purposes of dependency damages, spouses and civil partners are considered to be in a stable and long-term relationship if they have been together for at least two years.

The Court of Appeal said that there was no justification for treating cohabitees any differently and that grief caused by the death of a long-term partner would be just as painful to bear whether the couple had been married, co-habiting or living together.

There are also plans to amend the scheme to recognise the previous partner of the deceased in a situation where a couple had separated but not divorced and the deceased was then co-habiting with a new partner. In this case, the award would be divided equally.

Diane Parker, personal injury solicitor, commented: “This is a welcome step forward but there is still a lot of work needed if the bereavement damages scheme is to be truly fit for purpose.

It is meant to compensate for the grief caused by the loss of a loved one, yet there are so many restrictions on who is eligible to claim.

The government is under pressure to look more broadly at the scheme. Further reforms may result in other close family members also being eligible to bereavement damages, such as cohabiting fathers who lose a child.”

For many years, personal injury lawyers have lobbied for the bereavement damages to be increased. Although there was an increase on 1 May 2020 from £12,980 to £15,120, this was the first rise in 7 years, and still does not adequately compensate for the loss. The amount payable in England is vastly different from that in Scotland where there is no upper limit; instead, each case is determined individually.

Back to News

Criminal Injuries Compensation

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority – CICA, is a government funded organisation that was set up solely to compensate blameless victims of violent crime.

Being involved in an unprovoked attack can be very distressing for victims. And these innocent people don’t often realise that they can claim compensation for their injuries, even where their attacker is unknown.

If you are involved in a violent crime you must report the incident to the police as soon as possible. Generally, if you have not reported it the CICA will not make any award.

We can work on your behalf and help you to pursue a claim with the CICA. We will help ensure you recover the correct amount of compensation for your injuries.

The amounts awarded through the scheme differ to those made in civil claims. They are set by parliament and calculated by reference to a tariff of injuries.

In one recent case, Katrina Elsey, one of our personal injury lawyers, recovered over £190,000 compensation for a client who was the innocent victim of a crime of violence.

Our client had been enjoying a night in a bar when he was subjected to an unprovoked attack which left him with paraplegia, a collapsed lung and a fractured rib.

Making a claim through CICA

In all cases, it is very important that you begin the CICA process as soon as possible as the claims process can take time.

If you were an adult at the time of the incident you will have to submit an application within 2 years of it happening. If you were under 18 years old at the time then usually you have until two years after your 18th birthday to make the claim.

The scheme is often considered a final resort for victims to claim compensation. It is often used in circumstances where the assailant cannot be traced or is unlikely to have the financial means to be able to pay the victim compensation for their injuries.

Do you need help claiming compensation?

If you have been injured in an unprovoked attack or have been the victim of any kind of assault or physical or sexual abuse, we can advise on the best route for you to recover compensation. Call 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk and we will call you back at a convenient time.