The Loss of Legal Aid for Clinical Negligence Clients - Act Now!

As highlighted by the recent Tonight Programme on ITV (Thursday 8 September), there is much concern about the Governments proposals to remove Legal Aid for Clinical Negligence claims contained in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, currently going through parliament. Combined with the other proposals in respect of funding, to remove the recoverability of success fees and insurance premiums from unsuccessful Defendants, so the victims of the negligence pays them, will mean no access to legal help and justice for many victims of medical accidents.

This Bill follows on from the civil costs review carried out by Lord Justice Jackson, whose recommendations have, on the whole, been adopted in the draft bill save for a very important one. He stressed the vital necessity of making no further cutbacks in Legal Aid availability and eligibility. He has since highlighted the need to retain Legal Aid in clinical negligence claims. However, we cannot not rely on his and many other high profile campaigners to keep Legal Aid for clinical negligence succeeding, and it is likely that it will be removed at some point in the not too distant future.

Clinical negligence is a complex area of law requiring medical and non medical expertise at an early stage. Victims need access to legal advice to help guide them through this area of “sophisticated and complex litigation” (Judiciary’s Response to the Ministry of Justice Consultation Paper on Legal Aid 11 February 2011). This cannot be done without the appropriate funding

Whilst we will all continue to lobby our MPs and Parliament, it is vitally important that those victims of medical accidents, who may be eligible for Legal Aid to investigate their case, seek advice now before the opportunity to apply for public funding is lost. If not the chance for justice for them may be lost forever.

If you require any advice or assistance with regard to any potential clinical negligence claim please contact a member of our clinical negligence team. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.