The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

Negligence costs out of control

MDU says negligence costs increased by three times the rate of inflation

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 22 October 2010

Clinical negligence claim costs have spiraled over the last 30 years, according to a leading medical indemnity organization.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) today revealed that the average claimants’ legal costs had increased by three times the rate of inflation since 1981.

In 2010, the average claimants’ cost paid by the MDU on behalf of its doctor members was £44,500, 34 times higher than the figure in 1981 of just £1,300. The average annual increase in claimants’ legal costs over the last 30 years was 13%, compared with an average increase in Retail Price Index (RPI) of just 4%.

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU Chief Executive, called for action to be taken to address excessive legal costs saying: “The level of claimants’ solicitors’ costs has accelerated in the last 30 years, well above the rate of inflation and these costs are often completely out of kilter with the damages awarded to the patient. This disproportion has been even more marked in the last five years where, on average, costs represented 40% of the damages paid and in many cases, far exceeded damages. By comparison, between 1981 and 1990, costs represented just 15% of the damages awarded.”

However, she said Lord Justice Jackson’s report would make a difference. The report makes recommendations, which if implemented, will place a cap on success fees and end the ‘After the Event Insurance’ for clinical negligence claims. The report will also reform the way costs are managed during the litigation process.

“We expect the Ministry of Justice to publish a consultation on Lord Justice Jackson’s report and we will be submitting a response on behalf of our members,” said Dr Tomkins.

Dr Tomkins concluded: “The MDU is 125 years old and began at a time when negligence claims against doctors were virtually unheard of. That certainly is not the case today and we have always believed that any patient who is negligently harmed should be properly compensated but it’s in neither doctors nor patients’ interests for legal costs to be so high.”

As part of its 125th anniversary, the MDU opened its archives to reveal that between 1896 and 1909, it assisted with just 405 malpractice claims and paid damages in only five.

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470