The Dentist Magazine.

Proposal to cap legal fees

Published: 03/02/2017

Proposals to impose fixed limits on the fees charged by lawyers in lower value negligence claims have been announced by the Department of Health.

Responding to the announcement, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) said while the proposed reforms may be effective with some dental claims, they will not go far enough to make a meaningful difference to the overall burden of clinical negligence litigation on the NHS.

John Makin, head of the DDU, said, “Fixed costs for legal fees are long overdue as we are still seeing fees charged by claimants’ solicitors that far exceed patients’ compensation. In lower value claims, the fees claimed by claimant lawyers are still, on average, above the level of damages awarded.

“However, we are disappointed the caps are proposed only for claims where the level of compensation paid is between £1,000 and £25,000. The original pre-consultation by the Department of Health proposed introducing fixed costs for claims up to £250,000 which would have had a more immediate impact on disproportionate legal fees seen by the NHS and dental defence organisations. Lord Justice Jackson is conducting a more wide ranging review of costs for all personal injury claims with an upper limit of £250,000 and we have submitted our proposals for fixed costs to that review.

“Patients who believe they have been negligently harmed must have access to justice, but fixed costs are fairer and would make claimants’ lawyers’ legal fees more affordable and proportionate. We will be scrutinising the proposals and responding on behalf of our members.

“In the longer term we need root and branch reform of personal injury law to address the rising cost of compensation claims themselves, which are reaching unsustainable levels.”

The MDU, the parent company of the DDU, is campaigning for legal reform of compensation claims.  Find out more at www.themdu.com/about-mdu/fair-compensation