The Dentist Magazine.

Fixing legal fees

Published: 03/05/2017

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) is calling on the Government to introduce mandatory fixed limits on legal fees charged by lawyers in dental negligence claims and proposing that the scope of the scheme should be far broader than initially suggested.

Responding to a Department of Health consultation on fixed legal fees, the DDU called on the Government to rethink the proposed low limit on the cases the fee-cap will apply to, in order to ensure a meaningful effect on often disproportionate and increasingly unaffordable legal costs.

John Makin, head of the DDU, said, “The rising tide of litigation is having a dramatic effect on the dental profession and the NHS more widely. In lower-value claims, the fees claimed by claimant lawyers are still, on average, above the level of damages awarded and that cannot be right. For example, in one settled claim, the claimant’s costs were more than quadruple the settlement figure received by the patient.

“The caps proposed are only for claims where compensation paid is between £1,000 and £25,000. While this limit may help with some dental claims, we strongly believe that fixed costs should be applied to all claims settled up to £250,000 to have any meaningful impact.

“In order to avoid over-valuation of claims and inflated costs being paid, the threshold of £250,000 must apply to the final amount of compensation paid to the patient, not the initial estimated value of the claim. We often see speculative claims for many hundreds of thousands of pounds that are ultimately determined to be worth far less.

“Fixed legal costs are only part of the solution to address the adverse compensation environment which is so badly affecting our members’ ability to afford indemnity. In the longer term, root and branch reform is needed of personal injury law.”