The world of no win no fee medical negligence claims
Medical Negligence – No Win No Fee
Everyone will have seen the adverts on day time television proclaiming the wonders of no win no fee arrangements for personal injury cases, and many people have formed a negative perception of this kind of payment structure. Like anything though no win no fee, or conditional fee arrangements have both their good and bad points.
The basic idea behind conditional fees is that the client will only have to pay for the legal services that they need if the legal action is successful, in which case the fee will be taken from the clients winnings. If the legal action is not successful however, the client will have to make no payment to the solicitor, hence the phrase no win no fee.
In the English law system, no win no fee arrangements have been the source of much controversy. Formally introduced in the Courts and legal Services Act 1990, although the actual statutory mechanisms to enact this legislation were not in place until 1995. In their original form conditional fees meant that if the fee that was taken from the clients winning was quite large because if the need to cover costs. This lead to solicitors picking and choosing cases that they believed they had a good chance of winning. The Access to Justice Act 1999 amended the 1990 act to allow for the recovery of legal costs from the losing party, which meant that the winning clients got to keep the majority of their money.
The advantages of no win no fee are that it provides access to the legal system for a whole range of people that unfortunately may have been previously priced out. The fee arrangement also makes the solicitors involved work harder as they will not receive any money if they are not successful.
In recent years there has been a clamour to reform the no win no fee system. This has built up over the years as people began to notice the rise in the aforementioned television adverts and related practices such as ‘ambulance chasing’ and ‘claims farmers’ which has lead to the NHS’s litigation costs ballooning.
In the context of medical negligence claims, it has been argued that no win no fee has created a ‘compensation culture.’ According to this argument people have become so infatuated with the idea that they can make a claim that if not successful is essentially free, and have subsequently begun claiming for incidents that they shouldn’t. This has acted to overload the NHS with litigation claims, which is obviously detrimental to the service.
There are a number of alternatives to no win no fee arrangements. Legal expenses insurance can be taken out, and this will cover any legal expenses and costs while also claiming the costs back from the other side if their claim is unsuccessful. There is also the option of legal aid or, if one can afford it, paying for the legal costs themselves.
No win no fee is a useful strategy for paying for legal action, although some other options may be more suited to an individual’s personal situation.