The cost of growing negligence claims

Negligence Claims

Medical Negligence Claims

The cost of medical negligence claims has risen significantly in recent years. According to a report published in The Telegraph, NHS is currently facing £15.7 billion in negligence claims, roughly one seventh of their entire budget and a 10% increase from last year. The figure is a compilation of the values of the cases NHS believes it cannot defend, and also includes the cost of cases that have not been filed yet. Therefore, this estimate could be slightly on the low side, particularly if more patients than expected choose to file and receive compensation.

Data from the past few years indicated that this upward trend of medical negligence claims is not new. In 2011, over 8500 claims were filed against NHS, a 30% increase from 2010. A spokesperson from the Medical Defense Union, a mutual organization that provides legal defense for medical personnel, noted that increase in claims has been the sharpest that the company has seen throughout its history.

Needless to say, this is a major increase and represents a heightened cost to taxpayers.

What is the reason for the increase?

Many of these claims come from cases in which an infant was left with brain damage due to errors during labor and delivery. Advances in medical science can keep the infant alive long afterwards, but these treatments are also some of the most expensive and are therefore covered by hefty settlements.

However, the dramatic increase in claims is not necessarily related to a decline in quality of service. According to the Medical Defense Union, the increase is related more to the prevalence of a different type of claim. Many claims that the MDU saw in 2011, for example, were for incidences that occurred in the previous years. This seems to suggest a change in the reason why a patient would submit a claim.

While it’s impossible to know exactly why an individual would file a medical negligence claim, it may be related to the type of legal help available to patients nowadays. Many medical negligence solicitors now offer a ‘no win, no fee’ policy, which makes seeking legal aid more accessible. To compensate, solicitors will charge higher fees to cover the cost of lost cases, thereby increasing the general cost of negligence claims, to the point where a third of the cost of successful claims end up going to lawyers.

Therefore, it is clear that a culture of more accessible compensation is emerging, making the process of filing a claim more attractive for the average patient.

What is the impact?

In order to manage rising costs, the MDU is suggesting that the government directly address the cost of individual settlements, some of which can cost upwards of £5 million. At this point, according to the MDU, the cost of these claims is rising at a rate that outpaces wage and general inflation. If costs continue to increase at this rate, the overall cost of healthcare in the UK will increase significantly.