Back in the day of post-war Britain, sweeping reforms to the welfare state gave access to state-funding for many services that were out of the reach for many – things most of us now take for granted. Think the NHS, secondary school education and Legal Aid among others.
Before Legal Aid, access to legal advice was the prerogative of those who could afford it or could persuade a lawyer to help them out of goodwill. Over the years the administration of Legal Aid has changed considerably, at first being mainly used for criminal and divorce cases but then increasingly being applied to other matters, more recently personal injury and medical negligence. It has always been a means-tested entitlement designed not only to give with a scale of contributions based on the applicant’s ability to make a contribution towards the costs.
The annual overall bill is now £2 billion and the government wants to make reductions to the tune of £350 million. Medical negligence claims have been one of the areas targeted and Legal Aid funding has now been withdrawn for most claims in this area. However, due to much lobbying within the sector, claims involving children who suffer a brain injury that results in severe disability are still eligible for Legal Aid funding. To be eligible, the disability must have arisen during pregnancy, childbirth or within eight weeks of birth.
In order for a law firm to be allowed to work on birth injury cases under Legal Aid, at least one of their lawyers must be a member of one of the Law Society’s special clinical negligence panels and the AvMa panel (the patient charity Action against Medical Accidents). To be accepted onto these panels, the lawyer must have proven expertise in this field.
Medical negligence claims are complex and, as such, need to be processed by a specialist lawyer who has both legal and medical knowledge. Specialists are more likely to make an informed assessment of the level of compensation that could be sought, and are also more likely to be able to achieve it. They are also acutely aware that the process of making a claim can take an emotional toll on the claimant and their family. Anxiety around how to fund the claim should not add to this stress, nor be the deciding factor about bringing a legitimate claim in the first place.
Funding the claim has always been a contentious issue and of course it always will be. What is key is that justice should be accessible to everyone. Without the right funding, some people – especially those on lower incomes – may find it hard to find a solicitor with the necessary expertise to take on their case.
At Gadsby Wicks, we specialise in medical negligence claims and we are committed to making sure that legal advice is not beyond the reach of those who need it. With our conditional fee agreements, we guarantee that you will never pay a penny upfront, there are no hidden costs and you will pay nothing if your claim is unsuccessful. We have expertise in a range of claim areas including birth injury and cerebral palsy claims and are able to offer Legal Aid where it applies.
Call us now on freephone 0800 321 3112 and talk in confidence to one of our advisers. See our case studies for details of how we’ve helped others.
Posted 21st May 2013 | Posted in News,Uncategorised