Proof that even before the proposed reforms to payments to lawyers for accident claims come into effect, there are problems with making the work pay, comes with news that Manchester accident compensation law firm, Donns, have just gone into administration. Approximately 50 employees are believed to have been the subject of redundancy.
The saga concerning the government’s plans to alter the availability of conditional fee agreements [more commonly known as “no win no fee“] drags on. In particular, the House of Lords have now given the government a series of bloody noses – the three latest defeats of government proposals means that the government has actually lost nine votes so far. With regard to personal injury work, the critical change was that, unless this latest defeat should be overturned in House of Commons, those suffering from mesothelioma, and respiratory or other industrial disease, which has resulted from their employers’ negligence, will be excluded from the planned reforms to the no win no fee claim system.
It appears that the government have made a slight change of policy with regard to its highly controversial proposal to abolish public funding [as legal aid is now called] from all medical negligence claims.
A planned amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill allows for the retention of legal aid in what are referred to as “in obstetrics cases which result in severe disability”.
While, in general, there has been a welcome response to this minor concession, a number of observers – including the campaigning medical accident charity, Action against Medical Accidents – are querying how very limited the concession will be. We share those concerns. It’s not entirely clear why, either for practical reasons or for reasons of fairness or social justice, that a baby suffering a catastrophic traffic injury at birth due to medical negligence should be entitled to legal aid to help bring a compensation claim, whereas perhaps a one-year-old child, suffering equal injuries on account of medical negligence would be denied.
Despite this remarkably limited concession, the government appeared to remain committed to the proposals to remove 25 per cent of the compensation payments for victims of medical negligence to top up the general legal aid fund.