Apil rejects LAB's legal aid concessions

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) has rejected the Legal Aid Board's (LAB) latest concessions on legal aid for medical negligence cases.

Apil president Ian Walker, who has accused the LAB of removing legal aid “by the back door”, said he estimated that under the concessions about half of all medical negligence cases would still miss out on legal aid funding, compared to almost 80 per cent under the previous figure.

The LAB revealed last week it would remove legal aid from medical negligence cases worth less than £5,000 unless the defendant admitted liability – a step down from the LAB's originally proposed floor of £10,000.

The LAB made the concession after receiving responses to draft proposals for medical negligence, which it issued in August in the paper Medical Negligence – Draft Legal Decision Making Guidance.

Apil executive member Russell Levy said the LAB's draft rules gave defendants an “incentive” to deny liability, since plaintiffs could not then get legal aid funding if the case was worth less than £5,000.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, specifically retained legal aid for medical negligence cases, while announcing plans to remove it from the rest of personal injury litigation in July.

LAB chief executive Steve Orchard said: “The prospects of success in the case should be taken into account in deciding an appropriate relationship between likely cost and likely damages.”

Orchard said: “There will be many cases where legal aid will be granted where likely damages are the same or only slightly more than the initial investigative costs.”