Medical negligence

In his viewpoint in The Lawyer, 24 February, Anthony Barton misses a fundamental reason for the lower success rate in legally aided medical negligence claims than in personal injury actions that being the particular complexity of these matters. They should only be handled by specialist lawyers but often are not.

There exists a Law Society sponsored panel which requires applicants to demonstrate a very considerable expertise in the medical negligence field and yet no attempt is made by the Law Society or even Accident Line to divert cases to those specialists.

There are two specialists in South Wales and my firm has one of them. However we continue to take over cases from other practitioners including good personal injury lawyers who simply did not understand the case.

Secondly, in seeking to apply the cold water of financial cost to brain damaged children, I invite Mr Barton to come and explain to the 15 per cent of families (his figure) who have succeeded in such claims why he suggests their cases should not be investigated.

Does he also think it appropriate that a success fee of up to 25 per cent of the damages in such a case should be deducted from much needed damages that are intended to last that child for the whole of its life?

Why does he not go and educate medical practitioners to reduce the mistakes that they make in the same way that solicitors have been encouraged to by the impositions of the SIF? Why does he not encourage doctors to explain unfortunate outcomes to their clients instead of immediately jumping behind the cloak of denial and forcing the aggrieved patient into litigation?

Mark Harvey

Smith Llewelyn Partnership