April 2013 saw a major change in the way No win No fee lawyers operate. Before, most people who claimed for injury against a hospital trust or other healthcare provider either received Legal Aid to cover their legal costs or their solicitor acted on a No win, No fee basis. This has become popular in recent years, and all of our television screens have been inundated with the promises of various solicitors peddling their trade.
In legal jargon, No win, No fee is usually referred to as a Conditional Fee Arrangement (the condition being of winning…..) An act in parliament passed, called the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. Before any person with a clinical negligence claim could have been eligible for Legal Aid, provided their chance for success was achievable and that their income and capital were below a certain level.
Now, only those who have been injured during pregnancy, labour, or the first eight weeks of life will be eligible for Legal Aid. Quite how a 7 week year old baby will contact a legal firm for assistance is quite beyond me. However, the legislation has been introduced on the back of numerous bogus claims from people. This is something which has been heavily criticised as the ‘Americanisation’ of British life. We are still some way behind the American’s in their legal culture.
The more worrying part is that there will be a Legal Aid Levy taken from the damages of people with successful claims. The deduction will be about 25% of the general damages awarded.
Another section of the legislation which is intended to prevent court cases from ruining more lives, is the section which states that solicitor’s fees can no longer be taken from the defendants in a successful case. This is applicable to No win, No fee cases. Successful claimants may be deprived of up to 25% of their general damages which will be used as solicitor’s fees.
This legislation has created a major change to our legal culture, especially in the way people interact with Hospital and Health Trusts. The new legislation is a marked attempt to curb the lucrative No win, No fee legal culture which has been developing over recent years. Everyone has heard the story of the woman in America who sued the microwave company after she put her dog in one to ‘dry it off’. This is something which to an extent, has damaged the rights of the claimant and has made Legal Aid less available to those who need it most.