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Independents' Day

Only 15% of legal claims against doctors succeed

Around 85% of medical negligence claims find in favour of the doctor, a new review by a medical defence organisation has revealed.

The Medical Defence Union has said that the doctors and patients are having to endure considerable stress and anxiety due to what it calls the ’outdated and adverserial legal system’.

In a review of its Annual Reports 2016,the MDU said that increase in claims since 2012 ‘doesn’t serve anyone well – doctors or patients.’

MDU chief executive, Dr Christine Tomkins, said: ’The costs for the MDU of carefully investigating a case and satisfying the claimant’s lawyers there is no case to answer are significant. On top of that, when we do pay compensation, the size of awards are still rising unsustainably. Claims for £10 million or more are no longer unusual. The recent drastic drop in the discount rate to -0.75% has made matters very much worse.’

MDU chairman, Dr Peter Williams continued, “The current legal system has encouraged a dramatic increase in the number of claims being brought against our members and for the minority of claims where compensation is paid, the sums are rising beyond doctors’ ability to pay for them. This has led to some doctors having second thoughts about taking on higher risk activities.’

It comes as Government changes to the ‘discount rate’, the formula for calculating compensation pay outs for victims in personal injury suits, is set to lead to soaring indemnity rates this winter, which the GPC warns could make general practice ‘untenable’ by autumn.

Readers' comments (9)

  • It's a one way bet for them. If they bring a claim they may get something in settlement even if the case is defensible but vulnerable. If we are successful we get nothing but lost time, stress and cost. We need tort reform because this is not justice.

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  • Agree 5:09pm
    Natural justice (and indeed ancient legal codes e.g. Hammurabi ) demanded that the vexatious litigant paid the burden that they were found to have unjustifiably sought. OK, that's maybe a bit excessive.

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  • Rogue1

    I think it is a good idea to put the cost back to the litigant/or their lawyer. That might make them think twice and stop the burden of unjustified claims.

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  • Yes I agree cost on the litigant if found to be spurious. Why should we pay for spurious claims.

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  • I agree. MDOs should be able to sue them back. So much for justice symbolised by the sword and scales.

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  • I am not certain, but I think a Doctor can sue someone for making a false allegation / lying. This would have to be proven, either in or out of court. So one would need to have proof / evidence that someone had lied related to the complaint. An example could be when a complainant made false allegations relating to a consultation that had been recorded. The issue is that the media does not like the idea of doctors suing complainants. Secondly there would be no point in doing this unless the respective patient / complainant had significant funds.

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  • Just Your Average Joe

    There should be a no win, complainant pays all fees. This will stop ambulance chasers in their tracks, and all reasonable claims deserve their compensation where genuine harm done.

    Win/win for all.

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  • 7:32pm
    Agree it is a complex problem. Everyone has a right to complain but must take personal responsibility for unnecessary and foreseeable injury caused by exercising that right.
    Throwing the burden of proof back on the unjustly accused is literally and in reality 'a burden'.

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  • The sad fact is that all 100% had their premiums upped by anything from 50-100%.
    Indemnity providers should not raise premiums when the case closes. Unfortunately, they do not tell you of the case having terminated. If you try to move to another Insurer you suddenly find out that a case that was settled in 2007 is still listed as on-going on your record which is a definite deterrent for the new Insurer although they do know the game as they are part of the cartel.

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