As those who have been dealing with clinical negligence cases will attest to; clinical negligence cases have specific cash-flow, timescale, risk-assessment and profitability considerations, all of which differ quite significantly from that of PI.
Whereas establishing liability is often straightforward in a car crash, that isn’t the case for medical negligence claims. For example, the MEDCO electronic portal statistics show that for RTA claims, an admission of liability is received in 67.66% of claims at stage one of the process with a further 27% of the total number of claims each month being settled by the end of stage two – that’s 94.66% of RTA claims settled pre-issue*.
By contrast, with clinical negligence claims, firms report turning away up to 85% of the potential claims which come through their door before they even start. Of the 15% which proceed, early admissions may only be secured on a small percentage of those claims, with only 70.4% eventually settling pre-issue*.
This said it is key for all firms looking to develop a clinical negligence practise to ensure that they have an appropriate screening process to assess the risk for all potential cases.
Screening and Risk Assessment
Law firms dismiss around 85% of potential medical negligence claims by applying a screening process in the early stages of their dealings with potential clients. Screening is the practice of risk-assessing cases using a panel of experienced legal and medical practitioners who will weed out those cases which have poor prospects of success. The costs of screening are carried by the firm as a necessary overhead to avoid the considerable cost of continuing with weaker cases. It is therefore crucial to set up effective screening early in the process.
Irwin Mitchell (a firm with an excellent reputation for running clinical negligence claims) has a screening process as follows*:
- Initial enquiries are usually dealt with by phone. The caller is asked questions about the claim and obvious issues such as the date of the alleged medical negligence or the nature of the claimant’s relationship to the injured person. This will screen out claims which are beyond the limitation period, have already been settled within the deceased patient’s lifetime or dependents who have no standing for example.
- Claims which get beyond this stage will be subject to the usual checks, a client history, witness evidence and medical records will be sought. At that stage, more claims will be screened out as having poor prospects of success.
- Further claims will be screened out once initial medical reports have been obtained from an expert.
- All of these steps are taken before the NHSLA has any knowledge that a claim is being considered by the claimant. The NHSLA remains unaware of the work being done and, crucially, the costs of this work are borne by the law firm, the client and the client’s ATE insurer.
This time-consuming and expensive process is the reason why Inneg developed a simple consultant led 2 step fixed fee solution for Clinical Negligence Screening Reports, providing solicitors with clear potential outcomes for their case and enabling solicitors to manage and reduce the cost of cases that are unlikely to proceed.
Working with a consultant level panel of experienced clinical negligence medical experts Inneg can help you every step of the way.
2 Simple Steps to Improve Screening Using Medical Experts
Stage 1: Inneg Specialist Pre-Screening Opinion from a consultant level expert to obtain their opinion on whether the synopsis and brief evidence obtained so far stacks up enough to warrant obtaining the client’s medical records.
Stage 2: Inneg Specialist Screening Report from the relevant specialist consultant with review of the medical records to provide the opinion in the matter of breach of duty and/or causation. Inneg uses experts who will grade the prospects from a medical point of view to assist the lawyers in deciding whether in the light of all the other evidence to continue with the claim or not and proceed with a full court compliant report.
On receipt of a specialist expert screening, the solicitor will have the evidence with which to develop their opinion on crucially, making the decision on whether their firm wishes to continue with the risks and costs associated with the claim or to stop and move on to the next possible successful claim.
As leaders in the field of providing clinical negligence & complex PI case reports, Inneg has been developing its panel of specialist experts for over 10 years and offers fixed fee specialist screening reports that can be converted into court compliant reports easily and quickly if the case appears positive.
For all other reports that are needed, Inneg has an elite panel of medical experts specialising in clinical negligence cases to provide you with the court compliant final reports one would need to substantiate all aspects of the claim including Condition and Prognosis.
About the Author
Sharon Lister is a Director and original founder of Inneg and an expert medico-legal consultant. She has published material on the relationship between solicitor firms and agencies and has presented CPD accredited lectures on this subject. Sharon also provides independent consultancy advice to solicitor firms looking to improve their screening processes and supports them with developing new streamlined management techniques to help manage a growing clinical negligence team.
* Sources available on request.