One of the main tactics used by those who seek to dismantle access to justice for ordinary people is to make them feel guilty. So we are told that there is a Compensation Culture, with no evidence that any such culture exists. Victims are made to feel that if they pursue damages claims that they are somehow the cause of a breakdown in society.
This could not be further from the truth.
Claims are brought if a person suffers an injury caused by somebody’s negligence or breach of their duty. If that happens the wrongdoer pays. In fact it usually an insurance company who pays. This system not only ensures that the innocent victim is compensated, it also improves standards. The best way to avoid repeated claims is to deal with the cause.
So today we read that there have been major errors by GPs in issuing prescriptions. According to a General Medical Council report the error rate is as high as 1:6. Many of these errors are described as severe, with mention of patients being prescribed drugs to which they were known to be allergic.
Who would try to argue that any patient injured by a wrong prescription should not have the right to sue the doctor? In fact they do have the right. But the means of enforcing that right are becoming heavily restricted for those not wealthy enough to pay for their own case. Legal Aid will have gone by this time next year.
Lawyers may be willing to run cases on a Conditional Fee Basis where they don’t get paid if the claim fails. But those agreements themselves are attacked and the lawyers accused of being part of a racket to run up fees. Claimants could find themselves having to lose up to 25% of their damages to cover costs.
There is little point in having rights when the right to enforce them is limited to the rich.
The long term result will be fewer cases and higher profits for insurers.
Lawyers will continue to do all they can to support clients in any way possible.
But the government need to know that victims will not just go away.