The government has announced plans to cap ‘excessive fees’ for medical negligence claims below £100,000 amid allegations law firms submit bills that far exceed the sum of compensation awarded to the victim.

Under proposals from the Department of Health, legal costs for claims of up to £100,000 would be fixed, but there are fears that this could deny access to justice for patients who are victims of medical negligence.

According to latest figures, the NHS was charged £259m in legal fees for claims during 2013 – 14. The NHS recovered £74m of this sum, but the Department of Health believes taking these cases to court is costly and further savings could be made.

National Practice Lead for clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors, Linda Millband said: “Victims of medical negligence can be left physically disabled, mentally traumatised or unable to work through no fault of their own, and it is only right that they are able to pursue a claim for compensation so that they have the means to care for themselves in the aftermath.

“Costs claimed should be both reasonable and necessary and if the defendants don’t like what is sought they can, and in our opinion should, challenge them through the assessment system that exists to do just that. In our experience the real time waster that leads to a build-up of costs is when the NHS organisation or private healthcare company responsible for the injury refuses to admit liability.

“If liability is admitted early on in the process and sensible sums of redress are offered to victims, then claims can be resolved in a timely manner and legal fees will be lower and more proportionate as less time is required to negotiate a reasonable offer.

“Claims which settle under £100,000 can still be serious and a patient’s life may have been permanently affected. We believe these proposals could prevent some clinical negligence victims from pursuing a claim, something which is wholly unfair if a patient has been harmed through no fault of their own.”