What is Legal Aid?
Legal aid is the provision of financial assistance to persons in need of access to justice. It is available in medical negligence claims in limited circumstances.
The law sets out the types of cases for which is available for. Since April 2013, legal aid for claims on clinical negligence has been reduced drastically such that it is now only available to one category of claimants, that being children who have suffered a severe neurological injury during their mother’s pregnancy, their delivery or in the first 8 weeks of the child’s life.
What is the Benefit of Legal Aid?
Most clinical negligence claims are funded by a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). These are commonly known as ‘no win no fee’ agreements. On a CFA the solicitor will not get paid for their work if the claim is not successful. They rely on insurance to cover the expenses incurred in unsuccessful claims. However, where a claim is successful, the client would pay a “success fee” and insurance premium out of their compensation.
Some types of case, and some clients, might be eligible for legal aid. The main advantage to the client is that they will not have to pay a success fee or insurance premium if their claim is successful. They will normally keep all the compensation they are awarded. If the claim is unsuccessful, they would have nothing to pay either.
How to Get Legal Aid?
When a claim is made for a child, they are assisted by a litigation friend (usually a parent or legal guardian). However, it is the child who receives legal aid. The decision to grant it is based upon the child’s circumstances.
They must meet the following criteria: –
- The child must have suffered a severe neurological injury, usually a brain injury however injury to the brachial plexus (known as Erb’s Palsy) are also included within this category;
- The clinical negligence must have occurred either
- During pregnancy
- During or immediately after the child’s birth
- If the child was born before the beginning of the 37th week of pregnancy, the period of 8 weeks begins from the first day of what would have been that week or
- If the child was born during or after the 37th week of pregnancy, the period of 8 weeks beginning with the day of the child’s birth.
Eligibility is assessed on the child’s means and the merits of the case.
How is Legal Aid Means Tested?
To satisfy the means test the child must have a monthly income of not more than £2756 including a disposable income not exceeding £733 per month and capital not exceeding £8000.
If the child has savings between £3000 and £8000 a contribution may be payable towards the cost of legal aid.
How is Legal Aid Merit Tested?
The Legal Aid Agency will also carefully assess the merits of your child’s case. They will only grant funding where they consider the claim to have a good chance of succeeding. A serious incident investigation report or response to a written complaint can be very helpful in this process.
How can Pryers Help you?
Having secured a legal aid contract, Pryers are able to offer this as a service should you require it. Our experienced solicitors are fully equipped with an in-depth knowledge of the Legal Aid System and in managing birth injury claims. We will be with you every step of the way throughout your claim.
You can speak to one of our experts on contact us by email, if you believe, you or a loved one have been a victim of medical negligence in this area. We will be happy to discuss the case with you, to guide you through the next best steps to take., or