Scrivenger Seabrook Solicitors was founded in 1988 and celebrated its 30th year of specialist clinical negligence and injury litigation legal services at the end of last year. Director Marc Folgate reflects.
“The practice was originally set up and attracted instructions from Defendant NHS Trusts, defending claims against them. My fellow Director Vicki Seabrook had worked as a lawyer for the Royal College of Nursing. That was before my time. However, when I came to the practice in 2001 it was re-inventing itself as a Claimant-based firm. I was aware of its formidable reputation and the chance to go there to assist with the change in focus was one I had to take”.
Much has changed in the field since 1988. At that time Legal Aid was still available for Claimants wishing to bring injury claims, provided that they were financially eligible. He went on to explain.
“Today public funding is only available in a very limited set of circumstances in the field of clinical negligence, to Claimants with severely compromising injuries. At one stage the scope of Legal Aid was much wider. Then the government allowed the introduction Conditional Fee Agreements, commonly known as No Win, No Fee agreements. It was thought that Legal Aid could be dispensed with in most injury claim cases. Gradually the scope of public funding even for clinical negligence work has been whittled down”.
Originally a Defendant would have to pay a Claimant’s success fee under a Conditional Fee Agreement but in 2013 success fees became non-recoverable from Defendants and had to be deducted from damages. Marc has seen a steady shift, as he advises here.
“The ground has shifted away from Claimants and members of the public over to insurance companies and the Treasury. Recoverable costs have been capped. Success fees are now paid out of damages. This was one of the benefits of fierce lobbying by the insurance industry. A Government intent on public spending reduction was all too ready to accommodate that lobbying to serve its own interests in reducing the financial impact to the Treasury from clinical negligence claims. It has been extraordinary how we have been expected to cope with and implement so many changes. But here we are, still serving the needs of Claimants, thirty years on, I am pleased to say”.