Since the very start of the coronavirus pandemic, so many of my clients have been asking me how their clinical negligence claim is likely to be affected, and this is something, which has only increased since the UK entered lockdown.
This is a very worrying and totally unprecedented era within our lifetimes, such that I fully appreciate the concern that clients naturally have about every aspect of their lives and the future.
As a legal firm, Been Let Down is classified as an essential businesses for facilitating the administration of justice. Therefore, I would first like to reassure all existing and future clients that we are still here for each and every one of you during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Been Let Down has enabled our employees to work from home wherever possible to protect their health in-line with the government guidelines, thereby ensuring we play our part in halting the spread of coronavirus, and to ensure we can continue to provide all our clients with the best service possible. We have upgraded our IT systems to ensure that there will be no interruption to the work we do tirelessly on your behalf, as your file handler can securely work on your matter remotely and has all the necessary tools and software to continue working efficiently on your behalf.
We continue to be able to conduct meetings by phone; Skype; Zoom; and FaceTime, so that we can remain connected to you and each of our colleagues during this time of self-isolation. We remain here for our clients and will continue to support access to justice during this worrying time.
In practical terms, the biggest impact of the UK coronavirus lockdown has understandably been in relation to Court hearings, as many of these were held face-to-face. As such, some adjournment of face-to-face hearings has been necessary for the safety of the public and Court staff alike. Of course, wherever possible, the Courts are trying to deal with as many hearings as they possibly can remotely by telephone conferencing, or by video, via Skype and other similar services.
All legal personnel, whether they be solicitors, barristers or Court staff have been rallying round to make this work for the continued administration of justice during this difficult and unprecedented time. Indeed, just the other day, a senior clinical negligence barrister with whom I regularly work was telling me about his experience of conducting a Trial hearing via Skype. His opinion? Well, there were a few technical glitches, but everyone involved, including the presiding Judge, worked extremely hard to make it work and they got through the full Trial hearing.
In my experience, all parties have been working very hard to ensure that there is as little disruption as humanly possible to the progression of cases. This includes Defendant’s representatives, including NHS Resolution, who handle claims on behalf of hospital Trusts, who are predominantly working remotely and are using every available tool to keep cases on track.
In this regard, I have encountered an unprecedented level of co-operation, with all parties seeking to agree any necessary extensions of time. This has inevitably included extending time for receipt of medical evidence and other documents that depend on those reports, such as responses to letters of claim, as medical experts have necessarily been prevented from seeing clients in face-to-face consultations, although where possible they have conducted telephone and video consultations.
This spirit of co-operation has also included, where necessary, agreeing extensions to the Limitation period for claims. This is the three year time period from the date of negligence or a Claimant’s date of knowledge that something went wrong with their treatment, causing them injury, within which a claim must be settled or Court proceedings issued to protect the right to claim. This has been done in the interests of all concerned, to preserve the administration of justice, not least of which is the need to avoid placing an extra burden on the Court system at this time.
Finally, I would just like to reassure people, whether you are an existing or potential client, we are striving to ensure that we progress each claim as quickly as possible in the wake of COVID-19, and that we preserve your access to justice in these times.
I would leave you with my heartfelt best wishes at this difficult time. I hope that each of you, and your loved ones, come through this difficult crisis safe and sound, although in the meantime, we remain here for you.
Solicitor and Head of Clinical Negligence (Bolton)