Malcolm Lyons and Brivik Attorneys response to: “LIABILITY CLAIMS DRIVING OUT SA’S OBSTETRICIANS”
Article featured in the Sunday Times: https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/business/2020-02-02-liability-claims-driving-out-sas-obstetricians
Attributing growth in claims made as against obstetricians and/or hospitals to the legal industry, misleads the public into an interpretation of events in which it is the lawyers who are the driving force behind these claims as opposed to the quality of the treatment which patients receive at the hands of negligent doctors and state facilities.
Focus of the enquiry should not be whether personal injury lawyers are able to pursue claims against the Road Accident Fund – which the Road Accident Fund quite correctly had no opinion on – but rather are medical services which are provided adequate and safe.
The courts act as gatekeepers considering which are legitimate claims and which are not. As these are extremely expensive claims to pursue, only those claims which have merit, will be taken on, investigated and ultimately pursued on behalf of the parents of children who have suffered traumatic injuries at birth such as cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and physical harm, or injuries to the mothers as a result of poor care either prior to date of delivery or at delivery.
Of the claimed amounts in the past 12 months set out in the article in the region of R79.6bn, a little over one percent has been awarded or agreed and paid. (Approximately R790 million); an extremely small number in comparison.
If anything, personal injury lawyers many of whom take these matters on in terms of the Contingency Fee Agreement Act and are at great financial risk to themselves should in fact be applauded for championing consumer rights and enforcing a minimum level of safety. The litigation compels corrective action where such action is necessary and is indeed in the public interest.
The damages (award/settlement) which the patient recovers are not intended to unfairly reward the patient, but is to place him or her in the position he or she (including the parents of a child injured at birth) would have been had the medical care provided been reasonable and not negligent. Caring for a disabled child is extremely expensive.
The litigation is making health care a talking point and will hopefully improve same.
Malcolm Lyons and Brivik
Personal Injury Attorneys