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I was honoured to host the latest in ARAG’s Talk with the Experts series of roundtable events which sought to shine a spotlight on how the pandemic has affected clinical negligence practice, the personal experiences of this from each panellist and look a little way into the future, at what the longer-term impacts may be.

It was my first time hosting one of these events, but I had the benefit of an excellent panel of guests representing different standpoints on the sector.

Mari Rosser is a partner and the Head of Medical Negligence at Hugh James, who represents claimants in often complex brain injury, birth injury and fatal accident cases. She talked about how, despite a sudden drop in the first months of the pandemic, the number of new enquiries had bounced back quickly. Far fewer cases than normal were being progressed, however, because of the need to assess litigation risks much more carefully, especially in the light of pressures on the NHS during the pandemic.

Robert Tobin, a partner at Kennedys, brought a defendant’s perspective to the discussion. He leads Kennedys’ large healthcare team in Cambridge and, as an NHS Resolution nominated partner, has extensive experience managing catastrophic clinical negligence claims, including cerebral palsy, neurological injury, neonatal death, psychiatric injury and emergency treatment cases.

Rob found much common ground with the claimants’ experience of the pandemic and stressed that there was plenty to be optimistic about, because the challenges faced over the past eighteen months had accelerated the adoption of remote hearings, remote mediation and other tools and working practices.

A note of caution was sounded by the panel’s medical expert, Vinod Kathuria of Tula Medical Negligence Experts, who is an orthopaedic surgeon of more than 40 years’ experience. While he accepted the clear benefits and savings offered by remote working, he said these had to be balanced against the difficulties and limitations for a medical expert, of assessing a claimant’s injuries without being able to physically examine them face-to-face.

Stephen Grime QC is a barrister who works out of both Deans Court Chambers in Manchester and Old Square Chambers in London and has advocated for both claimants and defendants in clinical negligence cases. He gave the view that, while the courts had been slower to adapt, he saw the progress towards a more collaborative and ‘more human’ approach to resolving cases that was made during the pandemic as the quickening of a trend that had already been underway, for several years.

The panel was completed by my colleague James Morgan, ARAG’s After-the-Event Underwriting Manager, who explained that it would be some years before the full impact of the pandemic on ATE insurance would be clear as cases took years to develop, but expressed optimism about the potential benefits of reducing costs through new ways of working and a more collaborative approach.

I’d like to thank Mari, Vinod, Stephen, Robert and James for making my job as chair of the roundtable an easy one, and for contributing to such a useful, interesting and insightful conversation.

If you’d like to watch a recording of the discussion, you can view it here.

Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.