Overhaul of medical negligence litigation announced

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 03 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:247

The government is to implement a radical package of measures to curb costs and delays in the civil courts of England and Wales, in line with a blueprint unveiled last week by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf. The reforms amount to a revolution in the courts, with judges taking responsibility for control of cases out of the hands of lawyers. Litigants will have to be more open with their opponents, use alternative methods for resolving disputes whenever possible, adhere strictly to timetables, use expert witnesses more sparingly, and keep legal costs to a level proportionate to the value of the claim.

The proposals, which follow a two year investigation by the former law lord, were welcomed by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, who signalled their early implementation. A bill giving powers to make new rules of court will be introduced in the autumn, and implementation groups to oversee the changes have been set up within the Lord Chancellor's department and the Court Service Agency.

The reforms are certain to have …

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