Medical Liability Litigation:
An Historical Look at the Causes for
Its Growth in the United Kingdom

David Chacko

School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania





The frequency and severity of medical liability litigation in the United Kingdom have increased since the middle of the twentieth century. Recent estimates of settling outstanding negligence claims hover around at least 10 percent of the National Health Service’s total annual budget. This paper argues that the frequency and severity of these claims have increased as patients have been increasingly dissatisfied with the established complaints procedures and regulation of physicians and as doctors have seen their influence in the doctor–patient relationship decrease. The current litigation situation compared to the past is three pronged: doctors are being sued more often; when sued, they are more likely to lose; and when losing, the claims awarded against them are increasing in size. As patients become increasingly aware that doctors are more likely to lose when sued and that the courts are more likely to award larger settlements, the frequency with which doctors are sued will almost certainly escalate. This paper concludes by discussing no-fault compensation as an alternative to litigation that would likely reduce physicians’ susceptibility to litigation.