Judgement in the Court of Appeal hearing on damages awards should be made in the next few weeks, experts believe.

Forensic accountancy firm Horwarth Clark Whitehill (HCW) says a ruling is likely before Easter.

The Appeal Court hearing follows a Law Commission proposal suggesting that pain and suffering damages are traditionally too low.

The Commission's report recommended that where claimants are awarded damages of more than £3,000 for serious personal injuries, that figure should be increased by between 50% and 100%. Daniel Djanogly, HCW director of litigation services, said more claims may be encouraged by increasing overall values.

The Medical Defence Union, which acts as a not-for-profit insurer for doctors involved in litigation, said that in big cases, such as where a patient is brain damaged, awards for pain and suffering could increase from about £140,000 to £280,000.

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU professional services director, said: "All organisations which pay compensation in personal injury claims will feel the impact of this change. We are in danger of taking even more money away from valuable NHS resources to fund this increase, and the effect on society and the taxpayer would be significant.

"We see no let up in the trend of rising awards against doctors and believe significant change is needed. We'll continue to work with organisations such as the Association of British Insurers to ensure the Government and the general public are aware of the effect the changes will have on the public purse."

Outstanding litigation liabilities on the NHS are currently estimated at £2.8bn – which could be "significantly higher" if the Appeal Court supports the Law Commission.