If I don’t wear a seat belt, will I be able to make an accident claim?

One of the laws governing road safety reached a milestone this year: 30 years of enforced seatbelt-wearing. So why are people still unsure about whether they can make a claim if they’re in an accident and they’ve not buckled up?

There is no definitive answer, so dismissiveness of claiming is not that great a surprise. Many people believe that, if they’re involved in an RTA and are not wearing their seatbelt, it could negate any claim to compensation. But it may not be so.

Much of this wrongly-held belief can be attributed to so few people now driving without wearing a seatbelt; hence, accidents involving drivers not buckled up have decreased immensely over the years.

However, it wasn’t always this way. When the law was introduced in 1983, only a third of drivers believed that seatbelts saved lives.

Compare that to a survey undertaken by the AA in the run-up to the seatbelt law’s thirtieth anniversary, which suggests that 95% of drivers now believe that statement, you begin to comprehend the shift in consumer thinking.

What is the seatbelt law, exactly?

Ignorance is no defence when it comes to making an accident claim without a seatbelt.

From the moment you step into the drivers seat on your first lesson until you walk out of the test centre throwing the L plates in the air, you will have been reminded to buckle up by your instructor or examiner.

But how does the law affect passengers?

Most cars now come with seatbelts for every seat in the car. Certainly, every seat in a car that would be covered by insurance has the facility to buckle up. But again, older cars may not have them fitted to all seats.

Therefore, the law states that car occupants travelling in seats that have seatbelts fitted must wear them. Only one person is allowed per belt and children smaller than 135cm or aged 11 and below should have a car seat appropriate for their weight.

On the spot fines of sixty pounds can be imposed for every occupant caught not wearing their seatbelt; this is likely to be a heftier fine (up to £500) should the case go to court.

What will happen in an accident claim court if I’ve not worn my seatbelt?

It can add an element of difficulty, claiming for injury, when you’re not wearing your seatbelt in the case of an accident. However, if the accident’s not your fault, you may still be entitled to compensation of some sort.

What tends to happen is that opposing insurers claim ‘contributory negligence’, i.e. your injuries could have been lessened (or avoided) had you been within the guidelines of the law.

If this theory is upheld, any compensation you would have been entitled to may be lessened as a consequence.

There is, however, an argument that seatbelts themselves can be the cause of injury. We’ll look at that in the next post.

Remember: clunk, click, every trip.

How old am I?

Sometimes the accident claims industry works as it should

Industry news roundup: week ended 22 Apr 2013:

It’s unfortunately a bit rare in this day and age, but sometimes the accident claims industry works properly, caring for those injured and punishing fraudsters.

In fact, for one 35 year old man that was involved in an absolutely horrific head-on collision a few years ago has finally been awarded personal injury compensation for the life-changing injuries he sustained in the road traffic accident. Mr Adam Wright, who had been in a terrible accident when a transit van coming the opposite direction lost control and caused a three-car accident, was in a coma for two weeks thanks to the injuries he sustained in the accident, which included internal damage, smashed legs, and serious head injuries, leaving him absolutely unable to return to employment due to the severity of his injuries.

The past few years following the accident were a nightmare for the man, as his memory, mobility, and vision are still impaired to this day. He also suffers from epilepsy as a remnant of the injury he suffered to his head, cannot move without the aid of a walking stick, and will most likely never return behind the wheel of a vehicle ever again.

It’s not easy to help take care of two children when you can’t work, not to mention deal with all the myriad physical problems after the accident. However, after a multi-million pound compensation payment at least poor Mr Wright can finally get some peace of mind in that department; it’s heartwarming to know that when the compensation system in the UK works, it works well.

It’s not just the compensation system that’s working right now but the personal injury claims process as well, especially when it comes to weeding out insurance fraud! In fact, news broke this week how a ring of five conspirators were exposed in their attempts to rig a car accident in order to defraud insurers for compensation. Officials say that the attempt was so laughably inept that the only way to describe it was ‘ham-fisted,’ especially since all the passengers of both cars lived nearby one another and that the owners of the two cars involved were living together at the time – and had a child together as well.

You really can’t get more dumb than this if you’re trying to defraud an insurance company. Well, I’m sure you can but I can’t think of how; if you’re going to try to pull one over on your insurer, you should probably take steps to get your story right and not make it so damned obvious – otherwise you’re just asking to be investigated and exposed for the absolute idiots you are!

Lift with your legs,not with your back – or suffer for it

Industry news roundup: week ended 15 Apr 2013:

It’s an old adage, but it’s especially apt considering the news stories this week: if you’re lifting and carrying anything, be careful to avoid any injuries.

And it’s not just a sore back that we’re talking about, or injuries caused because you get your toes run over by a hand trolley – in one instance, one poor factory worker actually had to have a portion of his leg amputated after a forklift truck ran him over! The poor 59 year old man, an employee of London-based Nuplex Resins, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, though the Health and Safety Executive said that if Nuplex had simply put some safeguards in place – like keeping pedestrian traffic segregated from motorised traffic like forklift trucks – this whole horrorshow could have been completely avoided, and would have saved Nuplex Resins around £20,000 in fines and heavens knows how much in personal injury compensation.

Meanwhile, the HSE just finished prosecuting another firm in the wake of a whole raft of personal injury claims made by several staff in the wake of poor lifting practices. The unlucky firm this time – Kent-based Rollmark Engineering – was dragged into Westminster Magistrates’ Court after it became known that the injuries suffered by staff – one 25 year old in particular – were so severe in the wake of a work accident that the employee missed some five months of work.

The poor man had been part of a crew transporting a vessel weighing some 1.3 tonnes at an under-construction hotel in Stratford, but due to there not being any risk assessment on the part of his employer the man fell from an upper ledge during the lifting of the vessel. The man fell, causing catastrophic injuries including but not limited to 17 separate rib fractures and suffering punctures to both of his lungs, all because his employer couldn’t be bothered to use the proper lifting equipment.

Well I hope they’re happy – now they’re out a combined £26,000 between fines and court costs. On top of that I’m sure they’re going to be slammed by a work accident claim, which could cost hundreds of thousands in addition to their HSE fines – and to be honest the firm gets what they deserve for not looking into the proper risk assessments and not using the right types of lifting equipment when they should have!

There’s no excuse for stupidity, and it’s even worse when someone’s lack of foresight ends up causing serious injury to another person. It’s even that much worse when it’s an employee!

Police officers suffer from personal injury at work, too

Industry news roundup: week ended 8 Apr 2013:

You may think your job is dangerous, but imagine for a minute suffering a personal injury at work whilst working for your local police.

In fact, that’s exactly what’s going on in the news this week, as two police personnel file two unrelated personal injury claims for injures they’ve suffered whilst on the job. In fact one police officer, PC Kelly Jones of Norfolk Police, has actually ended up being criticised after she not only took legal action against her own force but for making a personal injury claim against the owner of a petrol station where PC Jones tripped as she answered a 999 call.

Norfolk Police refused to comment on either of PC Jones’ oustanding injury claims, though it is understood that the police force has admitted liability for one claim. The other claim, concerning the petrol station owner, is still ongoing as well.

Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated case the victim of a burglary is being sued for £10,000 in personal injury compensation by a police officer who supposedly fell into a drain and tore his Achilles tendon as he was investigating the break-in. Shop owner Stuart Lambley called on the police in his time of need, only to have to face a compensation claim made by 34 year old PC Richard Seymour, who seeks to recover loss of overtime – even though the six months PC Seymour was off work as his injuries healed was with full pay.

Mr Lambley is quite outraged, actually, and I really can’t blame him. Where does PC Seymour get off with suing the poor man for £10,000 in lost overtime if he was actually paid as he convalesced? The shop owner is certainly not going to be calling the police any more if he’s going to be in constant danger of being sued by police personnel who respond to his pleas of help, he says.

For what it’s worth, you shouldn’t be signing up to be a police officer if you’re afraid of suffering some harm here and there. Most police forces will take care of their own if they’re injured whilst on the job – such as paying PC Seymour for six months worth of sick leave – so it looks like to me these particular coppers aren’t exactly the type that are interested in protecting and serving anyone but their own best interests.

These are the types of people protecting us and keeping us safe from harm?  Have we all become so frail and easily hurt that we have to sue the victims of crimes for compensation? Simply unbelievable.

School is a dangerous place for teachers and pupils alike

Industry news roundup: week ended 1 Apr 2013:

It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher or a pupil – schools in the UK are apparently incredibly dangerous places according to the newest compensation figures.

In fact – and you’ll probably be just as surprised as I was to learn this – last year’s personal injury compensation payouts to teachers topped £25 million in the UK. Personal injury claims made by teachers ranged from slips, trips and falls, being victimised by sexual or racial prejudice, and in several cases were the result of assaults upon teachers by pupils.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been paid to teachers for injuries related to pupil-caused injuries. In fact, one West Country teacher was the recipient of more than £380,000 in damages after one pupil attack, while another teacher at a special school walked off with nearly £280,000 for the physical and psychological injuries she sustained when an autistic pupil leaped on her, knocking her from a minibus.

But lest you think that it’s just teachers getting soundly drubbed by out-of-control pupils, children have been suffering their own injuries as well. In fact, pupils in Essex County alone have racked up a £220,000 legal bill in the wake of injurious accidents over the course of just two years.

While Essex County’s 2011 and 2012 accident claims have yet to be settled, the cases from 2008 to 2010 have been tabulated and revealed to the public recently, featuring several injuries worth anywhere from £23,000 to £28,000. Injuries were listed as being caused by a myriad of sources such as ‘defective monkey bars’ or injuries sustained from falls from climbing equipment or, in one case, the damage a pupil sustained to their face after they smashed into a wooden window ledge.

Essex County Council released the figures following a Freedom of Information requet, revealing that there were 17 injury claims that were brought and were decided in favour of the injured party over the past five years. One of these claims was due to a slip and fall caused by wintry weather conditions, the released official documents revealed.

Now let’s be honest for a moment – we all know that accidents happen to younger children, as skinned knees and the occasional chipped tooth aren’t so uncommon in the course of growing up. However, it seems to me that the injuries that teachers are being subjected to are a bit of a cause for concern – especially since so many of them seem to be stemming from violence perpetrated by pupils themselves; what in the world could be going on in UK primary schools that teachers are getting so soundly beaten?