TIme to go back to the drawing board to avoid injuries

Industry news roundup: week ended 27 May 2013:

This week, the big news was that not just one but two major organisations have retreated back to the drawing board to avoid further expensive injury claims.

First, the British racecourse industry is more or less in a shambles after a massive personal injury compensation claim was awarded to a jockey that injured himself so badly after falling at Cheltenham that he was placed into an induced coma in order to facilitate his recovery. Philip Hide ended up walking away with some £58,000 in damages after fracturing his pelvis and suffering a very serious head injury after the court of appeal reversed an earlier decision and made the ruling that Jockey Club Racecourses was responsible for his safety at the time of the incident.

The decision, which sets a precedent for the racecourse industry in that now jockeys and others involved need to be watched much more closely and given better overall safety care than they have been receiving. Now everyone’s running about trying their best to institute reforms in the industry in order to avoid incredibly large payouts in the future such as the one Mr Hide received; it’s a bit disheartening to think that all it took was the threat of personal injury lawyers crawling down their throats to change things and not genuine care for the people under their care, but loss of profit is one powerful motivator isn’t it?

Meanwhile, NHS wards in Scotland are in even worse shape as a recent report has revealed that some 100,000 have suffered injuries in hospitals north of the border since 2009. The list of injuries is quite diverse, as you’ve got your minor cuts and scrapes, your more serious injuries such as broken or lost limbs; in some cases these accidents even led to deaths!

It’s mostly patients that suffer these injuries, the report revealed. However plenty of visitors, student nurses, and staff suffer injuries as well – in fact all told some 64 people suffer injuries every day when you run the maths – and that’s absolutely mad if you ask me.

I’ve been saying it for years – hospitals are no place for a sick person – but now the Scotland Patients Association, which has been driven to distraction by these new figures, have come out and agreed with me. The chairwoman of the healthcare watchdog, Margaret Watt, said that you shouldn’t end up getting more sick or injured after being admitted to hospital. Ms Watt made the suggestion that Scottish hospitals need to follow the example set by construction sites and their extreme focus on keeping their work sites as safe as humanly possible.

Police under fire for falling prey to compensation culture

Industry news roundup: week ended 20 May 2013:

It’s a bad week to be a copper, as police have been under fire for engaging in what some critics have called spurious personal injury compensation claims.

Now I know I may be going out on a bit of a limb here, but I’m sure that most of you will agree here that police officers have an inherently dangerous job that requires putting themselves in harm’s way in order to uphold the public trust. No one would bat an eye if police personnel injured while apprehending a criminal was given compensation for his or her injuries – but when it comes to injuries that seem rather insignificant, you can’t avoid a news story about a constable ending up thousands of pounds richer for what could otherwise be a completely trumped-up charge.

There’s plenty of examples of this lately; one of the most egregious is how an officer from the South Yorkshire Police somehow fell and broke his own leg right outside his police station during the winter. Apparently this clumsiness was worth £8,000 in personal injury compensation, and while I can certainly see how the police personnel in charge of gritting that particular stretch of pavement outside their doors failed miserably in their job, awarding £8,000 seems a bit pricey for just a broken leg.

Now, slipping on ice is one thing, but this next story is a whole other animal. One Hampshire Police officer also received almost £5,000 after she cut her thumb on a window. PC Kerry Ann Taylor had been at least hard at work at the time, as she had been cleaning up cannabis plants and equipment related to their cultivation at a house located in Southsea when she decided to throw open a window to get some fresh air; unfortunately as she fiddled with a sealed window in an attempt to open it, she sent her right hand right through it.

The thin latex gloves PC Taylor had been wearing in order to handle the cannabis plants did absolutely nothing to protect her fingers from sharp, broken glass, and she suffered a nasty cut. Apparently this cut was bad enough to warrant a £5,000 compensation payout – mostly because a Winchester County Court judge felt that the police should have issued her thicker gloves that would have protected her from harm in the off chance that she ran into something sharp – like a closed and sealed window, perhaps?

The hidden danger of seat belt injuries

You wouldn’t believe the irony we see by way of accident claims. From women slipping up on their own dog’s, erm, doings to well-catalogued incidents of burglars cutting their hands on glass they themselves have broken.

Okay, they’re not laugh-out-loud funny, but a wry smile brought on by divine justice sometimes cannot be avoided.

There are arguable cases of irony that are perhaps neither so funny and equally less avoidable. One of the main instances is injury from seat belts.

Thirty years of seat belt legislation

It’s been some years now since the seatbelt law was passed. Indeed, it celebrates three decades of legislation this year. It had its critics then (and some), but not so many no.

Seatbelts are a necessary evil. Indeed, the number of lives saved by seat belts is estimated at just under 10,000 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

However, not everyone walks away from an RTA praising seat belts for the injury they’ve saved.

Rather, for those who have suffered injury through wearing a seat belt, the pain is all to real. And we’re not talking a spurious whiplash injury.

Seat belt injury extends much further than just whiplash

Seat belt technology has come a long way since they were first introduced over 60 years ago. In the most modern vehicles, they are designed to disperse the force one would be subjected too at the moment of impact.

For a typical seatbelt wearer, injury to their ribs and hips, the places where the belt crosses the body are the most commonplace and less impactful on the victim’s life.

In the event of a larger RTA or if the seat belt isn’t being worn properly, “seat belt syndrome” can cause much more significant damage than a little bruising of the bone.

Ruptures or lacerations of internal organs where the belt passes across soft body tissue beneath the solar plexus are particularly nasty.

Soft tissue areas are most susceptible to seat belt injury

A layer of fat is no protection from the BHP of a supercar stopping suddenly or the collision at speed that engages the tough material.

All of the organs are susceptible, depending upon the circumstances of the crash. The liver and spleen can easily be lacerated in the right circumstances.

Likewise, your tummy, bowel and colon can all suffer lacerations, along with damage to the pancreas, spine and vascular injuries, too.

Seat belts go way beyond a simple whiplash claim. Although, for the good it’s suggested they do, there will be no immediate plans to change the law. Far too many lives are saved annually in comparison for that to be the case.

If you have suffered from the seat belt itself, or if it’s failed to work on impact, you can still consider an accident claim for the damage and inconvenience caused by such a traumatic event.

There’s no danger of the defence arguing that you shouldn’t have been wearing one and, in most cases, the injuries are serious enough to warrant a hospital visit, hence the medical reports will be on file already.

Yes, it’s ironic that the seat belts installed to save your life can end up causing you tremendous pain.

However, the consequences of not wearing one in an accident that could cause injury by default would be a lot worse for the individual had they not belted up before setting off.

As they used to say:

Clunk, Click, every trip

Sound advice, because wearing a seat belt could be the difference between a minor and major trauma in the event of a collision

Solicitors fee for low-value RTA claims capped at £500 from May

We’re all used to seeing the attention-grabbing headline: accident claims with 100% compensation, guaranteed.

For those smaller RTA claims, which have taken much of the blame for the unprecedented rise in automobile insurance in recent years, it’s unlikely this service will be offered from the end of this month.

“Ambulance chasers” have been the bane of insurance companies ever since spurious accident claims, such as whiplash injuries, have set up shop with a production line outside accident claims courts.

RTA accident claims easy money for ‘ambulance chasers’

Joe Public was quick to cotton on to such personal injury claims as easy ways to win a little compensation for even the slightest of bumps when behind the wheel or as a passenger in an RTA.

One look at how many solicitors are involved in RTA litigation in the UK, some 20,000, demonstrates exactly how commonplace such accident claims are.

Many cases are taken on a no win, no fee basis, therefore the aforementioned Mr Public quite literally has nothing to lose.

What’s ground the gears of insurance companies on the nasty end of these virtually unwinnable cases (from their perspective) is the way some solicitors have actively gone out of their way to find possible victims.

It’s fair to say that without a no-win, no-fee promise, ‘victims’ may have otherwise not bothered making a claim.

The fees solicitors receive have made it possible to pass on all of the compensation to the claimant, another nugget making it worthwhile victims proceeding with a personal injury claim, regardless of its substance.

The days of 100% accident claim compensation are over

Prior to last week, the capped fee for small RTAs stood at £1,200. The way accident claims solicitors know the law surrounding personal injury has made 100% compensation a feasible business option.

However, the fee was dramatically reduced last week in the High Court and subsequently confirmed by Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling.

This decision was upheld despite a legal challenge by parties who could see how such a ruling could damage the whole ethos of the 100% compensation niche, an industry in its own right.

The capping of the fees personal injury solicitors receive for small RTA accident claims now makes it highly unlikely that all of the compensation awarded for this type claim will be passed onto the claimant.

Insurers have finally got one over on personal injury solicitors

Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, told its members how angry he was that Government had taken on board the advice of insurance groups “unchallenged” by implementing the £500 cap seemingly without question.

What it does mean is that any compensation awards for small accident claims will now have a sizeable percentage extracted to pay for the solicitors’ time as the new limit of £500 may well not now cover costs.

Mr Hudson went on to suggest that not only will some firms of solicitors may even go under because of the ruling, but genuine claimants may not get redressed the full amount they’re due as solicitors will have to deduct some of the compensation to make it worth their while.

Is it just me, or do we expect to see a glut of self-employed solicitors willing to take on cases for £500 rising from the ashes of some of the personal injury firms that may indeed fold?

The worm may indeed have turned and, despite Hudson’s protestations to the contrary, I think claimants will still get their full redress; it’s just that the larger firms will be priced out of the small accident claims business.

What’s your take on this quite momentous ruling? Who’s the winner? Insurers, claimants or smaller personal injury solicitors?