Massive compensation packages for both sides of councils

Industry news roundup: week ended 30 Dec 2013:

Whether you wok for a particular local authority or you simply drive on the roadways that they’re responsible for, claims against councils are on the up.

In fact, this week it was revealed that staff drivers for Wigan Council have racked up some  £360,000 in personal injury compensation over the past four years. All told there were nearly 150 road traffic accidents where a vehicle owned by the local authority was damaged by a council employee.

There was some good news according to the data, as the last financial year saw only 34 incidents costing the council a total of £93,620. This sounds like quite a bit, but when you compare it to the 2010-2011 financial year’s 63 accidents costing £115,055 in successful personal injury claims, things are put in a bit of perspective; still, that figure seems much too high to me – and I’ll wager there are some very heated discussions going on behind closed doors in Wigan Council.

Meanwhile, it could always be worse – in fact most claims figures for local authorities are much higher, especially when it comes to injuries and damage sustained by local residents. A perfect – and perfectly harrowing – example of this is the £1.7 million that Worcestershire County Council has had to pay out in compensation over the past four years.

All told there were more than 3,300 claims made against the local authority, all from any number of sources. Accident claims on country roads, slips and trips on pavements or in council buildings, and injuries to pupils whilst in school comprise the lion’s share of the injuries – and personal injury claims in particular make up an overwhelming amount of the legal bill.

So I really don’t know what’s worse – living as a resident in Worcestershire County or being an employee of Wigan Council. Whatever your fate may be, it’s going to be rife with possible trips to the A and E department because some stupid idiot pranged you from behind and gave you a bad case of whiplash injury or something similar. I swear it’s enough to convince me to move to the Scottish highlands and live like a hermit just to keep away from other people. I suppose I’d get lonely eventually – but at least I’m not going to get into a rear-end shunt with a sheep!

Accidents net claimants tens of thousands in compensation

Industry news roundup: week ended 23 Dec 2013:

When it comes to accidents, the personal injury compensation claimants can be awarded is easily in the tens of thousands of pounds.

As if to prove the point I’m making, there were not one but two big news stories this week revolving around accident claims and big-ticket damages awards. The first revolved around an 82 year old pensioner that raked in some £12,000 from her personal injury claim after she fell and fractured her ankle whilst taking a tour of Killearn’s Glengoyne Distillery. The Somerset native had been on a coach tour of Scotland at the time of the accident, which saw her tripping down the stairs at the distillery.

I feel terrible for poor woman, considering she was in considerable pain after her fall. Of course, it could have been worse – she could have been hit in the eye with a dart, which is what happened to 11 year old Toby Corps from Ashford!

Poor Toby – he had been on holiday in Tunisia with his family several years ago at the time of the incident when a game of darts organised by staff at the hotel he was staying wen terribly awry. Another child tossed the dart towards him, piercing his left eye and requiring surgery for a detached retina and for the removal of a cataract. Finally, the poor lad has had his day in court – or at least his father has, on the boy’s behalf – and the writing on the wall says that he could walk away with around £50,000 in compensation.

So why is this so high? Well let’s be honest here – Toby’s young, with his whole life ahead of him, and he could be facing serious difficulties in his education and employment as a result of the injury. No word on how badly the lad’s vision might have been impaired by the incident, but it’s almost guaranteed to have left a considerable mark on Toby’s psyche at least – and it takes some time and effort to come back to what you might call ‘normal’ after a traumtatising experience like that. Then of course there’s just pain and suffering, which is always an important factor in calculating compensation awards. Hopefully poor Toby will get even more!

Taxpayers being bled dry by compensation claims?

Industry news roundup: week ended 16 Dec 2013:

Another row over so-called ‘compensation culture’ is set to begin after reports of several local authorities being ransomed for millions by the injured.

So here we go again: apparently there are evil personal injury lawyers running amok across the UK, convincing otherwise docile Brits to bring spurious claims to the tune of millions of pounds in personal injury compensation. Firs ton the chopping block is how Worcestershire County Council paid out  £1.7 million over the past four years.

Truth be told the figures sound impressively high – £1.7 million with over 3,300 personal injury claims – but let’s be honest for a moment: did you think accidents simply don’t happen in Worcestershire? I don’t see how legitimately injured Brits shouldn’t be compensated when they’re injured or their property is damaged in a situation where their local authority had responsibility for the area. Or are you telling me that if you tripped on a bit of uneven pavement and then broke your arm, you’d just blithely forgive your county council for not looking after things as they should?

Of course this whole objection over ‘compensation culture’ is happening across the UK. In fact an SDLP MLA recently came down hard on the more than £20 million that the Department of Regional Development paid out in the 2012/2013 financial year, calling for the brakes on the ‘gravy train’ to be applied before it careers out of control.

Well good for you, sir, for standing up for shoddy governmental practices and a lack of being held accountable for them. Perhaps if Northern Ireland’s roads weren’t in complete shambles these insanely high compensation figures wouldn’t be rolling in every year. Ask yourself – do you think you would spend more than £20 million or less than that if you did your best to keep the roads in your area safe and well-maintained? It’s simple maths, isn’t it?

Then again, nothing is simple. I particularly like how all these local authorities cry about not having the capital to keep up with infrastructure maintenance yet somehow they have money set aside to pay out on all these compensation claims.

One injury solicitor falls flat while another soars

Industry news roundup: week ended 9 Dec 2013:

Sometimes the accident claims community responds well to a personal injury solicitor. Other times, not so much.

That’s exactly what happened this week, as one injury lawyer with lofty goals so his dream of forging an advertising campaign that could ally some 90 solicitor firms together in a claims-sharing scheme that would have supposedly been a benefit to all its members. Porters law firm Paul Roberts had the bright idea to create a vast network throughout both England and Wales, but the man’s brainchild died before it could be even born as other firms throughout the UK were a bit skeptical on whether the whole thing would work – now the whole scheme has been scaled back to just the North West, where Porters does the lion’s share of its personal injury claims work. So much for that idea!

Meanwhile the industry was also buzzing this week how a Scotland-based personal injury solicitor firm has been experiencing an amazing, record-breaking year. Digby Brown LLP saw its turnover increase by more than 11 per cent to just under £20 million. On top of that, Digby Brown said its net profits had hit £6.6 million – an increase of 8.2 per cent.

Apparently whatever Digby Brown is doing north of the border, it looks like Porters should be taking notes. There wouldn’t be any need for these hare-brained advert campaign schemes. Honestly, why bother spending all your time and money building some massive, highly untenable network of solicitors across most of the UK when there’s an obviously well-run law firm just to the north that doesn’t need to go in for any of that bollocks?

Then again let’s keep aware that there are some subtle but real differences between Scottish personal injury law and the laws as they stand in England and Wales. It changes the whole landscape, and it might make it easier for Scottish law firms to rake in the dosh while a law firm in the North West of England feels the need to invent some bizarre claims-sharing scheme in order to maximise their profit margins. Still seems a bit odd to me, but then again I’m not exactly a lawyer now am I?

More legal profession changes needed even as CMCs decline

Industry news roundup: week ended 2 Dec 2013:

While news of the decline of the reviled claims management company broke this week, Government officials are still calling for more changes to the profession.

The Ministry of Justice just revealed in its recent personal injury claims management report that the number of CMCs operating in the sector have gone down by 38 per cent over the course of the last year to September. This is a major victory for anyone who feels that CMCs are the bane of the personal injury solicitor’s existence, since they relied heavily on referral fees and unsolicited texts phone calls to generate business for themselves, not to mention the well-earned reputation of CMCs to bring any sort of spurious claim they could if they felt there was a profit to be made in it.

The referral fee ban put several nails in the coffin of the CMC industry back this past April, much to the relief of law firms that are trying to provide quality service to their clients and a court system that was filled to bursting with far too many claims brought by CMCs. It’s absolutely gratifying to me to learn that there’s far less CMCs operating today as there were last year, and hopefully this trend will continue until they’re completely minimised.

Still, there are Government officials who feel that there still needs to be more changes to the legal profession in the UK. Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire and newly-minted Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State after Helen Grant’s departure a few months ago, has already stated that there’s still much that needs to be done to turn around the UK’s ailing legal system. A former solicitor himself, the Tory MP wants to see the small claims limit increased to take the heat off of insurers that lose shedloads of cash in defending cases in court, despite the fact that raising the limit will see access to justice stripped away from regular Brits as there’s no legal representation in the small claims portal as it exists now. Sounds like a nice bloke, doesn’t he?

Honestly if he’s so self-loathing that he’s trying to put the rest of the UK’s personal injury solicitors out of work, I suppose that’s his own prerogative. I’ll never understand it, though.