More cries of compensation culture echo across country


The accusation that ‘compensation culture’ has gripped the personal injury claims sector has again re-surfaced – and this time it’s a bit harder to refute.

Personal injury lawyers and other industry experts are usually quick to point out how the idea of a compensation culture running the accident claims sector is more or less bollocks, but that doesn’t stop accusations cropping up from time to time. The latest was from a High Court judge who threw out two personal injury claims on the grounds that it seemed as if they were both completely fraudulent.

The incidents in question revolved around a pair of immigration officers who reported injuries related to an incident where their work car hit a bollard. However, the two women took more than a week to report any injuries – and the collision was described as a minor bump at worst by other passengers. This caused Mr Justice Mostyn to throw the cases out on its ear, claiming that the motives behind the claims were motivated by financial greed and that this is exactly the kind of behaviour one expects in a society that encourages spurious injury claims.

Now I’m not going to say that there aren’t a few bad apples out there – that much is obvious, and yes fraud does unfortunately occur all too often. Instances like this make it even harder  for legitimate claimants to gain access to justice, and every new case that sounds completely farfetched and out of control simply increases that difficulty.

A perfect example of this is how a teacher employed by Essex County Council ended up with a massive compensation award – some £230,000 – stemming from an injury that occurred after a slip on a ketchup sachet, of all things. The incident, which occurred in 2008 and which was resolved in 2011, came to light thanks to a recent Freedom of Information request.

Apparently though this £230,000  – which combines compensation to the unnamed teacher and the legal fees incurred – was actually a bargain for the council, considering how the matter was settled out of court. A full court case could have seen total costs increase to as much as £500,000 by some estimates. This makes it rather hard to blame the council for capitulating when it did, considering how much it had already spent something like £120,000 on legal fees at that point alone.

Now I have to say it – a ketchup sachet? Are you telling me that the injury was severe enough for this teacher to make a claim for compensation? It smells a bit fishy to me, especially since the claim was made just a few scant weeks before the time limit on bringing a claim expired. It makes me feel like the injury couldn’t have truly been that traumatic if the teacher took three bloody years to bring the claim! Then again, what do I know – I’ve never been laid low by ketchup before.

Old rules and rulings revisited

 Industry news roundup: week ended 24 March 2014:

It seems like we just can’t get away from the experience of most returning to older, already decided personal injury compensation cases or even just holding on to the current laws.

The news stories were thick this week when it came down to new changes to old ways. In fact one of the more welocme ones has to do with 53 year old Joanne Dunhill and her very long uphill struggle after she sustained life-changing injuries. In fact, the original personal injury compensation award Ms Dunhill received – around £12,000 in compensation – could no longer be accurate, as a Supreme Court judge took a look at the original setlement agreement and agreed that there might be cause for a re-examination of the amount of money Mr Dunhill has coming to her.

Of course the idea that Ms Dunhill might gian access to a better compensation reward is nothing if not out of step with the average civil court. In fact, the Law Society recently said this week that the majority of courts in the UK have been choosing to care less about access to justice and have instead focused on administrative costs.

The irony here is of course these judicial changes were originally brought to life to reform the personal injury law profession in a way that supported claimants. However, now these so-called “‘Jackson reforms” as they are being interpreted seem to focus better on keeping cash within the current judicial support structure as it stands now.

Not only that, but the Civil Justice Council has had it up to here with the ‘effects’ of the Jackson reforms. The CJC says that not only have clients grown confused they’ve seen their legal bills increase, the amount of time spent complying with these new reforms takes, and the sheer inconsistency that these reforms were applied add up to one thing and one thing only in my opinion: failure. A well-intentioned failure to be sure, but it’s still not something I would characterise as a resounding success by any means!

Is this what the world is coming to?

Industry news roundup: week ended 17 March 2014:

Sometimes the news is so bloody bizarre that you just don’t want to think about the kind of people who become personal injury lawyers nowadays.

I know that sounds a bit strange but once I fill you in, you’ll understand completely. Let’s start, shall we? Well this week it came to light that a secondary school pupil just walked off with in excess of £15,000 personal injury compensation damages after he was left with a little scar across his eyebrow in the wake of a completely mundane accident. The poor, obviously quite traumatised schoolboy took a DVD case to the face after his teacher tossed it at him, and it hit him just hard enough for the boy’s family to convince Essex County Council to provide them with the completely oversized damages award.

Apparently the damage has caused a ‘moderate cosmetic defect’ to the poor boy’s beautiful, pristine, Adonis-like face. And that’s worth a five-figure compensation award of course. No, I’m not taking the piss out of you – this is a real case and it really happened. A litle nick over the eyebrow and you’re rolling in the cash. Bloody Nora!

Meanwhile let’s look at another story this week shall we? This one deals with a much more serious injury – 34 year old Donna Gardiner, a Co-op branch deputy manager, had her right hand horribly mangled in an accident involving the razor-sharp rotating fan blades inside an air conditioning unit.

And no it’s not just a case of stupidity either. Donna was told by her supervisor to put her hand inside the machine to reset it, so she did so – never expecting that the damage she would sustain was to be so awful that even surgical procedures could never restore her full ability. To this date she can no longer do the things that mattered so much to her – like dressing her children and walking with both of them hand-in-hand. A bit worse off than a pupil with a bit of a scar over one eyebrow if you ask me.

Meanwhile her bosses at the Co-op have been fighting her tooth and nail over her compensation claim. They say that she should bear some responsibility for the accident, though to their credit Co-op personnel have admitted liability for the incident.


Major victories for the seriously injured keeps hope alive

Industry news roundup: week ended 10 March 2014:

When it comes to being embroiled in a long personal injury compensation claim, it’s always gratifying to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

In fact, the biggest news stories this week when talking about victims making serious progress on their personal injury claims turns out to be not one but two instances of justice wriggling its way free from the black morass of your typical accident claim. First up is good news for a 49 year old welder who ended up with crippling facial injuries after a metal jack collapsed under him whilst at work – the poor bloke has finally gotten his £500,000 compensation claim.

Before you say anything, yes he truly did deserve such a large award. The damage done to his face was severe enough to sever nerves in his cheek and leave him in so much pain that doctors have been trying in vain to disrupt his brain’s nerve receptors through surgery just to give him some respite. On top of that, his eye socket was fractured so badly he needed five surgical procedures to rebuild it – and yet he still needs to wear a plastic mask upon leaving home to keep his face protected from the elements.

So it’s good news for this poor former welder, especially considering that he’s going to be in pain for most likely the rest of his life. Speaking of pain and suffering, another milestone was reached by a family trying to secure compensation for a road traffic accident that left a father dead and a mother with severe, life-altering brain injuries.

Martin and June Vann had been on holiday in Portugal when a speeding driver struck them at speeds of around 60mph, instantly killing the man and leaving his wife with such catastrophic brain injuries that she’ll never be the same ever again. In the interim the couple’s two children, Alex and Julia, have been fighting tooth and nail to get some compensation for the past three years – simply because the driver of the other vehicle had been denying any liability.

This is of course patently ridiculous, and anyone in their right mind would immediately conclude that someone motoring about at 60mph in an area where there were pedestrians. Nevertheless it was a long three year fight, but finally a High Court judge made the decision that there was no way the driver could avoid liability. This finally paves the way for a legitimate claim to be pursued by the distraught siblings. Honestly my heart goes out to them – I wish them all the luck in the world.

But earlier this week a High Court judge ruled he was liable.

Julia and Alex are now hoping to settle for compensation out of court. At the moment their mother’s care is funded by the local council, but they say she will need help for the rest of her life.

Criminal proceedings against the driver, who’s since returned to Brazil, are ongoing.

Sub-standard compensation awards leave claimants cold

Industry news roundup: week ended 3 March 2014:

It’s been a bad week for claimants, as news of paltry personal injury compensation awards being handed out for serious injuries have left people furious.

First up is the questionable story of how one 23 year old musician received only £6,400 in damages after he was literally electrocuted whilst setting up for a performance on the Pride of Hull ferry. Poor Dominic Zyntek had been preparing his electric guitar when a massive shock ripped through his body, burning his hands so severely that he found himself unable to play his instrument for several months. Not that he could have played even if he had escaped injury, considering how the shock perished his guitar! Honestly I can’t believe that the poor bloke’s personal injury lawyers only got him just a few thousand quid for his injuries. It seems to me that he should have gotten much more, but then again what do I know besides the fact that electrocution is incredibly painful and often life-threatening?

Of course there’s even worse nightmare stories out there when it comes to ultra-low compensation on personal injury claims. For instance, did you know that apparently the death of a child by medical negligence is only worth around £40,000? An insulting sum isn’t it? Well that’s exactly what Marie and Ray Ferguson received when their daughter Raychel died in the aftermath of the removal of her appendix. She was only nine years old. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, and made only worse by the fact that the NHS only gave the grieving family such a pittance.

The worst part is that the trust freely admitted liability for the incident. For what it’s worth, I think it’s absolutely shameful and I can’t believe that anyone out there would believe otherwise. I know that there’s no possible way that any amount of money could ever replace a lost child – heaven knows that it’s cold comfort indeed in the face of such a senseless and preventable death – but surely a nine year old child’s life is worth more than a paltry £40,000? Am I alone here in thinking that such a small compensation amount is completely and utterly insulting to the memory of the poor girl and a slap in the face to her already bereaved parents? It’s bloody unconscionable!