Smiler blame could take years; in India, 5k+ claims resolved in a day

World’s apart. In the UK, an eminent fellow opines over the future of Alton Towers’ fated rollercoaster. Yes, the ride could reopen. But blame would have to be found, proved and corrected. The moral dilemma of reopening the ride would be in the hands of Merlin Entertainment.

In India, a judge calls for drastic measures to shake up the process of motor accident compensation payouts. Two years is the average. On Saturday, the Lok Adalat, the People’s Court, resolved 5,075 cases in one sitting, some stretching back five or six years.

Staffordshire, England: Could Smiler rollercoaster reopen in time?

The real cause of the Alton Towers Smiler tragedy may not be known for several years. That’s according to Dr Tony Cox, who’s not discounting the ride opening again in the future.

Whether it does will depend on the evidence the HSE uncovers. The problem is, the scope is so wide.

Dr Cox, a fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, offered a pragmatic view of the job the investigators face. At this stage, the design of the ride, its mechanical function or, as is looking more likely, human error could have been the major contributory factor.

How the ride came to be life-threatening remains unclear for now. But the fellow said that, from his experience, if there’s a technical fault, the source normally surfaces in the end.

Getting into the nuts and bolts of the issue

Unlike human error, from a mechanical perspective there is a finite number of things that can go wrong. What Dr Cox wouldn’t be drawn on is how long it would take to check all of the conceivable failures.

Even then, unless the combination of factors points to a single cause, blame will be difficult to prove.

Once the fault is detected, and subsequently corrected, he said that physically there’s nothing stopping the rollercoaster operating in the future. The moral standpoint of reopening Smiler, he countered, was another question entirely.

With compensation claims from the four seriously injured passengers on the front row alone expected to run into millions, the financial cost of the ride may also impact Alton Towers’ decision to run “Smiler” again.

Bengaluru, India: Sweeping decision clear 10% of outstanding motor accident claims

And speaking of taking an eternity to process accident claims, there’s been an astonishing development in India, Bengaluru to be precise.

Last week, Judge Ch K Durga Rao spoke to The Hindu newspaper about the serious backlog of motoring accident claims rife in their region.

Contravening the Motor Vehicles Act (1988), many compensation claims were taking, on average, two years to get through the civil courts.

Part of the problem is the claims forms process. Not the actual original reports. But because there are ‘several agencies’ involved in getting a claim from the insurer to court, the time lapse has caused the Supreme Court to intervene.

Judge Rao, who’s the chair of the DLSA, wants the process expedited much quicker. That may come in the future, but the Lok Adalat, the People’s Court, were in no mood to wait that long on Saturday morning.

The Lok Adalat is a justice-carrying system developed in India. It offers mediation and resolution as an alternative to the courts. Every now and again, when such a bottleneck occurs in the court system, India will hold a national Lok Adalat.

On Saturday, they did just that. In all, over 5,700 claims were settled, roughly 10% of all of the state’s claims. The total payout was in the region of £8.5M.

So successful was this last court, different types of disputes will be handled in this manner every month.

So, if you’re in Bengaluru on July 11th and have a dispute with the Public Utility providers, make your way to the National Lok Adalat. You may get your dispute settled en masse, rather than wait for your claim to go to the official court.

Alton Towers: prosecutions expected over Smiler calamity

Instead of spending her 20th birthday in Tenerife as planned, rollercoaster crash victim Vicky Balch was in hospital. After having her legs crushed, but saved by NHS staff after being air-lifted to Royal Stoke Hospital, Vicky remains in a critical condition. Her injuries, whilst substantial, are not thought to be life-threatening.

Vicky was one of four people seriously injured in last Tuesday’s rollercoaster collision. Her boyfriend, Daniel Thorpe and first-time-daters Joe Pugh and Leah Washington (18 and 17, respectively) were the others on the front row of the ill-fated carriage.

I thought I was a goner

After 2½ suspended in mid-air awaiting rescue, Daniel also had to have emergency surgery. He was taken to University Hospital in Coventry, where staff operated on his broken leg and punctured lung.

Daniel is now stable. But he’s recounted that upon the approach to the ‘stuck’ carriage into which theirs piled, he thought he was a “goner”.

Joe Pugh, who suffered two broken legs, is also out of danger. He’s taken to twitter to thank everyone for their kind wishes and support.

17-year old has leg amputated

The youngest victim, Leah Washington, also went through the mill whilst waiting to be freed from crumpled carriage.

According to one witness, during her four-hour ordeal she fainted, had to have morphine and a blood transfusion whilst the emergency services did what they could for the stranded passengers.

The same witness told The Sun how “doctors and firemen were covered” in blood during the rescue attempt.

Unfortunately, their attempts weren’t enough to save one of Miss Washington’s legs, which has since had to be amputated.

She, like the Vicky Balch, now faces a tough rehabilitation battle ahead.

Alton Towers: not usually Fawlty

A spokesman for Alton Towers was quick to call upon Alton Towers’ “strong safety record”. However, their statement read that the accident was deeply regrettable.

Their priority now is to ensure that failsafes are tightened to ensure this never happens again.

Three other rides across the country have been closed until new measures are put into place. Saw (Thorpe Park), Dragon’s Fury and the Rattlesnake (both at Chessington World of Adventures) are closed until further notice.

Human Error as much to do with crash as mechanics

Since then, an ex-employee has come forward stating that human error is to blame, rather than mechanical.

Before a carriage is allowed n the track, its wheels have to be warmed up. In order to garner the traction needed, the carriages should contain water-filled dummies.

Three recent tests using empty carriages have seen them stuck in a similar manner to that which caused the Alton Towers tragedy.

In any event, the ex-employee related that there are 15 CCTV cameras that monitor the Smiler ride. Even if the test carriage did get stuck, staff should have spotted it.

Lawyers are due to meet with Merlin Entertainment, who own Alton Towers. As well as compensation, there is a strong possibility of criminal prosecution, according to one of the lawyers acting for one of the victims.

The investigation has been passed to the HSE for the time being.

Alton Towers reopened today for the first time since the tragedy. It has been reported that the park lost around £2.5M during its closure. That figure may well pale into significance once the clients’ compensation is decided in court.

Clinical Negligence Claims could be first Casualty of Higher Fees

Since Spring, there’s been a change to the way fees are calculated in civil court cases. Any claims brought in excess of £10,000 are subject to issue fees of 5% of the claim amount. This amount can in itself rise to £10,000, at which point it’s capped regardless of the size of claim thereafter.

The Law Society sees the increase in fees, imposed by the government on March 15th, as a barrier to justice for many. Not just for law firms. Many civilians with bona fide claims could see their case rejected because of how much capital a law firm already has tied up in its ongoing cases.

Legal Aid Truncation + Increased Fees = Less Access for All

Two years ago, changes to Legal Aid meant that access to representation for those who’d suffered at the hands of medicine became limited. The new changes may add further barriers to justice, as the increased issue fees put more duress on law firms’ finances.

Large clinical cases may now mean law firms having to lay out up to £10,000 to bring them to court. As medical claims can stretch back years and take an age to get through court, many fall into this high-value bracket.

If negligence is in doubt, or the defendant denies blame in order to test a claimant’s mettle (or pockets), law firms may be put off from taking cases on.

Even if they did take all cases on without question, there’s still a problem. Because of the new rules, lawyers could see swathes of capital tied up in existing court cases for indefinite periods. This will affect their cash flow and willingness to take on certain cases.

For smaller firms, the new legislation could take them beyond their business model. Possessing only the capacity to fund smaller claims, they may decide the claim business is simply not worth the hassle.

Funding your own claim just got harder, too

It’s not all about the injustice to solicitors. Under the previous rules, a percentage of claimants were able to fund their own fees.

As an example, a fee of 5% for a £200,000 claim is the maximum £10,000 cap. Before March of this year, associated fees for that size claim would have been a little over £1,500.

If a firm was unwilling to pay the fees for whatever reason, but the claimant could fund their case, £1,500 was not such a stretch. But to expect a member of the public to find £10,000 against this economy?

Perhaps only 5% of the populace could lay their hands on that type of cash to fight for justice without suffering financially if the result didn’t go their way. If ATE insurance was unattainable, that’s 95% of the UK left unable to fund a large medical negligence case if their criteria didn’t overcome the stringent Legal Aid hurdles.

If you fire enough shots, you’re bound to hit your target

Perhaps the move by the government, which applies to the whole legal section, is intended to make law firms think twice about the cases take on. Maybe it is intended to clamp down on the spurious soft tissue and whiplash accident claims.

But is strafing the field and destroying the crop just because there’s a weevil in there somewhere the right way to go? The government must acknowledge that the higher fees rule is barring access to justice for those who deserve it and must seek to correct it.

Is it worth jeopardising the lives of people who’ve already suffered at the hands of people who were supposed to make them well just to catch out charlatans who’d otherwise think twice about making a claim?

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?

Employee to make work accident claim after factory incident

One factory worker will be making a work accident claim after a machine he was working trapped and burnt both of his arms – an incident that has led to his employer being fined by the Health and Safety Executive.

Employed by Marling Leek Ltd in August of 2011 when the accident occurred, Stewart Wood, a dye operative,  had been operating a machine at the company’s factory that is used to manufacture safety harnesses and seatbelts when the machine developed a problem. Due to meshing becoming entangled within one of the machine’s parts, it fell to Mr Wood to clear the problem, but as he reached inside the still-moving machine his left arm was pulled within the mechanism, trapping him inside – his right arm soon joined it as he attempted to extricate himself from the machine.

According to an article that appeared in the Sentinel newspaper, Mr Wood remained painfully rapped by the machine before one of his colleagues became alerted to the problem and helped to free him. The injured factory worker sustained sever burns to his arms from the machine’s heated rollers, necessitating a three week hospital stay in order to recover, and due to the lasting damage he sustained, Mr Wood is now making a personal injury claim against his employer.

The HSE investigated the circumstances surrounding the man’s injuries, discovering that Mr Wood had not been given any health and safety guidance since 1999, when he first joined the company. The machine had been with the factory even longer – 25 years – and could have been made safe by very simple measures, thus preventing the accident; for the firm’s failures to do so, it now faces a fine of £5,000.

The company was fined £5,000 at court yesterday for health and safety breaches in regards to the accident. The firm has reportedly made safety improvements since the accident occurred.

Postman falls from van, makes £11,000 work accident claim

After falling from his van and sustaining injuries in the process, one postman recently received a £11,000 personal injury compensation claim when he prevailed on his work accident claim against his employer.

Parcelforce employee, Alan Kenyon, was injured when he tripped over a portion of edging strip in his van that had come loose, causing him to fall to the ground and sustain serious injuries.  Mr Kenyon, who landed on his shoulder in the fall, needed to receive several pain killing injections and to undergo physiotherapy in order to repair the damage, but had to be subjected to two surgeries – one of which involved a removal of a portion of his collar bone – to completely recover from the injury, it has been said.

The postman needed to take off from work due to the shoulder injury, as he could not lift heavy objects, and took legal advice in order to seek personal injury compensation for his fall at work.  According to legal experts writing for the York Press newspaper, Mr Kenyon, who has finally recovered from his injuries and can now return to work, recently won £11,000 in damages for both the loss of work and the pain and suffering he had to endure.

When the Royal Mail was approached for comment by the newspaper, a spokesperson remarked that the organisation held the safety of its employees to the highest possible standards.  Official figures say that falls at work leave thousands injured and missing work every year, costing the economy hundreds of thousands of pounds on an annual basis.

Teenager injured in floor collapse, may make accident claim

When Leah Frederick went out for a bite to eat on her birthday, she didn’t expect to end up being rushed to the hospital after being caught in the collapsing floor of a local takeaway pizza shop in St Helens, accident claim experts writing for the local newspaper recently reported.

An article appearing in the St Helens Star recounted the story of the teen, who suffered injuries to her arm and leg after falling through the shop’s floor while out with friends celebrating her eighteenth birthday.  Personal injury compensation experts say that Ms Frederick had been walking across the floor of Carlos Pizza, located on Westfield Stret in St Helens town centre, when the floor opened beneath her feet, sending her plummeting down nearly two metres where she came to rest on the shop’s cellar floor.

The stricken teen was rescued by emergency services, which then rushed her to hospital in order to be treated amidst fears of suffering fractures to her spine, as the young woman found she was immobile upon being caught in the collapse.  However, Ms Fredericks only suffered extensive and painful swelling and bruising and ultimately emerged without any broken bones.

An investigation has been launched by St Helens Council into the incident in order to determine what caused the floor of the takeaway shop to collapse.  The local authority is currently waiting for the structural report’s findings before taking any legal action, but Ms Frederick has reportedly sought out legal advice for the incident, indicating that she may be making personal injury claims against the pizza shop’s owners.

APIL says insurers, government needs to face the facts

The government and the nation’s insurance industry need to face the facts when it comes to the responsibilities they have towards the injured, according to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

Incoming April president of the APIL, Karl Tonks, said that the legal system has a responsibility to deliver fair personal injury compensation to those who are entitled to the same.  Insurers that act to delay a valid accident claim are incurring unnecessary legal costs that can delay the sometimes desperately needed compensation awards for those injured through no fault of their own, Mr Tonks added.

The new APIL president described the insurance industry as suffering from a ‘terrible dysfunction,’ especially as insurers will not only pass along these exorbitant legal costs to their customers by rising their premium prices, but will also bar those who suffer from industrial and work-related ailments from claiming compensation because it is impossible for these individuals to trace down the insurers of the companies that saw them injured.

Stating that the path to damages for all too many injured individuals ‘is littered with broken promises,’ Mr Tonks called upon the government and the insurance industry to institute ‘a fund of last resort’ in order to provide compensation for those without recourse under the current legislative system.  The injured need to be treated better than statistics, the president also said, throwing down the gauntlet to the government to broaden its horizons from simply listening to the insurance industry and big business.

Listen to those who are slowly losing their lives to an asbestos-related illness or to the surviving family members who lost a love one to a personal injury at work, Mr Tonks said.  These people deserve the ear of the government as much as its most ardent – and wealthy – supporters, the president asserted.

HSE prosecutes building firm after woman’s injuries

After a woman who had been waiting at a bus stop was struck by a piece of machinery that had fallen from an office block, the Health and Safety Executive has prosecuted the building firm responsible for the incident, according to accident claim experts familiar with the case.

At a recent hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, judges were told that Concentra Ltd, a building firm based in Waltham Cross, had been working on refurbishing the York Road, London building when the incident leading to the woman’s personal injury claims occurred. While a 380kg ‘air lifting unit’ was being hoisted in a lifting sling up the outside of the building, it slipped and fell, striking the woman on the ground below and causing severe injuries, including swelling to her head, bruises, cuts, and a number of broken and fractured bones, with the woman’s injuries being so severe that she had no choice but to spend over a week in hospital; with the incident allegedly affecting her ability to study and work, experts predict she will be making a claim for personal injury compensation due to the extent of her injuries.

The HSE investigated the incident shortly after, discovering that the crane being used to lift the air handling unit had not been fitted correctly with the lifting slings.  As a result of this, the unit was knocked free of its sling when it struck a ‘mast climber’ on its way up the side of the building, and the Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire-based company admitted breaching health and safety regulations at the hearing, resulting in a fine of £20,000 for Concentra Ltd.

Network Rail to face accident claim for slip and trip injury

Network Rail will soon be facing an accident claim made against them by one London woman for the slip and trip injury she suffered at Edmonton Green Station.

Personal injury compensation experts writing for the Enfield Independent newspaper say that Joyce Bell, an 82 year old resident of Exeter Road in Edmonton, slipped and fell as she was tried to board a train at the station.  Mrs Bell fell between the platform and the stationary vehicle, according to an interview appearing in the newspaper, where the elderly woman claimed that it had been a struggle for her to board the train because of the height difference between it and the platform.

According to the terrified woman’s personal injury claims, Mrs Bell had become trapped within the gap, with the pensioner only being rescued once a train passenger became alerted to her distress and took steps to extricate her from where she had become lodged between train and platform.  The rail authority is now facing a compensation claim from Mrs Bell after negotiations for an out of court settlement recently fell through.

One Network Rail spokesperson commented on the case, remarking that work on the line had recently been carried out in order to facilitate freight trains to reach the city centre.  Station gaps remained within limits deemed to be acceptable by the rail authority, the spokesperson added.

However, it is Mrs Bell’s position that the first priority of Network Rail should be the safety of its passengers.  The elderly pensioner added that station staff had informed her that there had been numerous complaints made regarding the issue, as well.