Compensation culture spreads to Northern Ireland

Industry news roundup: week ended 29 Sept 2014:

The so-called “compensation culture” has spread to Northern Ireland with the revelation that PSNI has paid out more than £50 million in just three short years.

A total of £51.8 million has been shelled out to police officers from 2011-12 to 2013-14, new research shows, for a large swathe of work accident claims including broken bones and hearing loss. Other injury claims made include cases related to damage to property, unfair dismissal and discrimination. Still, the lion’s share of these payouts were for personal injury compensation by a wide, wide margin; £49.5 million to be exact.

Does that sound excessive to you? You’re obviously not the only one. Dolores Kelly, SDLP Policing Board member, reported being deeply disturbed by the news of the explosion of payouts over the past few years. It was Kelly who raised the spectre of compensation culture, pointing out that there’s obviously something amiss here.

Now I’m not necessarily one to take the side of the police but I do have to say it might not be entirely their fault. The last few years have seen more than a bit of civil unrest in the region, and there have been some serious rows during parades and things of that nature. Not only that but being a copper isn’t exactly a low-risk job – you’re possibly putting your life on the line every day, even if you’re riding a desk – so it’s not entirely beyond human comprehension that PSNI had such a serious glut of injury compensation cases lately.

On the other hand, though, £51 million is a shedload of cash. Where is all this money coming from if not from taxpayer pockets? And furthermore isn’t PSNI facing serious budget cuts already? What’s going to happen once funding for the police gets slashed? I don’t think anyone here has the bollocks to think that conditions for cops will become better and that injuries will decrease. No, I’m predicting that things will steadily get worse in the region. I don’t think it will get so far as to result in complete societal collapse or something like that, but I do think that there’s gong to have to be some hard questions asked in Westminster about funding and how to handle this ‘compensation culture’ problem in Northern Ireland.

Insurers say injury claims fraud is a developing problem

Industry news roundup: week ended 22 Sept 2014:

Fraudulent personal injury claims made against insurance policies are becoming more and more of a problem, according to the nation’s insurance providers.

In fact, according to insurers these criminal fraudsters are getting more and more brazen and inventive in their attempts to bilk cash out of supposedly hapless insurance companies. The newest thing that these scammers will try will probably surprise you: new research says that it’s no longer whiplash claims that are the go-to when it comes to fraud but instead industrial deafness claims instead.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau said recently that criminal gangs, which have usually been involved in ‘cash for crash’ road traffic accident claims have since packed up their bags and moved on to bigger and better things. There have been enough legislative changes to the industry that whiplash claims just aren’t profitable any more, and this has caused fraudsters to migrate to new areas – and the Association of British Insurers agrees with the IFB’s assessment.

Meanwhile it’s not just these highly organized rings of criminals that engage in insurance fraud – sometimes it’s the bloke next door. Well, at least the ABI seems to think so, as the industry body says that just regular everyday fraud – like not telling your insurer how many motoring convictions or previous claims you’ve had whilst making a new application – is occurring at record rates.

Apparently the ABI identified more than 180,000 instances of attempted fraud last year. That works out to nearly 500 applications with fraudulent information on them every day, and nearly all of these instances revolved around customers trying to pull the wool over the eyes of insurers in an attempt to save some cash.

Now I’m not condoning insurance fraud – far from it – but maybe this should be a message to insurers that their prices are too high. What do you think? If there were 180,000 applications put in last year that kept information from insurers in an attempt to get a cheaper policy price, that’s not exactly just a drop in the bucket. That sounds more like the situation is indicating that Brits have had enough of being soaked for as much cash as possible just for the so-called privilege of driving their own car. Honestly though ladies and gents, there are better ways to save cash on your insurance policy – don’t go breaking the law for a few quid!

Defendants giveth, and defendants taketh away

Industry news roundup: week ended 25 Nov 2013:

This week, it seems like that for every story that has claimants winning big on their personal injury claims there’s another where the injured are sent packing.

First up, it’s good news for a quintet of teachers in Cambridgeshire, as personal injury compensation in excess of £150,000 has been paid out to them after a myriad of injury claims. Their injuries came from several sources, including slips and trips and even one instance of an assault – and for what it’s worth I don’t fault these staff members from seeking compensation. While it’s not quite as dangerous as some jobs, there’s plenty of opportunity for some pretty bad injuries in schools across the UK, and it’s important to know that if you do get injured on the job there’s some recompense waiting for you.

Of course, not all local authorities are quite so compassionate. In fact, one driver who suffered £1,000 in damage to his vehicle after falling afoul of a particularly nasty pothole has been left out to dry by Essex County Council.

Poor Adam Glenister had to foot the bill himself after the pothole mangled his Audi A1’s alloy wheels to the point that they needed replacement. On top of that, the pothole caused enough damage to his wheel tracking to need them repaired. Despite that, the local authority flatly refused to come to Mr Glenister’s aid because just seven short months ago – ha! – there was an inspection on that particular stretch of road that didn’t turn up any glaring faults.

Somehow – and I don’t know what goes through these barmy bastards heads when it comes to admitting liability – the state of the roads and the damage to Mr Glenister’s car just wasn’t bad enough to warrant the county council for shelling out the measly £1,000 to compensate the poor bloke. It’s not like Mr Glenister didn’t back up his claim with the proper documentation, either; he submitted all sorts of photographic proof of the pothole and the damage to his car, but it just wasn’t enough for Essex County Council.

So there you have it – don’t expect anything from a council like that. Maybe Mr Glenister would have had more luck if he’d run over that pothole in Cambridgeshire instead? They seem a bit more honest just a few more miles to the north, don’t they?


Courts cracking down on personal injury claims fraud

Industry news roundup: week ended 11 Nov 2013:

It’s no big secret that accident claims fraud is a serious problem in the UK, but the courts are slowly but surely catching up with scammers in a major way.

In fact, this week’s news was absolutely lit up with not one but two stories of how supposedly ‘injured’ people have been caught red-handed. The whole big reveal started with the news that 59 year old Barbari Fari, a woman who tried to weasel £750,000 out of Homes for Haringey after she suffered a trip-and-fall injury on a bit of uneven paving, has been sent to jail for three months after it was discovered she was absolutely full of it.

Fari was found to not nearly be suffering as badly from her trip injury, despite the claims she made in her bid for personal injury compensation. In fact, apparently she was walking about near her home much more easily than she did during her medical examinations – and the writing on the wall was she was trying to take the piss out of Homes for Haringey as a result.

It’s not just fabricated injuries that count as fraud, though – even if you’re legitimately injured you can still get yourself in serious hot water if you try to get more than your fair share. This happened to 52 year old wheelchair-bound David Hardaker that taking some £77,000 in benefits while he had tens of thousands of pounds in a savings account.

It just goes to show you that the law isn’t about leaving you better-off than you were before you were injured but instead to make you whole. If you’ve got an average of nearly £20,000 in the bank over the course of three years, yet neglect to tell anyone about it, the Government gets a bit upset when they find out – especially when they’ve been overpaying you to the tune of nearly a hundred thousand pounds. It tends to make them cranky – and Hardaker found this out the hard way.

Truth be told he’s already started to pay back what he owes, but he’s had to put his house up for sale to do it. I’d feel bad for him but I really can’t – the thick bastard brought this on himself and he’s got no one else to blame for the whole horrid affair. Maybe next time he’ll be a bit more honest, eh? Bloody idiot.

Injury claims a-plenty predicted for two manufacturers

Industry news roundup: week ended 22 July 2013:

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed: not one but two manufacturers are likely facing costly injury claims after serious work injuries.

It’s gruesome and nobody wants to think about it – especially me – but manufacturing workers are often the recipient of some of the worst incidents of personal injury at work out there. Yes, construction workers often suffer nasty falls from height, and we can’t discount the type of injury an office worker can get if he or she slips and falls on the job, but by and large the worst and most painful injuries often occur to these poor blokes who work in manufacturing roles.

I mean, did you hear the story of Michael Taylor? The man was working for The Paper Pallet Company when his hand was pulled into a laminating machine. If you don’t have any idea what these machines do, they have two massive rollers designed to glue things together, and that’s where Michael’s and and arm ended up getting sucked into.

The poor man’s injuries were absolutely dreadful. In fact it took a total of four surgical procedures to get his hand back into some semblance of working order, and he still needs physiotherapy; even in the face of all that work, his doctors say there’s a good chance he may not regain the full use of his arm even after all that effort.

On top of that, it turns out the laminating machine wasn’t guarded properly, which spells bad, bad news for Michael’s employers. This sets up a situation where Michael can bring a personal injury claim against The Paper Pallet Company, and let’s be honest: he probably deserves every single penny he can get from them.

Meanwhile things aren’t much better in Somerset at the Brothers Drinks Co Ltd manufacturing plant, where another worker ended up arm-deep in yet another machine. This time it was a depalletiser that nearly severed the arm from the 52 year old employee (his name is being withheld from the press); the machine, which features a mechanism that swipes empty bottles from a conveyor on their way to be filled with whatever drink the firm is bottling that day, started up suddenly while the worker was trying to clear a stoppage.

Maybe it’s just me but shouldn’t employers ensure that their machinery doesn’t do that? It’s not too bright to operate unguarded pieces of machinery like that, especially when a work accident claim is going to absolutely ruin a company; perhaps these firms will learn their lesson?

Win modestly but dream big when it comes to damages

Industry news roundup: week ended 8 July 2013:

When it comes to personal injury compensation claims, it’s all right to dream big – but don’t be afraid to take a modest win if you can.

At least that’s the lessons that I’ve gleaned from this week’s crop of injury news anyway, especially when I’ve read about one successful claimant taking a £15,000 settlement offer even as another one makes a new claim for nearly £650,000! It’s a big gap, but I think it illustrates the point perfectly: aim high, but don’t leave money on the table.

Lina Waghorn definitely made the right decision in my case when she accepted a settlement offer from Dundee City Council the other day. The senior education officer for the council had brought a work injury claim after a nasty spill down some stairs saw her with a broken leg as she was working as one of the school’s musical theatre producers in 2011.

Mrs Waghorn initially faced more than a bit of pushback from her employers based on the fact that they said she wasn’t working in her normal role at the time of the injury. The whole matter was being hotly debated when the city council finally decided to just offer the injured woman the settlement – probably because its legal costs were mounting – and not wanting to prolong the matter on her side either, the injured woman wisely took it. Good on her!

Of course, just because your end result is relatively modest doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the stars. That’s what one seriously injured carpenter is doing with his £645,000 accident claim made against a film company for a grisly injury involving a table saw on the set of the Adam Sandler movie ‘That’s My Boy.’ Notwithstanding whether or not Adam Sandler should be sued for his horrid sense of humor or not, the injured carpenter named him and other production company bigwigs in his compensation claim for the injury that saw more than one finger sawed clean off his right hand and probably left him with nightmares for the rest of his life!

The table saw just wasn’t adequately guarded, according to his personal injury claim, and if this turns out to be the truth then Happy Madison is going to be in big, big trouble. Sandler’s going to have to put out a few actually funny movies to pay this legal bill, if you ask me!

In all honesty I haven’t actually seen ‘That’s My Boy,’ but it looked absolutely rubbish. I’m sure I’m not missing anything.

Man wins work-related injury claim against former employers

One man has recently prevailed on his work-related injury claims that he made against his former employers after they accepted liability for the permanent damage he sustained after years of using vibrating tools on the job, it was recently reported.

Graeme Kelly, an electrical engineer who worked for De La Rue Currency, a company based in Team Valley, developed both Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome after the decades of work he undertook for the company. De La Rue accepted liability for neglecting to provide Mr Kelly proper protection from these injuries in an out of court settlement for an undisclosed sum that has been called ‘substantial.’

In an interview with a local newspaper following the settlement, Mr Kelly, who had habitually used vibrating tools for the lion’s share of his working life, said he had never in a million years suspected that so much damage had been done to his hands. The electrical engineer began to notice that he had gradually began to suffer a slow degradation to his ability to carry out tasks with his hands that required a high degree of manual dexterity, culminating with feelings of numbness in both of his hands in 2009, which led to being diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome, while a limited range of motion in his fingers indicated carpal tunnel syndrome shortly thereafter.

While the man’s symptoms have diminished due to surgical procedures carried out on both his hands, this will only restore a limited measure of his dexterity, medical experts say.

Employee loses thumb in gruesome printing press accident

One Northamptonshire-based adhesive company employee lost his left thumb in a gruesome printing press accident whilst on the job, according injury claims experts familiar with the case.

A teenage agency worker that had been doing work for Latrave Ltd, whose name has not been made a matter of public record, sustained the injury to his left hand at the adhesive tape manufacturer’s Wellingborough plant as he tried to remedy a known fault in a printing press.  However, his left hand was pulled within the press, causing massive damage to the digit, and necessitating his being rushed by air ambulance to the Royal Derby Hospital for emergency treatment.

Unfortunately, even the surgeons at the hospital’s specialist hand unit were not able to treat the wound, resulting in the complete amputation of his thumb.  The Government’s Health and Safety Executive learned of the incident, launching an investigation into the teenager’s injuries and the circumstances surrounding it and discovering that the inexperienced agency worker had been given instructions on fixing the problm with the printing press whilst it was still in operation.

The HSE, which presented its evidence in Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court, also found the printing press had been missing a safety guard and that the worker had been trained in a completely unsafe manner.  This led to Latrave Ltd to plead guilty to breaching health and safety regulations, with the courts fining he Wellingborough, Northamptonshire firm £8,000.

One inspector for the HSE issued a statement in the wake of the hearing, warning that the watchdog would not hesitate to take action against firms who neglected their responsibilities towards their workers in providing a safe work environment.

Prime minister urged to abandon no win no fee reforms

The prime minister has been urged once more to abandon the plans of his government for no win no fee legal agreement reforms by the parents of Madeleine McCann, according to recent reports.

In their first public political intervention, Kate and Gerry McCann have joined several high-profile tabloid newspaper victims and libel reform campaigners in order to warn David Cameron off from his plans to reform the conditional fee arrangements that no win no fee lawyers rely upon to provide individuals without deep pockets with access to justice.

The warning comes in the form of a letter, delivered in time before the House of Lords’ third reading of the new legal aid bill, a proposed piece of legislation that has seen its downfall nine times already through amendments made by peers.  The McCanns are joined by other tabloid victims such as Christopher Jefferies, who prevailed against eight different newspapers stemming from libelous statements printed about him during the inquiry into Joanna Yeats, and marks the first time that Madeleine’s parents have come forward to make their concerns known about the legal reforms to injury claims proposed by the government.

The letter was co-ordinated by the Libel Reform Campaign and Hacked Off, an organisation that has campaigned for public inquiries to be made into phone hacking.  Both groups have protested abut the proposed £350 million in cuts from the annual legal aid budget for the Ministry of Justice, claiming that a reconfiguration of conditional fee agreements will prevent claimants from being able to afford to employ lawyers, as the reforms will no longer provide for them to recover their lawyers’ success fees and expensive insurance premiums from losing defendants; winning claimants will instead see their damages awards reduced in order to pay for the legal fees and court costs.

Equestrian enthusiasts warned against no win no fee claims

Equestrian enthusiasts such as livery yards, riding schools, and riders have all been warned against no win no fee claims, with one legal firm stating that proper liability insurance must be in place to avoid costly personal injury compensation claims.

One accident solicitor has recently remarked that it has been getting a steady stream of calls every day in the wake of advertising on Facebook recently, with one representative from the law firm stating that riding cases are indistinguishable form other kinds of injury claims, as negligence principles are the same.  The number of equestrian claims has gone up over the past decade, the solicitor representative added, but attributed it less to a change in mentality and more to an increased number of riding enthusiasts.

The firm has represented several riders who were injured, such as one who had fallen from their horse and sustained injuries when a large HGV passed them at speed.  Another rider made a successful claim against the owner of her mount as a horse whipped around, breaking her arm – she prevailed at court because she had not been warned about the horse’s behaviour.

South Essex Insurance Brokers representative David Buckton warned both businesses and riders to take steps to ensure they were prepared, stating that no win no fee claims are everywhere.  Taking steps to secure the proper paperwork in order and making sure liability insurance is in place is a crucial step to safeguard against someone making a claim, Mr Buckton also said.

The Association of British Riding Schools also weighed in on the issue, adding that riding schools need to undertake risk assessments regularly and have comprehensive paperwork, according to  Julian Marczak, the association’s representative.  Courts will routinely ignore good work if not recorded, Mr Marczak cautioned, urging proprietors to document everything exhaustively and to pick an insurer that has a solid understanding of the sector.