Injury solicitors have recently warned that the new Legal Aid bill will limit access to justice to many victims of medical negligence.
Harlow-based personal injury lawyers Attwaters, located in West Gate, remark that the reforms, which are designed to cut Government costs, will ‘deny justice’ to vulnerable claimants, as legal professionals will no longer be able to rely on no win no fee conditional fee agreements, as the reforms seek to restrict their ability to charge success fees to defendants. David Kerry, medical negligence expert and law firm partner, recently remarked that the proposals need to be rethought by ministers, adding that many firms throughout the UK have deep concerns that Legal Aid withdrawals from medical negligence claimants will severely limit their access to justice.
With so many claimants suffering and in pain, and possibly not even able to work, their only” recourse would be to rely on no win no fee arrangements, even though many solicitors may be reluctant to take up a complex case due to the limitations placed on their ability to collect success fees by the proposed legislation. This could leave these highly vulnerable claimants with no access to justice, Mr Kerry warned, and could result in children with permanent brain damage from a birth injury lacking the financial support they would throughout their life.
The NHS’s additional claims investigation costs would more than wipe out any savings made by the Government through the Legal Aid bill’s changes, he also said. Mr Kerry’s concerns are shared by Rob Halfon, MP for Harlow, who said that he will campaign for Legal Aid bill concessions to be made as it makes its way through Parliament.
Injury solicitors have begun to strike back against legal reforms to be instituted by the Government by warning injured individuals to not tarry in making accident claims.
Accident victims need to stop wasting time and make personal injury claims as soon as they can, some solicitors have said, as the government is poised to make changes to no win no fee accident claims. The changes in question are included in the new Legal Aid bill working its way through Parliament, and could go into effect as soon as this coming spring, experts say.
The planned reforms include an abolition of success fees as they exist currently, with the insurers of a losing defendant having to foot the legal bills for the solicitors of a successful claimant. The aim of the current system was to encourage out of court settlements, solicitors say, adding that under the new rules, claimants will see their compensation payouts diminish because they will have to pay their own legal fees out of their claims awards.
The Government’s proposals to change the current scheme had been made in an attempt to put an end to the so-called ‘compensation culture’ gripping the UK, solicitors say. However, only around 1 out of every 4 accident victims ever make a claim, indicating that the Government may be trying to eliminate a problem that is not nearly as prevalent as it may think, and the only one to benefit from these new changes will be rogue employers who fail to keep the health and safety of their workers in mind and and large insurance firms, as many injured people in the future will have extremely limited access to justice, even though they may have a valid claim for injuries they sustained due to a failure of on the part of their employers to provide their workers a safe work environment.
At least £300,000 in personal injury compensation is being sought by one man from Sheffield after he was left partially disabled while disembarking from a bus, leaving him to bring a car accident claim against the parties involved in the incident.
Wincobank native David Horsfield, sixty eight years old, had been attempting to disembark from the bus in Sheffield’s city centre at the time of the incident, RTA experts reported. A Hovis lorry collided with the bus while Mr Horsfield was stepping from the bus, leaving him with a serious neck fracture that resulted in the man’s partial paralysis, according to a recent article published in the Star newspaper.
In the aftermath of the accident, the pensioner endured hospital treatment for six long months, first at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital and then at the specialised spinal unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. Now, Mr Horsfield has brought a personal injury compensation claim against the Rank Hovis McDougall Group after their lorry driver was called before Sheffield Magistrates’ Court and ordered to pay a fine of £2,000 for driving without due care and attention.
While injury solicitors representing Hovis have already accepted full liability for the incident, both sides have yet to come to an agreement in regards to the total amount of personal injury compensation Mr Horsfield will be receiving. The sixty eight year old man, who had no choice but to leave his home in the wake of the accident, is now residing at Wincobank’s Roman Ridge Extra Care Scheme, where he receives seven hours of care for five days out of every week by two caregivers.
After falling from a film set, one volunteer costume designer, who suffered serious personal injuries in the tumble, may seek personal injury compensation from the National Film and Television School.
The unnamed thirty four year old woman, whose identity was withheld for privacy reasons, had been working as an unpaid helper at the school at the time of the incident that may lead to an accident claim. The woman had been making some last minute alterations to the costume of an actor when she tumbled two and a quarter metres from the pinnacle of a set of mock stairs.
The volunteer sustained severe, life changing injuries in her fall. The vertebrae in her back fractured, leaving the woman with permanent paralysis from the waist down, according to injury solicitors familiar with the case.
The Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation into the incident. Investigators for the HSE found that actors, set designers, and students alike were all at risk of falling from the mock stairs due to the fact that there was no edge protection in place.
The school, which provides education in the art of television and film production to students, admitted to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act at a hearing at High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court recently. Located in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire on station Road, the Beaconsfield Film Studios was ordered to pay a £17,500 fine and must also pay a total of £4,787 in court costs for their role in the woman’s severe injuries.
In the wake of the hearing, one HSE inspector stated that the woman’s injuries were clearly preventable if only the school had put a safe system of working in place.
Injury solicitors recently won a personal injury compensation case on behalf of a Stoke-on-Trent female horse rider in the wake of an equestrian accident that left her with a broken neck.
According to Horse & Hound magazine, Mrs Maxine Wright had been taking horse riding lessons with her husband Phil in Newcastle-under-Lyme at the time of the incident. The Wrights had been attending Shut Lane Head’s Whitmore Riding School when Mrs Wright’s horse fell upon attempting to clear a jump, accident claim experts writing for the magazine reported.
Mrs Wright’s horse ‘Marmite’ clipped its rear legs on the top of a barrel as it was attempting a cross country jump. Unfortunately both the clipped barrel and those it was adjacent to were not properly weighted down, causing them to move forward with the horses impact and trigger a fall.
Mrs. Wright sustained serious personal injuries in the incident, which included breaks to two of her vertebrae at the top of her spine. As a a result the woman was hospitalised for nearly two weeks and was unable to return to work for a total of four months.
Stating that the riding school demonstrated a lack of awareness in regards to the potential risk, one legal representative of Mrs Wright added that the jump had been inherently dangerous. Her legal team negotiated a £60,000 personal injury compensation award for the injured woman in an out of court settlement after the insurers of the school made an admission of liability.
A spokesperson for British Eventing, the sports governing authority, also commented on the case, remarking that the importance of securing temporary or portable obstacles could not be stressed enough. The BE spokesperson also said that it offered training in course building and design as well.
After his feet suffered severe crush injuries whilst on the job, one Gateshead steel worker may be considering a work accident claim in search of compensation for his injuries.
Tyne and Wear, Gateshead native Alan Dixon, aged sixty two, had been employed by Spartan UK Ltd at the time of the accident that may lead to his personal injury compensation claim. Mr Dixon was working for the steel firm as part of a team that had been carrying out routine maintenance for the firm, according to accident claim specialists.
Part of this routine maintenance involved the removal of large rollers at the steel mill in order that they could be cleaned. To help facilitate the rollers’ removal, Mr Dixon needed to stand upon the mill so he could connect the rollers to a hydraulic ram.
Unfortunately for Mr Dixon, one of his colleagues stationed in the control room of the plant was unaware of the sixty two year old’s location. This colleague activated the mill’s machinery and Mr Dixon was pinioned between the moving parts. As a result both his feet were crushed amidst the rollers of the conveyor.
In the wake of the accident, Mr Dixon was rushed to Queen Elizabeth hospital. However his injuries were so severe that the surgical team at hospital had no choice but to perform a below the knee amputation of his right leg. While Mr Dixon’s left foot was not amputated, he is still receiving treatment for his injuries, and injury solicitors state he may be in need of an additional surgical procedure sometime in the near future.
Located on Ropery Road in Teams, Spartan UK Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for their role in Mr Dixon’s severe injuries. After the firm admitted to being in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act, it was fined £40,000. The court ordered Spartan UK Ltd to pay more than £9,757 in legal costs as well.
After an unsuccessful claim for damages based on the disruption of their lives by a nearby landfill, one group of residents from Ware recently lost their battle for personal injury compensation in the High Court.
In a case that represented more than 150 families from the Vicarage Estate, and brought by thirty lead personal injury claim claimants, Mr Justice Coulson rejected it with the ruling that the claims were almost certainly bound to fail. The judge stated that this was because the claimants failed to allege negligence on the part of Biffa Waste Services for the Westmill 2 landfill site. Mr Justice Coulson however did not agree with the allegation on Biffa’s part that there had been a great exaggeration to the claimant’s injury claims.
The Ware residents had been hoping the judge would rule that the foul smell that had been emanating from the site between July of 2004 and October of 2009 would be legally classified as a nuisance. The judge had been told that the residents had sustained significant losses in regards to the enjoyment of their properties when the case was heard last year.
However Biffa’s injury solicitors claimed that the lawsuit filed against the firm was both wholly unjustified and unwarranted. Safety, environment, and external affairs director for Biffa Waste, David Savory, also stated that the claimants had been part of the so-called ‘compensation culture’ in his testimony. However the judge rejected this allegation.
Mr Justice Coulson stated that the evidence supports that the residents had repeatedly insisted that for much of the time that they had no particular interest in financial compensation but were merely interested in the elimination of the foul odour. These residents were only attempting to assert what they felt to be their rights because it seemed that no one else – the Environment Agency and Biffa included – seemed to do more than pay lip service to the community, the judge added.
One work accident claim has led to a fine for a Shirebrook-based welding firm near Mansfield following an employee sustaining serious personal injuries after a fall from height.
The worker fell nearly five metres from the roof of a Mansfield farm’s outbuilding onto a grain bucket below him, according to his injury solicitors. The man has requested that his name not be made known to the public at this time.
The unnamed worker’s personal injury claim states that he sustained serious personal injuries in the fall which included internal injuries, a fracture to his skull, and five broken vertebrae. The worker was employeed by Shirebrook-based IFT Services Ltd, of Victoria Street, at the time of his injuries.
In the wake of the incident, the Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation into the man’s injuries and discovered that the worker had been working from a telehandler. The man had climbed out of the telescopic handler’s attached cage onto a nearby scaffold board where he fell due to the lack of any safety measures put in place to prevent injuries related to falls from height.
After it entered a plea of guilty to being in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act, IFT Services Ltd was fined £4,000 by Mansfield Magistrates Court. The firm was also assigned the additional responsibility of paying £2,000 in court costs as well.
Lee Greatorex, the inspector who investigated the incident, released a statement after the hearing. The inspector stated that the incident could have been avoided completely had the firm taken the time to ensure that safety measures had been appropriately put in place.
In the wake of his injuries the unnamed worker is understood to have left the welding firm.
According to one motoring expert the 40 per cent rise in car insurance premiums can be attributed in part to an increase in the number of injury solicitors at work in the UK.
According to AA Insurance director Simon Douglas, out of every £1 paid in personal injury compensation awards, an additional 87p goes towards paying legal fees to personal injury lawyers. This has led to the average driver paying around £890 on average for motor car cover, which compares unfavourably to last year’s £630 average price.
Mr Douglas stated that in addition to the increase in premiums due to a hike in the number of accident claims, motorists have been feeling the pinch at the petrol pump with the increases to fuel prices.
Insurers have laid the blame at the feet of personal injury compensation settlement awards made on car accident. Many have begun to turn to injury solicitors for legal representation for their motoring-related accident claims. Many have been encouraged by the natural state of affairs in a large proportion of lawyers’ offices known as conditional fee agreements, or ‘no win no fee‘ arrangements.
The civil legal system was put in place to provide individual citizens the opportunity to seek redress against someone who wronged them in some way. However other people have been abusing the system, which has resulted in fraud figures to increase exponentially and begin to plague the insurance sector.
Authorities have advised insurers to adopt a more vigilant approach towards incidences of fraud. Meanwhile many injury solicitors have also cautioned against tolerance towards those who engage in defrauding insurance firms.
However industry experts have been quick to come to the defense, stating that claimants should not be discouraged from the pursuit of redress if their compensation claims are valid and just.
Accident claim experts have stated that the justice secretary’s recently announced crackdown on no win no fee legal claims may be more in the hands of the public than the government.
Both the government and Lord Justice Jackson claim that the main problem is that the current conditional fee arrangement system for personal injury claims leaves the client with limited interest in the amount their lawyers actually charge since claimants do not foot the bill. However by making injury solicitors‘ success fees the responsibility of the client instead of the losing defendant that will most obviously change.
The Ministry of Justice claims that competition will help to drive down lawyers’ success fees. However for the kinds of low-value claims that these proposals are mainly targeting, experts anticipate that success fees will swiftly drop to nil. This will allow injury solicitors to continue to tell prospective clients that they will still not have to pay a penny in legal fees.
Success fees are often interpreted as a way for lawyers to become unjustifiably enriched. However this runs against the original intentions of the 1999 Labour government which allowed fees to be recovered from the losing side of a claim. Labour essentially brokered a deal with the legal sector because it wanted to remove legal aid from personal injury claims cases. Injury lawyers would run all of their cases using conditional fee arrangements, and as the winners of such cases would recover the costs of litigation from the losing side, the risks of not being paid were minimised.
While the theory seemed sound, the system has since seen abuse from some injury lawyers that have made their living from CFAs. However industry experts have questioned whether the reforms will end up negatively affecting claimants in other kinds of cases.