Cathedral sues NHS after £130,000 accident claim

Industry news roundup: week ended 30 March 2015:

A £130,000 accident claim has prompted a cathedral to sue the NHS for not properly treating the foot of a worshiper who was injured on church grounds.

So much for ‘turn the other cheek:’ Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire has sought to recover some of the £130,000 it paid out to worshiper Christopher Shepherd in a personal injury compensation claim after the man tripped and broke his foot just a few days before Christmas 2008. What looked to be an open-and-shut case of the cathedral being liable for the man’s injury soon blossomed into a major issue after medical negligence caused his foot injury to worsen to the point where Shepherd is now consigned to a wheelchair as he now has the inability to walk more than 100 yards without difficulty.

Ripon Cathedral agreed to pay out on Shepherd’s personal injury claims in 2013, but has since decided to try to recover its costs by bringing suit against the NHS. According to court documents, apparently Shepherd consulted with doctors at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust twice – first on Christmas Eve 2008 and then again on January 13th of the New Year, but was only finally diagnosed properly on March 18th of that year. The cathedral’s personal injury lawyers say that the NHS doctors should be held responsible for not diagnosing Shepherd’s injuries properly causing a delay so long that the injured man needed surgical procedures to fuse the bones of his foot – an act that left him with severely diminished mobility.

Now this, to me, represents a perfect example of medical negligence. The poor bastard made two trips to see NHS doctors and both times he was simply brushed off. Meanwhile his foot simply got worse and worse until he needed the painful, mobility-limiting surgery.  For what it’s worth, the NHS had a serious role in the extent of Shepherd’s injuries and should pay the price.

I’m not saying that the cathedral is off the hook; the initial injury took place on cathedral grounds so there is at least a modicum of liability there. But if Shepherd had gotten the treatment he needed immediately instead of months afterwards, the results would have been much less painful for him – and that would have led to a much smaller legal bill for Ripon Cathedral!


Take the bus, make a bogus accident claim

Industry news roundup: week ended 12 Jan 2015:

Looking to put a few bogus personal injury compensation claims in to a hapless insurer? Just take the bus a few times and Bob’s your uncle.

Right, so no one likes riding public transport. Well, some people do but we’ll not talk about those odd ducks. Sometimes you just have to ride the bus, putting your faith in whatever Higher Power you believe in that your driver isn’t a total pillock. Of course, sometimes he’s as thick as a post anyway. Other times, he’s a bloody criminal mastermind.

Apparently, over a period of 15 months, there were seven bus collisions in Chester that were all orchestrated beforehand. Shedloads of people were in on it, including many of the passengers, and if it weren’t for the whole scheme unraveling because the mastermind behind it – a man named John Smith, charmingly enough, who ran a claims management company that went by the name of Swift Accident Solutions. Swift profited by referring “injured” claimants to personal injury solicitors, and with some 177 claimants going through Swift Accident Solutions, Smith was just piling the cash up left and right.

This is of course absolutely maddening to hear about things like this. Luckily, behavior like this can’t be gotten away with today, as the case arose before the ban on taking referral fees from personal injury lawyers for sending possible claimants their way. Still it just makes my blood boil to know this bastard was orchestrating this whole thing. It gives the personal injury compensation industry the kind of black eye that is just so hard to recover from; it’s instances like this that have created the stereotype of the so-called “ambulance chaser” lawyer going about and drumming up business for himself through sleazy, underhanded and borderline illegal means.

For what it’s worth, most people involved in personal injury law aren’t right bastards like this Smith bloke. Yeah, there’s money to be made in the business but it’s the same in any line of work – in this one at least you’re helping people become whole again after sometimes horrific accidents; doesn’t that count for something at least? If you ask me, it certainly does!

Spurious claims need no help from claims management companies

Industry news roundup: week ended 25 Aug 2014:

The number of ‘ambulance chasing’ claims management companies is at an all-time low, yet there are still plenty of spurious claims being made in the UK.

Do you remember the furore over claims management companies a year or so ago? These rogue firms were blamed for drumming up all sorts of spurious personal injury claims by sending unsolicited texts and phone calls to anyone and everyone they could think of that might be interested in bringing an accident claim. The practice was severely curtailed in April of last year thanks to some well-placed regulatory changes, and for the most part these changes have worked – there are 600 fewer CMCs in operation today than there were in 2013.

This should be a victory for anyone concerned with spurious personal injury compensation claims, right? Well guess what – there’s still plenty of that going around, even though there’s hardly any CMCs left. So much for the idea that there’s all these ambulance chasers drumming up business for personal injury lawyers.

So where are all the new compensation claims coming from? Well over the last 12 months there was almost £600,000 in compensation paid out by West Midlands Police for instance, and all for seemingly spurious reasons such as falling off faulty chairs, slipping on a wet floor or having difficulties entering and exiting a police vehicle. Oh, and a dog bite as well, mustn’t forget that.

Now I’m not going to say that we shouldn’t take care of officers of the law that injure themselves in the line of duty  – but for pity’s sake, it’s not like these individuals were hurt in the course of their duties of serving and protecting the people of the West Midlands. Let’s not forget that this is all taxpayer cash being expended to take care of all these clumsy crybabies that can’t walk down a bloody corridor without falling flat on their faces and bruising their bums. What kind of incompetent flatfoots do we have keeping us all safe? How can they end up keeping the peace if they can’t even keep upright in a wet corridor?

Local councils bled by accident claims

Industry news roundup: week ended 16 June 2014:

Local councils across the UK are being bled dry by expensive accident claims, according to a raft of new revelations.

There’s nothing people like more than to point the finger at a profligate local authority and accuse councilors of wasting taxpayer money on spurious personal injury compensation claims. Recently, these lucky naysayers have been given shedloads of new ammunition after several new figures have come to light.

First up is the absolutely massive 16 million pound in damages that Sheffield Council has paid out over the last five years. More than 3,100 personal injury claims were made against the council on a wide variety of injuries, ranging from children leaving playgrounds scarred to workers burned after a run in with a defective piece of machinery.

Sheffield was definitely one of the worst off, and while I’m usually not one to entertain ideas of anything even approaching the idea of a wide-ranging ‘compensation culture’ conspiracy orchestrated by the nation’s personal injury lawyers I do have to say that 16 million pounds is a fair bit of dosh. Most other local authorities have a much lower legal bill in actuality; a fantastic example of this would be the 330 thousand pounds paid out by Lincolnshire County Council over the same period of time.

The injuries cited in Lincolnshire aren’t all that different than those in Sheffield, but for some reason there were fewer successful claims made overall. Whether that’s because Sheffield has less competent investigators or Lincolnshire has a better class of injury lawyer working for it I’ll never be able to tell you, as I simply don’t know. I can say that while 300,000 pounds sounds like a king’s ransom it’s a drop in the bucket compared 16 million!

Maybe there should be some exchange of ideas between the two local authorities. It might help Sheffield clean up its act. I mean I can’t believe that Sheffield residents are just that much more accident-prone. Of course there’s always the off chance that Lincolnshire’s public infrastructures are just that much more better maintained than Sheffield’s. Whatever the actual reasoning behind the massive differences in payouts, one thing is clear: Brits are  a mightily clumsy group of people.


The fight against compensation culture goes ever on

Industry news roundup: week ended 9 June 2014:

A new salvo has been fired by regulators against personal injury lawyers in an effort to combat so-called compensation culture, but will it really do anything?

If there’s one thing that gets the knickers of policymakers and insurance companies in a twist, it’s the idea that there’s some sort of compensation culture alive and well in the UK – as if personal injury solicitors are enticing injured Brits to make spurious accident claims in order to line their own pockets. Now, I’m not going to say that there aren’t those particularly vile ambulance chasers out there, but for the most part there’s very little activity like that going on. Nevertheless there’s a new spate of regulations going forward soon to limit this alleged activity.

The newest target of the anti-compensation culture crusade is the elimination of incentives to bring personal injury claims. In other words, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling recently went on record saying he’s going to stamp out legal firms from offering things like cash up front, shopping vouchers, or even high end electronics such as laptops or iPads as an incentive to bring a personal injury compensation claim. Mr Grayling has high hopes this will stamp out insurance fraud as a result.

Now I won’t lie – there are some firms that engage in this behaviour. Is it right? Absolutely not. Are the number of firms that do this materially contributing to fraud figures? If you ask me, not a bloody chance. In fact, there’s statistical data to back me up as well – the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers released data recently that found that over the course of an entire year the amount of claimants bring fraudulent claims was minuscule.

When it comes to the big bad guy of fraud – whiplash claims – the figures were particularly damning. Fraud figures for whiplash claims are laughably low – something like seven per cent according to Apil. Honestly this just gives the lie to the idea that fraud – particularly whiplash fraud – is so out of control that it’s beggaring the insurance industry. I don’t know what insurers are trying to pull by crying wolf like this, but if you ask me it’s probably a half-arsed attempt to justify their constantly climbing insurance premiums by blaming this myth of a compensation culture. Rather dastardly if you ask me!

Work accident claims running rampant?

Industry news roundup: week ended 2 June 2014:

Is it just me or does it seem like the nation’s places of work are just getting increasingly unsafe for staff and workers?

I mean it’s been absolutely everywhere in the news this week – work accident claims seem to be on the increase. And no before you go whinging about how it’s ‘compensation culture’ rearing its ugly head, jog on – that’s obviously a myth that’s been put to bed. No, I’m more concerned with the working conditions of regular Brits, especially when it comes to job positions in the public sector.

You want some examples? How about this one – a teacher working for West Sussex County Council ended up having to make a personal injury compensation claim for £23,000 after they slipped in a puddle-filled school corridor and ending up with ligament damage in their ankle and feet. Tory commentators are all up in arms at the high price tag – which admittedly is more than the starting salary of a teacher in the same region – but let’s be honest here; do you really think a local authority is so loose with their cash that they would be willing to just part with some unless it was actually warranted? No local council wants to deprive pupils of taxpayer money but if you’re responsible for a bad injury you’ve got to pay up – it’s only fair.

Meanwhile these costs add up over the years, which makes the situation look just that much worse. Consider how news broke this week that Leicester City Council has ended up forking over almost £2 million in personal injury compensation over the last five years. The statistics make it look bleak, as there was some £700,000 paid out on just over 150 claims over this period of time, with the remainder of the payout going to legal fees and court costs.

Now, stop shouting – five years ago there were much fewer regulations on how much a personal injury lawyer could charge in legal fees. Nowadays with regulations banning things like referral fees and altering how lawyers can recover costs from defendants, that incredibly high legal fee bill falls into a bit of perspective now doesn’t it?

Here’s why the idea of a ‘compensation culture’ is bollocks

Industry news roundup: week ended 21 April 2014:

The results are in: not just one but two reports made public this week have revealed that the idea of a ‘compensation culture’ is utter and complete bollocks.

Right, so this is the last time that I really want to discuss how personal injury solicitors aren’t actually robbing the taxpayer blind or pillaging overworked insurance companies by drumming up spurious accident claims: the injured need personal injury compensation to make themselves whole after a particularly nasty accident. One report found that when it comes to loss of earnings due to an accident or injury, a whopping 81 per cent of claimants reported needed those damages awards in order to offset at least a portion of their costs or lost earnings.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a catastrophic injury that changes your life forever either; many times it’s a temporary disability that leads to some time off work without pay. However, with the current economy still being what it is all too many Brits live pay cheque to pay cheque, and even a few weeks’ worth of lost wages can lead to serious financial difficulties. The survey found that nearly 3 out of every 4 people dealing with partial or total loss of income found that they were in even deeper after their personal injury as bills began to pile up and late fees began to accrue, so it’s not like these injured are living high with their feet up on their coffee table and counting their money after their fraudulent whiplash claim.

On top of that, there was even more evidence this week that there’s a serious disparity between those injured and then receiving a compensation award and those who don’t. In fact, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers released figures detailing how more than 8 out of 10 claimants don’t receive even one red cent after a work accident claim.

There’s many reasons why these poor people can’t pursue claims, but the most glaring one is that they simply can’t prove that the negligence of someone at work – most notably their supervisor or employer – was responsible for the injury. Many times there’s an access to justice problem that these poor folk encounter as well, especially with regulatory changes that have limited Legal Aid access for many – and no win no fee solicitors can only go so far.

So yes, that’s it: the lion’s share of injured never make claims, and those that do make claims and win them are in absolute need of the funds to make themselves whole. Does that mean fraud is nonexistent? Of course not – there’ll always be some bastards out there ruining it for the rest of us. But can we stop trying to make it look like every claimant is a blight upon society simply for requesting compensation for the injuries they’ve sustained?

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.

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.


ABI launches new code whilst Biba follows in its footsteps

Industry news roundup: week ended 17 Feb 2014:

This week, both the Association of British Insurers and the British Insurance Brokers Association have committed to new codes of conduct to kerb criticism.

Apparently ABI members have had it up to here with accusations of poor behaviour when it comes down to things like road traffic accident claims and personal injury compensation, since they’ve gone ahead and published a brand new Code of Conduct. Now, any insurance customers of an ABI member that signed on to the new code can look forward to newer levels of transparency when it comes to personal injury lawyers that work for a particular insurer and a commitment to not not receiving any pressure to make a claim if the customer would rather not.

Some of the largest and most influential insurers operating in the UK have already signed on, such as LV, Allianz, Co-operative, Admiral, and Axa. It’s nice to see so many insurers finally caving to the intense societal pressure to be decent to their customers instead of right bastards, though I do have some misgivings about how strictly this new code will be enforced! I suppose I’m just a bit of a sceptic. 

Meanwhile, Biba has taken a step from the ABI’s playbook and announced its own code of practice as well. The new code is geared towards the same things that the ABI one is – protecting the interests of customers who may need to make personal injury claims – though the wording of the code of practice is much different since the industry body is composed of brokers and not insurers directly.

Again, I’m right impressed that Biba has gone along and followed the ABI’s lead. Then again it’s not surprising in that most insurance broking firms are in that strange Limbo state of being both needed yet distrusted by policyholders and insurers alike, since they act as intermediaries for a profit. Personally I wouldn’t want to work as a broker, considering you’ve got to balance the needs of your customer against the needs of the insurer if you want to be successful. That just sounds like much too much pressure for me to be under at any given time!