Taxpayers being bled dry by compensation claims?

Industry news roundup: week ended 16 Dec 2013:

Another row over so-called ‘compensation culture’ is set to begin after reports of several local authorities being ransomed for millions by the injured.

So here we go again: apparently there are evil personal injury lawyers running amok across the UK, convincing otherwise docile Brits to bring spurious claims to the tune of millions of pounds in personal injury compensation. Firs ton the chopping block is how Worcestershire County Council paid out  £1.7 million over the past four years.

Truth be told the figures sound impressively high – £1.7 million with over 3,300 personal injury claims – but let’s be honest for a moment: did you think accidents simply don’t happen in Worcestershire? I don’t see how legitimately injured Brits shouldn’t be compensated when they’re injured or their property is damaged in a situation where their local authority had responsibility for the area. Or are you telling me that if you tripped on a bit of uneven pavement and then broke your arm, you’d just blithely forgive your county council for not looking after things as they should?

Of course this whole objection over ‘compensation culture’ is happening across the UK. In fact an SDLP MLA recently came down hard on the more than £20 million that the Department of Regional Development paid out in the 2012/2013 financial year, calling for the brakes on the ‘gravy train’ to be applied before it careers out of control.

Well good for you, sir, for standing up for shoddy governmental practices and a lack of being held accountable for them. Perhaps if Northern Ireland’s roads weren’t in complete shambles these insanely high compensation figures wouldn’t be rolling in every year. Ask yourself – do you think you would spend more than £20 million or less than that if you did your best to keep the roads in your area safe and well-maintained? It’s simple maths, isn’t it?

Then again, nothing is simple. I particularly like how all these local authorities cry about not having the capital to keep up with infrastructure maintenance yet somehow they have money set aside to pay out on all these compensation claims.

Paralysed mother wins multiple million pound compensation

Industry news roundup: week ended 4 Feb 2013:

A personal injury compensation award in the millions of pounds has been awarded to one mother who ended up with paralysis from the waist down after surgery.

Hazel Spence, a thirty five year old former beauty therapist and mother of two from Bilston that was a kick boxer in her teens, had been admitted to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital for what was supposed to have been a routine surgical procedure to excise a cyst that had been discovered between her shoulder blades. The surgery itself had been a success, but the actions of a junior doctor just two days afterwards left her paralysed when he decided to flush clear the drain that had been surgically implanted into her lower back in order to provide any excess fluid a way to be removed.

The doctor, who thought that the drain had become blocked, caused damage to the woman’s spinal cord as he forced fluid into the drain. As a result, Ms Spence now has no feeling from below the waist and can no longer move her legs due to the irreparable harm caused by the incorrect follow-up procedure and has left her trapped in a wheelchair, prompting her to launch a medical negligence claim against the NHS Trust managing the hospital. 

The University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust has since capitulated to the demands of Ms Spence’s personal injury lawyers in that she has been awarded a compensation award that, while it has not been specified, is understood o be worth well over one million pounds. The funds will go towards not just purchasing the special equipment that the woman needs to provide for her long-term care needs but also to relocate both herself and her family to a specially adapted house that will fit her needs for wheelchair accessibility.

No word on what happened to the junior doctor that botched the operation. Hopefully he’ll be cleaning out bedpans for the rest of his tenure as a medical ‘professional.’

Turns out not everyone loves bacon after all

Industry news roundup: week ended 7 Jan 2013:

While bacon is one of those wonderful foods that nearly everyone enjoys eating, it was revealed this week that one man has reason to dislike the foodstuff.

Orbital Foods Ltd worker Rui Sousa suffered massive crush injuries to his arm in a personal injury at work after it was caught in a bacon press machine at Orbital’s Chapel Pond Hill location in an incident that occurred in March of 2012. The engineer had been working to recondition the machine when the accident happened, but unbeknownst to him the press’ safety feature had been overridden, and the machine’s power and air supply were still connected as Mr Sousa undertook his work, only to have the press suddenly start up, crushing his arm in the process.

The poor man will mos likely never be able to think of bacon the same way again after suffering such severe injury, all because someone had either meddled with the machine or had not realised that the safety feature of the press was no longer working as it was supposed to. Unfortunately for Mr Sousa’s employer, the Health and Safety Executive got wind of the incident, launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the engineer’s injuries and discovering that not only had there been no safe system of work put in place by Orbital Foods but that there had not been any risk assessments carried out regarding the use or maintenance of the bacon press that flattened Mr Sousa’s arm – and left him with most likely a lifelong aversion to bacon as well.

The HSE proseuted Orbital Foods to the hilt for violating health and safety violations. The company folded under the watchdog’s onslaught, entering a guilty plea at Magistrates’ Court recently and walking away with more than £10,000 in fines and court costs combined; bad luck for Orbital Foods but not unexpected.

There’s no word on whether Mr Sousa will be seeking personal injury compensation for his injuries, but it can only be assumed that such a lawsuit may already be underway. Hopefully the injured engineer’s personal injury lawyers will secure a sizable damages award for him.

Can no one be trusted to be honest when it comes to injuries?

Industry news roundup: week ended 24 Sept 2012:

This week, it seems like everywhere you turned there was a story about how someone, somewhere was milking personal injury compensation cases as hard as they possibly could.

New research recently revealed that over the course of 2011, more than £5 million was spent by local schools across the UK for personal injury claims made by schoolchildren – but only half of that sum actually went to injured students. The other half went straight into the pockets of personal injury solicitors, sometimes in instances that saw legal fees dwarf actual compensation payments!

The recent survey, which was carried out under a Freedom of Information request, saw that there was a serious disparity amongst payouts made to schoolchildren and the fees their lawyers walked out with. One of the most egregious cases involved a student who injured his finger after getting it trapped in a door, leading to a £3,750 compensation payout for the schoolboy, but resulted in £36,000 in court costs and legal fees paid to the solicitor firm representing the injured student. A ‘good neighbour’ who was nominated for a community award has been branded a ‘liar’ in court after making a false personal injury claim.

The avarice of personal injury lawyers is already legendary, but there’s always the occasional story that also makes you lose faith in humanity as well, such as the story that a man formerly commended by his local authority was caught red-handed in trying to wheedle some cash from the very same council by trumping up a false personal injury claim. Furhan Mustafa was caught in the lie recently by Salford council investigators, resulting in the district judge throwing out his claim for £3,000 – and ordering that he pay the £5,500 the town incurred in legal costs defending the spurious claim.

The worst part about this is that the 22 year old man had become a finalist in the Good Neighbour category for the Be Proud community awards for Manchester council. Originally nominated because of the time he spent working with vulnerable people, Mustafa was even praised in a letter to the Queen by one of the elderly neighbours he helped out.


Medical negligence plays part in woman’s rampant growth

Medical negligence has played a part in one woman’s rampant growth after medical staff missed a tumour on her pituitary gland that caused her to grow to a massive 6 feet, 5 inches in height, though NHS officials and the woman’s personal injury solicitors have yet to come to an agreement on the amount of personal injury compensation she is entitled to.

Kate Woodward, a former drama student who had attained a height of 5 feet, 9 inches by the age of eleven, recently launched a medical negligence personal injury compensation claim against the NHS Trust for Leeds Teaching Hospitals. Ms Woodward claims that her excessive growth is the result of improper treatment at the hands of both the Leeds General Infirmary and the St James’s University Hospital, and has precluded her from becoming a working actor, her childhood dream, as her uncommon height means that she is a poor fit for any sort of cinema or theatre career.

Ms Woodward, who now resides in Sidmouth, Devon, but spent her formative years in Leeds, took legal advice that led to her decision to make a claim against the NHS for £2 million in damages. Her legal team says that the excessively tall woman also suffers from psychological problems and bone abnormalities due to the effect of the tumour on her pituitary gland, all as a result of medical staff neglecting to diagnose the tumour correctly.

The NHS Trust has agreed that it is liable for Ms Woodward’s abnormal growth. However, the amount of damages the NHS is willing to pay is a much reduced £698,000. A hearing which could result in a final figure being decided upon is currently ongoing.

Are lawyers encouraging GPs to exaggerate claimant injuries?

While the joke of the ‘ambulance chasing’ personal injury solicitor firm is an old one, now it seems that some personal injury lawyers are following the ambulance right into the hospital, with new reports emerging that GPs are being encouraged to exaggerate when asked about the nature of claimant’s injuries.

Ironically named accident claim specialist firm Claim Time Solicitors stood accused of exerting pressure upon medical professionals to report that the injuries sustained by claimants was much worse than it actually was.  One of the firm’s former employees recently testified at a tribunal that she had been made redundant shortly after she voiced her concerns about her employer’s practice, with another source, a consultant surgeon with the NHS, informing the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that he would no longer carry out medical assessments on clients of Claim Time, as he was growing tired of being told to alter his medical findings.

These new allegations only add fuel to the fire about how far the so-called ‘compensation culture’ has spread in the UK.  Whiplash-related claims are seen to be driving this for the most part, as whiplash injuries cannot be proven through medical testing such as X-rays and instead relay solely upon expert testimony from medical professionals.

Insurers say that whiplash claims are costing them a massive £2 billion on an annual basis.  This adds around £90 on average to the typical motorist’s premium, as insurance providers pass along their costs to their customers.

Claim Time, a Birmingham-based solicitor firm established by Rizwan Shabir and Yousaf Khan in 2005, features television adverts with British-Asian actors speaking in both Urdu and English.  The firm generates so much business volume that it has paid £300,000 to one NHS doctor for assessing its clients over a two-year period.

APIL calls for action on asbestos-injury last resort fund

The victims of asbestos exposure in the UK have been fighting hard for recompense for a while now, and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers wants them taken care of by calling for action to be taken on a last resort fund to be set up by the Government and the insurance industry.

The Government wrapped up its consultation on the feasibility of such a fund two years ago, a fact that the APIL has begun to say is more than long enough when it comes to providing personal injury compensation for workers suffering from asbestos-related illnesses, such as the aggressive lung cancer known as mesothelioma.  The need for such a fund is an urgent one, says Karl Tonks, APIL president, as these injured workers are in dire need of compensation.

Asbestos-related injuries are often quite difficult to be compensated for, as exposure usually occurs many years in the past whilst at work.  The intervening time between then and now can result in destroyed or lost insurance records, leaving many retired workers suffering through the final stages of their ailments – mesothelioma is of significant concern due to the terminal nature of the disease, with a nearly 100 per cent mortality rate, and compensation could serve to ease these unfortunate workers as they face their final moments.

It can sometimes the luck of the draw for those who were exposed to asbestos decades previously, as insurers can disappear or shut their doors by the time the need to make a claim arises, Mr Tonks said.  However, it’s wrong to penalise these workers simply for outliving their insurance firms, and shouldn’t have had to face nearly certain death for simply showing up for work, the APIL president added.

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.

Government told to not abandon those needing to make claims

The government was recently told not to abandon those Brits needing to make accident claims by the incoming president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers at the APIL’s annual conference, experts say.

Incoming APIL president, Karl Tonks, stated that it is the legal system’s duty to provide fair recompense to those in genuine need and who are deserving of a personal injury compensation payout.  The current system is in dire need of reform, Mr Tonks said, as he indicated that under civil litigation rules as they stand presently, injured parties face unreasonably long wait times to receive funds desperately needed because insurers have the ability to contest personal injury claims before a costly trial, which incurs unnecessarily high legal costs.

Mr Tonks called for more support to be given to the injured at the same time as the government announced its plans to tighten its grip on false motor injury cases which drive up the costs of car insurance premiums.  Insurers say that they are drowning in a sea of their own costs because of increases in both the volume of motor injury accident claims and the amount of compensation awarded to those injured as a result, and that they have no choice but to recover these costs by charging their customers ever higher premiums year after year.

Insurers point the finger not only at fraudulent claims made by scammers and criminals but also at ‘ambulance chasing’ lawyers that encourage spurious claims in order to line their pockets with success fees.

Are politicians simply targeting no win no fee lawyers?

Some industry experts say that politicians may be seeking the easy way out in blaming no win no fee lawyers for social issues because it is easier to pass the blame than it is to accept it and work towards suitable solutions.

There is a long history of targeting personal injury lawyers for the nation’s legal woes, and many legal experts say that when ministers point the finger at legal professionals for creating a ‘compensation culture’ that is crippling the nation’s insurance providers through high legal costs associated with accident claims, they conveniently neglect to point out that insurers do much to bring about the situation as well.  The truth of the matter is that many claimants would not be able to afford to take legal advice without no win no fee lawyers willing to forego payment until the case is successful, especially if the new legal aid bill working its way once more through the Commons emerges with its funding cuts intact.

Insurers, many legal experts say, are much more responsible for the current situation than is let on, as the practice of selling on the personal details of their customers to law firms, which these insurers euphemistically refer to as ‘charging referral fees,’ encourages the legal community to pursue policyholders that may have viable claims after being involved in traffic collisions through no fault of their own.  The rationale of an insurance provider who participates in taking referral fees is that their customers are bringing suit against rival insurers, thus increasing costs for the competition, but seem to suffer from a lack of realisation that their rivals are doing the same thing back to them, leading to a vicious cycle that is more harmful than it is beneficial.