Here we go again with that old compensation culture argument

Industry news roundup: week ended 16 March 2015:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, that old chestnut of ‘compensation culture’ bankrupting insurers has gotten trotted out once more.

If there’s one thing that drives me absolutely barmy it’s listening to insurance providers whinge on and on about how they’re being victimised by everyone. Every once and a while when they don’t feel they’ve gotten enough attention as of late they’ll begin crying about how ‘compensation culture’ is ruining their injury, pointing to increased personal injury claims and greedy, ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers just draining their coffers dry.

The refrain began again this week, with big-time insurer Aviva saying that even though the number of road accidents has gone down by 30 per cent, personal injury claims are up by 62 per cent. Not only that but the insurer said that a full 96 per cent of road traffic accident claims were brought not directly by injured parties but by personal injury lawyers or claims management companies.

Now I need to interrupt right here. Do these insurers really believe they’re fooling anyone with the idea that people legitimately injured in car accidents should be representing themselves? What man or woman in their wildest flights of fancy would be able to sustain a personal injury case against a deep-pocketed insurer like Aviva, especially if the case involves the kinds of injuries that can leave you without the ability to work for weeks or even months?

In a case like that, there’s only one type of person you should be turning to if you’re injured, and it’s a personal injury solicitor. They’re not bloody ambulance chasers simply because they represent people who can’t represent themselevs; yes, they rely on no win no fee agreements to get paid, but that’s because the majority of their claimants don’t have any damned money because they’ve been unable to work for months and they’re just barely squeaking by on savings – or on the largesse of their family members.

Yes, I suppose that insurance fraud is a problem. I’m sure it always will be. But insurers like Aviva, who want to make it harder for the injured to bring lawsuits against them with the aid of a lawyer, are only protecting their own interests at the detriment of others.

Sub-standard compensation awards leave claimants cold

Industry news roundup: week ended 3 March 2014:

It’s been a bad week for claimants, as news of paltry personal injury compensation awards being handed out for serious injuries have left people furious.

First up is the questionable story of how one 23 year old musician received only £6,400 in damages after he was literally electrocuted whilst setting up for a performance on the Pride of Hull ferry. Poor Dominic Zyntek had been preparing his electric guitar when a massive shock ripped through his body, burning his hands so severely that he found himself unable to play his instrument for several months. Not that he could have played even if he had escaped injury, considering how the shock perished his guitar! Honestly I can’t believe that the poor bloke’s personal injury lawyers only got him just a few thousand quid for his injuries. It seems to me that he should have gotten much more, but then again what do I know besides the fact that electrocution is incredibly painful and often life-threatening?

Of course there’s even worse nightmare stories out there when it comes to ultra-low compensation on personal injury claims. For instance, did you know that apparently the death of a child by medical negligence is only worth around £40,000? An insulting sum isn’t it? Well that’s exactly what Marie and Ray Ferguson received when their daughter Raychel died in the aftermath of the removal of her appendix. She was only nine years old. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, and made only worse by the fact that the NHS only gave the grieving family such a pittance.

The worst part is that the trust freely admitted liability for the incident. For what it’s worth, I think it’s absolutely shameful and I can’t believe that anyone out there would believe otherwise. I know that there’s no possible way that any amount of money could ever replace a lost child – heaven knows that it’s cold comfort indeed in the face of such a senseless and preventable death – but surely a nine year old child’s life is worth more than a paltry £40,000? Am I alone here in thinking that such a small compensation amount is completely and utterly insulting to the memory of the poor girl and a slap in the face to her already bereaved parents? It’s bloody unconscionable!

More legal profession changes needed even as CMCs decline

Industry news roundup: week ended 2 Dec 2013:

While news of the decline of the reviled claims management company broke this week, Government officials are still calling for more changes to the profession.

The Ministry of Justice just revealed in its recent personal injury claims management report that the number of CMCs operating in the sector have gone down by 38 per cent over the course of the last year to September. This is a major victory for anyone who feels that CMCs are the bane of the personal injury solicitor’s existence, since they relied heavily on referral fees and unsolicited texts phone calls to generate business for themselves, not to mention the well-earned reputation of CMCs to bring any sort of spurious claim they could if they felt there was a profit to be made in it.

The referral fee ban put several nails in the coffin of the CMC industry back this past April, much to the relief of law firms that are trying to provide quality service to their clients and a court system that was filled to bursting with far too many claims brought by CMCs. It’s absolutely gratifying to me to learn that there’s far less CMCs operating today as there were last year, and hopefully this trend will continue until they’re completely minimised.

Still, there are Government officials who feel that there still needs to be more changes to the legal profession in the UK. Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire and newly-minted Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State after Helen Grant’s departure a few months ago, has already stated that there’s still much that needs to be done to turn around the UK’s ailing legal system. A former solicitor himself, the Tory MP wants to see the small claims limit increased to take the heat off of insurers that lose shedloads of cash in defending cases in court, despite the fact that raising the limit will see access to justice stripped away from regular Brits as there’s no legal representation in the small claims portal as it exists now. Sounds like a nice bloke, doesn’t he?

Honestly if he’s so self-loathing that he’s trying to put the rest of the UK’s personal injury solicitors out of work, I suppose that’s his own prerogative. I’ll never understand it, though.


Blame in the time of high legal costs

Industry news roundup: week ended 2 Sept 2013:

The war rages on between the insurance industry and the personal injury claims sector, with finger-pointing and recriminations dominating as usual.

The so-called ‘compensation culture’ that’s gripping the UK is apparently because there are too many personal injury solicitors looking to line their pockets with our hard-earned money, according to the insurance industry – and the Government seems to be choosing sides. Who can forget the ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ slogan that David Cameron trotted out once the Coalition moved in and set up residence?

Well the Government has been doing its best to meddle with the personal injury compensation industry, including pushing through reforms that are supposedly going to make it less expensive for insurers to defend injury claims and will allow these companies to pass on the savings to customers. Only some of these measures have gone into effect but insurers are already gambling that their costs will decrease, and a price war has started between competitors fighting over every single last customer they can claim.

The thing is, there’s no indications that motor insurance is actually going to be profitable this year even with these new changes. Industry experts said recently that it would take a miracle to get the sector back on track – something it hasn’t been in nearly twenty years – and if you ask me this is going to lead to a backlash that will drive prices back up into the stratosphere once these insurers realise their efforts are not netting them the types of cash they need to keep their businesses open and operating successfully.

Of course this isn’t the only aborted attempt on the Government to give personal injury lawyers a hard time. Just recently the Law Society had to weather a hearing to see if an advert campaign it ran this summer had been in breach of any rules or regulations.

The ‘Don’t Get Mugged’ campaign was deemed to actually not be such a terrible thing after all, according to the Advertising Standards Authority, despite the fact that quite a few people lodged complaints.

The advert wasn’t even all that bad, if you ask me – it simply compared using an insurer’s third party capture offer was tantamount to being robbed blind in the aftermath of an accident. Instead, the advert encouraged accident victims to find a qualified injury solicitor instead – something that I’m sure angered the insurance company and its cronies in the Government.

It’s no fun at all being the victim of a serious injury, now is it?

Industry news roundup: week ended 10 June 2013:

Much has been said about the massive personal injury compensation payouts that accident victims can get, but the pain of injury isn’t exactly fun, you know.

In fact, there were two major news stories this week recounting how people have been privy to massive damages awards thanks to their hard-working personal injury solicitors. Both payouts were well over £1 million, but it’s not like these claimants are going to be sitting back and living the good life now – they have serious medical conditions that need looking after; this cash goes towards such care, not an all-expenses holiday somewhere sunny and warm.

Think about it: do you think it was fun for poor Rebecca Coles to collide with a boat as she was being towed in an inflatable ring in Suffolk on the River Orwell? The 19 year old was injured so badly that a piece of her skull had to be removed in order to help her recover – and that recovery includes permanent mobility impairment as well as reduced hearing and vision thanks to her brain injuries – so don’t think that the £1.37 million being paid to her is going to be living the high life any time soon.

Likewise the claimant in a personal injury compensation claim that just won some £10 million in damages isn’t going to be rubbing elbows with Richard Branson anytime soon. James Kennedy, a recruitment consultant living and working in Rome at the time of the incident, won the compensation award after the details of a catastrophic accident left him with massive brain injuries; the 37 year old man was struck by a vehicle driven by a Catholic priest of all people, who then fled the scene temporarily before a very angry crowd chased after him and bloodied his face; say what you want about Italians but they don’t let behaviour like that stand, especially from a priest!

Meanwhile, poor Mr Kennedy isn’t going back to Rome any time soon, considering how the accident left him with absolutely crippling injuries. In fact, he was in a coma for ten long months following the incident, only to awake with the kinds of life-changing injuries that require medical care for the rest of his life – something that absolutely contributed to the massive payout on his car accident claim.

For the priest’s part, I heard he was sentenced to a month in prison and slapped with a hefty fine. Good, I say – no man of God would flee the scene of a horrific accident, much less one that actually caused it in the first place!

TIme to go back to the drawing board to avoid injuries

Industry news roundup: week ended 27 May 2013:

This week, the big news was that not just one but two major organisations have retreated back to the drawing board to avoid further expensive injury claims.

First, the British racecourse industry is more or less in a shambles after a massive personal injury compensation claim was awarded to a jockey that injured himself so badly after falling at Cheltenham that he was placed into an induced coma in order to facilitate his recovery. Philip Hide ended up walking away with some £58,000 in damages after fracturing his pelvis and suffering a very serious head injury after the court of appeal reversed an earlier decision and made the ruling that Jockey Club Racecourses was responsible for his safety at the time of the incident.

The decision, which sets a precedent for the racecourse industry in that now jockeys and others involved need to be watched much more closely and given better overall safety care than they have been receiving. Now everyone’s running about trying their best to institute reforms in the industry in order to avoid incredibly large payouts in the future such as the one Mr Hide received; it’s a bit disheartening to think that all it took was the threat of personal injury lawyers crawling down their throats to change things and not genuine care for the people under their care, but loss of profit is one powerful motivator isn’t it?

Meanwhile, NHS wards in Scotland are in even worse shape as a recent report has revealed that some 100,000 have suffered injuries in hospitals north of the border since 2009. The list of injuries is quite diverse, as you’ve got your minor cuts and scrapes, your more serious injuries such as broken or lost limbs; in some cases these accidents even led to deaths!

It’s mostly patients that suffer these injuries, the report revealed. However plenty of visitors, student nurses, and staff suffer injuries as well – in fact all told some 64 people suffer injuries every day when you run the maths – and that’s absolutely mad if you ask me.

I’ve been saying it for years – hospitals are no place for a sick person – but now the Scotland Patients Association, which has been driven to distraction by these new figures, have come out and agreed with me. The chairwoman of the healthcare watchdog, Margaret Watt, said that you shouldn’t end up getting more sick or injured after being admitted to hospital. Ms Watt made the suggestion that Scottish hospitals need to follow the example set by construction sites and their extreme focus on keeping their work sites as safe as humanly possible.

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?

Getting injured on the job is a tough thing to deal with

Industry news roundup: week ended 4 Mar 2013:

It’s tough to deal with a personal injury at work, and the stories in the news this past week are a perfect indication of just how difficult it can be.

First up is the story of a £1.8 million personal injury compensation claim launched by a nursing assistant in Peterborough after she slipped on some spilt food. Michelle Lay, a thirty nine year old Yaxley native, had been unloading a food trolley at a local mental health unit when the incident occurred, which saw her slipping on some spilt left-overs that had not been tidied up, and Mrs Lay said in her accident claim that she actually left the floor when she slipped, only to smash her head on the food trolley and crash down on the base of her spine when she hit the floor.

Mrs Lay says that she’s been left in agonising neck and back pain as a result of the accident, forcing her to not just have to undergo a surgical procedure to fuse the top of her spine but to leave her job. She has since launched an injury claim against the NHS Trust that is responsible for the medical facility, claiming an initial £100,000 for her back, though the compensation claim has since grown to £1.8 million to take into account her neck injuries as well.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust has been fighting the injured woman tooth-and-nail, claiming that her injured neck was actually more due to an accident she was in at nineteen and that the hospital shouldn’t be responsible for such a massive personal injury claim. However, there’s not enough medical evidence to rule one way or another, and now the woman has to wait until a later date for the High Court to make a judgment.

Meanwhile, a lollipop lady from Wigan has fared a bit better in the wake of an injury she received at the hands of a hit and run car driver that knocked her over as she was undertaking her duties in helping schoolchildren cross the road. Karen Littler, the forty nine year old mother of four who was struck, feels trepidation to this day about actually stepping out into the road despite the fact that her injuries occurred a year ago, though the fact that she has received a four figure compensation sum has perhaps taken the sting out of this slightly.

Mrs Littler had been struck by a brown Honda Insight that then sped off. Luckily an astute witness to the accident took down the car’s registration letter and provided these details to the police, and the authorities caught up to the motorist, who was then dragged into Wigan Magistrates Court on charges of driving without due care.

The motorist was convicted, and on top of that Mrs Littler sued the driver’s insurer for damages. The lollipop lady’s personal injury solicitors prevailed, earning her an undisclosed sum that is understood to be at least four figures.

I really can’t imagine what kind of terrible person would not just hit a lollipop lady with their vehicle but then flee the scene as well. I’m very glad to hear that they were caught and punished, and that Mrs Littler received a compensation award for her pain and suffering!

Cyclist sues for injuries caused in accident with police car

Industry news roundup: week ended 17 Dec 2012:

This week it was revealed that a cyclist that suffered life-changing injuries after a road traffic accident with a police car will bring a compensation claim.

Donald MacLeod, a sixty two year old former journalist, had been cycling about through London when the vehicle in question, a police car on its way to respond to an emergency call elsewhere, struck him with enough force to send him quite literally flying through the air, according to eyewitness accounts. Mr MacLeod sustained massive injuries as a result from his impromptu flight across the road to the point where it was six long weeks before he emerged from his coma only to be left with such devastating injuries that he has difficulties speaking, moving, and caring for himself.

The poor man now needs 24 hour a day constant care around the clock in order to function on any level whatsoever, and due to the massive costs involved in providing Mr MacLeod’s care, he and his family have made a personal injury compensation claim for negligence against the Metropolitan Police Force. With the £30,000 raised by Mr MaLeod’s colleagues and friends merely a drop in the bucket compared to what he will need to pay for care in the long term, the injured man’s personal injury solicitors are asking for more than £1 million in compensation.

So far there has been no word on how the police will react to the lawsuit and whether they will seek to reach an out of court settlement or if they will defend the claim in court. However, eyewitness accounts do report that Mr MacLeod had not only been wearing a helmet at the time of the incident – a precautionary measure that may have very well preserved his life – but also a high visibility vest, meaning that the police may have little in the way of an excuse if they failed to see the cyclist on their way to respond to an emergency that day.

Medical negligence leads to £37.5k in compensation

Industry news roundup: week ended 5 Nov 2012:

This week, news broke that the NHS has been made to pay for the mistakes of medical staff, awarding £37,500 in compensation following a botched surgery.

Errors that occurred during the surgery of one artist from Leicestershire to treat breast cancer racked up a massive personal injury compensation bill for the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust after a surgeon severed several nerves located in the patient’s shoulder, nearly crippling her left arm completely. Margaret Gold, a seventy year old resident of Cosby, now has to cope with an inability use her hand, wrist, and arm thanks to medical ‘professionals’ that botched her surgery at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, changing her life drastically.

The published illustrator and artist, who also worked as an art therapist prior to her surgery, has lost all feeling in her fingers and can no longer raise her wrist following what should have been a routine surgery. Mrs Gold has not set brush to canvas even once after her nerves were accidentally severed.

The 70 year old woman launched a medical negligence claim against the NHS Trust for the hospital, resulting with a personal injury compensation award of £37,500, though it’s cold comfort for a woman who made her living for decades as an artist. One of Mrs Gold’s personal injury solicitors remarked that the care received by the injured woman was far below the standard of care that would have been expected, and that if there had not been a delay in remedial treatment the damage might have been repaired by subsequent surgeries, possibly restoring some measure of movement and feeling to Mrs Gold’s hand and arm.

An NHS Trust spokesman made a full, unreserved apology to the injured artist, stating that since the incident, the hospital has instituted changes in order to ensure such other unfortunate incidents would not occur in the future. However, no amount of compensation will make Mrs Gold whole, who now must live the rest of her life without being able to create art as she did before – doubtless she would trade every last penny of that compensation award to be restored to full health.