MoD awards £709,000 personal injury compensation award

Industry news roundup: week ended 6 April 2015:

Here’s one that’s going to make you question your sanity: the Ministry of Defence just paid out £709,000 in personal injury compensation for a case of bullying.

Now calm down, it’s not ‘just’ bullying in this case. True, this award amount dwarfs some payments made to Armed Forces members that were injured so badly in the line of duty that they came back from Afghanistan or Iraq missing limbs, but the circumstances surrounding the case are tragic.

It turns out that Cpl Anne Marie Ellement, aged 30, took her own life in Wiltshire at Bulford Barracks in 2011 following prolonged and systemic psychological abuse. The deceased corporal suffered from work-related despair and the lingering effects of a rape she had allegedly been subject to, all of which played a role in her suicide, according to a recent inquest. Kind of hard to get all cross with the MoD after that comes to light, doesn’t it?

Still, being injured in the line of duty and seeking compensation isn’t like making a typical work accident claim. The ministry has very strict and perhaps overly-complicated guidelines set down by Parliament. Meanwhile, there have been more and more of these bullying cases as related to the Armed Forces, and the Government announced late last year that there’s going to be an investigation into the matter in order to suss out how allegations of abuse are handled by the MoD.

The impetus for the new watchdog group? Cpl Ellement’s death. I’m hoping that at least the fact that this new watchdog was inspired by this poor woman that found herself driven to suicide could mean that other Armed Forces personnel might be spared the same incredible emotional pain and suffering.

The worst part is that much of this bullying behaviour comes not from the enemy but our own troops. It’s reprehensible, and makes me absolutely ashamed of being British. I absolutely pray that things get better, and that Cpl Ellement’s untimely death turns out to not have happened in vain.

As for the bastards that drove her into this nightmare, don’t even get me started. I’m sure they’ll eventually get deployed somewhere even hotter and more uncomfortable than the desert when they meet their maker and have to answer to their crimes.

Think 15 injury claims are bad? Try 160 of them!

Industry news roundup: week ended 10 Nov 2014:

There are personal injury claims nightmares like having to deal with 15 claims, and then there are even worse nightmares – like 160 claims or more.

Big-ticket accident claims often revolve around multiple claimants; that’s just a fact of the personal injury compensation system in the UK. Sure, there are plenty of one-off claims that deal with just one grievously work accident claim that can amount to millions in damages, but it’s more common for ten or so claimants to band together.

This is exactly what Essex County Council is facing right now, thanks to a 15-claimant strong accident claim due to slip-and-trip incidents in Brentwood High Street. So far, three of the claims have been successful, with the county council paying out more than £3,000 in compensation. That’s on top of the £7 million the county shelled out in 2009 to refurbish the street, mind you – and that particular scheme was rather controversial at the time from what I’ve been told!

Of course, 15 claimants is nothing compared to massive litigation problems like the one Jimmy Savile left in the wake of his death at 84. The charitable trust that’s the major beneficiary of his estate says that it’s been dealing with more than 160 claims against Savile posthumously for alleged sex offences and even child abuse.

It’s an ignoble legacy for Savile to be sure, but the allegations were serious enough for a High Court judge to set up a personal injury compensation scheme for his alleged victims. I guess Jim’ll fix it even after he’s well and gone with the judicial application of wads of cash – that is, if there’s any left after these so-called victims keep coming out of the woodwork!

No, I’m not saying I don’t believe them. I mean, say what you want about Savile, he had a bit of a reputation when he was alive, and while the child abuse accusations are a bit hard to swallow I can imagine old Jim’s hands roving a bit too far afield. That being said i wouldn’t put it past some people from trying to cash in on what they might see on an easy way to make a few quid off the soiled reputation of the man.

For what it’s worth, I hope that the legitimate claimants get something out of this and that any possible fraudsters get nicked. Enough is enough already, eh?

Injury claims: worth an arm and a leg or fall on deaf ears

Industry news roundup: week ended 21 July 2014:

The scope of personal injury claims in the UK is so large that while some people end up literally paying and arm and a leg. others injuries fall on deaf ears.

I’m not being facetious either when I say a personal injury compensation campaign can cost you an arm and a leg. I’m being literal – a German aircraft worker recently won around £600,00 (750,000 euro) in damages after he lost an arm and a leg in an accident at a British airport. It’s been four long years since this poor bloke has had to go without a compensation award, but now the wait is over – and he can finally rest assured that he has the cash he needs to help him manage with two lost limbs. I can only imagine how terrible a time the man’s had over the last four years, especially since his compensation award has been tied up for so long!

Meanwhile not all work accident claims are created equal. It turns out that a new research study released this week found that personal injury claims for industrial deafness have gone up to around 80,000 in 2013 – a jump of more than two thirds. Despite this huge increase – or maybe even because of it – insurers are flat-out refusing deafness claims in droves. In fact, major British insurer Aviva rejects more than 8 out of every 10 claims, claiming that the lion’s share are simply instances of fraud.

Deafness claims are actually rather lucrative from a compensation point of view, with industry analysts claiming that insurers could end up paying anywhere from £300 million to £500 million on an annual basis, and that’s if only 30 per cent of claims were actually permitted to be brought. That might be a drop in the bucket when compared to car accident claims, but it’s a serious chunk of change – and insurers if nothing else hate parting with money when they don’t have to. At the same time, anyone who has experienced hearing loss due to working in a loud environment where they were not provided proper ear protection deserves to be compensated. Do you have any idea how costly a pair of hearing aids can be? You can’t just pick one up at your local Tesco, you know!

Fraudsters versus the injured in compensation culture row

Industry news roundup: week ended 15 May 2013:

The whole row over the so-called ‘compensation culture’ is hotting up once again, and this time the injured are facing off against fraudsters in a major way.

The National Accident Helpline has gone to bat for those suffering from accidents and needing to make personal injury claims, announcing in a new research report that the impact of injuries on the working population of the UK includes nearly 60 per cent of injured suffering at least some loss of earnings. 17 per cent of those injured have been hit particularly hard according to the study, as they have lost out on more than £1,000 as they recovered from their injuries.

Personal injury compensation has proven to be incredibly important for injured Brits, says the National Accident Helpline, with more than 4 out of every 5 having to turn to seeking damages to offset costs or in order to recover lost earnings. This is hardly the mark of a populace caught up with making spurious claims in order to rake in some extra cash if you ask me, and I for one would like those who have suffered legitimate injuries treated with a bit more respect instead of being vilified by insurance companies that are reticent to pay out on work accident claims.

Meanwhile for every report that showcases how badly compensation is needed by the legitimately injured, there seems to be another high-profile news story that draws attention to the greed of fraudsters and that gives more fuel to the fire when it comes to those arguing that there actually is a rampant compensation culture in the UK. The newest bone of contention is the £54,000 personal injury claim that was just thrown out thanks to new technological breakthroughs designed to prevent fraud.

Luckily, one of the vehicles involved in the accident was fitted with a telematics device that recorded the speed at which the accident occurred, allowing investigators to determine that there was no actual way for such severe injuries to have happened.  I’m dead chuffed to hear that these fraudsters got caught red-handed trying to trump up charges that they were so terribly injured in the accident, but this doesn’t help the case of providing better access to justice for those injured legitimately. Insurers are more than happy to throw the baby out with the bathwater if it means saving a few quid, the bastards!

Fatal workplace injury figures improve, injuries continue

Industry news roundup: week ended 28 Oct 2013:

The Health and Safety Executive might have said that the number of fatal instances of personal injury at work may be on the decline, but injuries still happen.

So here’s the good news: there were 18 per cent fewer fatalities in the UK during the 2011-2012 year when held up against the national five-year average. When you get down to brass tacks, the figure stood at 148 Brits that tragically lost their lives at work, still high but a far cry from the average of 181. That’s 33 fewer lives that were cut short last year, and I’m very gratified to learn about that particular statistic this week!

While it seems on the face of it that work conditions for Brits are getting relatively safer, there are still plenty of injuries that occur at work that don’t result in fatalities. In fact, one particularly noteworthy work accident claim was made recently after a trainee prison guard at Featherstone jail was left with long-lasting injuries after a ‘control and restraint’ technique went awry.

The 35 year old man – whose name has not been made known to the public – sustained enough damage to his right wrist that surgical correction was deemed necessary by his doctors. Even with the surgical procedure, the poor man still has marked difficulties in undertaking everyday tasks.

Is it just me or does it seem like every time we take two steps forward when it comes to making the British workplace safer, we take one step backwards? I mean don’t get me wrong – I’m absolutely thrilled to discover that the fatality rate has dropped by such a significant margin – but what in the world is going on in these training exercises that a trainee ends up injured so severely that he has permanent nerve damage to his wrist? Is this the kinds of standard operating procedure that correctional facilities in the UK have adopted?

I’m not going to sit here and say that we should be treating those convicted of offences with gentleness, but if a prison trainee was injured this badly – ostensibly in a situation where his instructors were simply trying to demonstrate a technique for restraining unruly inmates without causing permanent harm – can you imagine what kind of things are going on behind closed doors? Honestly it makes me a bit sick to think about.

Working with your hands is dangerous nowadays

Industry news roundup: week ended 30 Sept 2013:

No one ever said that it would be busy earning a living with your hands, but it’s downright dangerous to your health as well!

Personal injury at work is a major issue when it comes to nearly every form of employment, but manual labourers and craftsmen bear the brunt of the danger. It’s all too common to hear about hellish injuries suffered by employees that prompt them to make work accident claims – like the injury that Patrick Meek suffered, sending him on a nightmarish odyssey that only recently was resolved.

The 60 year old Cinderford native, employed as a joiner, lost his finger in a work accident when the nail he fired from the nail gun he was using to create pallets several years ago ricocheted upon hitting a wood knot, impaling his index finger and sending him to hospital. Mr Meek ended up suffering complications three months afterwards, and while doctors worked feverishly to remedy the issue, he ultimately lost the finger – ending his career as a joiner.

Mr Meeks sought legal advice and enlisted the aid of a talented team of personal injury solicitors who brought him some closure. While his employer initially refused to accept liability for the incident, after a court battle the company has since changed its tune, awarding the injured man some well-deserved personal injury compensation.

As terrible as Mr Meeks’ story is, it could have been much worse – luckily he wasn’t mortally wounded. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for farm workers in Northern Ireland, as the Health and Safety Executive revealed that farm accidents in NI are hands-down the most dangerously fatal.

There were some 19 fatalities due to industrial accidents in 2012, the HSE reported recently. Out of those 19, 11 of them were farming accidents. The trend seems to be growing as well, considering how the year before, where there were 18 workplace fatalities – nine of which came from the farming industry.

For what it’s worth, farm owners in Northern Ireland obviously have to institute better working conditions in their facilities. 20 people have lost their lives in two years – that’s absolutely horrid! What’s wrong with these people that they can’t make farming a safer line of work for their employees? If nothing else, think of the potential savings when it comes to legal fees – defending a personal injury claim brought against you isn’t exactly a cheap proposition, you know!

Work accidents could spell financial disaster for two firms

Industry news roundup: week ended 17 June 2013:

Everyone knows that personal injury at work can lead to serious repercussions, and not just Health and Safety fines – work accident claims can be killer!

In fact, not one but two firms have been in the news lately for some severe workplace accidents, the first being an incident serious enough to lead to the unfortunate death of one worker. West Yorkshire native David Vickers, a 37 year old construction worker employed by Adis Scaffolding, sadly lost his life when he was crushed under an overturned truck, leading to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

According to HSE investigators, the truck overturned because the skip it had been lifting had not been secured properly to it, unbalancing the large vehicle and causing it to upend. Mr Vickers’ employer was found to be in violation of several Health and Safety rules and has been fined an absolute fortune of some £420,000 in combined fines and court costs, but there could very well be even more costs on the horizon for the construction firm in the event that Mr Vickers’ surviving family members decide to sue the bloody trousers off the firm – and if you ask me, it’s more than even money that they will try to squeeze every penny they can from Adis Scaffolding!

Luckily the next incident in the news wasn’t fatal, though this doesn’t minimise the amount of suffering the poor man went through when an accident left him with a damaged eye and broken cheekbone when an air hose whipped his face. The injured man – whose identity has been kept a secret due to legal and privacy reasons – was busily cleaning a paint fume filter for the European branch of multinational firm Faltec when he disengaged the air hose of his sprayer without venting it first, which caused the terribly painful incident.

The HSE investigated this incident as well, discovering that Faltec didn’t give enough instruction to the worker regarding how to operate the sprayer, especially when it came to warnings about disconnecting a pressurised air hose. The employee never received the proper training or information, HSE inspectors determined, and as a result the poor man suffered life-changing injuries; the incident left him with permanent damage to one eye, resulting in visual impairment!

If there’s anything that will be an expensive personal injury compensation claim, it’s going to be that one once the injured worker gets time to find a decent injury lawyer. I don’t envy Faltec Europe at all – they’re going to be taken to the cleaners!

Police under fire for falling prey to compensation culture

Industry news roundup: week ended 20 May 2013:

It’s a bad week to be a copper, as police have been under fire for engaging in what some critics have called spurious personal injury compensation claims.

Now I know I may be going out on a bit of a limb here, but I’m sure that most of you will agree here that police officers have an inherently dangerous job that requires putting themselves in harm’s way in order to uphold the public trust. No one would bat an eye if police personnel injured while apprehending a criminal was given compensation for his or her injuries – but when it comes to injuries that seem rather insignificant, you can’t avoid a news story about a constable ending up thousands of pounds richer for what could otherwise be a completely trumped-up charge.

There’s plenty of examples of this lately; one of the most egregious is how an officer from the South Yorkshire Police somehow fell and broke his own leg right outside his police station during the winter. Apparently this clumsiness was worth £8,000 in personal injury compensation, and while I can certainly see how the police personnel in charge of gritting that particular stretch of pavement outside their doors failed miserably in their job, awarding £8,000 seems a bit pricey for just a broken leg.

Now, slipping on ice is one thing, but this next story is a whole other animal. One Hampshire Police officer also received almost £5,000 after she cut her thumb on a window. PC Kerry Ann Taylor had been at least hard at work at the time, as she had been cleaning up cannabis plants and equipment related to their cultivation at a house located in Southsea when she decided to throw open a window to get some fresh air; unfortunately as she fiddled with a sealed window in an attempt to open it, she sent her right hand right through it.

The thin latex gloves PC Taylor had been wearing in order to handle the cannabis plants did absolutely nothing to protect her fingers from sharp, broken glass, and she suffered a nasty cut. Apparently this cut was bad enough to warrant a £5,000 compensation payout – mostly because a Winchester County Court judge felt that the police should have issued her thicker gloves that would have protected her from harm in the off chance that she ran into something sharp – like a closed and sealed window, perhaps?

Lift with your legs,not with your back – or suffer for it

Industry news roundup: week ended 15 Apr 2013:

It’s an old adage, but it’s especially apt considering the news stories this week: if you’re lifting and carrying anything, be careful to avoid any injuries.

And it’s not just a sore back that we’re talking about, or injuries caused because you get your toes run over by a hand trolley – in one instance, one poor factory worker actually had to have a portion of his leg amputated after a forklift truck ran him over! The poor 59 year old man, an employee of London-based Nuplex Resins, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, though the Health and Safety Executive said that if Nuplex had simply put some safeguards in place – like keeping pedestrian traffic segregated from motorised traffic like forklift trucks – this whole horrorshow could have been completely avoided, and would have saved Nuplex Resins around £20,000 in fines and heavens knows how much in personal injury compensation.

Meanwhile, the HSE just finished prosecuting another firm in the wake of a whole raft of personal injury claims made by several staff in the wake of poor lifting practices. The unlucky firm this time – Kent-based Rollmark Engineering – was dragged into Westminster Magistrates’ Court after it became known that the injuries suffered by staff – one 25 year old in particular – were so severe in the wake of a work accident that the employee missed some five months of work.

The poor man had been part of a crew transporting a vessel weighing some 1.3 tonnes at an under-construction hotel in Stratford, but due to there not being any risk assessment on the part of his employer the man fell from an upper ledge during the lifting of the vessel. The man fell, causing catastrophic injuries including but not limited to 17 separate rib fractures and suffering punctures to both of his lungs, all because his employer couldn’t be bothered to use the proper lifting equipment.

Well I hope they’re happy – now they’re out a combined £26,000 between fines and court costs. On top of that I’m sure they’re going to be slammed by a work accident claim, which could cost hundreds of thousands in addition to their HSE fines – and to be honest the firm gets what they deserve for not looking into the proper risk assessments and not using the right types of lifting equipment when they should have!

There’s no excuse for stupidity, and it’s even worse when someone’s lack of foresight ends up causing serious injury to another person. It’s even that much worse when it’s an employee!

Falls from height can ruin the day of any business

Industry news roundup: week ended 11 Mar 2013:

For some reason it seems like the news has just been positively thick with stories about objects and even people falling from height and causing trouble lately.

For what it’s worth, falls from height are some of the most dangerous and damaging types of work accidents out there, and the personal injury claims that emerge from them can be crippling – to say  nothing of the types of fees that a firm can be slapped with by the Health & Safety Executive. In fact it doesn’t even have to be your own employee that falls in order to cause damage as a Portsmouth-based construction company learned recently after a bit of falling masonry landed square on a passer-by, injuring him quite badly.

The injured man, unidentified except for his age of twenty nine years, had simply been walking along the High Street in Camberley when the debris fell off the building after it came dislodged during refurbishment. He was struck on the shoulder and caused bruises and cuts and led to muscle spasms after the fact, and once the HSE caught wind of the incident they more or less had a field day, dragging Majestic Construction Ltd for causing the incident.

Majestic Construction was found to have neglected to re-position barriers on the ground to keep up with work occurring up near the roof of the building, which exposed pedestrians to the risk of falling debris. The firm ended up shouldering the economic burden of an £8,000 fine, not to mention the surety of a nice, big personal injury compensation claim – I know if I was the one who got struck in the shoulder by a bit of falling building, I would absolutely sue the pants off that construction firm!

Of course, it’s not all just injured bystanders sometimes. It’s unfortunate but sometimes a firm’s employee will come plummeting down through a collapsed roof or rickety scaffold, and when that happens it’s usually much more serious: in this case, the story of an engineer who fell from a food company’s cooling unit cracked his skull open in a spectacular fall is what I’m talking about.

The forty nine year old man, whose name has also been withheld from the public, had been working to investigate a data logger that had developed a fault at the Watton-based Cranswick Country Foods Ltd. The engineer had used a free standing ladder to gain access to the cooling unit, but he came tumbling down nearly three metres to the very hard ground below him after the ladder slipped as he was reaching to retrieve one of his tools, leading to a four day stay in hospital to help repair his skull fracture.

Worse yet was that the poor man is left with a permanent ringing in his right ear due to the fact that he damaged one of the tiny bones in his right ear. All told the man missed around a month of work and has yet to return to full working hours.