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!

Road traffic accidents and car crashes: nobody wins

Industry news roundup: week ended 14 July 2014:

You might think that people who make successful car accident claims come out on top, but the sad truth is everyone suffers when traffic accident figures are up.

Sure, you can get a big fat personal injury compensation award if you’re injured in a RTA, but you know that money has to come from somewhere, right? Well it’s not coming from the other driver directly – it comes from insurance companies, and their coffers don’t get filled without charging their customers for insurance cover. The more accident claims an insurer loses, the more money it spends – and the more it has to raise its rates on its customers to make up the shortfall.

Now that’s just the way things work – nobody really wins. However, everyone loses no matter what – and in times where traffic accidents – and traffic accident claims – increase, it’s pain for everyone. Sadly that’s what’s going on right now – in fact new research has said that the number of dangerous accidents occurring on 20mph roads in particular have gone up by 26 per cent over the past 12 months, if data from the Institute of Advanced Motorists can be trusted. The more accidents there are, the higher a chance for injuries to occur – and we’re all going to have to suffer. So for pity’s sake don’t drive like a pillock!

Of course, sometimes insurance companies are targeted directly by accidents – often in completely unexpected ways. In fact, this week saw an ambulance plowing through a pair of steel bollards and careering through a glazed shopfront before coming to rest in the office of an insurance company’s chief executive! Somehow everyone escaped harm, including the driver of the ambulance (who lost control in the wake of a collision) and every single insurance company employee that was there that day. Surely a stroke of dumb luck that there was no one hurt or killed. Still, I’m rather sure that the insurer’s costs to repair their shopfront are going to have a heavy impact on their bottom line – and that means their customers are going to feel the pain too. It’s a vicious cycle, and it drives me mad to think there’s no way out.

Seriously injured awarded compensation for car accidents

Industry news roundup: week ended 7 July 2014:

Road traffic accident claims can be some of the most expensive for insurers – as demonstrated by two massive compensation awards in the news this week.

When it comes to the types of injuries you can sustain in car accidents, it’s hard to find more serious and life-changing ones. In fact the only other place I can think that such massively debilitating injuries can occur would be in the construction or manufacturing industries, having seen some truly impressive work accident claims myself; not to denigrate or diminish the pain and suffering of someone caught in such an accident at work, but it does seem more tragic when it involves a moving vehicle for some reason. Perhaps because they’re much more high-profile, especially in cases where drivers or passengers are left wheelchair bound.

That’s exactly what happened to 21 year old Joe Heaton, who was the passenger in a vehicle when it smashed into a tree on the A30 near Bradford Abbas three years ago. The injured man, whose spine suffered enough damage to remove his ability to walk, was just rewarded what the courts are calling a ‘substantial’ personal injury compensation package. Part of the terms of the agreement mean the exact sum will not be publicised, but considering how he will be receiving index-linked payments for the rest of his life in addition to a weighty lump sum the total value is surely in the millions.

The poor man luckily suffered no cranial damage, meaning his ability to think and reason – as well as communicate effectively – is thankfully intact. However, other people injured in car wrecks are not so lucky; in fact, another man who was a passenger in a vehicle that flipped on its roof during a crash might be £2.3 million richer, but his cognitive ability is sadly lessened as a result of the injury. It’s tragic and unfair – even more so when the injuries occur to passengers and not drivers, as there’s no one to point the finger and say that they were partly responsible for the accident – and it’s even more telling when brain injury is involved. A sad day for these poor blokes; no amount of cash, however much, will restore their bodies and minds.

Injured woman snubbed whilst drug dealer gets compensation

Industry news roundup: week ended 30 June  2014:

Well here’s one you won’t believe: this week, it came to light that whilst an injured pensioner was denied compensation, a drug dealer was awarded damages.

In a world that has apparently gone completely barmy, pensioner Trixie Offord fell, tripping over a pothole, and suffered facial injuries and a broken wrist yet received not a single penny in personal injury compensation because Bucks County Council’s last inspection of the pothole decided it was ‘not dangerous.’  The injury occurred two weeks after that inspection, but the council won’t take into account that the pothole might have worsened over that period of time. Talk about a complete set of bastards, eh?

Meanwhile, a drug dealer has just been cleared to make a car accident claim after his road traffic accident left him with life-changing injuries. Bedworth, Warwickshire native Sean Delaney had to be cut from the wreck of the Mercedes 500SL that had been driven by a friend of his. That’s right, this fine upstanding citizen was found with something like 240 grams of cannabis stuffed in his jacket pocket, yet he was never criminally prosecuted. Most likely because he was in a coma for nearly a month after the incident only to wake up with bleeding no the brain, a punctured lung, and broken bones in his pelvis, arm and both legs.

Now normally I wouldn’t be so upset by the fact that this man is making an accident claim for hundreds of thousands, but he’s a bloody drug dealer. Does he really deserve the help? And especially when you’ve got a poor old pensioner not getting a bloody cent for tripping over a damned pothole and breaking her wrist? What’s wrong with the world? If there was any justice the fates of these two people would be reversed – Delaney would be laid up with horrid injuries with no hope of compensation, and Mrs Offord would have a nice big cheque to deposit.

When £1 million in personal injury compensation isn’t enough

Industry news roundup: week ended 23 June 2014:

Sometimes there are incidents leading to personal injury claims that are truly egregious. This week is one of those times, and it’s 100 per cent justified.

If there’s one thing that we can all agree upon, it’s that when someone preys upon innocent schoolchildren there’s absolutely no excuse. It’s even worse when the predator is supposed to be someone who abuses the trust of those children – and that’s exactly what former schoolteacher and convicted American paedophile William Vahey did at his tenure at Southbank International School, an elite school located in the capital.

Some 60 children are suspected to have been abused at the hands of Vahey, who conveniently took his own life after he was found out. The sick bastard had been working in Nicaragua at the time – at yet another school where heaven knows how many other schoolchildren were victimized – but this doesn’t mean that Southbank is off the hook for having a bloody child predator working for them!

The average personal injury compensation award for something like this can be anywhere from £30,000 to £50,000 per child, according to industry experts. Multiply that by 60 students and you’ve got more than a million pounds possibly flowing out of Southbank’s coffers, and rightly so – while it might not restore an abused child’s innocence it can offer some peace of mind to parents who now have to seek out extensive psychiatric counselling for their child – and for themselves!

Honestly it sickens me that this paedophile ended up slipping through the cracks and weaseling his way into a teaching position at one of the most prestigious and elite schools in London. If anything it’s a testament to how sick and depraved this bastard was in being able to conceal his monstrous nature from so many people, and for so long. At the same time, I’m a bit disappointed that he took his own life, as you can only imagine what would have been in store for him if he had been apprehended and sent to jail. Other offenders don’t take kindly to sharing prison space with those who victimise children, and for good reason!

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?

Compensation takes time, but when it arrives…

Industry news roundup: week ended 26 Apr 2014:

The wheels of justice grind slowly – but when they’re done, those seeking compensation for accident claims can be quite well off indeed.

There’s nothing more frustrating – or tragic, if you ask me – than being involved in a harrowing accident and then having to wait for months or even years before your personal injury claims are attended to. Nowhere is this more obvious than the wake of the now six month old Clutha helicopter crash, where there hasn’t been one personal injury compensation award handed out to any of the victims or their bereaved families.

Industry experts say that it could be more than a year in total before the most egregious personal injury claims are addressed. This means that those who have been left the worse off in the wake of the tragedy could be left twisting in the wind for much too long – that’s a lot of additional suffering if you ask me. I can only hope that things get a bit more speedy, especially for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or debilitating injuries from the crash. The idea of these poor people going untreated and uncompensated makes me sick to my stomach.

Meanwhile the personal injury compensation industry could take even longer than a single year to resolve itself. It’s typical in places with similar legal systems to the UK – for instance, the United States has laws that are quite analogous, and it can take a serious amount of time for some cases to resolve. For instance, one mother and daughter were finally awarded their compensation for a woman and her daughter that were gravely injured – and the total sum has been announced to be a whopping $15 million!

The injury in question was much more severe than it looks at first glance, especially since it involves a young mother of a four year old being violently thrown about as the bus they were riding on went over a speed bump rather energetically. The woman landed hard and sustained enough damage to one of her vertebrae that she needed surgical attention, and even in the wake of her surgeries she has been in excruciating pain whenever she did anything – like walking, talking, sitting, or breathing. It was found that the bus driver hit the speed bump traveling at too great a speed, which caused the injuries.

Brits meet their match when it comes to accident claim fraud

Industry news roundup: week ended 19 May 2014

Whilst Brits certainly can do their worst when it comes to accident claims fraud, they simply have nothing on the rest of the world – especially Americans!

In fact, certainly seems to me, based on the news reports I’ve seen this week, British fraudsters have simply given up trying very hard. You’ve probably heard of how one 26 year old from Omagh got creative in her local Asda, thinking she had the perfect set-up for a slip and trip personal injury claim by purposefully spilling some oil on the floor and then tripping herself only to be caught on CCTV cameras, haven’t you? Truly this is about as bush-league fraud as you can possibly get.

Meanwhile, just this week a truly amazing event occurred. A personal injury compensation claim was made in New York by a 62 year old man who claims he was bitten by a dog on a city bus, suffering enough trauma to sever his middle finger. While that’s not truly all that remarkable in and of itself, the amount of compensation he’s asking for most certainly is – he is looking for $2 decillion in damages.

Now that’s not a figure I just made up – it’s real. I even looked it up in the dictionary. It’s the number 2 followed by thirty-three noughts. Thirty-three, for pity’s sake! The bollocks on this bloke are bloody enormous!

I’m sorry – I’m absolutely floored by what New Yorkers would call this man’s chutzpah. This is the largest amount of compensation ever requested in the history of the human race. Oh and to make things even more bloody hysterical he’s eschewing the help of a personal injury lawyer and is simply representing himself.

I thought someone was taking the piss out of me when I read this story but it’s 100 per cent true. It just goes to show you that us Brits are seriously lagging behind when it comes to fearless fraud. We’ve obviously been letting the side down here across the pond and we’ll need to come back soon with some even more outrageous claims figures if we want to keep our crown as the so-called compensation capital of the world!

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!

Fraud on the rise, scammers clashing with the law

Industry news roundup: week ended 5 May 2014:

With instances of accident claims fraud on the rise, an increasing number of scammers are finding themselves in hot water with the authorities.

In fact, personal injury compensation fraudsters seem to have made a comeback in some areas, one notable one being text messaging spam. It used to be in days gone by – prior to legislation that banned such activity – you could find yourself spammed by many SMS text messages on your mobile phone every day, especially if you had the poor luck of having your personal details passed on to a claims management company; however with the downfall of CMCs unsolicited SMS texts declined until recently.

Not so any more apparently, as there was an 11 per cent hike in the number of of text message spam sent to British mobile customers in 2014’s first quarter according to a major security firm. The blame for the uptick has been laid squarely at the feet of scammer activity in the personal injury compensation market, though other sectors such as for debt relief, PPI compensation or even payday lending are also quite numerous.

Luckily with this sudden rise in the number of fraudsters and scammers sniffing about like so many hyenas, law enforcement has stepped up their own game in going after these bastards. Inf act one of these idiots was just caught trying to defraud their employer’s insurance company for almost £2 million on a trumped up work accident claim just got tossed in jail for six months.

This absolute pillock by the name of Danny Wykes got into some injury or another at work and then cried wolf, claiming that he was injured so badly that his right arm was now completely useless to the point where he couldn’t ever work again and would need to be placed in the care of others for the remainder of his own sorry life. Of course things changed after his former employer’s insurance company caught Wykes just going about his day unassisted, even showing how he was able to do things like push a wheelbarrow or lift a table without aid.

Now if you ask me this idiot got just what he deserved. I’m glad he got caught and I’m even more gratified that he’s got a 6 month jail sentence out of the whole thing. Let this be a lesson to anyone else thinking they could pull off a scam like this themselves!

Insurers up in arms over car accident claim figures

Industry news roundup: week ended 28 Apr 2014:

The British insurance industry has had it with the state of the car accident claims sector amidst complaints that crash for cash schemes are running rampant.

If there’s anything the insurance industry hates – especially the car insurance industry – it’s paying out on accident claims. The occasional road traffic accident happens of course, and it’s part of doing business, but some insurers are apparently convinced that there’s a major fraud problem when it comes to things like whiplash claims and other crash for cash scams.

Well, this week new data was released by major insurer Aviva saying that it has evidence that there was almost 20 per cent more fraud last year than there was the year before. Aviva blamed packs of roving gangs perpetrating the crime and also complained that there just wasn’t enough to deter criminals from engaging in the behaviour.

Now whether or not this is accurate is really anyone’s guess. I mean an insurer will do pretty much anything and everything to reduce the amount of money they pay out on an annual basis to policyholders, so people making road traffic accident claims are obviously going to be scrutinised. A large problem is indeed that there’s no real deterrents in place, but this may be changing soon as well thanks to another news story I read this week concerning how one insurer is actually offering 10 per cent off the cost of annual cover if they fit a dashboard camera to their car to capture the details of any accidents they happen to be involved in.

Part of me thinks this is a good idea in that a motorist can prove though dashboard camera footage that they really weren’t responsible for an accident that they were involved in. At the same time, do we really need more cameras watching our every move? The number of CCTV cameras in the UK alone is massive and I would really like to have a bit of privacy once and while. That 10 per cent discount seems paltry in comparison, especially if it’s the price of giving up our freedom. Besides what’s to stop insurers from keeping an eye on us at all times and not just during accidents? I don’t need them raising my insurance premium because they catch me occasionally exceeding the speed limit or braking too hard. Nosy bastards!

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 local councils in hot water due to accident claims

Industry news roundup: week ended 14 April 2014:

Last week was all about injuries sustained by schoolchildren; this week it’s a broader look at how local councils find themselves in accident claim trouble.

Let’s start with Cornwall Council. Did you know that over the past four years it’s paid in excess of £780,000 on personal injury claims? Whether it’s slips and trips caused by potholes or injuries caused by uneven or icy pavements, the local authority has been haemorrhaging cash by the shedload. Nearly £207,00 alone was paid out on personal injury claims in 2013, and there seem to be no signs of slowing down – though of course Cornwall Council has tried to downplay it by remarking that the compensation awards are supposedly unde control.Two Devon councils have paid out about £2.5m over four years to compensate people for personal injury after incidents such as tripping on pavements.

Meanwhile, the past four years have been just as rough – if not worse – for other local councils, especially across the South. In fact between what Torbay Council and Plymouth City Council have paid out the total legal bill has been holding strong at around £2.5 million, with both unitary councils paying out a maximum of around £105,000 on any single injury claim.

Now most people will cry and point and say that this is exactly what they’re talking about when they say there’s a growing compensation culture in the UK. To that of course I say bollocks – these local authorities are as careful as they can be when it comes to minimising their exposure to spurious injury claims. The true problem is that there’s just so much territory to care for and simply not enough in funds or staff to ensure that every pothole gets filled and every rough patch of pavement gets mended. As high as these payouts seem, they could have been much higher.

At the same time there could be a bit of truth to the whole compensation culture myth. For what it’s worth, individuals do tend to make claims more in times of economic uncertainty than not. Even today, several years past the initial credit crisis and resultant economic downturn, the effects are still being felt keenly enough to create a distinct ripple of fear and resentment.

Local councils hit hard after school accident claims

Industry news roundup: week ended 7 April 2014:

It never rains but it pours when it comes to accident claims, especially those that local councils have been enduring lately due to injuries in schools.

In fact, over the past five years alone Doncaster Council has had to pay £33,000 in personal injury compensation to pupils suffering a myriad of injuries. There were a number of successful claims for all types of injuries, such as a slip-and-trip that resulted in a £1,250 payout – prompting industry experts to warn that there needs to be better training programmes when it comes to school staff.

Of course, things are even worse just an hour north on the A1, where another report found that North Yorkshire County Council has has ended up some £68,000 poorer, again for injuries to pupils. 10 per cent of the injuries were caused by defective equipment of all things; nearly 18 per cent of the payout was directly due to PE lesson injuries, with the remainder due to slips and trips, according to a recently filed Freedom of Information request.

Now certainly many of you are thinking one of two things: either there’s obvious proof of compensation culture run amok, or that there’s obviously much more supervision and training needed in local schools. Honestly if you ask me I’m highly reticent to admit any sort of compensation culture rearing its ugly head. In fact I’ve always thought that’s more of a myth perpetrated by insurance companies more than anything else as a ploy to lobby for more strenuous legal reforms in order to limit exposure to liability on the part of the insurance industry. No, what I truly think is going on here is that there’s just not enough quality training and oversight for these school staff members and as a result pupils are getting hurt left and right.

Let’s be honest here: I’m not blaming school staff members in the slightest. The faculty and staff of a school can only do so much on their own without support from the local authority, and it’s when local councils leave these staffers high and dry by not providing proper equipment and training that we see injuries – and personal injury claims – go through the roof. So in a way these councils are reaping what they have sown. Of course it’s all taxpayer money in the end so no one really wins, do they?

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.

Old rules and rulings revisited

 Industry news roundup: week ended 24 March 2014:

It seems like we just can’t get away from the experience of most returning to older, already decided personal injury compensation cases or even just holding on to the current laws.

The news stories were thick this week when it came down to new changes to old ways. In fact one of the more welocme ones has to do with 53 year old Joanne Dunhill and her very long uphill struggle after she sustained life-changing injuries. In fact, the original personal injury compensation award Ms Dunhill received – around £12,000 in compensation – could no longer be accurate, as a Supreme Court judge took a look at the original setlement agreement and agreed that there might be cause for a re-examination of the amount of money Mr Dunhill has coming to her.

Of course the idea that Ms Dunhill might gian access to a better compensation reward is nothing if not out of step with the average civil court. In fact, the Law Society recently said this week that the majority of courts in the UK have been choosing to care less about access to justice and have instead focused on administrative costs.

The irony here is of course these judicial changes were originally brought to life to reform the personal injury law profession in a way that supported claimants. However, now these so-called “‘Jackson reforms” as they are being interpreted seem to focus better on keeping cash within the current judicial support structure as it stands now.

Not only that, but the Civil Justice Council has had it up to here with the ‘effects’ of the Jackson reforms. The CJC says that not only have clients grown confused they’ve seen their legal bills increase, the amount of time spent complying with these new reforms takes, and the sheer inconsistency that these reforms were applied add up to one thing and one thing only in my opinion: failure. A well-intentioned failure to be sure, but it’s still not something I would characterise as a resounding success by any means!

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.


Major victories for the seriously injured keeps hope alive

Industry news roundup: week ended 10 March 2014:

When it comes to being embroiled in a long personal injury compensation claim, it’s always gratifying to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

In fact, the biggest news stories this week when talking about victims making serious progress on their personal injury claims turns out to be not one but two instances of justice wriggling its way free from the black morass of your typical accident claim. First up is good news for a 49 year old welder who ended up with crippling facial injuries after a metal jack collapsed under him whilst at work – the poor bloke has finally gotten his £500,000 compensation claim.

Before you say anything, yes he truly did deserve such a large award. The damage done to his face was severe enough to sever nerves in his cheek and leave him in so much pain that doctors have been trying in vain to disrupt his brain’s nerve receptors through surgery just to give him some respite. On top of that, his eye socket was fractured so badly he needed five surgical procedures to rebuild it – and yet he still needs to wear a plastic mask upon leaving home to keep his face protected from the elements.

So it’s good news for this poor former welder, especially considering that he’s going to be in pain for most likely the rest of his life. Speaking of pain and suffering, another milestone was reached by a family trying to secure compensation for a road traffic accident that left a father dead and a mother with severe, life-altering brain injuries.

Martin and June Vann had been on holiday in Portugal when a speeding driver struck them at speeds of around 60mph, instantly killing the man and leaving his wife with such catastrophic brain injuries that she’ll never be the same ever again. In the interim the couple’s two children, Alex and Julia, have been fighting tooth and nail to get some compensation for the past three years – simply because the driver of the other vehicle had been denying any liability.

This is of course patently ridiculous, and anyone in their right mind would immediately conclude that someone motoring about at 60mph in an area where there were pedestrians. Nevertheless it was a long three year fight, but finally a High Court judge made the decision that there was no way the driver could avoid liability. This finally paves the way for a legitimate claim to be pursued by the distraught siblings. Honestly my heart goes out to them – I wish them all the luck in the world.

But earlier this week a High Court judge ruled he was liable.

Julia and Alex are now hoping to settle for compensation out of court. At the moment their mother’s care is funded by the local council, but they say she will need help for the rest of her life.

Criminal proceedings against the driver, who’s since returned to Brazil, are ongoing.

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