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!

The rise and fall – and rise – of claims management companies

This week, the news is full of stories about how claims management companies have been still causing trouble, even after almost being stamped out by new laws.

The good news is that claims management companies are nowhere near the personal injury claims juggernaut they were years ago. In fact, when you look at the number of CMCs out there, there are 45 per cent fewer of these companies out there than there were in December of 2011, when the Ministry of Justice threw the book at them. There’s only 1400 of these firms in operation as of last month, and they’re not nearly as aggressive and obnoxious when it comes to pursuing unsolicited business by bothering people who might be interested in bringing accident claims after an injury.

CMCs were absolutely notorious for bringing as many claims as they possibly could in order to profit off of legal fees. Companies would more or less throw everything they could at the wall in order to see what stuck, then move on to the next batch of people who might have valid claims by buying customer information from organisations like insurance companies, who would supply these CMCs with the names and phone numbers of people who had been involved in road traffic accidents.

In other words, the majority of this type of activity is a thing of the past thanks to new regulations that curbed that sort of devilish behaviour. However, there are still plenty of CMCs out there causing mischief, and one insurer recently had to warn countless customers that claims management companies may come knocking once more.

Car insurance firm Aviva recently had to swallow its pride and notify tens of thousands of drivers that two former employees took countless accident records and sold them on to claims management companies for their own personal gain. Many of these customers have already inundated with unsolicited phone calls as a result, prompting Aviva to issue abject apologies and to alert the authorities to combat the fraud. It’s infuriating to say the least, but also ironic if you ask me; a company that used to sell that sort of information to CMCs directly is now upset that its employees were doing it behind its back! I suppose it’s a bit of poetic justice.

ABI launches new code whilst Biba follows in its footsteps

Industry news roundup: week ended 17 Feb 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

Older gents on both sides of the accident claims aisle

Industry news roundup: week ended 10 Feb 2014:

Older gents seem to be in the news lately when it comes to persona injury claims, and not on just one side but both!

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. For instance, a man from Cofton Hackett has been slapped with a personal injury compensation bill after he picked a fight with a cyclist after an instance of road rage. If there’s any story that will teach you to keep your cool, it’s Bruce Wilson’s: he nearly hit a cyclist as he was getting into the passenger side, and both gentlemen decided to have a bit of a verbal battle.

Unfortunately it didn’t end there. The cyclist decided to have a bit of a temper tantrum, and Mr Wilson, well into his 60s, decided to get back out and give the cyclist a good punch. Then, to punctuate his point, the man picked up the custom racing bike – valued at some £5,000 – and tossed it, causing some serious damage.

In the end, the damage totaled £2,600, and despite that the cyclist might have contributed to the tussle with his own behaviour, the older Mr Wilson accepted full responsibility. Well at least he seems to be a bit more calm now, though I’ll wager he’s kicking himself for letting his emotions get the best of him like that.

Of course, not every personal injury compensation in the news is as amusing, or as minor. In fact, this week a former Ford employee has prevailed on his £33,000 accident claim after the one-time toolmaker ended up with a case of what’s called ‘occupational asthma.’ In other words, the 60 year old man toiled away at the Dagenham-based plant for heaven knows how many years, breathing in all those steel and cast iron particulates and ruining his lungs.

There was never an adequate filtration system set in place in the plant, according to the man’s personal injury solicitors, and nor did his employers provide him any sort of protection such as a simple breath mask or dust filter. Poor bastard. Can you imagine, putting in decades of work at a company like that only to not be cared for? Well, now at least he’s £33,000 richer – maybe now he can breathe a bit easier!

Ambulance chasers a problem? Not as much as the Government

Industry news roundup: week ended 3 Feb 2014:

Everyone likes to say that ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers are a real problem nowadays – but let’s be honest, the Government isn’t exactly innocent.

Not that people haven’t been working overtime to blame personal injury solicitors. In fact, new research was revealed this week that medical negligence cases in particular are notorious for attracting disreputable legal professionals that try to milk the NHS for as much cash as they possibly can. Some estimates say that legal bills of almost £200 million every year are generated by these specific types of personal injury claims.

Now I’m not going to say that there aren’t some right bastards out there – unfortunately there are, and they often do try to generate as much income for themselves as they can regardless of the merits of the case they’re trying. At the same time, these disreputable lawyers are an absolute minority and shouldn’t be used to hoist the entire legal industry on its own petard – we simply can’t allow a few bad apples to ruin the whole bunch, now can we?

Speaking of bad apples, the Government has decided to no longer hold mesothelioma personal injury claims exempt from the Legal Aid act, despite the fact that mesothelioma has some very important distinctions that hold mesothelioma claims apart from your run of the mill slip and trips. Despite the fact that it takes decades for the condition to develop – and that it’s exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos – the cries of Opposition MPs that wanted to preserve the exemptions fell on deaf ears.

Now if you ask me there’s very little about a mesothelioma claim that can be politicised, so I really don’t understand the Government’s stance on this issue. I suspect it comes out of large firms pressurising the Government to make things easier on them, considering how big business has the Government in its pocket more or less exclusively. Stripping mesothelioma claims of their non-exempt status means fewer claims being brought in general and smaller compensation awards as well, which benefits no one but the companies that have to pay out on these claims. In other words, the mesothelioma victim gets to suffer without recompense whilst large companies and insurance firms get off without even a slap on the wrist. How is this fair?

Neglect leads to injuries – and that leads to massive claims

Industry news roundup: week ended 27 Jan 2014:

Local authorities should know by now is that neglecting their maintenance duties does nothing but leads people to bring personal injury claims against them.

Yes, most people are good at the whole notion of cause-and-effect but local councils never seem to get it very well. I mean, look at one of the newest examples of this: Pembrokeshire County Council has had to shell out in excess of £15,000 over the last two years for damage caused by potholes alone. If you are keeping score at home, that’s bloody outrageous – especially since two-thirds of that figure comes from just one bit of Pembrokeshire roadway – and the damage all happened over the course of a single week!

Now, truth be told the county council has to look after almost 2,500km of roadways. Granted that’s quite a bit, but one single stretch of road caused £10,000 in damages! Are you telling me it would have cost the council more to get the bloody road fixed?

Still, it could be worse. You could work for Redbridge Council and have to explain while there was almost £100,000 in personal injury compensation paid out to contractors, visitors, parents, staff, and children injured on school grounds over the past five years. The London borough paid out twice as much as its neighbour Waltham Forest, and had three times the number of accident claims.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – it’s not terrible, that’s only around £20,000 or so every year. Well sure that’s more or less reasonable for a highly populated London borough I suppose, but let’s not lose sight of the fact here that there are several more outstanding claims that haven’t been resolved yet. The actual damage done to taxpayers could be several thousands more – easily over the £100,000 mark – and many of the injuries can be traced back to faulty and poorly-maintained school equipment.

It’s just another lesson to local authorities: keep things in good nick or face the consequences. I know that there are austerity budgets just eating into everyone right now, but it’s even more expensive to have to pay out on all these massive injury claims, don’t you think? Worst kind of false economy if you ask me.

Accident victims further preyed upon by authority figures

Industry news roundup: week ended 20 Jan 2014:

It’s never good when you end up in a road traffic accident, especially if you then have to make an accident claim, but it’s worse when victimised even further!

However, that’s just what’s been happening lately. The worst part is that these individuals are getting preyed upon by those that they should be able to trust – in other words, police officers and doctors if you can believe it.

First up comes news this week of a high-profile case involving PC Sugra Hanif plundering personal details official accident data in order to glean names and phone numbers in a search for people who might want to make personal injury claims. However goes worse than that, as allegations exist that the phone calls were extremely aggressive. At £700 a successful referral, I suppose I would be a pushy bastard too – though I certainly wouldn’t plunder official police records in order to do so!

It’s a pretty rotten thing this woman was doing, if you ask me. Those official records aren’t supposed to be used as a money-making opportunity, and the fact that this woman violated the privacy of these victims just to make a few quid absolutely makes my blood boil. It’s a nasty violation indeed – but still, it’s not nearly as bad as what one doctor did recently.

Imagine you end up in an accident that’s left you with whiplash, so you go to your doctor for an examination. Sounds like a normal doctor visit – unless you have Shahid Ayyoub as a GP, as the 57 year old man was recently convicted of removing a female patient’s bra and having a bit of a time with his hands instead of simply examining her neck.

Of course this kind of behaviour didn’t go unpunished, as the judge more or less threw the book at the man, and rightly so if you ask me! Turns out he comes from a very prominent family with several other doctors in its ranks, not to mention two of his own children are going to school for medicine as well. I swear, this man’s runaway sexual proclivities have ruined not only his life but likely the lives of the rest of his family members as well! Stupid git.

And you thought that your childhood was dangerous!

Industry news roundup: week ended 13 Jan 2014:

Few of us emerged from our own childhoods unscathed, earning a few sticking plasters over skinned knees, but children today seem much more accident prone!

Do you think children are more fragile than they were a generation ago? Perhaps your answer really isn’t important, as new figures released this week declared that the last five years has seen £3.3 million paid out in personal injury compensation for Manchester, Birmingham and London-based schoolchildren.

As shocking as these figures are, there’s an even more frightening truth hidden behind the scenes. The study only examined these three cities and say nothing of the other accident claims in other regions. Taxpayers could collectively be out tens or even hundreds of millions over the same period of time.

So that’s rather awful to think about, isn’t it? Well it could be worse – you could have been involved in a personal injury claim that left you with enough damage to warrant a £5 million payout even after contributory negligence reduced your award by as much as 25 per cent – that’s some substantial head injury!

Not exactly the best experience to have, I suppose – but that’s exactly what happened recently to a woman from Northern Ireland in the wake of the kind of car accident. She suffered enough head trauma to leave here with serious problems making thinking and decision making difficult enough to require constant supervision – and this as unfortunately even after the woman was found to be slightly responsible for her own injuries because she hadn’t been wearing her seat belt.

Well, let that be a lesson to you – something that most of us do without a moment’s thought can lead to the kind of life-altering damage that could all too easily have been avoided if you had simply worn your damned seat belt. Of course this is something that most children learn in primary school, but nowadays perhaps it’s much too dangerous in British schools to teach children anything besides how to duck and cover – and how to ring up a personal injury solicitor.

Injury claims abound from Wales to Scotland

Industry news roundup: week ended 6 Jan 2014:

When it comes to accident claims, it’s not just England as the rest of the UK gets into the act; in fact both Wales and Scotland have been claims hotbeds.

Last year alone, for instance, saw more than£300,000 paid out to college lecturers and school teachers in Scotland according to the Educational Institute of Scotland. All sorts of incidents led to the payouts, including one assault that led to a serious long-term injury for a teacher that resulted in a personal injury compensation award of £130,000 alone!

Now don’t get nervous if you were considering a career as an educator in Scotland: it’s not that pupils are so violent that these incidents occur so much. In fact the EIS said most of the time it’s simple and avoidable accidents that are caused by poor working conditions. Slips and trips due to poorly-maintained schools are the real culprit here, and the EIS was highly critical of local authorities that neglected their responsibilities to keep these schools in good nick; can’t say I’m surprised, as it seems that most local councils couldn’t find their arse with both hands in an emergency!

Speaking of negligent behaviour, it’s time to turn to Wales now where a new report published this week revealed that over the last three years, a total of £117.6 million in compensation, mostly due to medical negligence cases. The information has certainly given the NHS a black eye in terms of reputation, as well as it should – cries of ‘we could have used that money to improve the state of our hospitals’ are on the lips of pretty much anyone you turn to, and for what it’s worth the sentiment is completely accurate.

Again it’s a factor of simply not having the wherewithal to keep these places running in good condition. Doctors and medical staff are overworked to a worrisome level, yet the NHS drags its heels whenever it’s time to change policies. It takes a public shaming like this to rattle its cage, though as usual the NHS will have its excuses primed and ready.

Still, enough is enough; it’s time to stand up and say that this simply isn’t acceptable behaviour on the part of the NHS, or our local authorities in the case of mis-managed and unsafe schools. At least now you know not to get sick in Wales – or to take a teaching job in Scotland!

Massive compensation packages for both sides of councils

Industry news roundup: week ended 30 Dec 2013:

Whether you wok for a particular local authority or you simply drive on the roadways that they’re responsible for, claims against councils are on the up.

In fact, this week it was revealed that staff drivers for Wigan Council have racked up some  £360,000 in personal injury compensation over the past four years. All told there were nearly 150 road traffic accidents where a vehicle owned by the local authority was damaged by a council employee.

There was some good news according to the data, as the last financial year saw only 34 incidents costing the council a total of £93,620. This sounds like quite a bit, but when you compare it to the 2010-2011 financial year’s 63 accidents costing £115,055 in successful personal injury claims, things are put in a bit of perspective; still, that figure seems much too high to me – and I’ll wager there are some very heated discussions going on behind closed doors in Wigan Council.

Meanwhile, it could always be worse – in fact most claims figures for local authorities are much higher, especially when it comes to injuries and damage sustained by local residents. A perfect – and perfectly harrowing – example of this is the £1.7 million that Worcestershire County Council has had to pay out in compensation over the past four years.

All told there were more than 3,300 claims made against the local authority, all from any number of sources. Accident claims on country roads, slips and trips on pavements or in council buildings, and injuries to pupils whilst in school comprise the lion’s share of the injuries – and personal injury claims in particular make up an overwhelming amount of the legal bill.

So I really don’t know what’s worse – living as a resident in Worcestershire County or being an employee of Wigan Council. Whatever your fate may be, it’s going to be rife with possible trips to the A and E department because some stupid idiot pranged you from behind and gave you a bad case of whiplash injury or something similar. I swear it’s enough to convince me to move to the Scottish highlands and live like a hermit just to keep away from other people. I suppose I’d get lonely eventually – but at least I’m not going to get into a rear-end shunt with a sheep!

Accidents net claimants tens of thousands in compensation

Industry news roundup: week ended 23 Dec 2013:

When it comes to accidents, the personal injury compensation claimants can be awarded is easily in the tens of thousands of pounds.

As if to prove the point I’m making, there were not one but two big news stories this week revolving around accident claims and big-ticket damages awards. The first revolved around an 82 year old pensioner that raked in some £12,000 from her personal injury claim after she fell and fractured her ankle whilst taking a tour of Killearn’s Glengoyne Distillery. The Somerset native had been on a coach tour of Scotland at the time of the accident, which saw her tripping down the stairs at the distillery.

I feel terrible for poor woman, considering she was in considerable pain after her fall. Of course, it could have been worse – she could have been hit in the eye with a dart, which is what happened to 11 year old Toby Corps from Ashford!

Poor Toby – he had been on holiday in Tunisia with his family several years ago at the time of the incident when a game of darts organised by staff at the hotel he was staying wen terribly awry. Another child tossed the dart towards him, piercing his left eye and requiring surgery for a detached retina and for the removal of a cataract. Finally, the poor lad has had his day in court – or at least his father has, on the boy’s behalf – and the writing on the wall says that he could walk away with around £50,000 in compensation.

So why is this so high? Well let’s be honest here – Toby’s young, with his whole life ahead of him, and he could be facing serious difficulties in his education and employment as a result of the injury. No word on how badly the lad’s vision might have been impaired by the incident, but it’s almost guaranteed to have left a considerable mark on Toby’s psyche at least – and it takes some time and effort to come back to what you might call ‘normal’ after a traumtatising experience like that. Then of course there’s just pain and suffering, which is always an important factor in calculating compensation awards. Hopefully poor Toby will get even more!

Taxpayers being bled dry by compensation claims?

Industry news roundup: week ended 16 Dec 2013:

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

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

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

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

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

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

One injury solicitor falls flat while another soars

Industry news roundup: week ended 9 Dec 2013:

Sometimes the accident claims community responds well to a personal injury solicitor. Other times, not so much.

That’s exactly what happened this week, as one injury lawyer with lofty goals so his dream of forging an advertising campaign that could ally some 90 solicitor firms together in a claims-sharing scheme that would have supposedly been a benefit to all its members. Porters law firm Paul Roberts had the bright idea to create a vast network throughout both England and Wales, but the man’s brainchild died before it could be even born as other firms throughout the UK were a bit skeptical on whether the whole thing would work – now the whole scheme has been scaled back to just the North West, where Porters does the lion’s share of its personal injury claims work. So much for that idea!

Meanwhile the industry was also buzzing this week how a Scotland-based personal injury solicitor firm has been experiencing an amazing, record-breaking year. Digby Brown LLP saw its turnover increase by more than 11 per cent to just under £20 million. On top of that, Digby Brown said its net profits had hit £6.6 million – an increase of 8.2 per cent.

Apparently whatever Digby Brown is doing north of the border, it looks like Porters should be taking notes. There wouldn’t be any need for these hare-brained advert campaign schemes. Honestly, why bother spending all your time and money building some massive, highly untenable network of solicitors across most of the UK when there’s an obviously well-run law firm just to the north that doesn’t need to go in for any of that bollocks?

Then again let’s keep aware that there are some subtle but real differences between Scottish personal injury law and the laws as they stand in England and Wales. It changes the whole landscape, and it might make it easier for Scottish law firms to rake in the dosh while a law firm in the North West of England feels the need to invent some bizarre claims-sharing scheme in order to maximise their profit margins. Still seems a bit odd to me, but then again I’m not exactly a lawyer now am I?

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.

 

Defendants giveth, and defendants taketh away

Industry news roundup: week ended 25 Nov 2013:

This week, it seems like that for every story that has claimants winning big on their personal injury claims there’s another where the injured are sent packing.

First up, it’s good news for a quintet of teachers in Cambridgeshire, as personal injury compensation in excess of £150,000 has been paid out to them after a myriad of injury claims. Their injuries came from several sources, including slips and trips and even one instance of an assault – and for what it’s worth I don’t fault these staff members from seeking compensation. While it’s not quite as dangerous as some jobs, there’s plenty of opportunity for some pretty bad injuries in schools across the UK, and it’s important to know that if you do get injured on the job there’s some recompense waiting for you.

Of course, not all local authorities are quite so compassionate. In fact, one driver who suffered £1,000 in damage to his vehicle after falling afoul of a particularly nasty pothole has been left out to dry by Essex County Council.

Poor Adam Glenister had to foot the bill himself after the pothole mangled his Audi A1’s alloy wheels to the point that they needed replacement. On top of that, the pothole caused enough damage to his wheel tracking to need them repaired. Despite that, the local authority flatly refused to come to Mr Glenister’s aid because just seven short months ago – ha! – there was an inspection on that particular stretch of road that didn’t turn up any glaring faults.

Somehow – and I don’t know what goes through these barmy bastards heads when it comes to admitting liability – the state of the roads and the damage to Mr Glenister’s car just wasn’t bad enough to warrant the county council for shelling out the measly £1,000 to compensate the poor bloke. It’s not like Mr Glenister didn’t back up his claim with the proper documentation, either; he submitted all sorts of photographic proof of the pothole and the damage to his car, but it just wasn’t enough for Essex County Council.

So there you have it – don’t expect anything from a council like that. Maybe Mr Glenister would have had more luck if he’d run over that pothole in Cambridgeshire instead? They seem a bit more honest just a few more miles to the north, don’t they?

 

Accident victims to be held responsible for own injuries?

Industry news roundup: week ended 18 Nov 2013:

There’s a distressing trend going around when it comes to liability for personal injury claims – people being held responsible despite their status as victims.

Sometimes I can understand why the law might look down on people who play a role in their own misfortune. For instance, while it’s not currently compulsory to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, more and more injured cyclists that weren’t wearing their helmet at the time of their road traffic accident are finding judges are rather disposed to hold them partially responsible for their own injuries.

The whole idea of contributory negligence is an interesting one – essentially it boils down to saying that the injured victim could have reduced their injuries or eliminated them altogether if they had just done something differently. However, with the whole bicycle helmet issue, if the courts are going to place blame on cyclists for not wearing a helmet even though the law doesn’t make it a requirement, that seems a little questionable if you ask me.

There’s contributory negligence and then there’s just over-the-top stupidity that defies all common sense, like the story where one woman from Belfast had her car stolen yet somehow ends up having to foot the bill on the accident claims made by the two PNSI officers who were involved in apprehending the thieves. Apparently it doesn’t matter that the criminals – who broke into her family home, made off with all sorts of personal property, and then stole not just her car but her partner’s as well – were the ones driving the vehicles when the PNSI patrol had to ram them.

Unbelievably, each officer made personal injury claims for £7,500 each, and now her insurer is expected to foot the bill. On top of that, as the two criminals fled from her home in their nicked vehicles, they ran rampant through her neighbours’ properties – and she’s also expected to pay out an additional £10,000 as well. All this has increased her insurance costs by some £300 per annum – with an additional £300 hike paid by her partner as well – simply because she had the misfortune to be targeted by the thieves.

 

Courts cracking down on personal injury claims fraud

Industry news roundup: week ended 11 Nov 2013:

It’s no big secret that accident claims fraud is a serious problem in the UK, but the courts are slowly but surely catching up with scammers in a major way.

In fact, this week’s news was absolutely lit up with not one but two stories of how supposedly ‘injured’ people have been caught red-handed. The whole big reveal started with the news that 59 year old Barbari Fari, a woman who tried to weasel £750,000 out of Homes for Haringey after she suffered a trip-and-fall injury on a bit of uneven paving, has been sent to jail for three months after it was discovered she was absolutely full of it.

Fari was found to not nearly be suffering as badly from her trip injury, despite the claims she made in her bid for personal injury compensation. In fact, apparently she was walking about near her home much more easily than she did during her medical examinations – and the writing on the wall was she was trying to take the piss out of Homes for Haringey as a result.

It’s not just fabricated injuries that count as fraud, though – even if you’re legitimately injured you can still get yourself in serious hot water if you try to get more than your fair share. This happened to 52 year old wheelchair-bound David Hardaker that taking some £77,000 in benefits while he had tens of thousands of pounds in a savings account.

It just goes to show you that the law isn’t about leaving you better-off than you were before you were injured but instead to make you whole. If you’ve got an average of nearly £20,000 in the bank over the course of three years, yet neglect to tell anyone about it, the Government gets a bit upset when they find out – especially when they’ve been overpaying you to the tune of nearly a hundred thousand pounds. It tends to make them cranky – and Hardaker found this out the hard way.

Truth be told he’s already started to pay back what he owes, but he’s had to put his house up for sale to do it. I’d feel bad for him but I really can’t – the thick bastard brought this on himself and he’s got no one else to blame for the whole horrid affair. Maybe next time he’ll be a bit more honest, eh? Bloody idiot.

Whiplash backlash as legal costs rise, could affect claimants

Industry news roundup: week ended 4 Nov 2013:

Legal costs for whiplash claims are on the rise, prompting new measures designed to stem the rising tide but may end up hurting legitimate claimants.

So here we go, ladies and gentlemen: this week, it was revealed that it costs around £2,500 in legal fees to bring a small accident claim where whiplash injury is involved. Or at least that’s what the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries claims, as the organisation says these costs have gone up by 15 per cent in the three years since new legal reforms were put in place to limit these types of costs.

So in other words, the Institute is saying, these reforms haven’t done anything to make things less expensive for insurers. Of course it did concede that the new Legal Aid law will likely reduce the costs incurred by the insurance industry.

The problem here is it seems as if organisations and trade bodies are more interested in how to save insurers money than they are with the fact that people injured in car accidents through no fault of their own are entitled to be made whole by the responsible party. For what it’s worth, maybe we should make it harder for insurance fraud to occur instead of just making it harder for everyone to bring a claim, both legitimately injured people and scammers alike.

Now the Government may have hit on a good solution for this, according to another news story this week: an independent medical panel system is being planned where injured accident victims will be examined to determine the extent of their injuries. Now this may sound like a good idea on the face of it, but I was under the impression that a whiplash injury is hard to prove medically, as the type of soft tissue injury that characterises whiplash isn’t all that easy to prove. You’ve got to go on the symptoms patients are reporting instead, which makes me wonder what these independent medical panels are actually going to accomplish that a GP can’t.

Typical example of more government waste, if you ask me. You know if half the time, energy and money was spent looking into better detection and treatment methods for whiplash instead of all this rubbish maybe we wouldn’t have such a whiplash epidemic in the UK right now!

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.

Have we become a nation of horrid little crybabies?

Industry news roundup: week ended 21 Oct 2013:

Is it just me or does it seem like people don’t even hesitate to bring an accident claim for even the most minor of injuries?

I mean, you read about it every day: so-and-so gets thousands or even millions in personal injury compensation because they slipped on some pavement and skinned their knees. I’m not even making this up, either – in fact just this week a new report emerged how Derbyshire County Council has paid out more than £400,000 in damages since 2010.

It’s not just a few hundred quid here and there either – there are some serious compensation awards being tossed about. In fact one pupil earned a £40,000 payout after he suffered injuries on a trip with his secondary school. There were plenty of other big-ticket responses as well, such as the £25,000 reward one teen was given after being the victim of bullying or the £23,710 another teen earned after he was struck with a foreign object.

Of course that’s not even the worst part. If we turn our gaze away from Derbyshire and instead turn our attention to North Somerset, we quickly learn that the last five years have seen more than £3 million worth of compensation claims, with the local authority paying out on more than half of them.

So what kind of terrible injuries are costing North Somerset Council so much dosh? Well how about a loose kerb causing hysterectomy stitches to burst? If that’s a bit too graphic for you, apparently one of the local authority’s big problems happened to be a pair of trousers that had been damaged by some spilled bleach.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the world has officially gone mad. I know that I’m supposed to say that there’s no such thing as the so-called ‘compensation culture,’ but it seems rather difficult to say that with a straight face when some bleach-spilled trousers and other spurious personal injury claims are costing one local authority millions of pounds. I’m not saying that accident’s don’t happen, mind you – they do, and sometimes they can be rather injurious – but for pity’s sake, just go down and buy yourself a new pair of trousers if you spill some bleach on them! You don’t need to try to bilk your local council out of thousands of pounds on such a frivolous and completely spurious venture.

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