Children at greater risk from dangerous dogs than ever before

Children at greater risk from dangerous dogs than ever before

There has been an alarming rise in the number of children needing hospital treatment for dog attacks in the UK in the past 12 months, according to data recently released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. 

New figures revealed that 6,450 people were admitted in the 12 months to April 2012, up from 6,130 the year before.

Children aged under 10 were the worst-affected group, accounting for one in six of admissions.

Of the 1,040 admissions for this group of youngsters, 494 were for plastic surgery and 278 were to the oral and facial surgery unit.

Among adults the rate of admissions to the trauma and orthopaedic treatment speciality was more than triple that of under-10s.

NHS data released a few months ago revealed dogs bite cases in casualty departments reached 6,097 in the year to the end of March 2011. This is up 94 per cent compared to a decade earlier.

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: ‘Through further analysis, it is also possible to infer a likely distinction in the type of injuries sustained by child and adult victims of dog bites and strikes; with children having a higher rate of admission to the specialities that carry out plastic and specialist facial surgery.’

Postal workers ‘Bite Back’ with union support

CWU’s Bite Back campaign aims to raise awareness about responsible dog ownership and get new laws in place to protect people who are attacked on private property. The union believes the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is failing to protect both dog owners and attack victims.

Following on from law changes in Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2011 (see our blog post archive for more details), the Welsh Assembly confirmed on July 17 2012 that it will also now legislate to improve dangerous dogs laws…but what about Westminster?

Let’s not hold our breath on this one as the government’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme consultation exercise proposed the following exclusion in its approach to dealing with animal attacks:

‘Where the person has been a victim of an animal attack, unless the animal itself was used deliberately to inflict an injury on that person.’  
Two particularly horrific cases cited were the injuries suffered by postmen in Sheffield and Cambridge, both of whom almost lost limbs while carrying out their duties because of the irresponsibility of dog owners.

The union estimates that some 5,000 postal workers and around 400 telecom engineers are attacked by domestic pets each year – these range from minor injuries to the kind of life-threatening incidents suffered by the postmen in Sheffield and Cambridge.

New Royal Mail figures show that 3,100 attacks were recorded on postal workers between April 2011 and April 2012. In the Sheffield case, the owner was prosecuted and jailed, the man who owned two rottweillers that almost tore off the Cambridge postman’s arm escaped legal sanction altogether.

Dave Joyce, CWU health, safety and environment officer, has spearheaded the CWU’s campaign for legal reform and argues:

“It’s outrageous that hard-working and conscientious people, providing a whole range of vital public services have been, effectively, treated the same as criminal trespassers by the law. We desperately need new laws to protect victims and promote responsible dog ownership to prevent attacks taking place.”

Scottish Postal worker bitten for the 18th time…

Fife postman Garry Haldane needed treatment after being bitten by a dog near Dunfermline High School.

The attack, which took place on 25th August this year, was the 18th time in his 20 year career that Mr. Haldane had been bitten by a dog. He was taken the nearby Queen Margaret Hospital for treatment to puncture wounds and bruising.

He said it was “not acceptable” for postal workers to be subjected to animal attacks. A 51-year-old man has been cautioned and charged.

Mr Haldane, a rep for the Communication Workers Union (CWU), has recently been campaigning for postmen to get better protection from dangerous dogs.

In West Fife, postal workers have compiled a list of addresses of dangerous animals after more than 30 dog attacks on Royal Mail employees were reported in the space of 12 months. That figure was up by 74% on the previous year.

Bonnar & Company is very experienced in dealing with dog attack claims and we recently settled a case for a victim involved in a particularly horrifying incident.

If you or a member of your family need legal advice folowing a dog attack, please contact us for free confidential consultation.

Black Monday Part 2: ‘Think-tank blames compensation culture for EVERYTHING

Black Monday Part 2: 'Think-tank blames compensation culture for EVERYTHING

Photograph: BBC

Chiming nicely with this Government’s anti-health and safety mantra, a new ‘think tank’ report claims that “an ingrained compensation culture is bleeding health and education services dry,”…

Independent study? Oh really?

Well at last the Government has unearthed somebody who thinks hurt and injured people seeking compensation are the cause of all that’s wrong with the NHS and the education system… 

Glib tabloid sound bite – 1, reasoned debate – 0.

Payouts by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) have trebled in the past decade, standing at £911m in 2010/11, according to the report by the Centre for Policy Studies at Kent University.

Of this, £863m was paid in connection with clinical negligence claims, the report says.

OUR QUESTION: Did those claiming compensation not have to PROVE negligence?

ANSWER:   Yes.

Are we expected to believe that insurance companies just simply pay out on spurious claims? Don’t think so. If that was the case we would be blaming the insurance companies for the myth of the ‘compensation culture…wait a minute…

So what is the real issue here? Is it the cost of compensation claims or falling standards of care and education?

The report adds that as of March last year, the NHSLA estimated its potential liabilities at £16.8bn, though a large proportion of cases do not reach court.

Out of 63,804 medical negligence claims received by the NHSLA, 38% were abandoned by the claimant, 45% were settled out of court 3% had damages approved or set by a court and 14% have yet to settle.

Tim Knox, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “This rise in the compensation culture has huge – if largely hidden – costs. In particular, it has created a climate in which professionals will prioritise litigation avoidance above what is best for their pupils or patients.”

This is an outrageous and unsupported claim. Mr Knox is asserting that NHS clinicians and school teachers are putting patients and pupils a poor second behind financial considerations.

By the way, why is the HSE silent when reports like this are churned out? Isn’t the HSE keen to dispel health and safety myths? There is a section on the HSE website dedicated to this very topic… 

Meanwhile, back in the Twilight Zone, Mr Knox, at a stroke, has just RUBBISHED the ethical standards of hundreds of thousands of highly paid, highly qualified and highly respected professional people throughout the UK.

WELL DONE…

The report goes on to warn that instead of improving safety and accountability, it (the oft-quoted ‘compensation culture’, has resulted in “significant costs to the quality of services and the experiences of those who use them”.

Lest the dead horse has not been flogged enough, it continues: “The combination of an ingrained compensation culture and litigation avoidance is bleeding the health and education services dry, both financially, and in terms of their public sector ethos and professional role.”

Report author Professor Frank Furedi said fear of legal action can hold back progress and creativity. “It erodes professional autonomy, stifles innovation, leads to defensive practices in both hospitals and schools and encourages greater bureaucracy,” he said.

Wow, we say, Professor Frank. That’s quite a lot to lay at the door of the non-existent compensation culture. It’s not us saying it’s non existent; it’s the two recent Government sponsored reports on the subject that rubbished the notion of a compensation culture:

‘Common Sense – Common Safety’ – Lord Young, 2010.

‘Reclaiming Health and Safety for all’ – Professor Ragnar Lofstedt, 2011.

However, according to Frank Furedi, “‘Best practice’ is now defined as having checked all the boxes in a quality assurance form rather than doing what is best for the patient or pupil.”

About all we can say for this study is that it checks the box for finding a study to support the ill-founded notion of a compensation culture and thus the Government can happily push on with its Crusade against the legitmate rights of its citizens to seek justice and fair compensation.

What must Lord Young and Professor Lofstedt think?   

 

Black Monday Part 1: Business minister writes off the workplace safety of millions

Black Monday Part 1: Business minister writes off the workplace safety of millions

Business Minister Michael Fallon. Photograph: Neil Hall / Reuters

Bad luck if you work in a school, or a shop, or an office or a pub. Why? It’s quite horrifyingly simple – on Monday 10th September, 2012 this Government sacrificed your health and safety at work on the altar of spurious economics and political dogma.

The ‘theory’ underpinning this black day for worker safety is that the aforementioned workplaces are intrinsically safe, or at least not quite as dangerous as dangerous places, like construction sites. What the government is actually doing to improve health and safety on construction sites can be written on the back of a fag packet in big letters, but that’s a different story…

Perhaps the minister hasn’t heard of asbestos? Maybe he thinks people don’t get injured in schools or shops? Maybe he believes that workplace deaths conform to a strict pattern and afflict only known so-called high risk premises? Do fires and explosions only occur in places thought to be dangerous? This attitude begs the question – who is doing the THINKING? 

Hundreds of thousands of businesses are to be exempted from health and safety inspections under the move and legislation will be introduced which ministers say will protect business from “compensation culture” claims.

More on this topic in Black Monday Part 2, but even a newly appointed government minister, like the freshly minted Mr. Fallon, must be aware that Lord Young’s 2010 Report: ‘Common Sense – Common Safety’ , comissioned by David Cameron, dismissed the notion of a compensation culture in the UK as a figment of tabloid journalism.  

More than 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled, so that shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face “burdensome” health and safety inspections.Officials described it as a “radical” plan to curb red tape.

NO IT ISN’T.

It’s a reactionary plan to curb legitimate claims for compensation arising from workplace injuries.

Hurt and injured people claiming compensation for their injuries are not the cause of this country’s economic woes. Ye gods – does the Government want to turn the clock back 150 years  

The new rules, which will govern both the Health & Safety Executive and local authorities, are intended to be introduced next April.

Firms will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher-risk areas such as construction or if they have an incident or track record of poor performance.

The Government also said it will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

Business minister Michael Fallon said the new measures would free businesses from unnecessary red tape and help them focus on creating jobs and growth. He said: “We are all impatient for growth now and we have to do everything we can to lift this economy out of recession it’s been in and back business to create more jobs.”

Responding to union concerns that removing health and safety regulations could put workers at risk, he said: “Let me be very clear, this is only for low risk premises, offices, shops, things like that. This is not where there is risk involved, we are not talking about chemical plants or care homes.”

Predictably, the usual suspects welcomed the moves.

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “The Government’s efforts on deregulation are welcome.Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad.”

However, Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said the Government was wrong to point the finger at health and safety, “which is always seen as an easy target”, when it comes to cutting red tape.

He said there were only 200 health and safety regulations so they were only a tiny percentage of the 3,000 total regulations.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna rubbished the Government’s move as a “gimmick” that would not help the UK out of the double dip recession.

“If you talk to business about what is the main problem they face, it is a lack of demand, it is not regulation.”

Unfortunately this Government only talks to its friends in industry, like when the PM invited the insurance companies to Number 10 in February this year to hear their whingeings and bleatings about the cost of paying compensation to hurt and injured people and their families.    

Weasel Words from the ‘Wronged’ as car insurers try to shift blame for inflated premiums

Weasel Words from the 'Wronged' as car insurers try to shift blame for inflated premiums

A weasel.

Finally, we hope, insurance companies are to face the government’s competition watchdog over their oft-quoted claims that inflated motor premiums have nothing whatsoever to do with their business practices.

Really? Do they think we are THAT stupid?

At last a government department has blown their cover and published what everyone, barring Jack Straw and chums, knows to be true:

Insurance companies ARE taking advantage of the system to inflate premiums for drivers by £225m a year, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) reports today.

The competition watchdog says that after a road traffic accident, insurers of the not-at-fault driver and others, such as brokers, credit hire organisations and repairers, exploit a lack of control in the current system. They charge referral fees for using expensive hire organisations and then add to the cost by replacing the car for longer than is necessary.

The OFT has provisionally decided to refer the private motor insurance market to the Competition Commission after finding evidence that firms are competing in a ‘dysfunctional way’.

The report states that the government has focused its attention on reducing the cost of personal injury claims, but without intervention in the cost of replacement vehicles and repairs, artificially-inflated premiums are ‘likely to persist’.

Exactly. Three cheers and due credit for a chink of light in a tunnel of darkness and despond…

John Fingleton, chief executive of the OFT, said:

‘Competition in this market does not appear to work well for drivers. We believe the focus that insurers have on gaining the competitive edge through raising their rivals’ costs means that drivers pay more than they need to for their motor insurance policies.

‘Because insurers are distracted from competing primarily on the quality and value of service provided to insured drivers, incentives for greater efficiency may be reduced.’

Donna Scully, chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors’ Society (MASS), said the scale of the problem could be ‘immense’ once it is fully investigated.

‘Money is clearly being made from consumers behind their backs and MASS would welcome full disclosure of specific fee income on every case so that the consumer is fully informed,’ she said.

It is no wonder the whole sector has fallen into disrepute and that consumers are so wary of everyone who operates in it, and frustrated by exploitative practices they are likely to encounter when they make a claim.’

The Association of British Insurers welcomed the report – hmm, doubt that – but declined to address the accusations over its members receiving referral fees from credit hire companies.

Now THAT we believe…

Nick Starling, director general of the ABI, said: ‘For too long insurers have faced inflated rates for credit hire cars and excessive hire periods which have led to higher insurance premiums for customers.

AND THERE WE HAVE IT.

WEASEL WORDS FROM THE ‘WRONGED’.  

INCREDIBLE AS IT MAY SEEM, AFTER YEARS OF VILIFYING ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENT VICTIMS AND PERSONAL INJURY SOLICITORS, THE INSURERS ARE NOW SEEKING TO BLAME THE CREDIT HIRE AGENCIES AND VEHICLE REPAIR COMPANIES FOR THE RISE IN PREMIUMS.

Soon there will be nobody else left to blame and what then Nick?

Karl Tonks, president of the Association of Persosanl Injury Lawyers (APIL) commented:

‘For years the insurance industry has sought to blame anyone and anything but itself and its own sharp practices for high insurance premiums. Legal costs for compensation claims were slashed two years ago for this very reason, but premiums remained sky high.’

The OFT expects to reach a final decision by October 2012.

In our opinion it can’t come soon enough.

Outrageous claims by insurers go unchallenged by supine MoJ

Outrageous claims by insurers go unchallenged by supine MoJ

The most outrageous claims pertaining to the debate on whiplash injuries are those being made by the insurance industry and government ministers seemingly hell-bent on creating a benign regulatory environment for businesses coupled with a full-frontal assault on the mythical compensation culture.

We say mythical because the two major studies carried out by this administration to examine the so-called compensation culture have both concluded that that the very notion of a compensation culture in the UK was misguided, erroneous and intrinsically flawed. 

Lord Young of Graffam’s ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’ and Professor Ragnar Lofstedt’s aptly named ‘Reclaiming health and safety’, independently concluded that the problem was more a figment of the media’s imagination and there was no evidence to suggest otherwise. Professor Lofstedt went so far as to publicly declare he was very uneasy and dismayed that his report was being misused to prop up government policy on health and safety in the UK.  

However, rather than let the independently researched facts get in the way of a good populist crusade, Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to take on the ‘compensation culture.’       

Echoing the PM’s call to arms against accident victims seeking justice, none have risen to the challenge more enthusiastically than the nation’s insurance companies who have been invited to Number 10 twice already this year (most recently on 2nd May) to discuss how the government can help them reduce their costs and increase their profits. Incidentally, the government refused a request from The Law Society to be represented at these meetings and we can only wonder why…

Take a bow gentlemen and ladies of the insurance lobby for verily your occupation of the moral high ground on the matter of car insurance premiums is truly mind-boggling.   

For example, Head of Motor and Liability at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) James Dalton commented recently that:

‘If whiplash were an olympic sport, the UK would be gold medallists. The fact that whiplash is virtually impossible to disprove means that for too many it has become the fraud of choice, often aided and abetted by ambulance-chasing lawyers and claims management firms.’ 

Nick Starling,ABI Director General welcomed the PM’s intervention and claimed that:

‘Insurers are being swamped with exaggerated or even fraudulent claims. There is no medical diagnosis for whiplash and if an insurance company wants to challenge a whiplash claim it has to effectively say someone is lying to them.’ 

Well my goodness me. Imagine a world where an insurance company pays out on an insurance claim because it doesn’t want to upset the claimant. It might happen someday…you think?

Is Nick Starling actually saying that the insurance companies are simply paying up on whiplash claims? If so what does this tell us about:

a) the current profit margins in the insurance industry if it can afford to cough up on the simple ‘say so’ of the claimant.

b) the level of sheer unadulterated laziness and lack of attention to proper procedure in the insurance industry if it allows fraudulent claims to go unchallenged.

IF NICK STARLING KNOWS THE CLAIMS ARE FRAUDULENT WHY ON EARTH ARE THE INSURANCE COMPANIES PAYING OUT?   

It’s our money THEY are wasting!

Not to be outdone in the ‘heaping opprobium on the heads of accident victims and their families stakes’, government ministers have been lining up to place a well-aimed boot in the soft tissue of Access to Justice in the UK. 

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has stated that :

‘It is scandalous that we have a system where it is cheaper for insurers to settle a spurious whiplash claim out of court than defend it, creating rocketing insurance premiums for honest drivers.’

Dear Ken,

Ask the ABI why it settles spurious claims.While you’re at it, why not ask how the insurance companies know which claims are spurious.

Last year, it was disclosed that Justice Minister Johnathan Djanogly’s two children each held shares in the claims management companies Going Legal and Legal Link Introductory Services, which solicit people who might have a compensation claim and then sell their details to lawyers.

Mr Djanogly had admitted that his brother-in-law, Ben Silk, owned the companies, but had not disclosed his children’s shareholdings.

Dear Johnathan,

Why are you still driving changes that will disadvantage the British public whilst benefitting your family? 

Last week Mr. Djanogly admitted the government would promote ‘Before The Event’ (BTE) insurance as a way of funding legal expenses and predicted the cost of such cover would come down.

Labour says annual premiums could be £150, amounting to a tax on justice that would reap big profits for the insurance industry. An internal industry analysis shows insurers stand to gain £1 in profits for every £2 of premium payments.

 

Our concerns:

We now have a situation in this country that the government of the day refuses to pay heed to the findings of its own reports on health and safety and chooses to listen exclusively to the jaundiced views of the vested interest that is the insurance industry.

Genuine accident victims are being actively discouraged from making compensation claims by concerted and ill-founded media coverage coupled with government action on Legal Aid and access to justice.

Hurt and injured people are being bullied by well-funded and powerful insurance companies to accept low offers before they have had a chance to seek independent legal and medical advice in the erroneous belief that they will be out of pocket if they lose their case.

The public are being spoon fed a diet of misinformation about the impact of the so-called ‘compensation culture’ by the government and the insurance lobby.

The government is determined to reduce the ‘legislative burden’ on industry by reducing the scope of existing health and safety regulations.

The government wants us to buy MORE INSURANCE to fund potential claims.

The insurance industry wants to kill off ‘no win no fee’ legal firms because they help claimants fight for justice and fair compensation.

Insurance companies would prefer to see no claims – EVER, but given that some claims must get through their net, they would like to decide on the level of compensation themselves and pay whatever sum they see  fit. 

So, don’t get injured.

If you do get injured get independent legal advice – while you can.

 

…and remember insurance companies , like bookies, never lose.