Unhappy 125th! Then (1897) and now (2012): Lords, workers and the right to compensation…

  Unhappy 125th! Then (1897) and now (2012): Lords, workers and the right to compensation...

 

125 years ago the House of Lords debated the Workmen’s Compensation Bill.

This week the Lords debated the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

If you are concerned about the erosion of UK health and safety regulations and this Government’s attack on the rights of injured people to claim compensation, you will find the following extracts from Hansard interesting…we certainly do. 

We have interspersed the statements made by the noble Lords for dramatic effect. The wording is unchanged from the original…

Those Victorians certainly knew a thing or two about enterprise AND worker’s rights…but judge for yourself as you guess the era when dogma deputised for debate.

 

This week…

Lord Marland, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
Overly burdensome and obsolete rules stifle business. That is why we need to get rid of them wherever that is sensible. For example, it is currently the case that, where health and safety regulations impose a strict duty on employers, they can be liable to pay compensation, despite having done all that was reasonable to protect their employees.

To address this potential unfairness, the Bill will remove the right of individuals to make civil claims for breach of most statutory health and safety duties, unless it can be proved the employer has been negligent.

 

125 years ago…

Lord Belper. 

Anybody who made a statement of that sort could not be aware of the practical effect of the present law. 

There were numerous cases of accidents that occurred in dangerous employment where no negligence on the part of the employer could be proved, where the workman had not contributed in any way to the cause of the accident – cases which no human foresight had been able to get rid of, and which might be said to be necessarily inseparable from the dangerous employments in which they occurred.

He would venture to ask any noble Lord who had experience with regard to these dangerous employments whether there was not a strong moral obligation on the part of the employer to provide some compensation in many of these cases, and whether, on the other hand, there was not an equitable claim on the part of the workman to receive something to make good the injuries he had sustained in the employment in which he had taken part?

What might happen in the case of a workman, under the Bill proposed by Mr. Asquith, if he wished to recover compensation for the negligence of some fellow workman which had caused a serious explosion? It was not an unreasonable case, for statistics of causes leading to accidents showed that negligence, such as using open lights, or firing shots in mines where such was not allowed, made up a considerable percentage of the causes which had led to serious catastrophes. What would be the case in the event of serious accident?

It was possible that somebody might survive to give information of what occurred, but the more serious the accident the more complete the wreck and ruin effected, the more fatal the results, the less chance there would be of the workman being able to get any evidence to prove that he was entitled to compensation, either in regard to negligence on the part of workmen or equally so with regard to the negligence of the manager or employer.

Within the last two hours he had been looking through the returns of accidents in mines in 1894, and he found that one of the most serious accidents that had ever taken place occurred in that year.

Although statistics showed that in an enormous proportion of cases convictions were obtained where either the manager, or employer, or a workman were prosecuted for negligence, yet in this case, where the loss of life was appalling, a note in the Blue-book gave as the result of prosecution that, although the inspector thought it necessary to prosecute, yet the summons for illegal shot-firing was dismissed, because he was unable to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that shots were fired, the persons who could have given evidence having lost their lives in the explosion, so he could bring forward only circumstantial evidence.

He mentioned this to show that such a case was far from being impossible; therefore from the workman’s point of view, though he was entitled to compensation in all cases where negligence occurred, it was very likely that in a considerable number of cases he would be deprived of it owing to circumstances not within his own control and which ought not to affect his claim to compensation.

 

This week… 

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara.

The Government’s proposal to end civil liability in health and safety is a major change in the existing law and was added to the Bill on Report in another place. It needs to bescrutinised very carefully.

Is it really the Government’s intention that a worker injured due to an employer’s breach of a statutory duty within the health and safety at work regulations-such as failing to guard a machine-will be required to prove that the employer knew, or ought to have known, of such a failure in order to gain redress for the injury sustained?

The requirement to prove foreseeability is a very high bar of proof for an individual injured or killed through no fault of their own. Do the Government really think that by proposing this change they are sending the right message to employers about the importance of health and safety?

There has been no public consultation on this proposal and what is being proposed goes further than the recommendations made in this area by Professor Lofstedt, in his recent report.

 

125 years ago…

The Prime Minister, The Marquess of Salisbury.

We are now, by a wise and general revision of the principle in which the law rests, applying it for the purpose for which it was originally destined, and for which it has been commonly and most profitably employed,

the purpose of forcing all who by the process of their industry or the accident of their position have the lives of their fellow men in their power – forcing them to spare neither labour nor ingenuity nor money in making our industries as safe as possible to those by whom they are carried on. (Cheers.)

 

After 1897 injured employees had only to show they had been injured on the job…what can they look forward to after 2012, Mr Cameron?

 

Jack Straw aimed a kick at the wrong target when he bemoaned activities of claims companies and lawyers in referral fee investigation.

 

Thus, at a stroke, Djanogly kicked into touch the key finding of Lord Young’s 2010 report on the Compensation Culture (see our other blog posts) i.e. that there is no compensation culture (page 26 of the report) – it is the figment of the popular press’ imagination, aided and abetted by the insurance industry. 

 

 

Mr. Straw, the Labour MP for Blackburn, said the scandal was hitting ‘perfectly law-abiding people’ with sky-high insurance costs…

 

and what about the perfectly law-abiding people who will find their access to justice cut off?

 

Mr. Straw, whose own investigation (bit of a ‘cult of Jack’ going on here) into how even the police are taking tip-fees, prompted the select committee to re-open its earlier enquiry, said: ‘What I am clear about is that of a total of about £9billion premium income, £2billion is costs caused by people who can be accurately be classed as the parasites in the system.

 

How is he clear about this again? Didn’t HE read Lord Young’s report?

 

Mr. Straw told MPs that the previous night, while he was preparing his evidence to the committee, he had been phoned at home by a claims accident company seeking to represent him over an alleged accident  in the last three years: ’I’d not had an accident in the last three years,’ he told MPs.

‘But it shows the relentless pressure inside these very dodgy firms.’

 

Yes Jack, but you like countless others did not claim, nay COULD NOT CLAIM BECAUSE YOU HADN’T HAD AN ACCIDENT – GEDDITT?

 

Mr. Straw added: ‘Claims management companies are parasitic. In any other walk of life, we would describe this racket by referral companies as bribery.

‘These practices are leading to very substantial (insurance) increases on law-abiding motorists.’

 

Jonathan Djanogly said the Government intended to band the ‘merry-go-round’ of referral fees which have sent premiums rocketing.

 

He noted: ‘You only have to turn on daytime TV to see lots of dodgy solicitors’ firms which are part of this racket.’ He said there were two firms of solicitors within 100 yards of his own front door offering ‘£600 for a referral.’

 

Memo to Justice Secretary:

If dodgy solicitors are advertising on tv, then bring them to justice now!! Haven’t you heard about the Advertising Standards Authority?

 

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly told the committee the Government’s decision to ban the ‘merry-go-round’ of referral fees was ‘appropriate’ and had been ‘generally welcomed’.

 

Referral fees were part of the ‘sick, suing culture’ that was keeping premiums artificially high: ‘We want the benefit to feed through to the consumer in the form of lower premiums.’…and fair compensation settlements!!! 

 

He believed the Government’s reforms would bring commons sense to the system by weeding out greedy claims, noting how under the current system: ‘If you are a claimant and have no chance of losing, you are almost crazy not to sue. Why wouldn’t you? That’s what we propose to reverse.’ 

 

This is getting rather tiresome. Will somebody PLEASE tell the UK Justice Minister that an injured person wishing to make a claim has to actually prove negligence? Ye gods – does he think that people claiming compensation just have to ask the insurance companies nicely?

 

Keen to get in on the act, or is it the feeding frenzy, roads Minister Mike Penning condemned the claims firms as ‘ambulance chasers’ noting: ‘As a human being I find it very difficult that any organisation would seek to profit from others’ injury. Yet fifty per cent of claims are personal injury claims.’ 

 

This comment is about as crass and unthinking as it is possible to get, even for a government minister.

 

Critics say soaring premiums are tempting some to drive uninsured – with an estimated 1.3 million drivers now on the road without insurance.

 

A word anyone about insurance company profit margins or their active participation in and encouragement of referral payment schemes?

 

MPs on the Transport select committee report have already condemned the current system as ‘dysfunctional’. We take it they mean the claiming ‘thing’ and not Mr. Djanogly’s department…although that story isn’t over yet, not by a long way.

 

Paul Evans, chief executive of insurance company AXA UK, said increases had slowed to about a 1 to 2% rise a month but added:’ we shall continue to see continuing increases in the months to come

 

aye right enough, as he squeezes every ounce of profit out of claimants before his game is rumbled by a myopic government and an enraged public who aren’t as gullible as he thinks.

Claiming compensation for personal injury. Myth v Reality -Take 2

Another insurance industry ‘compensation culture’ myth.

 

 

Myth  

 

Most people who claim compensation for personal injury are just looking for a source of extra money in a recession – they should just ‘grin and bear it.’  For people read ‘the undeserving injured…’ 

 

 

Reality  

 

The key issue for the injured person and their family is whether they can afford not to seek damages, particularly if they are unable to continue working or have to change jobs as a result of their accident.

 

In any event, the amount of money awarded is far from being a ‘lottery’ win. In the UK damages in personal injury cases are based on very precise calculations, refined over many years, which reflect the extent of the injury and the earning capacity of the victim.

 

The process is designed with one aim in mind – to put the injured party back to where they were before the accident. Thus a twisted ankle claim will not attract a multi-million pound sum, whereas a brain-injured survivor of a road traffic accident might well receive a very large sum of money to pay for a lifetime of medical care.

 

Insurance companies know this very well and they are not about to sanction overly generous compensation claim payouts under any circumstances. The idea that hurt and injured people are scamming the system and receiving ‘over the odds’ payouts is absolutely ludicrous – but that doesn’t stop The Daily Mail reporting it as fact…

 

We welcome your thoughts on the ‘compensation culture’ and would like to know if you agree with us that the vast majority of accident compensation claims in the UK are made by trustworthy people seeking justice and fairness for themselves and their families.

Claiming compensation for personal injury – Myth v Reality

There has been a lot of recent press coverage aimed at perpetuating the myth of a compensation culture. Much of this PR effort has been orchestrated by the insurance industry and swallowed ‘hook, link and sinker’ by the government .

 

We would like to redress the balance and provide a reasoned argument in support of the right of hurt and injured people to seek fair compensation.

 

    

Myth 

 

We live in a compensation culture where people sue at the drop of a hat for even the most trivial injuries.

 

Reality

  

In order to make a successful claim for personal injury compensation an accident victim has to prove that they have been hurt or injured. Unless the evidence supports the claim the case has no chance of success, ever, period. Spurious damages claims may grab the headlines but they will never see the light of day in court. Anyone can claim compensation but it’s the follow-through that counts and the papers never report on the half-baked claims that never succeed.

 

We are only concerned here about real people who have suffered real injuries.

 

The fact is that many people still don’t realise that they have a right to claim compensation if they have been hurt or injured in an accident that wasn’t their fault.

 

We know from research carried out by the Citizens Advice Bureau that over 60% of people entitled to make a claim for compensation fail to do so. From our own experience, we find that many people who go on to become clients of the firm are unsure about making a claim for a variety of reasons. It’s our job to help accident victims and their families understand their rights and guide them through the legal process.

 

We understand that some people are affected by the myth of a ‘compensation culture’ and may be concerned about what family, friends and even collagues at work will think if they make a claim.

 

For instance, passengers injured in a car driven by a family member or a friend can become distressed by the very thought of seeking damages and workers can be unwilling to claim against their employers for fear of reprisals or victimisation.

 

The reality is that hurt and injured people have a hard enough challenge coming to terms with the effects of their accident without having to deal with the added and unnecessary stress of worrying about paying their bills and coping with their rehabilitation. 

 

We would like to know what you think about the ‘compensaton culture’. We believe that accident victims are coming under increased pressure not to claim compensation and that many are being bullied into accepting low-value, unfair offers from insurance companies. Do you agree?