BP to offer one-off payments if claimants waive right to sue

In the hope of drawing  a line under the crisis and in an attempt to quantify total costs, BP has announced its intention to cap its liabilities from the Gulf of Mexico disaster by offering those affected one-off compensation payouts in return for them waiving the right to sue.

Tens of thousands of affected people in the Gulf, particularly those in the fishing and tourism industries, are weeks away from bankruptcy but it is very difficult to calculate future lost earnings. There is also no way for claimants to know if they can expect more compensation if they sue BP in the courts…but that, of course, would appear to be the idea.

Ken Feinberg, who was appointed by the White House in June to administer the claims process on behalf of BP, will take charge within the next three weeks. BP has committed to pay $20bn into the fund in a series of instalments over the next three and a half years. When he takes over this month, for the first time claimants will be offered a one-off sum based on their future lost earnings, provided they agree not to sue BP as the company seeks to re-build its reputation.

“The fund will offer lump sum payments in return for an agreement not to pursue claims in court,” a spokeswoman said. Claimants will also be able to receive an emergency payout to cover their lost income for up to six months without waiving their right to sue BP. Claims from those directly affected by the spill, such as fishermen, will qualify but uncertainty surrounds those more indirectly affected. For example, many owners of beach apartments in Florida – even where no oil hit the shore – face bankruptcy because holidaymakers stayed away. It seems that a scheme designed to simplify and fast-track compensation payments may not be quite so simple after all.

In our view in its highly regrettable that the media spotlight continues to be targeted at the environmental cost of the oil spill whilst the 11 workers who died in the explosion receive scarcely a single reference by comparison. Let’s hope that the fate of the wrongful death and personal injury compensation claims on behalf of the victims’ families is monitored with the same level of scrutinty as the thousands of loss of earnings claims. 

Dog attacks in Edinburgh hit record high

Incredibly, more than 100 dog attacks have taken place in Edinburgh during the past six months, including one where a 12-month-old baby was bitten, it was revealed today.

The shocking figure, which includes attacks against children, adults and other animals, is twice the amount recorded in the whole of 2009 and clearly highlights a growing and very serious problem. The figures show that only one of the dogs involved in the 102 attacks recorded since January 1 was on a lead and all but 36 of the incidents happened in public spaces such as on roads and pavements, in parks or in open fields

Last year 52 dog attacks were recorded by Lothian and Borders police. In 2008 around 43 attacks were reported. The attacks this year included 26 bites to children, 30 to adults and 39 to other dogs. Four cats and two swans were killed. A one-year-old was bitten and a toddler was also attacked but only around 12 people were charged for owning dangerous animals and only two of the animals were put down.

Scottish SPCA Chief Inspector Mike Flynn today said the number – which is the highest in at least five years – showed that people needed to drastically change their attitudes to owning and training dogs.

He said the new Control of Dogs Bill, set to come into force next year, was a much-needed change to the law and would ensure owners kept their pets under control. However, his use of the word ‘pet’ to describe for example a pit bull bred for fighting is a complete misnomer as these dogs are primarily status symbols used to intimidate and terrorise.     

At present, making a claim for compensation following a dog attack in Scotland can be difficult as the process is often hampered by the problem of identifying the owner and proving that the animal is dangerous.

Bonnar & Company believes that the passing of the Control of Dogs Bill in Scotland is a welcome step in helping innocent victims of dog attacks in Scotland achieve justice and financial compensation for their injuries because it means that every dog, every owner and every location, including previously ‘exempt’ private homes, will now be included in the provisions of the new Act, which will come into force next February.

If you or  a member of your family would like to discuss your legal options arisng from a dog attack, then please call us FREE on 0800 163 978 for a no obligation case review.

BP rig alarm system bypassed for a year claims engineer

A chief engineer on the doomed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig has told federal investigators that fire and gas-leak alarms had been turned off for at least a year because the platform’s managers didn’t want workers’ sleep disturbed by false alarms.

The alarm system could have alerted the crew to shut down the rig’s engines to prevent triggering an explosion of natural gas that had surged up from the mile-deep well, according to Mike Williams, the chief engineer tech who worked for rig owner Transocean, which was drilling for BP. He testified to a panel from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Interior Department.

He said: “I discovered it was ‘inhibited’ about a year ago, so I inquired. The explanation I got was that from the offshore installation manager down, they did not want people to wake up at 3 a.m. due to false alarm.”

Williams said he complained repeatedly, from six months to three days before the rig exploded April 20 and sank two days later, killing 11 workers and causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. He said the emergency shutdown system had problems previously.

If this allegation turns out to be true, such actions reveal a truly appalling sense of priority on the part of senior management. To bet the health and safety of the rig workers against the possibility of a disturbed night’s sleep counts as a staggering dereliction of the duty of care owed to employees. Oil rigs are dangerous places and when accidents happen they are invariably very serious indeed – that is why the industry’s health and safety standards have to be very high.

Bonnar & Company specialises in dangerous workplace accident claims. Our expert legal team can be contacted on FREEPHONE 0800 163 978.

Insurance industry victimises personal injury claimants in new report

When will the insurance industry stop blaming personal injury solicitors for rising premiums?

Today’s report by the Association of British Insurers claims that the rise of a litigation or “ambulance-chasing” legal culture in Britain is playing its part in the rise of artificial claims.

The ABI’s own figures show that in 2009 a grand total of 4% of ALL claims were fraudulent and that the most common frauds were bogus or exaggerated claims on claims on household policies.

A key point worth stressing and always overlooked by the industry is that, by definition, fraudulent claims do not succeed. Or perhaps I am missing the point. Is the insurance industry really saying that it is paying out on claims known to be fraudulent?

As all reasonable people will understand, personal injury solicitors actually play an important part in identifying and weeding out bogus claims. As a firm Bonnar & Company actually receives very, very few enquiries relating to what might be called ‘dodgy’ claims. The small number of dubious claims that do come our way are quickly rooted out and the claimants are sent packing, pronto.

The fact remains that a claimant for personal injury compensation has to prove that their accident was the result of someone else’s negligence.  As accident and personal injury compensation claim solicitors, our number one job is to evaluate personal injury cases and gather the evidence necessary to support our client’s claim. It is inconceivable that we would spend a second longer than is necessary on a bogus claim when we are busy working on behalf of genuine accident and injury victims and their families.

If you have ever tried claiming on your own household policy for genuine accidental damage just imagine for a moment how difficult it can be to claim AGAINST the insurer of another member of the public or a company for pain, suffering and loss sustained as a result of an accident or industrial illness.   

So, I ask the question once more…

Where are all the successful bogus personal injury compensation claims and where are the lawyers that are making them?

If you or a member of your family would like to discuss your genuine claim for compensation with a qualified, regulated and experienced personal injury solicitor, then please call us FREE on 0800 163 978 for no obligation EXPERT legal advice.

Road safety charity hits out at savage budget cut backs

In the budget today, it was announced that transport funding is likely to be cut by more than 25% by 2014, causing concern for the future of life-saving road safety measures.

Brake, the Road Safety charity, believes that these measures will contribute to a rise in casualties and consequential costs to the emergency services, making such cut backs a false economy.

There is to be an immediate cut to the road safety budget for the current year (2010/11) by a catastrophic 40%, made up of a 27% cut to the revenue grant of £20.6m and a £100% cut to the capital grant of £17.2m. The capital grant is used for road safety engineering measures such as pedestrian crossings and installation of fixed cameras and speed humps. The revenue grant is used for local authority-led local road safety partnerships, which carry out campaigns and education, particularly of young people, who are more likely to die on our roads than die from any other cause or illness and for costs such as maintenance of speed cameras.

Despite the cutbacks, the Department for Transport does not expect there to be a direct correlation between the savage grant reductions for road safety and local authority expenditure on road safety, saying it is for local authorities to decide where their priorities lie across all their responsibilities and they are free to swap funding from one area to another.

One road safety officer told Brake: “The major loss of funding this year, and the uncertainty of continued funding at all, may well result in the discontinuation of road safety partnerships with nothing to replace them. Road safety has been dropped and we can expect to see the death toll rise as a direct result.”

Ellen Booth, campaigns officer for Brake, said:

“Brake is outraged that road safety has been targeted so brutally – traffic is the biggest killer of young people and dangerous behaviour on roads causes thousands of horrific deaths and injuries of all ages every year in the UK. By targeting road safety, the government has shown they have no concern for the families of the future carnage we may see because of this irresponsible and short sighted cut of a vital life-saving service, and also no understanding of the enormous expense to the emergency services of road crashes and therefore the false economy of making these cuts.

The government has sent a very powerful message to local authorities that life saving work in road safety is not important at all.”

Bonnar & Company is all too familiar with the results of careless driving and poorly maintained roads and we are horrified by the government’s proposals. Most people would expect a new government to make safety on the roads a priority but it seems that we are being softened up for more swingeing cuts to health and safety expenditure across the board and that we can expect no favours from Lord Young’s forthcoming review.

If you have been hurt or injured in a road traffic accident and would like an expert legal review of your case at no charge, please contact us on FREEPHONE 0800 163 978.