Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 20 Jan 2015:
Three years, £58,000: Swansea Council just can’t cut a break after running afoul of more than half a dozen of costly personal injury claims.
There’s no rest for the wicked, apparently, as the local authority has had to face a barrage of personal injury compensation claims from April 2012 for claimants who have suffered slip-and-trip injuries on property owned by the council. The massive legal bill has already sparked outrage from those who have a bee in their bonnets about how much money the council is spending on accident claims, but Swansea Council says that as far as compensation bills go it’s not nearly as bad as everyone thinks.
Honestly – and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – I have to agree with the local authority. A spokeswoman for the council rebutted claims that there needs to be a personal injury crackdown by saying the council investigates each and every claim made against it as thoroughly and objectively as possible in order to suss out whether the authority has any legal liability – and it’s only those that rise to the level of liability that the council pays out on.
What this means is that Swansea Council doesn’t like spending taxpayer cash on things like compensation payouts any more than people like to see massive figures in the tens of thousands go out to injured individuals. On the one hand, if someone is injured they have a right to be made whole if it wasn’t their fault, and the responsibility for that lies at the feet of whomever was responsible for their injuries. On the other hand, Swansea is a big place and you can’t possibly expect the local council to police every single inch of pavement to make sure that it’s not going to cause someone to trip on it and break their crown open. This means that it’s inevitable that a few claims are going to show up every year.
Honestly, getting off with less than £20,000 a year in damages for a region the size of Swansea is a bloody miracle if you ask me. It’s obvious that the local council is doing its job as best as it can, and I’m sure the councilors would be quite appreciative if people would stop taking the piss out of them for once.
Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 9 Dec 2014:
Think that personal injury claims fraud is a lawyer problem? Think again; many times the problem is within exceedingly stupid potential fraudsters.
Don’t believe me? Think about this: someone tried to fake an injury in a Bradford Lidl store, claming he slipped on a wet plastic bag when he actually just orchestrated the whole thing. Of course, the entirety of his abortive attempt to scam Lidl’s insurer AIG out of ten thousand pounds was caught right on CCTV – and once the insurer caught wind of the evidence it was lights out for the little fraudster that couldn’t.
In a lovely turn of events, now the bloke who thought he was being oh-so clever owes legal fees and court costs of nearly £9,000. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, if you ask me. Not only that but he has a two-year suspended sentence of 10 months in prison for his attempts to run an insurance fraud – which is, the last time I checked, bloody illegal as well as immoral and unethical. I don’t know, I’ll check again.
Yep, still illegal.
So is it just me or does this seem like the nail in the coffin for the old myth about personal injury solicitors being ambulance-chasing bastards looking to make a quick cash-in completely and totally irrelevant? It seems that every news media story I’ve been reading lately is all about how claimants, acting on their own, have been looking for big payouts. None of these stories mention how the scammers were convinced by their personal injury lawyers to bring phony accident claims.
Honestly that’s just not done any more. The lion’s share of injury lawyers would never even dream of engaging in such underhanded activities; the stereotypical myth comes from those damned claims management companies that had sprung up like weeds a few years back. Now that most of the tactics these CMCs used to operate have been banned, suddenly all these stories of predatory lawyers seem to have disappeared from the major news media cycle. It’s miraculous isn’t it? Almost as if – wait for it – there was no problem in the first place?
Well, the problem was with CMCs, not legitimate law firms. Oh, you know what I mean – stop rolling your eyes.
The employees of two separate construction companies suffered serious personal injury at work recently in an incident in Liverpool, at the John Moores University, involving 250 tonnes of concrete that collapsed suddenly when a scaffolding failed.
Personal injury solicitor experts say that the incident occurred during the construction of the new Art and Design Academy at the university. Workers had been constructing the atrium of the building by pumping wet concrete up to the third floor when the scaffolding that had been erected to support the structure suddenly collapsed; according to the Government’s Health and Safety Executive, which investigated the incident, several employees of both companies sustained serious injuries during the collapse after tumbling nearly ten metres into the wet cement underneath them, with injuries including broken bones and also burn injuries to their skin and eyes caused by caustic substances within the cement itself.
HSE Investigators found that the two firms that had been tasked with constructing the atrium, sub-contractor MPB Structures Ltd and general contractor Wates Construction Ltd, had permitted the scaffolding to be built not from a finalised design but a preliminary one that did had not included crucial information. As a result, the scaffolding failed because it proved incapable of supporting the massive 250 tonne weight of the wet cement.
After a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court where the HSE successfully prosecuted both companies, Wates Construction and MPB Structures were told to pay identical fines of £50,000 after the companies entered pleas of guilty to breaching health and safety regulations. Both companies were fined £50,000 each after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Construction is one of the most dangerous lines of work to be employed in, according to industry experts, with nearly 30,000 serious injuries and fifty fatal ones occurring in the UK every year.
Personal injury solicitor firms are feeling the heat in the current economic landscape, as highlighted by the sudden death of one Manchester-based firm’s staff being made redundant and its ongoing cases sold on – while luckier firms face consolidation and market shake-ups instead.
Personal injury lawyers are under all kinds of financial pressures as they are claiming basic regulatory compliance costs have rocketed upwards yet banks have tightened lending in the wake of the credit crunch exposing law firm partners taking out excess capital. Further complications are on the horizon, with the Legal Aid bill, based on the Jackson reforms, threatening to bring about the end of referral fees and keeping no win no fee lawyers up nights with a serious case of the shivers.
However, there is an other hand, as the Solicitors Regulation Authority is poised to approve alternative business structures, creating legal giants with deep pockets that can offer additional profit-turning services. However, high street legal professionals have a bleak outlook, according to Axa UK claims managing director, David Williams.
Once the Legal Aid reforms kick in, the world ‘will go with a bump,’ Mr Williams said, as lawyers that had been relying on generating business leads through referral fees are in for a rough go of it. There has simply been no focus on efficiency with business being driven by a ‘highest bidder’ acquisition model, the director added, and many firms will be faced with serious profit limitations if they do not find ways to become more efficient.
A Devon holiday park was the site of a personal injury at work as one of its employees sustained serious physical harm when he was caught in a collapsing trench, personal injury solicitor experts recently reported.
Grzegorz Waluszkowski, the forty year old Lady’s Mile Holiday Camp employee, had been laying a drainage pipe in the ditch at the Dawlish site of the holiday park, while two of the leisure park operator’s directors assisted him. According to personal injury claims experts, the two metre deep trench collapsed upon the worker when the softwood piece that had been shoring up the trench’s side walls gave way, resulting in the worker being buried underneath the rubble.
At a recent hearing in Torquay Magistrates’ Court, Main Gate Leisure Limited, the leisure park’s operators, were subject to prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive, as the court heard that the rubble pinning down the unconscious worker was so deep that camp staff had to abandon their frantic efforts to dig him out by hand and had to rely on the use of an excavator to extricate him from the collapsed trench.
Mr. Waluszkowski sustained serious injuries to his head in the incident, including multiple fractures to his cheekbones and jaw and a skull fracture. The HSE’s investigation into the trench collapse discovered that Main Gate Leisure had neglected to carry out risk assessments of the work in an adequate manner and had failed to put in place proper safety procedures to prevent injury.
In the face of the HSE’s findings, Main Gate Leisure Limited admitted to being in breach of health and safety regulations, with the court ordering the company to pay a fine of £5,000 and an additional sum of nearly £2,200 in court costs as well.
The employee of a manufacturing firm based in Warwickshire suffered a personal injury at work after a power press crushed his hand, leading to the man’s employer to be prosecuted by the Government’s Health and Safety Executive, personal injury solicitor experts recently reported.
The unnamed twenty three year old worker had been employed for Ricor Ltd, a components manufacturing company, through an agency, in order to work at their Studley-based manufacturing plant prior to the accident, Leamington Spa Magistrates’ Court was told. Personal injury compensation experts say that the employee had been working on the removal of finished components from one of the factory’s production lines when the guards of the machine trapped his hand, resulting in it becoming crushed when the power press activated.
The twenty three year old employee suffered such devastating damage to his index and middle fingers that surgical experts had no choice but to amputate each, resulting in his life changing in significant ways. The injured worker now finds everyday tasks that used to be easy quite difficult, and his injuries still cause him pain, legal experts reported.
The safety guards that had been fitted to the press had been maintained poorly, the HSE investigation discovered, leading to their failure in stopping the piece of machinery when the hand of the worker entered the dangerous inner workings. As a result of the investigation and subsequent prosecution of the company, Ricor Ltd was told to pay a fine of £10,000, along with an additional £5,407 in legal costs, after it entered a plea of guilty to breaching regulations covering the provision and use of work equipment.
One survivor of the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship expressed his insult at being offered a 30 per cent discount on a future cruise by Costa Cruises, the firm responsible for the ship, according to personal injury solicitor experts.
The luxury cruise liner ran aground on the rocky cost of Giglio, an island off the coast of Tuscany, with Captain Francisco Schettino abandoning ship without making sure those still on board were safe. A retired accountant from Southampton that survived the wreck, Brian Page, told personal injury claims experts writing for the the Telegraph newspaper, that he was insulted by the company’s ‘ridiculous’ offer, and asserted that the disappointment he had for their lack of acceptance of responsibility he feels leaves him no choice but to bring legal action against the firm in the form of a personal injury compensation claim.
However, the Costa Cruises website has denied the allegations of Mr Page, stating expressly that the firm has never made any future cruise discount offer to Costa Concordia passengers. Costa Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Group, a US-based company, did confirm that every passenger have been contacted in order to ensure that they returned home safely and have also been offered a complete refund for the cost of their cruise.
The captain of the ship has been blamed for the crash by his employers, and has begun a civil claim against Schettino in Italy. 12 lives were lost in the disaster at sea. An Italian consumer association and two law firms based in the US are seeking compensation on behalf of the Costa Concordia’s passengers in the case.
One major supermarket chain has been told it must pay a sum of £44,500 in personal injury compensation to an elderly shopper who sustained serious personal harm after being struck by a pallet truck at a Leicester branch.
Angela Pownell, aged eighty years, had been at the Beaumont Leys Tesco Extra store with her husband John when she was struck by a pallet truck being pulled through the site by Terry Parkinson, one of the store’s warehouse workers, personal injury solicitor experts writing for the Leicester Mercury newspaper say. Mrs Pownell was rushed to hospital for her injuries, as the pallet truck scraped against her shins so severely to leave ‘flaps of skin’ torn loose and hanging from her wounds.
Leicester City Council investigated the incident, leading to the supermarket giant being prosecuted by the local authority for their role in Mrs Pownell’s injuries. After Tesco was tried and found guilty for neglecting to take the necessary steps to prevent the risk of injury from non-staff members, the supermarket giant was given a fine of £20,000 and told to pay an additional £24,500 in court costs as well, injury solicitor experts said.
Mrs Pownell read a statement out in court, recounting how she had not seen the approach of the pallet truck. The pain she experienced in the wake of the accident was described as the worst she had ever felt, though the supermarket giant had paid an undisclosed sum to the eighty year old woman in order to compensate her for the pain and suffering she experienced as a result of her injuries.
One man from Birmingham was found to have been attempting to defraud his car insurance company, resulting in his personal injury compensation claim being thrown out of court and being told to pay more than £24,000 in court costs for the chicanery, personal injury solicitor experts recently reported.
52 year old Nigel Jackson had submitted personal injury claims after allegedly sustaining injuries in a traffic accident in Birmingham on Pershaw Road in July of 2010. The defendant named in the claim, Sutton Coldfield-native James Rea, 25 years of age, had collided with Mr Jackson’s car from behind at only a few miles per hour, prompting the older man to seek damages for a whiplash-related injury that lasted several months.
At a trial heldat Birmingham Civil Justice Centre on February 17 of this year, inconsistencies with Mr Jackson’s evidence were discovered in comparison to information given to medical experts and original witness testimony. The inconsistent information continued, with Mr Jackson reporting that he was an ‘entertainer’ at the inception of the trial when asked what he did for a living, yet he reported his occupation as an electrical engineer on his original claim form.
Mr Jackson admitted in open court that he did not list his true profession on his insurance cover, as instead reporting to Esure, his insurer at the time, that he was an electrical engineer resulted in being given cheaper insurance quotes. However, the insurer’s chief executive officer, Stuart Vann, commented that fraud is not tolerated by the company, and that it takes a ‘strong, hard-hitting approach’ to the detection and prevention of fraudulent activity on the part of its customers.
After an employee suffered a personal injury at work that saw him lose two of his fingers whilst on the job, the Government’s Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the man’s Cheshire-based employer, personal injury solicitor experts recently reported.
The thirty four year old man, whose name has not been released to the public due to requests for privacy, had been working for the Proseal (UK) Ltd’s Adlington factory on the Adlington Industrial Estate. The manufacturing firm employee sustained his injuries when a metal working lathe’s rotating mechanism dragged his hand inside, severing two of his fingers at the second knuckle, personal injury claims experts say.
An HSE investigation found that the anonymous worker had been wearing gloves when the incident occurred. However, the HSE had published guidance nearly twenty years ago outlining the risks associated with wearing gloves while engaged in the operation of industrial lathes, and that the incident could have been completely avoided if the firm had merely complied with health and safety guidelines that were almost two decades old.
The HSE prosecuted Proseal (UK) Ltd successfully, leading to the firm admitting it breached health and safety regulations by permitting its employee to wear gloves while he operated the lathe. As a result, Proseal was given a fine of £3,500 and told to pay a total of £3,807 in court costs for the role the firm played in the worker suffering the loss of his fingers.
An inspector for the HSE spoke after the court hearing, stating that the advice the HSE had published in the early 1990s was common knowledge within the metalworking industry by now, and that Proseal should have followed these guidelines.
Thanks to the 1,500 personal injury claims made every day for loss of earnings and emotional and physical damage caused by car accidents, the UK has been crowned the ‘whiplash capital of Europe,’ personal injury solicitor experts say.
Millions of Brits receive unsolicited texts on their mobiles and emails in their inbox every day offering quick and painless personal injury compensation for accidents in which they may or may not have been involved. However, the money to pay all these claims (and the success fees charged by no win no fee lawyers) must come from somewhere – and car insurance companies have been footing the bill.
A large number of these claims are genuine, of course. However, insurers are drowning under a deluge of spurious claims brought by ambulance chasing legal firms, resulting in massive compensation payments and fantastically inflated court costs that they have no choice to pass along to their customers in the form of higher premium prices.
Making things worse is that incidences of outright fraud are on the rise as well, with unscrupulous firms encouraging drivers to make whiplash claims if they had some involvement in an accident, even in the event of no outward damage to the cars in the incident or apparent injuries to those in the car at the time.
The Government wants to take action to eliminate or at least mitigate this problem, as evidenced by the insurance industry summit attended by Prime Minister David Cameron. Finding a way to manage the massive influx of whiplash claims featured prominently in the discussions, according to industry insiders.
Injury solicitors have won more than £2.2 million for their clients from three councils after pupils and staff at three local schools sustained injuries.
According to personal injury solicitor experts writing for the Staffordshire Sentinel newspaper, Stoke-on-Trent City Council paid out more than £744,000 in personal injury compensation over the past three years on thirty four successful claims. Meanwhile, nearly £891,000 was paid out by Staffordshire County Council on a total of 88 combined claims between pupils and employees, while thirty six claimants collectively received more than £590,000 from Cheshire East Council.
Payouts were large in all three cases, with the most compensation going to a woman for a broken ankle, earning £260,059. Other large six-figure payments made to claimants include two over £100,000 in value for two separate instances of individuals slipping on ice, according to the newspaper article.
Many five-figure sums were paid to claimants as well, such as the nearly £24,000 paid to a schoolgirl who suffered an injury to her foot after a bus ran it over, and the almost £20,000 that was paid to a teaching assistant after a faulty chair aggravated a previously extant back injury.
One National Union of Teachers representative from Staffordshire commented on the massive payouts, remarking that the nature of cases brought against local authorities in the region means that compensation would only have been paid to the claimants if negligence was demonstrated on the part of the council.