Live in Lincolnshire? Hope you have a good injury lawyer

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 21 Oct 2014:

If there’s one place in the UK that requires you to have a good personal injury lawyer before living there, it’s undoubtedly got to be Lincolnshire.

Think I’m just taking the piss? I’m not – it turns out that there was something like £150,000 spent by the local council in 2013 due to pothole-related damage. Think that was bad? Last year was almost just as bad with around £133,000 in accident claims made against the council. That’s right: the roads are so bad in Lincolnshire that they’re costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that last year saw Lincolnshire awarded the dubious honor of the pothole capital of Britain by Britannia Rescue. Things show no indications of getting better any time soon, and local councilors blame it on a lack of funds to fill in the thousands of potholes across the county. Though that raises a question from me: if there’s no money, where’s the cash for these personal injury compensation payouts coming from? Don’t you think that spending the money on road repairs instead of on court costs and legal fees might cut down on these ridiculous personal injury claims just a bit?

Apparently it’s been a generational problem, as councilors say Lincolnshire has been critically under-funded for decades when it comes to infrastructure improvements. As a result, pavements and rods just keep crumbling to dust, leading countless motorists and pedestrians alike to hurt themselves or damage their vehicles. Not only that but another cold winter is likely to be on its way, and that means the already ruined roads are going to just deteriorate further. There’s no way that the council is going to be able to raise the £5.5 million it needs to qualify for the same figure in matched funds the Government is offering it.

The end result is rather grim. Eventually Lincolnshire’s roads are going to degrade to the point where local residents will be better off trotting about in a horse and buggy instead of behind the wheel of a motor. I’m sure that even the ancient roads in England from before the fall of the Roman Empire were in better shape then – and for all intents and purposes are probably in better shape now!

Past returns with a vengeance as future looks uncertain

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 25 March 2014:

The realm of personal injury claims becomes increasingly difficult to navigate as new regulations loom on the horizon and old injury cases come home to roost.

If there’s anything constant, it’s the fact that the law always changes and evolves. Ask any personal injury lawyer and they’ll tell you the same: case law adapts over time and the legal landscape shifts along with it. However, sometimes it seems that change comes so quickly and from so many different quarters that it can exhaust even the most veteran of personal injury solicitors.

A good example of this is how old cases that were seemingly decided years ago can come back with a vengeance, such as the personal injury compensation case made by Joanne Dunhill. The 53 year old woman ended up with around £12,000 in damages several years ago after a catastrophic accident but the Supreme Court recently took another look at the case, announcing that she may be owed more money than she originally received as new facts came to light about the nature of her injuries and the original case as it unfolded all those years ago.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s not terribly rare either; in fact many cases might get revisited from time to time. Many judges tend to avoid doing it just on the fact that it could have serious repercussions for case law and already set precedent, but when a case is strong enough to warrant it it’s only natural – and I’m glad that Mrs Dunhill might get a bit more money than she originally received. Of course, there could be more than just justice being sought by British courts – especially if allegations made by the Law Society this week turn out to be true.

The Law Society says that the new ‘Jackson reforms’ that went into effect recently have changed the way jurisprudence is conducted in the UK in a fundamental way. Courts now are more interested in managing administrative costs than providing access to justice, claims the Law Society, and that’s bad news for anyone who’s in dire need of legal aid.

It’s not just the Law Society that’s had it with the Jackson reforms. The Civil Justice Council has also taken issue, especially since the end effect has seen legal bills for claimants and clients increase. The reforms are an unmitigated failure claims the CJC based on the fact that there’s so much inconsistency with these new rules, and that it takes so bloody long to comply with them. It’s a damned shame considering these reforms were originally imagined as a way to support claimants and not discourage them from making claims, but what can you do? This is what happens when good ideas are given to the Government: they’re ruined, sometimes irrevocably.

The gears of justice grind slowly but exceedingly small

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 11 March 2014:

If there’s one thing that you know if you work in the personal injury compensation industry, it’s that injury claims can sometimes take forever to resolve.

Sadly this means quite a bit of the time that claimants can see years go by before actually receiving any compensation for their injuries. It doesn’t matter how good their personal injury solicitors, either – the legal system just takes bloody forever. That’s why it’s so nice to hear when someone finally gets the help they deserve in the wake of a bad injury – and the news has been filled with this particular good news as of late.

One of the most high-profile cases involves a 49 year old man, a former welder, who was crushed under a metal jack whilst on the job. He was injured so badly that he has permanent nerve damage in his face – the kind that leaves him in constant, agonising pain – and he now can’t go out in public without protecting his face from further harm behind a plastic mask. The poor bloke even needed five separate surgeries to repair his shattered eye socket . In other words he most definitely earned the £500,000 in damages his personal injury lawyers won for him just recently. With any luck some of that cash will go towards experimental procedures to disrupt the nerve pathways between his face and his brain in order to relieve some of that constant pain he’s been suffering from since the grisly injury.

Sometimes the good news can be bittersweet though, especially when it comes to this next story revolving around the family of a couple whose life changed forever on holiday several years ago. June and Martin Vann were enjoying a nice holiday in the south of Portugal when the idyllic scene was shattered by a speeding driver, leaving June with incredibly debilitating brain injuries that left her unable to care for herself and with a wildly altered personality. Even more tragically, her husband Martin was killed instantly by the driver, leaving the adult children of the pair, Julia and Alex, trying in vain to get justice for their slain father and their debilitated mother.

This has been incredibly difficult because of one reason: the motorist who struck the the pair has been staunchly denying liability for years now, despite the fact that in the aftermath of the accident he indeed did say that it was his fault. It’s been an uphill battle for the past three years in fact, arguing with courts that anyone driving at 60mph where there were pedestrians nearby was obviously not that concerned with the safety of others. Luckily though a High Court judge has finally ruled in favour of the June and her children, declaring that the motorist did indeed have liability for the accident – and this means the accident claim can finally proceed.

I can only hope that they throw the book at this miserable bastard that was behind the wheel at the time. My heart breaks for that poor family, losing one parent and having another effectively crippled because of one man’s inability to act like a normal human being. I’m sure the family will get a nice compensation award, but I’m sure they’d give it up for just another day as an intact family.

Industry bodies attempt to ward off criticism with new rules

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 18 Feb 2014:

If there’s any industry that loves to shift blame away from them and on to personal injury solicitors, it’s the insurance market – and they’re at it again.

It’s true – though on the surface the news this week doesn’t seem anything but good for consumers. In fact most people would assume that the announcement by the Association of British Insurers that they’ve ratified a new Code of Conduct that ABI members have signed off on would lead to greater levels of transparency between insurers and their customers.

For the most part, that sentiment is correct – signatories to the new ABI code are bound to provide better customer support to their policyholders in the form of revealing which personal injury lawyer works for or is endorsed by a particular insurer, and supposedly these insurers will reduce the pressure on customers to make accident claims in the event of an RTA or something similar. However, the more paranoid injury claims experts have pointed out that this new code can serve as a smokescreen, enabling insurers to renew their attacks on the legal sector by claiming that ‘ambulance chasing’ injury lawyers are out for their blood.

As I said, I know it sounds like a paranoid’s fever dream but you can’t put anything past the insurance industry. This is the same market that was hiking up the prices of their car hire and repair services in order to artificially increase premium prices for innumerable policyholders, just to pad their own pockets with excess wealth, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t immediately believe this new move is for the best.

Meanwhile, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association followed suit this week as well, barking at the ABI’s heels with their own new code of practice. Honestly though do we need that sort of commitment from Biba? I mean I’m not discounting the integral role brokers play in the insurance industry, but it seems less like something that’s needed and more like a move to invoke feelings of solidarity with the insurance industry whilst currying favour amongst their customer base as well, sort of a ‘playing both sides against the middle’ approach that just seems shrewd and calculating to me. Then again, I’m one of those paranoid individuals that sees a bogeyman behind every corner, so what do I know?

So much for blaming lawyers for rampant injury claims

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 22 Oct 2013:

Detractors of the personal injury lawyer community love to claim injury lawyers are the root of all evil, but it looks like these firebrands are just wrong.

Now far be it for me to go around saying ‘I told you so,’ but let’s be honest here: the news this week has been filled with evidence that blaming injury lawyers on the so-called ‘compensation culture’ has been absolute rubbish. Don’t believe me? Well look at how useless new regulatory reform has been, according to recent research that revealed a nearly 4 per cent jump in the number of car accident claims made so far in 2013 when compared to last year’s figures.

Just eight months in to 2013 and there’s already been more than 567,000 claims made for damages less than £25,000. This is despite the fact that there have been a spate of new reforms that went into effect supposedly to kerb the ‘ambulance chasing’ behaviour of personal injury solicitors by limiting the legal fees lawyers can claim off clients.

And if you think it’s just the car insurance industry that’s been sent reeling by these revelations, guess again: other types of injury claims activity has remained just as robust. Look at how much Suffolk County Council has had to pay out over the past three years for example, despite the fact that it’s been a good year and a half since these reforms went into effect: more than £1.4 milion!

There have been in excess of 400 payouts made by the local authority alone since the beginning of 2010. However, the most amazing figure isn’t this one but the fact that those 400 claims only represent some 22 per cent of total claims handled by the county council: a full 78 per cent of the claims made against the council never even saw the light of day!

So you tell me: are all these legal reforms actually doing anything to control the costs incurred by the taxpayer or the car insurance policyholder? I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say apparently not. It looks like the problem weren’t legal fees after all – I hope all those reformers and campaigners enjoy having a bit of egg on their face now that they’ve been proven completely and utterly wrong!

Barman wins £9,000 after suffering personal injury at work

A barman who suffered a personal injury at work has won £9,000 compensation from his employer in a case that took three years to settle.

In the course of his work, the man had to climb down a ladder in order to take down a promotional banner. When he reached out for the banner, he slipped and tumbled to the ground. As a direct result of the fall, the barman suffered a broken heel bone in his right leg.

The victim felt that his employer had been negligent and therefore he got in touch with a firm of personal injury solicitors and instructed them to instigate legal proceedings against the company that employed him.

During the course of the personal injury compensation negotiations, it became apparent that the barman’s immediate superior was standing at the foot of the ladder when the accident occurred.

The employer did not admit full liability for the accident, claiming that the victim acted negligently and was fully aware that an accident could occur. However, the personal injury lawyer in charge of the case said the barman had simply been following instructions.

The lawyer explained that employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are kept safe at all times and in this instance they had been negligent in their duty. They were responsible for planning, accessing and making sure the work was carried out safely and that included the provision of appropriate safety wear and equipment.

 

How will the courts cope with more litigants-in-person?

The UK’s civil courts are likely to be inundated with people fighting their own personal injury compensation cases when the government’s legal aid funding cuts come into force.

People representing themselves are known as litigants-in-person and they are usually amongst the most vulnerable members of society. Going to court without the services of a qualified personal injury lawyer or medical negligence solicitor can be a harrowing experience and on expert has described such people as “unexploded bombs”.

Later this month, the government is publishing a bill which will withdraw professional support for medical negligence claims, as well as debt, education and family disputes (unless domestic violence is involved). For other areas that are not axed, clients will have to rely on telephone advice lines for support.

The Ministry of Justice has said that half a million people will no longer be entitled to legal aid funding every year. The Legal Action Group outs the figure at nearer 650,000. The family courts will be hit hardest as a quarter of a million cases are removed from public funding.

One judge has already admitted that the new government regulations will increase the chance of justice not being done. A recent study found that the chance of losing a case doubled for a person without legal representation.

The government has defended the cuts saying they are necessary to reduce the amount of lengthy, sometimes unnecessary proceedings that are being funded at the taxpayers expense. But the general consensus outwith the government is that there must be a better way. Denying the very people who need legal representation the most the chance to claim compensation doesn’t sound to fit in with a caring society.

Tour operator Thomson must pay personal injury compensation

Thomson, one of the UK’s large tour operators, has been ordered to pay personal injury compensation to holidaymakers who suffered illness whilst on a holiday to Spain.

The case, which dates back to 2003, involved holidaymakers who stayed at the Son Baulo Hotel on the Spanish island of Majorca.

Tourists who stayed at the hotel between the 7th June and the 19th of September 2003 contracted either cryptosporidium or salmonella and as a direct result of their illness, some now have long-term problems with their health.

The Judge ruled that the tour operator should have informed people about the outbreaks prior to travel so they could either cancel or rebook. Thomson failed to do this and as a result 49 customers lodged personal injury claims against it.

Personal injury solicitors from law firm Irwin Mitchell represented the customers and afterwards said the case set a legal precedent recognising that tour operators have a duty to their potential guests.

Personal injury lawyer, Clive Garner, said it beggared belief that Thomson were aware that people were becoming very seriously ill at the hotel and yet they continued to send people there regardless.

The Judge will rule next month on the amount of compensation that will be awarded to those affected.

Thomson expressed disappointment at the decision saying it believed it did everything possible to safeguard the wellbeing of the holidaymakers. A spokesman added that the real winners in this case were the no win, no fee solicitors involved.

Personal injuries at work cost Welsh police forces £280,000

Over the last 3 years, Welsh police forces have paid out £280,000 in personal injury compensation to employees after personal injury at work claims were made against them.

A total of 93 personal injury claims were made against the four Welsh police forces. Dyfed-Powys Police paid out the most compensation – £94,000, whilst the police force in Gwent paid the least – just £49,000.

11 of the claims were brought by police employees who slipped, tripped or fell at work, three cited workplace stress and one employee’s claim related to something that fell from a cupboard. 36 claims were made against South Wales Police and although the Dyfed-Powys force paid out the most in compensation, it had the least number of claims brought against it at 17.

According to the HSE, more than 30,000 workers suffer a personal injury at work due to falls, slips and trips every year.

Meanwhile personal injury solicitors have been kept busy with people enquiring whether they can lodge a personal injury claim for a snow-related accident. One Accident and Emergency department has reported a threefold increase in the number of personal injuries caused by falls on icy pavements.

One personal injury lawyer pointed out that there are several complications with snow-related incidents and people must employ common sense to ensure their own safety and the safety of others. It is not always clear where the blame lies and therefore victims should contact a professional for advice before submitting a claim.

How to avoid personal injury claims in wintry conditions

Wintery conditions have been spelling misery for thousands as they battle snow and ice just to get out of the house.

Clearing away snow and ice from doorsteps, drives and pavements is an annual trial but many homeowners have been reluctant to do it recently in case they get slapped with a personal injury claim if somebody slips or falls on the ice.

However, Eamon Sexton, a personal injury solicitor in Merseyside has reassured the public that this is highly unlikely to happen. After the big freeze in January 2010, the Department of Transport published guidelines that imply householders would not be liable as long as they follow government advice.

The guidelines can be read in full on the Government website, www.direct.gov.uk, but in a nutshell they advise the public to spread sand or salt on paths to help keep them clear and on no account should hot water be used as this can freeze and cause black ice. If somebody were to slip on the resultant black ice, that could be classed as contributory negligence and lead to the guilty party having to pay out personal injury compensation to the victim.

Jeremy Bradshaw, another personal injury lawyer, advises businesses to avoid claims from employees by ensuring car parks and pathways are clear of ice. He also reminded companies that polished floors inside buildings, especially around entrance doors, can become slippery when wet and extra care should be taken in such areas to prevent accidents occurring.

2010 Personal Injury Awards recognise Des Collins

Congratulations to Des Collins, Senior Partner at Collins Solicitors, who was named “Claimant Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year” at the 2010 Personal Injury Awards. The Awards were held last Thursday evening at the Millennium Hotel, London.

This is the second major award that Collins has won in the last two months. At the end of last month, the Law Society Awards 2010 named him “UK Legal Personality of the Year”.

Mr. Collins was recognised for the support he gave to families during the landmark claim for negligence against Corby Borough Council. He also represented families after the oil depot explosion at Buncefield and the Southall and Paddington Rail crashes. This work also contributed to the most recent award.

After the presentation, Collins said that he was delighted to win two major awards that recognised the work of Collins Solicitors over the last 10 years. He praised his outstanding team without whose help it would have been impossible to handle major cases and paid tribute to the courage of his clients.

The firm has a challenging time ahead, Collins continued. One of the major cases they are currently fighting is the personal injury claims against a toxic site at Motherwell . However, next year will also see significant changes and the firm must address the issue of funding and how it will affect access to justice in the wake of the changes to the legal aid and personal injury compensation award systems announced by Kenneth Clarke last week.

Clergyman wins substantial medical negligence compensation

Last week a former clergyman was awarded substantial medical negligence compensation after doctors failed to discover that he had a brain tumour.

The 42 year old man consulted his doctor in July 2000 after suffering severe headaches. His GP referred him to Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre where specialists diagnosed him as a migraine sufferer.

However, his condition deteriorated and he went to the Eye Hospital in Birmingham. The hospital ordered an MRI scan and it revealed a huge tumour. The man had emergency surgery at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the tumour was removed.

The man retained the services of a personal injury solicitor to handle his claim for personal injury compensation. The lawyer pointed out that the man’s tumour went undiagnosed for four years because the original consultant failed to review the CT scan findings. This led to his client’s ambitions being wrecked and his loved ones undergoing enormous stress.

Although the CT scan had identified the brain tumour, the records were simply filed away and the patient was not notified of the problem, he added.

The personal injury lawyer has asked the health trust concerned to explain what lessons have been learnt from this incident, and what procedures have been changed, to safeguard future patient safety in the NHS as a whole.

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