Pleading guilty online could work just fine, says Sir Leveson

Sir Leveson has enhanced his visionary status at today’s Modernising Justice Through Technology expo. This time, he turned his attention to people who’ve committed ‘low-level’ offences. If Sir Leveson has his way, their ‘court appearance’ could take place from the comfort of their own home.

We’ve already seen driving offences relegated to a PayPal-type procedure. Sir Leveson believes that demoting similar, less serious offences to a turnkey website could:

  • save the government substantial costs;
  • reduce the backlog at the courts;
  • help prevent the delay or misplacement of case files.

Modernising Justice Through Technology

The President of the Queen’s Bench Division is on a roll. Only yesterday Michael Gove, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, voiced public support for another of Sir Leveson’s recommendations. Of a similar ilk, it also centred around speeding up efficiency of the UK’s criminal courts.

The argument there was that there are two justice systems in the UK. The international jetset has access to one, and can settle with a swipe of their American Express Platinum card. Everyone else has to put up with an ancient, creaking justice system whose “wheels are falling off it”.

But back to Sir Leveson’s Keynote Lecture, today. Yes, it too points to a justice system cracking and creaking at the seams.

It’s not only the burden of cases trickling through the courts that’s weighing the system down, though. It’s also to the archives, to which the courts dedicate “acres of rooms”, that Sir Leveson refers. And to the systematic regurgitating of protocol that’s served the courts:

“albeit with parchment and quill, [for] 300 years”.

Sir Leveson’s Keynote was empathetic to judges who’ve served their time handling paper documents. But it stressed the need to draw a line in the sand.

It’s time to bring the British criminal justice system online. Not only for the traffic offenders who can settle their dues digitally. But also for the lawyers, judges and all courtroom staff behind the scenes.

And whilst the ‘imperfect’ system is some way advanced, it makes sense to roll out the ability for the accused to play their part in the streamlined court process.

Are there any real arguments for the defence, m’lud?

Why waste the courts’, taxpayers’ and low level offenders’ time waiting for days, weeks and the postman? Why wait to bring their case to court when they can plead guilty and settle their fine online?

Yes, if there’s a case for mitigation, the accused should be able to contest the sentence online, too. And they will. Then the courts can take action and decide the appropriate response.

But for the sake of a £100 fine, which costs all parties much more in time alone? Then, yes, a portal to put the (digital) case to bed makes sense. To have all parties access and retrieve the files online when they need them makes sense.

Should we continue producing triplicate notes that have the potential to get lost or delayed?

And what about when a case is closed? Will it do to archive reams of notes, just to gather dust long after the judge who passed sentence has retired to the Algarve?

If for no other reason than to save a few acres of trees, bringing the criminal justice system online makes sense.

Legal Aid: time to end this stacked numbers game

Reaction to the government’s decision to continue with the second 8.75% cut to Legal Aid has been understandably negative. To rub salt into the wounds, income details for the Legal Aid chief swiftly followed in the Agency’s 2014-15 annual report.

All major players in the UK’s legal industry have vented frustration at the cut. But more than just being miffed, there’s massive concern for the sustainability of the industry, moving forward.

8.75% cut in Legal Aid

The letter from the Legal Aid minister announcing the 1st July as the day that the reduction in solicitors’ fees will take effect is available on the government’s website.

What seems obvious is the pattern that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems saw in the election is going to continue in this government term. Namely, any bad news that the government will announce will be laid at the feet of the coalition.

Any good news, then you can be sure the new Conservative government will take credit.

Not that there’s any of the latter in the letter.

Who Do You Believe?

The arguments for imposing the second cut to Legal Aid seem contradictory to evidence Andrew Caplen from the Law Society has presented to the MoJ.

A quote from Mr Caplen in an article on the law gazette reads:

We have shared evidence with the MoJ from over 120 firms who are already suffering as a result of the previous round of cuts.

This evidence totally contradicts the detail in minister’s letter. The government’s decision to press on with the cuts suggested under the coalition has been based on consultation with third parties.

From those meetings, the first round of cuts to Legal Aid, according to the minister and his panel, has had no:

substantial negative impact on [the service’s] sustainability.

Pick you potato as to which one of those two you believe.

The letter also confirms that the tender to supply 527 duty provider contracts has been sent out. The net effect is that the 1,600 duty solicitors that were on 24/7 notice to police stations across the country has been reduced by over a third.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul the Boss

So, inflation is nil. Wages are increasing, a little over 3% on average across the country.

You can understand the backlash from the legal community when details of Legal Aid Agency’s boss Matthew Coats’ employment costs became public.

It’s perhaps not the £225,000 package that grates. That figure does, after all, encompass Coats’ role as director general for MoJ Justice Corporate Services.

It’s the percentage increase that will aggravate the industry, already struggling to recruit young lawyers to the bar. The £225k represents a 12.5% increase in cost to the taxpayer compared to Coats’ 2013/14 income.

All things considered, it will be those on low incomes who can’t afford a solicitor who’ll suffer most from further cuts to the Legal Aid budget. That they’re asked to pay an extra 12.5% to keep the boss of this vital (but depleting) public service in the manner he’s accustomed is an affront to justice on all levels, bar none.

Could 20mph speed limit curb serious RTA injury?

Scotland could lead the way in promoting a healthy lifestyle choice in just five years from now. That’s a bold statement, one that contradicts pretty much everything The Scots have become renowned for. But with its government aiming for 10% of all travel across the country to be by bicycle by 2020, it’s a distinct possibility.

There are consequences that councils need to evaluate to make cycling both viable and safe. Scotland’s two largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, appreciate the size of the task at hand.

In 2014, 176 cyclists were reported injured, nine of those fatally. In order for the population to accept the gauntlet laid down in the CAPS, that statistic must be addressed.

Scotland’s capital leading the way in reducing speed limits

Edinburgh council has done so already, and it needed to. According to personal injury lawyers in Glasgow, the Scottish capital had the worst number of “accidents involving cyclists” in the country.

To address the problem, Edinburgh has limited all residential streets within its boundaries to 20mph speed limits. The cost of implementing those limits to date is estimated at £2.2M. But there has been a change of tack to reduce both the cost and timeline for implementation.

The way the council was introducing the 20mph speed limit was literally road by road. For each suitable road that the council deemed needed the limit, traffic calming measures would be implemented.

Instead, the council decided to make 20mph its default maximum speed. This has led to four in every five of Edinburgh’s residential streets adopting the safer limit.

Would a similar venture work in Glasgow?

The general consensus in Glasgow is that it should adopt the same tactic. Campaigners to that end have served a petition to its council containing over 200 supporters’ signatures.

The petition itself highlights the cost and timeline of utilising like traffic calming measures. The document goes on to imply that it would serve everyone’s interest to place Scotland’s second city under the blanket of 20mph speed restrictions, where suitable.

As well as contributing to a safer, healthier Scotland, lower speed limits would please Alison Johnstone. Back in October 2013, the Green MSP for Lothian raised the issue of stricter liability on Scottish roads in parliament.

Citing a number of cycling trusts and related campaigns, she motioned that liability for RTAs involving cyclists be passed to the driver of the car involved. 12 cyclists had lost their lives up to that point in 2013, but compensation for those on two wheels was notoriously difficult to secure.

A move to reduce the limit would nip this issue in the bud. According to the DoT, the following is true:

Death by Speed
travelling at likelihood
40mph 30%
30mph 7%
20mph 1%

Likelihood of death at different speeds

If that table doesn’t represent a good argument for reducing the speed limit to 20mph, there’ll never be one. However, there are bound to be those with arguments against, particularly logistics businesses. What do you think is the answer? Drop your comments, below.

2014/15 Cancer Waiting Times Report; Seeing is Believing

The latest NHS Cancer Waiting Times report makes grim reading. Only two of the six cancer report groups have “GP referral to seen” times that meet government targets. For all others, the target of 85% of patients seen within 62 days of referral is a country mile away.

The latest report won’t surprise anyone, other than perhaps the patients expecting express treatment themselves. The latest quarter’s figures, wrapping up the 2014/15 fiscal year, are a continuation of those that have gone before them.

This is the fifth quarter in succession that figures don’t come up to scratch. The gradual slide away from target waiting times seen across the NHS is raising alarm bells with Cancer Research UK.

Why missing targets is unacceptable

Early diagnosis is critical if cancer sufferers are to survive longer than five years after surgery. The charity has gone into detail to highlight the survival rates for early diagnosis compared to cancer being treated at a later stage.

Graph showing the NHS missed targets for Cancer Referral Waiting Times in the UK for the fiscal year 2014/15.

The difference is incredible, making the impact of the missed NHS targets an even greater concern for sufferers and hospital staff. The delays also have a knock-on effect for support groups like Cancer Research and the Macmillan Nurses.

Thousands of cancer patients are being failed

Speaking for Cancer Research, Sara Hiom confirmed that the latest figures were the worst since the NHS began publishing this type of data.

In her role as director for early diagnosis, Sara is well positioned to make the call. She echoed what to those on the outside looking in seems like common sense, namely that when your GP refers you to the hospital suspecting cancer, you want urgent action.

The latest figures, for all but Breast and Skin cancer, don’t give potential sufferers the impression that their case is a high enough priority. That’s a bitter pill to swallow under the added pressure of knowing that your GP thinks you may have a life-threatening disease.

Can the NHS cope?

Sara Hiom concluded with a call for support for the NHS. With the new challenges, the individual trusts must have the resources at their disposal to cope with the rise in referrals.

Since 2009, when we first became privy to these reports, the number of suspected cancer patients referred to a hospital has risen dramatically.

According to Sean Duffy, the total number of referrals in the last year was in excess of 1.5M. That represents an increase of some 70% over that time period.

As national clinical director for Cancer, he’s in a better position to judge the situation than most. He’s well aware of the importance of ‘swift diagnosis’ and rightly points out that the NHS is helping to increase the survival rate for this dreadful disease.

What can the NHS do?

Again, as an outsider looking in, there are two key findings in the report that go unheralded that could perhaps serve as a template for those categories bringing the overall target down. They are the tremendous performances by the NHS in:

  1. seeing Breast and Skin cancer patients (95.9% and 95.4% respectively);
  2. treating patients referred by NHS sources.

Point 1 is exemplary and self-explanatory. But you have to check out section 1.4 of the NHS Annual Cancer Waiting Times Report to appreciate Point 2.

Following an NHS screening, 93.2% of patients received their first treatment in the 62-day period. And when NHS consultants upgraded cases, patients were treated within 62 days 89.9% of the time.

Whatever is holding back NHS performance in the other cancer groups, perhaps they could see what’s different about the procedure for treating Skin and Breast cancer. Likewise, the powers that be could rectify however it is the procedure for treating patients changes between the hospital making the diagnosis and the GP.

We’ve come a long way in treating cancer. And, as the advert says, for the first time more people are surviving it than those the disease is claiming.

That makes it an even crueller blow for those who now develop cancer. Although we now have the technology, the resources at the disposal of those who would diagnose and treat the disease are seemingly diminishing. As Sara Hiom implies, we must make reversing this trend a priority, with not a second to lose.

Mirror Group Phone Hacking Raises Bar for Compensation Payouts

What it must be like to face that junction. To the right lies fame, celebrity status and fortune. But the caveat? Knowing that you’ll never truly know peace again. Or to the left, we see the long, familiar road of anonymity: privacy almost guaranteed; financial freedom all but.

It’s a tough call. Life in the public eye is not for everyone, but goes with the territory of stardom. Even so, there must be limits.

Phone Hacking: Crossing the Line

The media must allow celebrities to draw a line between their public persona and how much of their private life they’re willing to share.

Once established, all parties should respect and adhere to those boundaries.

In the case of the Mirror Group, and before them the News of the World, ‘journalists’ metaphorically spat upon any semblance of ‘off-limits’.

When you see journalistic tendencies such as those revealed in court last week, it makes you wonder if anyone’s safe.

For the vast majority of us, no one would be interested in hacking our voice mails. Anonymity is the deterrent dissuading those who can from cracking the code and publishing the humdrum chapters of our lives.

For the eight soaperstars who received unprecedented damages last week, that’s not the case. They were braver. They turned right at that junction. They handed a slice of their lives to the public.

Squeezing Celebrity Juice until it Overflowed

Such a move is always a gamble. For them, they chanced that the fame and fortune of TV, film and the football pitch would add more value to their lives than invasions of privacy would detract from it.

For lengthy durations at the beginning of the noughties, the odds were unknowingly stacked against them. All eight recipients of the record-breaking compensation were victims of systematic phone hacking.

Whenever the journalists involved needed or wanted juice to fill out their headlines, they’d log into the Orange database and squeeze out stories from texts and voicemails left thereupon.

Apart from the obvious atrocity of the Mirror Group’s actions, these cases raised the bar from a punitive prospective.

The punishment: befitting the crime and the injustice

The amounts of compensation paid to the victims for this type of crime were unprecedented. Sadie Frost alone, a consistent target over a four year period, won over a quarter of a million pounds.

Compare that to payouts for prior breaches of privacy. Naomi Campbell, another long-time target of headline hungry news hounds, is a prime example. When her cocktail menu of drugs was published alongside snaps of her leaving therapy, courts awarded her £4,000 in damages.

The attitude of the judge, Mann J, to the long-running breaches of privacy left a predominant mark on the verdicts. It also served to differentiate the compensation payouts from prior awards of the same ilk:

  • He threw out arguments that these breaches of privacy were akin to cases that had gone before.

  • Where evidence had been destroyed, rather than settle for the middle ground, he presumed the worst.

  • Yes, he was intent on punishing the crimes.

    • But it was the amount of distress suffered by the victims that helped determine the level of their respective payouts.

One would hope that phone providers have done their bit to shore up their databases. You’d hope that the punishments serve as a warning for others tempted to encroach on privacy in the future. But for now, these payouts are what you call justice, to a Mann.

Claims almost halved with VW’s Autonomous Braking System

Isn’t it ironic? The car that, in part, owes its fame for almost crushing a presenter today leads the way in road safety.

Autonomous emergency brakes now found on the once low-flying Golf are almost halving accident claims. Both it and the Passat have the sensory braking system, along with adaptive cruise control.

It’s these attributes that Thatcham Research believes is behind the respective models involvement in 45% less accident claims in their control group than similar makes and models.

VW Golf: still setting precedents after 35 years

Back in 1979, the VW Golf Mk I TV advertising campaign caused a marketing storm. Out of nowhere, a red model dropped from above the camera shot and landed next to the commercial’s presenter. It was ground-breaking at the time (but I guess you had to be there ☺).

The effect was used to demonstrate the car’s suspension and sound structure. It proved a savvy move by VW’s German owners, who’d moved manufacture to Japan. Motors like the Nissan and Datsun previously exported from Japan were synonymous with rusting bodywork.

The advert worked like a charm. In it, a red Golf Mk I dropped into the shot, hit the floor and then bounced just a little, like an Olympic gymnast steadying their balance on landing off the vault.

Then, the non-plussed presenter, whom the car had nearly squished, simply turned, walked to the driverside door, got in, started it up first time and drove that same car off the set. A legend was born.

Congestion relief + reduced claims = a brighter, sooner future

It looks like VW are about to set another precedent with their autonomous braking system, too. Insurance claims have almost halved involving cars that have the system fitted.

The results have surprised almost everyone. Previous predictions suggested the braking system would achieve a drop in claims by only half the amount it has in reality.

It’s not as if the test group for the Mk VI Golf wasn’t sizeable. Once the initial sample group exceeded initial expectations, it was doubled to make absolutely sure.

Thatcham’s Matthew Avery related that some 7,000 Golf’s, all insured and clocking up mileage for a full year, were used in total. Feedback from its membership of insurers supports the 45% reduction claim.

The system itself has double-monitoring capabilities, too. A sensor on the front of the VW monitors both speed and distance of the car in front. On the side of the vehicle, there are radars. These help detect motion, thus steering the vehicle clear of pedestrians and bicycles.

All of this data is then fed back to the driver’s console, which instigates “Adaptive Cruise Control”. So, yes, the driver is in control of the gearbox, but the car applies the brakes if anything comes too close either in front or from the side.

How close are we to driverless cars becoming a reality?

On top of this breakthrough, there’s also ongoing research into the impact driverless cars could have on congestion. The motor, safety and insurance industries are now all watching Google and others’ developments in this arena.

Before this technology was introduced mainstream in 2013, driverless cars remained very much in the sci-fi realm. Many manufacturers had built protoypes, of sorts going back as far as the 1920s.

But the JohnnyCabs of Total Recall fame are now very much on the commercial cards, thanks to companies like VW, Google and Uber. But without the sarcasm, one would hope.

The claims that congestion could be cut by 90% with the introduction of ‘taxibots’ are now being taken seriously.

Lisbon’s traffic, for example, has already been analysed using the most extreme set of data. If each taxibot carried only one person per single journey, congestion in the Portuguese capital would drop by more than three quarters.

Assuming that many journeys would accommodate more than one passenger, that figure could reduce even further.

As technology develops and thought processing (human and machine) accelerates, we reach new milestones quicker. Given the Golf’s remarkable results, there are calls for all cars to come with autonomous brakes.

If those calls are heeded, it would mean fewer injury claims. Plus insurance premiums would, as a consequence, lower across the board. At the speed we’re going, that could well happen sooner rather than later.

Personal Injury Introducer Firm Wound Up Over Nuisance Calls

Well, it just had to come: a personal injury firm fined for ‘spam’. The unsolicited calls Direct Assist made over a sustained 18-month period landed the firm in hot water with ICO.

The company, who were based in Bolton, have since wound up. But their story will perhaps deter other lawyers from adopting similar practises through third party introducers.

When marketing calls overstep the mark

The TPS and ICO began monitoring Direct Assist in January 2013. Between then and July 2014, the full scale of their aggressive marketing unfolded.

Here’s a snapshot of how the firm broke the law:

  • staff called one number 470 times;
  • one household was told that they’d be subject to such calls for three years or until they made a claim;
  • the aggressive nature of the callers put one deaf, elderly lady off answering the phone altogether.

It wasn’t as if they didn’t have fair warning. All told, TPS (with whom you register if you want to stop nuisance calls) made over 500 attempts to contact the personal injury referrers.

The requests fell on deaf ears. As it transpired, Direct Assist deliberately got their employees to call people who’d registered with TPS.

It’s this type of behaviour that gives genuine solicitors a bad name. Very often, the firms representing personal injury lawyers don’t identify themselves as a separate entity.

Is it because they’re less credible as an introducer, rather than a solicitor calling direct? Or is cold-calling beneath injury firms, even though they’re happy to deal with cases brought to their door by referral agents?

Either way, in this instance the catalogue of complaints culminated in ICO submitting notice to the firm. It was the final nail in the coffin and Direct Assist ceased trading.

Let’s hope there’s a stake through the heart and we don’t see this type of practise rise again.

Heads-up: what the public and injury firms can do to uphold justice

If you’ve registered your number with TPS, but are still receiving unsolicited marketing calls, there is something you can do about it.

Much in the same way as reporting ‘spam’ email to your mail provider, you can complain about nuisance calls or texts.

ICO has a dedicated webpage for reporting nuisance correspondence for the general public.

For firms worried about breaking the law, there’s also a guide, based on Data Protection, covering what is and isn’t acceptable in the digital communication age.

ICO urge the public and personal injury firms to read the respective documents. There remain solid reasons to inform people who’ve been injured what they’re entitled to if it wasn’t their fault. The culpable should go punished.

But there are right and wrong ways of doing so. The last thing either party want is to have to make a nuisance of themselves to bring the guilty to justice.

Probe leads to arrests for buying data about accident victims

Claims management firms have taken the spotlight again. Three people working for these firms, one of them from the LV= insurance company, were arrested this week after a probe revealed they bought vehicular accident victims’ information from insurance companies, otherwise known as the “cash for crash” business.

Personal details of customers of insurance companies that have been involved in vehicular accidents were supposedly sold for nearly £17,000, making it worse for the controversy that has hounded insurance companies for a long time. Just recently, Aviva, Britain’s largest insurer was on the news with the very same issue. It has two employees that will be going to court for this very claim.

Just how profitable is this “cash for crash business” and why do claims management firms go to great lengths to go as far as bribe insurance employees for information?

Reports have come in that personal injury claims such as whiplash or repairing vehicles involved in an accident means millions of pounds of claim fees, often with rip-off rates.

While this maybe profitable for claims firms, this has a negative effect to consumers at the tail end. As more claims are being pursued and “cashed out”, vehicle insurance premiums continue to soar. Studies show that premiums have gone up to an average of £93 per policy annually.

This isn’t the only controversy claims management firms have gone through. Most of them have been fined for making nuisance text and automated phones calls. One firm has been fined £80,000 for doing nuisance calls – imagine one customer having received 407 calls from them alone!

There has been a call to further toughen up laws regarding the payment referral scheme of insurance companies to claims management firms. However, the ICO is first to admit that even if laws were implemented in 2013, the “cash for crash” trading remains lucrative.

One of the reasons why the trade continues to be thriving is the law doesn’t have much teeth to sink into guilty parties. Individuals found guilty get no more than a fine and a slap on the wrist if they are tried under the Data Protection Act. The Commissioner wants tougher penalties like including jail time.

The three employees arrested in reports were found to have contacted a person who has received injuries from a vehicular accident, subsequently receiving a pay-out that was up to 40% lower than the amount usually paid by insurance companies.

Insurance company LV= claims director Martin Milliner promises that they will be working closely with the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department for the resolution of the case.

Customer data protection is still the priority of insurance companies, most of them claim. But the truth is, a recent Aviva study shows that claims increased by 9% in 2014, increasing pay-outs to a mind-blowing £2.5billion. And the cincher? Ninety-six percent of these claims were from third parties, exactly from those controversial claims management firms that rip-off customer victims.

Rehabilitation takes centre stage at APIL conference

Compensation is often not the primary goal of personal injury lawyers. While justice lies at the heart of claims, there’s another oft-overlooked element of equal import: rehabilitation.

In the cases of serious injury, all the compensation in the world won’t matter if it doesn’t have the desired effect. Namely, enabling the victim to live as close to a normal life as possible post-injury.

Simon Weston rouses the troops with heartfelt keynote

At the recent APIL conference, rehab was a recurring theme. The tone was set by Falklands vet Simon Weston’s keynote. His life-threatening injuries have become a symbolic icon of what can be achieved if the right treatment is applied.

The crux of Simon’s speech was a rousing call to provide more rehabilitation for injury victims. Access is critical and he’s on a crusade to get rehab units in every hospital.

Towards the end of April, the armed forces once again brought the importance of aftercare to the fore.

5 years for compensation for Soldier shot in training

Stewarts Law were instructed to act on behalf Dale Messenger, who’d suffered a catastrophic personal injury at work.

Much like Simon’s, the impact dealt a life-changing blow. His regiment were training on the Falklands with live ammo. During the course of the exercise, another soldier shot Dale in the hip.

So forceful was the round, it entered his his body at the right hip and exited through the left. Dale eventually won his case against the MoD, who no doubt did everything they could to assist with Messenger’s recuperation.

His award was over half a million pounds, which included the costs of a new Ekso exoskeleton. The payout also covered rehab kit, during rehab and to cover his impacted lifetime.

Rehab for all, sooner rather than later

But this is where Simon’s call for more rehab centres in more hospitals really hits home. Dale’s training accident in the Falklands happened in October 2009. The amount of compensation wasn’t agreed until September 2014, almost five years after the event.

Whilst both Simon and Dale’s life-shattering injuries happened in the South Atlantic, there is a key difference. Simon received his injuries in the heat of combat when the Sir Galahad was destroyed in Port Pleasant in 1982 towards the end of the Falklands War.

Dale Messenger’s spinal cord injury, which has rendered him paralysed, occurred in peace time.

Besides Simon’s speech at the APIL conference, two other key elements in revised rehab guidelines surfaced. Or rather, resurfaced.

New guidelines lay the foundation for swifter action

A new code of conduct for serious injury cases will soon be a signed, sealed document. The pilot of these guidelines ran for five years between 2008-2102.

The revised guidelines will encourage insurance companies to fund rehab much earlier than they currently do. It also addresses claimants’ concerns about open lines of communication. With the process taking so long, the trail can go cold. Once the new code is operative, they’ll have access to more information and earlier in the process.

The other major news is concerns the voluntary rehab code, with its guidelines getting a makeover, too. This document still needs work, with both injury lawyers and insurers finding contendable points.

Those privvy to the work in progress code believe it to be too insurer centric. For their part, insurers are concerned about the relationship between law firms and those who ultimately carry out the rehabilitation work itself.

As it will be the insurance company picking up the bill, they’re worried about the level of rehab practitioners administer to victims. Like whiplash, they don’t want the new code to be a license to print money.

When all’s said and done, compensation is about getting injury victims back on track. It’s not all about “how much will I get?”, it’s about “how effective is it at getting me my life back?”

Simon Weston is as good an example as you’ll find. What you see on the surface may be evidence enough of catastrophic injury. But it’s beneath the surface where the real damage needs addressing. That’s one problem money can’t solve, but specialist rehab can.

Teen wins right to medical negligence award from NHS

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 14 April 2015:

A teenager tragically injured due to medical negligence has won the right to seek personal injury compensation from the NHS for his catastrophic injuries.

The 17 year old, whose name is of course being withheld from the press for legal and privacy reasons, ended up suffering from acute cerebral palsy shortly after his birth whilst still in hospital. The poor boy is affected in all four of his limbs, negating his ability to ever live independently, and according to Judge Graham Robinson from the High Court in London there’s no way he would ever be able to live his life without substantial care going forward.

The teenager’s parents called on the judge to approve a settlement, which has now opened the path for a complete assessment of how much he would be able to receive on his personal injury compensation claim. The lad’s personal injury solicitors fingered Barnsley District Hospital for his injuries, pointing out that failing to treat the teen’s blood disorder in a timely manner after his birth was the cause of his disability.

True to form, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said there was no way they could be liable for the 17 year old’s injuries. However, Judge Robinson has decided to push for a settlement now instead of letting the case proceed to trial, which would of course be long and drawn-out, costing both sides shedloads of cash in the process. The compromise, the judge said, would benefit both parties the most – so now the teenager can look forward to at least some sort of compensation sooner rather than later from the NHS.

Honestly I hope he gets millions from those incompetent bastards. The poor lad has acute cerebral palsy, for pity’s sake! Do you have any idea how absolutely debilitating a condition like that actually is? There’s no way he’d be able to live anything even approaching a normal life without round the clock care, and that costs incredible, mind-boggling amounts of money. The only other option would be him relying on his parents, who would eventually pass on before him and leave him stuck in a hellish nightmare of a life.

Let’s just hope the NHS takes all this into account before it tries to buy the poor teen off with an unacceptably low compensation settlement.

£26 million spent on compensation awards for teachers, staff

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended April 2015:

It’s been revealed that a massive £26 million was spent over the course of last year on personal injury compensation claims made by school teachers and staff.

The new information came to light right as the NAWST and NUT union conferences began this week, showcasing just exactly how much teachers and staff were pulling down after their personal injury solicitors got their hands on local authorities. There were some rather impressive rewards associated with work accident claims, such as the mind-boggling £74,000 a 53 year old teacher was awarded after she tripped on a carpet and fell against some classroom shelving, suffering a serious head injury that actually saw her memory impaired as a result.

Claims measured in the thousands, with one teacher walking away with £5,000 after she fell over after she caught her foot on a coat. Other injuries, such as the one a teacher suffered after slipping on a wet patch of floor, saw an impressive £70,000 being awarded to the teacher; she actually ended up having to retire early due to her injuries, especially as the fall triggered an early onset of arthritis in her hip. In another case, a PE teacher who injured himself as he demonstrated the long jump limped off with a £41,000 award because of the soft tissue injuries he suffered to his leg as a result.

It’s obviously no laughing matter at how many serious injuries occur in schools across the UK. However, it could be said that the millions local authorities have had to pay out for legitimate injuries could have been put to better use somewhere else if only these schools were in better condition. You tell me – do you think that £26 million couldn’t have been poured into upkeep and maintenance, which would have then avoided all those injuries in the first place? I’ll wager there would have even been millions left over after keeping all these schools in better kip.

Look, I’m not saying that accidents don’t happen – of course they do, and everyday. But these accidents can have expensive consequences – wouldn’t it be best to try to limit them as much as possible?

Insurers plan in-depth look at personal injury claims fraud

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 31 March 2015:

The insurance industry through its recently formed Insurance Fraud Taskforce says it has grand plans to look at the personal injury claims fraud issue in depth.

The new taskforce – it was put together in December of last year – released a preliminary report last week alongside the latest Budget. The insurer-led group says it’s got its eye on four select topics in order to keep things both manageable and focused; all in all it says it’s going to be looking at the role of fraud data, policyholder behaviour, fraud deterrents in the claims process and the impetus behind encouraging fraudulent claims in the first place. Both the British Insurance Brokers’ Association and the Association of British Insurers are on board with the project, agreeing to update their fraud prevention guidance by the end of the year.

The goal of the taskforce is of course to reduce fraud when it comes to things like accident claims. Whiplash claims are especially injurious to the insurance industry, thanks to it being exceedingly hard to disprove a diagnosis and that the evidence of whiplash consists mostly in subjective, hard-to-quantify ways. The idea being bandied about by the taskforce is that most of the whiplash fraud insurers are experiencing isn’t from ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers or claimants that are making up injuries out of whole cloth but instead individuals who might have ended up with a legitimate, though minor, injury and make the decision to exaggerate the extent of their pain and suffering in hopes of getting a bit more than they would have from a personal injury compensation award than they would otherwise.

Of course that’s not to say that organised fraud doesn’t play a role as well. We’ve all heard of those ‘crash for cash’ schemes where a ring of scammers get together to stage or cause accidents; it’s so widespread that sometimes even public transport bus drivers get in on the action, but it’s usually easy to spot because most criminals are, to put it mildly, bloody stupid and end up making it obvious that they’re trying to pull a fast one.

Still, it remains to be seen what kinds of solutions this taskforce is going to be able to come up with. Honestly if you ask me I think that as soon as they plug a few holes in the dam another dozen will spring up.