Local councils pay out on more than just school injury

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 15 April 2014:

More information has come to light concerning the UK’s local councils and how they end up paying out on injury claims, and it goes further than school injuries.

First up this week is a report coming out of Cornwall Council, where it was just revealed that there has been something like £780,000 spent by the council on paying out personal injury compensation claims over the last four years. That’s more cash than you can shake a whole bundle of personal injury solicitors at, if you ask me!

Most of the injuries have been related to broken or uneven pavements and potholes that need mending, causing bodily harm and damage to vehicles. The frequency of personal injury claims seem to be increasing as well, as figures indicated that 2013 alone saw more than £207,000 paid out to injured local residents with no indications that this will drop off any time soon.

Could be worse though. I mean you could be on one of two Devon councils that have had to pay out somewhere around £2.5 million over the same period of time. Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council have been absolutely inundated with claims, sometimes as much as £100,000 in damages at a time.

So what’s causing this incredibly upswing in injury claims? Are the people who live in the South just that more accident-prone? The answer is of course not – and the answer is also not that there’s some ridiculous ‘culture of compensation’ that’s causing Brits to rub their palms together in avaricious glee. While I can’t claim that there aren’t some dodgy claims made by disreputable personal injury lawyers and claimants looking to make a quick buck it simply can’t explain the overall higher rates of compensation claim activity. No, I think the true problem here is that the economy has been in the toilet for so long.

Even though things are getting better slowly but surely you can’t be blind to the fact that the past few years have been rough to say the least. Austerity budgets mean local authorities don’t have the funds to keep their maintenance up, which means pavements deteriorate and potholes go unmended – and more people end up injured as a result. On top of that, fewer Brits are as financially well-off as they were before the economic downturn, leading to more people needing the extra cash from a compensation claim. I really think it’s as simple as that.

Solicitors work overtime, win injured pupils thousands

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 8 April 2014:

Personal injury solicitors in Doncaster and North Yorkshire have been striking whilst the iron is hot, earning major accident claims for nearby injured pupils.

The past five years have been rough for Doncaster Council, especially after a new Freedom of Information request revealed that there’s been almost £33,000 paid out to hurt pupils in personal injury compensation. Scuttlebutt says that the heightened number of accidents – many of them slip trip and falls – were due to poor staff training programmes, which is a pleasant change from so-called ‘industry experts’ immediately pointing a finger at personal injury lawyers trying to foster a compensation culture to line their own pockets.

However it’s not just Doncaster in the hot seat either – North Yorkshire County Council is out more than twice that figure over the last five years. A sum total of £68,000 has flowed out of the coffers of the council’s insurance company to pay for the injuries caused – again – by poorly trained staff and faulty school equipment. Meanwhile I can’t help but wonder how much less expensive it would have been for these local authorities to simply increase their budgets to properly train their staff and provide their schools with the best equipment they can afford.

Now I won’t mince words: it costs a pretty penny to make a personal injury claim, what with court costs and legal fees. As a result, defendants in these types of claims – which are typically insurance companies for private employers and local authorities – do their best to discourage what they see as excessive claims being made, usually by trying to get them classified as spurious. Sometimes this works but most of the time it doesn’t – and that creates shedloads of frustration which in turn leads to accusations of injury lawyers drumming up business when there shouldn’t necessarily be any. This is why you hear terms like ‘compensation culture’ thrown about like mad.

Of course there are plenty of fraudulent and spurious injury claims made every day in the UK, but it’s not nearly as bad as these insurance companies claim it to be. If you ask me it’s just a simple and easy task to try to shift the blame away from local authorities and private employers when they were caught doing something they shouldn’t. Why can we affix blame where it lies and stop trying to pass the buck all the time?

 

The culture of compensation and the accusatory finger

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 1 April 2015:

Once again are people pointing the accusatory finger at personal injury lawyers for fostering a so-called ‘compensation culture’ here in the UK.

It’s a perennial complaint, and one that personal injury solicitors have had to labour under for years now: the number of spurious accident claims has been going through the roof because Brits are being coaxed into making claims in order to pursue cash windfalls. Much of the complaint is complete and utter bollocks of course – especially with new legal reforms seriously curtailing the amount of money lawyers can make in legal fees – but it hasn’t stopped crusaders. At this point it’s even spread to High Court judges, who have begun to throw out more cases that smell either fraudulent or spurious.

In fact, it just happened recently; Mr Justice Mostyn decided to toss out the injury claims made by two immigration officers who reported having serious injuries after a work vehicle they were traveling in collided with a bollard. The pair made what did seem like completely outrageous claims, especially considering how the other occupants of the car weren’t injured in any way – and it was nothing but naked greed that was motivating the two women who made the claims.

In this case I’m not going to argue – it does sound very much like there was something fishy going on. When it comes down to it, it was probably the right thing to toss the case out. Meanwhile other cases slip through the cracks, like the story of an injured schoolteacher who received a massive compensation payment after he slipped and fell on a ketchup sachet of all things.

Essex County Council had to pay through the nose on this one. £90,000 went to the teacher directly, while around £120,000 went to the teacher’s legal team and another £20,000 went to miscellaneous fees. That’s shedloads of money, however you look at it, but there are some strange holes in the teacher’s story that make me wonder what’s going on here.

First of all the incident occurred in 2008 allegedly, yet the teacher didn’t make a claim until the 11th hour in 2011, just before the window of eligibility closed on a possible claim. Have you ever been injured so badly that you deserved £90,000 in compensation yet didn’t immediately file a claim for that cash? Yes, me neither.

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.

Just what exactly constitutes a good injury claim nowadays?

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

It seems to me that some people might not have the whole ‘this is a valid personal injury claim’ concept down with complete clarity judging by this week’s news.

In fact it’s a mixed bag of ‘so obvious you don’t need to be a personal injury solicitor to understand it’ and ‘what were they thinking’ that it makes me absolutely wonder. I mean look at this – the first news story that broke this week is how a 34 year old Co-op branch manager ended up winning a major personal injury compensation case after her supervisor instructed her to repair a faulty air conditioning unit by putting her hand inside. The inevitable happened of course – the inner machinery of the air con did so much catastrophic damage to the poor woman’s hand that she’s lost permanent function in several fingers and has found it completely impossible to to any of the things she used to before hand – simple things like holding hands with both her children at the same time any more.

The Co-op in its infinite wisdom has admitted liability, but refuses to take all the heat for the issue and has been negotiating with the poor woman. However, scuttlebutt says that a sizable compensation has been reached, and I can only assume it’s to be tens of thousands of pounds at the very least for such a traumatising and permanent injury.

Meanwhile, this week there was also the other side of the coin when a schoolboy won more than £15,000 in damages after a plastic DVD case, accidentally tossed by his teacher with too much force, collided with the lad’s head, causing what the courts described as a ‘tiny cut’ to his eyebrow. Apparently the little bit of a scar left over by the injury was too much for the ickle boy’s doting parents, who sued the bloody pants off Essex County Council to that tune.

I’m sorry but this is just bloody ridiculous and completely irresponsible. There’s absolutely no need for £15,000 for a damned cosmetic injury. So the lad won’t get to grow up and be a male model, who gives a whit about that? I thought all the ladies (and perhaps even a few of the blokes) loved a man with rugged good looks and a distinctive, masculine scar?

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.

Payouts on injuries both large and small abound

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 4 Mar 2014:

This week, the news is positively filled with stories about personal injury compensation amounts both impressively large and modestly small in comparison.

In fact, when it comes to modest personal injury claims, it turns out that 23 year old Dominic Zyntek from Coventry prevailed in his case after being injured badly by electrocution whilst on the Pride of Hull ferry. Mr Zyntek, a musician that been asked to play on the ferry with the rest of his covers band. Mr Zyntek ended up with horrific burns to his hands that precluded him from playing for a terribly long time; the massive electric shock also effectively destroyed his guitar as well.

Luckily, Mr Zyntek’s personal injury solicitors saw him compensated with £6,400 in damages. Personally I would have liked  bit more if it was me getting bloody electrocuted but then again I shouldn’t be greedy. Still it’s better than nothing, even if it is a bit of a modest award!

Of course if you’re looking for more weighty awards, why not try on the £40,000 for size that Ray and Marie Ferguson recently received?  All you need to do is have your child die in hospital after having her appendix removed. The death of nine year old Raychel Ferguson was ruled to be due to medical negligence.

Still, how much is a human life worth, especially the life of a child? Doesn’t this seem like a pittance to pay grieving parents, especially in light of how the NHS Trust admitted liability in the case according to court documents? It’s a bit of a travesty if you ask me, and the Trust should be ashamed at not only having the incident occur in the first place but also by offering such an insultingly low compensation award as well.

So I suppose that in the grand scheme of things the Fergusons would much rather have their child back instead of that  £40,000. Barring that, the NHS should pay much more dearly for their deadly mistake – especially a mistake they freely admit to have made! It’s bloody criminal if you ask me.

Claims management companies: still bane of lawyers’ lives

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

Just when you thought it was safe to practice personal injury claims law in the UK, the claims management company strikes from the shadows once more!

All right so I’m being a bit melodramatic but in essence it’s completely true: the news this week was full of a mixed bag of developments concerning those firms that personal injury lawyers love to hate. CMCs are reviled in the personal injury compensation industry because they’ve a track record of churning out as many spurious claims as possible in order to turn a profit – and they were known to buy the personal details of insurance company customers that had been in accidents in order to make unsolicited phone calls and texts in an effort to convince these customers to bring claims.

Luckily back in 2011 there was some new legislation put into place to curb the depredations of claims management companies. Lo and behold, this week the results came back and those new CMC regulations have worked wonders: there’s something like 45 per cent fewer CMCs operating in the UK now than just a few years ago before the new laws went into effect.

So that’s the good news – and let’s be honest, it’s bloody fantastic. Of course there’s also some bad news as well – even though there are regulations out there making it illegal to do things like sell personal details to CMCs, it’s still going on. In fact, there was a major security breach at car insurance giant Aviva that made the news this week where it was revealed that tens of thousands of their customers may have had their information stolen by two now-sacked Aviva employees and then sold to heaven knows how many claims management companies.

This is exactly the kind of behaviour that proves there’s still a problem with CMCs in the UK at the moment. Yes there have been some arrests made and the authorities are investigating the whole affair, but there’s always going to be instances like this – and many of them might not eve be caught. In other words there may be fewer claims management companies out there right now but they’re still up to their old tricks, even though they’re now illegal!

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?

Multitude of older Brits embroiled in injury claims

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

I know that the courts have little regard for age, but it seems that older Brits are increasingly finding themselves in injury claims.

Or at least it certainly feels that way, judging by the kinds of strange personal injury compensation claims that have been publicised lately involving the over-60s. In fact, one Cofton Hackett man in his 60s, a Mr Bruce Wilson, ended up having to pay out on a £2,600 personal injury claim after he got out of his vehicle, punched a cyclist right in the head, and then threw his bicycle like it were a pair of stone tablets and he was Charleton Heston in a fake beard.

The altercation apparently was caused when Mr Wilson nearly hit the cyclist as the older man was trying to get into the passenger side of a vehicle. There was a verbal confrontation, which led to the physical one – and the £5,000 custom racing cycle suffering quite a bit of damage. To Mr Wilson’s credit he did accept full responsibility for the incident even though the cyclist certainly played a role as well.

Of course it’s not all older Brits causing trouble; some are victims as well. One 60 year old man, a former Ford worker, actually just walked off with £33,000 in damages thanks to the hard work of his personal injury solicitor after it was decided that the ‘occupational asthma’ he had developed was due to the poor conditions of the the motor manufacturer’s plant where the gent had worked as a toolmaker for quite some years.

Apparently when you work for years in an environment that’s not vented properly, and for a company that doesn’t provide you with breathing masks or filters, if you spend your days fabricating metal tools you end up breathing in all sorts of terrible steel and cast iron dust. Apparently, that’s likely to cause some rather terrible respiratory problems – something that Ford seemed to not think about until they were presented with this massive bill!

Well they brought it on themselves, if you ask me. Those pillocks should keep a closer eye on the wellbeing of their own employees!

Injury lawyers blamed for high costs as a distraction?

PERSONAL INJURY NEWS ROUNDUP: 7 DAYS ENDED 4 FEB 2014:

So it’s not news that people always blame personal injury solicitors for high legal costs, but could it be that the newest row is just a distraction tactic?

So I know it sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory, but leave off judgment until the end, will you? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Sure, there was a bit of a tussle caused when last year’s NHS legal bill was composed of some £200 million in legal fees alone – fees that are being amassed by ambulance-chasing medical negligence solicitors.

Truth be told there are some shady characters in the legal industry, but these are the exception and not the norm. The squeaky wheel certainly gets the grease, that’s true enough, but we can’t let a handful of right bastards sour us on the entirety of the legal community – especially not when there’s other more serious things going on.

For instance, isn’t it just a bit too convenient that this NHS data comes forward just as the Government announced it will be removing personal injury claims for mesothelioma’s exemption to the Legal Aid act? It’s true – now any claim for mesothelioma will be treated like any other bog standard personal injury compensation claim despite the fact that they’re so terribly different.

If you don’t know – and you probably do – mesothelioma takes decades to manifest thanks to the slow-acting damage that asbestos fibres cause to the lungs, and it’s not uncommon that the original firms that a worker had been employed by thirty or forty years ago to be shuttered today, leaving mesothelioma sufferers no recourse. Removing exemption status from mesothelioma claims means that the Legal Aid Act’s many limitations come into full effect – and this could mean ruin for anyone who’s suffering from the disease.

So like I said, how come this NHS nonsense comes forward just as the Government guts access to justice for mesothelioma sufferers? It seems awfully convenient, and that makes me think that medical negligence solicitors are being hung out to dry in an effort to dodge the spotlight. Even if it wasn’t done intentionally it’s certainly the result, wouldn’t you agree?

Neglectful local authorities spark legal feeding frenzy

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 23 Mth 2014:

The news this week was full of stories of how neglectful local authorities ended up creating a personal injury claims feeding frenzy at taxpayers’ expense!

You know it’s simply cause and effect: if you don’t keep your facilities in good repair, they could end up causing the types of injuries that personal injury solicitors dream about. Don’t believe me? How about the story of how a road in Pembrokeshire was in such bad condition that a pothole caused £10,000 in damage to cars in a single week!

It’s true – Pembrokeshire County Council has paid out more than £15,000 in personal injury compensation over the past two years due to the conditions of county roadways. £10,000 of that cost comes exclusively from one stretch of road where a monstrously huge pothole wrecked vehicles left and right for about a week before the council managed to get it repaired.

There’s something like 2,500km of roads that the council is responsible for, and I suppose it’s not unreasonable to think that one single local authority might be in a bit of a bind trying to keep all of them in good condition. But I also wonder if it would just have been less expensive for the council to fix the pothole immediately instead of waiting a week?

Of course, you could have even worse problems – the kinds of problems that Redbridge Council has. The London borough racked up nearly £100,000 in legal bills from injuries occurring in its schools over the last half of a decade according to a recent Freedom of Information request. Waltham Forest, a neighbouring borough, paid out only half as much over the same period of time – and had thrice fewer claims made against it to boot!

So what’s going on in Redbridge that the schools are so poorly maintained that students and staff are slipping and tripping all over the place? Well your guess is as good as mine but I’ll wager it has something to do with not enough budget allocated towards maintenance of facilities. In fact I’d bet my eyeteeth on it. It’s a typical political decision to make – and just as typical it backfires in a major way just like this. Personally I feel bad for everyone who ended up injured as a result, but what can you do against such reckless miserliness?