Good afternoon, John here blogging again.
Forgive us if we have gone on a bit about the rapidly changing world of injury compensation claims, but this year has been the biggest year of change ever and, being in the business, it is fascinating to us (sad, I know). The volume and impact of the changes has been huge and the fallout is still happening.
The aspect I want to blog about today is the type of solicitors and firms who have been caught out by the changes and why. Also, what does that mean for ordinary folk who have an accident now and want to claim?
The latest two things to happen in this amazing year arise out of two court cases that have just been decided.
The first is one small part of the infamous “plebgate” case. One outcome from this case has been little noticed by the press and public, but it concerns the overall attitude of the courts to claims and how they are to be progressed in the courts. Put very simply, the courts have now told lawyers loud and clear to make sure they have all of their papers and evidence in place in advance because defaults, missed dates and errors in the court process won’t be tolerated. Seriously draconian sanctions will meet any such errors.
The second case concerned an old coal miner’s claim against his own solicitors for failing to advise him well enough. He argued that they didn’t advise him effectively and so he lost out on part of the value of his claim because of that. The suggestion was that the solicitors in question had taken on thousands of such claims and failed to provide a personal service to each and every client. Once again, put very simply, the suggestion was that the claim had been relegated to a factory farm process and the court held that the miner had indeed lost out because the advice wasn’t good or thorough enough.
So what is the theme coming from these two cases and what do they tell us?
I’d argue that the theme is that solicitors who take on work for clients had better know what they are doing AND that they ought to provide a personal service to each and every client. Hardly rocket science or too much to ask.
What the cases tell us is that for too long some clients have had to put up with a factory farm style approach to their claims, rather than the proper personal service they ought to receive and to which they are entitled. They tell us too that lawyers had better listen up and do the right job. The use of bland questionnaires, the infuriating call answering of “press 1 for this, 2 for that and 3 for the other” and never speaking to the same lawyer twice are not good enough.
I’d be so bold as to suggest that what clients really need is often dismissed as “old fashioned” personal service, like we offer. If I take on your case and you call for an update, then you get to speak to me, or if I am not around, I call you back. If Lorraine takes on your case, then the same applies. You don’t get fobbed off with a procession of “file handlers”. If we have something complicated to advise you on then a face to face meeting is often appropriate or maybe a long phone call. Not a standard questionnaire with no guidance or advice. There is a definite advantage to using a lawyer who is based near you.
These (often massive) firms who reduce YOUR important claim or case to a conveyor belt “process” are having to wake up and, in many cases, are shipping out. The changes are too uncomfortable for them and ask too much of their poor profit driven processes.
So, in conclusion, demand more as a client. Don’t put up with shoddy service and aim to see the “whites of the eyes” of the lawyer who will be dealing with your claim – face to face is best, but at least have a long chat on the phone. Ask yourself, can you get on with this person who is running your claim? Do they make sense? Can you understand them?
If you have had an accident call me or Lorraine or click on the enquiry button below.
All for now,
Without doubt the number of claims arising against GPs, Hospitals and Consultants is increasing. People are becoming more aware that if they receive unsatisfactory treatment and suffer adverse consequences, then they are entitled to pursue a claim.
Medical advisers, including GPs, Hospitals and Consultants owe you a duty of care. To pursue a claim you have to be able to show that the treatment you received fell below the standard you were entitled to expect. Effectively you have to show that the GP, Hospital and/or Consultant were negligent in the treatment they provided to you. In the case of medical advisers this is called “Clinical Negligence” . Some of you may be familiar with the most obvious instances of Clinical Negligence – where you are given the wrong medication or wrong dosage of medication and it makes you ill; or where an operation goes wrong due to fault on the part of the Consultant. But Clinical negligence involves much more than obvious cases.
One of the areas where I am noticing an increase in the number of calls I receive, is cases where there has been a failure to diagnose a condition in the first place – so it is not so much a case of the medical adviser being negligent in the treatment they provided but more a case of being negligent in NOT providing treatment. Typical examples of how this occurs are when you attend your GP with clear symptoms of a condition and the GP fails to identify the problem and in failing treat you, your condition worsens. Or maybe your GP fails to diagnose the CORRECT condition and treats you for something else.
If that has happened to you then you may be able to pursue a claim against your GP. This is not to say that on every occasion where this has happened then a claim will succeed. If your GP can show that his/her actions were reasonable in the circumstances then they will have a defence available to them. But you should at least consider legal action and speak to us to discuss your own particular case and we will give you our view on whether you are likely to succeed with a claim.
Such cases are not limited to GPs. I hear of many cases where a correct diagnosis was not made at the Accident and Emergency department of a hospital and this has gone on to cause medical problems that could have been avoided. Or cases where a referral has been made to a Consultant and even then a correct diagnosis is not made.
Every case turns on its’ own particular facts and sometimes as the person who has been affected by the failure to diagnose it is difficult to know if this amounts to negligence. We will always be happy to discuss your case with you and give you our initial opinion on your prospects of success. If it is not possible for us to do that based on the information to hand at that time then we can outline what further information is needed to be able to give you our view. Then you will have a good idea of what needs to be done.
If you would like to talk to us about a case where you consider that there has been a failure to diagnose a medical condition then call us.
Until next time
Good Afternoon all,
Finally, I have some good news to report for injured people in the world of injury compensation claims, but first of all a reminder of the context.
The year 2013 will probably remain imprinted on the minds of all lawyers who work in the field of injury compensation claims for ever. There has never been a year of so much change and those particular changes have been of such a seismic kind. Please forgive us if we’ve gone on about this a bit in our regular blogs (and I won’t repeat it all now), but put very simply, the climate for somebody who has been blamelessly injured and seeks some sort of compensation for this in our country has become much, much bleaker. Justice is in shorter supply for individual underdogs and that saddens me.
In trying to “handbag” the so called “compensation culture” the Government has eroded the rights of individuals and played right into the hands of the ginormous insurance companies who moan piously about this “claims culture”, but make billion pound profits year on year. They wring their hands and talk about the need to put up premiums, but they are not too keen to talk about their massive profits or the joy of their shareholders. They also lobby and lobby and lobby and pour treacle into the ears of the politicians. It seems to me that the hefty premiums they charge fund dividends for shareholders and investors.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there is a genuine problem with some fraudulent or exaggerated claims, but in my experience these are usually pretty easy to spot and the insurance industry ought to be fighting those claims, not paying them out and then moaning. The cynic in me suspects that the insurance industry is delighted to have the pretext or excuse of a nebulous, insinuated cheating culture so they can play the “good guys” and push the Government into what we have seen – an over-reaction to the problem and a crushing of the rights of the little guy.
As the saying goes, “we are where we are”. Life goes on and injured people can still bring a claim and we can still help them. It is just a bit more difficult and less friendly or fair to the underdog any more.
So what is the good news then?
In addition to all of the other changes the Government was seriously thinking of increasing the small claims limit for injury claims. At the moment, if you have an injury that is serious enough to attract likely compensation of £1,000.00 or more then you can go to a Solicitor for help. If you have a good claim and win it then your opponent has to pay you your compensation and at least a contribution towards the legal fees of your Solicitor. As a general rule, you will keep at least 75% of any compensation you win and the insurers are forced by the presence of the Solicitors to pay fair and decent compensation and to behave honourably.
This is important because, putting it very bluntly, you cannot trust the insurance industry to respond fully, openly and fairly if you try to bring a claim without a Solicitor to help. The insurers cry foul when they are accused of this, but their charge sheet is too long and, quite frankly, the Government have shown they don’t trust them to behave honourably either.
The government had toyed with the idea of increasing the small claims limit to about £5,000.00 or so, meaning that individuals with injuries worth up to that amount would have to think twice about using a Solicitor because the opponent would not even contribute to the cost of that Solicitor. These are starting to be quite hefty claims with a lot of complexity and the insurers would love to avoid having pesky lawyers involved who would ask awkward questions of them and make sure they pay fair compensation. The insurers would love to deal direct with the injured person and you simply can’t expect them to play fair.
Thankfully, the Government changed its mind and decided it could not trust the insurance industry and so the limit stays at £1,000.00. This is one small but important decision that has gone in the favour of the underdog.
Those of you who read the articles that John and I post on the site may remember that back in March I set out details of how the law was about to change and how that was likely to affect you as the person injured because of another’s negligence.
Just as a recap… before 1st April 2013 the position in so far as the law was concerned was that if you had an accident and successfully recovered compensation then in addition, your legal costs in instructing solicitors to deal with the claim for you were also recoverable from the other side.
Then came changes in the law from 1st April that said that only a PORTION of the costs could be recovered and the balance of the costs had to be paid by you, the Claimant from your compensation up to a maximum of 25% of the damages you received. To counterbalance that, the value of compensation for the injuries was increased by 10% but even so, this still meant that Claimants were now required to make a contribution towards their solicitors costs.
So the position we now have is that the majority of personal injury claims are covered by the changes in the law, leaving you, the Claimant liable to pay a part of your solicitors costs.
It goes without saying that we would have preferred it if the law had stayed the same as it was before April but the changes have come in and so we have to work within the rules.
It is now 6 months on since these major changes took effect. So what is our experience so far….? Well, firstly (and as predicted) accidents STILL happen and Claimants need good quality legal advice to help them pursue their claims. As a well established firm specialising in Personal Injury we have seen an increase in the number of claims being brought and we are pursuing them on your behalf in the same professional and ethical way we always did!
We understand that there are organisations out there who are attempting still to deal with cases without a contribution from the Claimant. My view is that these organisations should be treated with great caution. Any organisation who tells you that you do not have to pay anything towards your legal costs is cutting corners SOMEWHERE to make that viable. My best guess is that the compromise is on the service you receive; if your case is being dealt with for a low fixed fee you cannot expect (and you are unlikely to receive) the personalised service you deserve. There is an old saying ” You get what you pay for” and that has never been more true for personal injury claims.
If you have had an accident and been injured and suffered financial losses you only get one chance to get it right and claim the proper amount of compensation. If you end up receiving far less because the organisation working for you did not pay full attention to your case, then any saving you made in choosing someone who was prepared to deal with your case on a low budget, will not look like such a bargain…
Until next time
Can I finish my compensation claim if there is a possibility my injury could get worse in the future?
Good afternoon all.
In most injury compensation cases it is not safe to settle a claim until you have a clear medical prognosis and have either recovered fully, or can at least be pretty clear about what symptoms or disabilities you will be left with and for how long. In other words, you get one bite of the cherry. If you settle the claim then you can never re-open it and seek more compensation if you take a turn for the worse. This is why swift settlements are often a bad idea, particularly when serious injuries have been sustained. You need to take time to investigate all of the injuries and symptoms and quite simply allow the healing process to take its course.
In circumstances where the medical prognosis and overall recovery remain uncertain, it is sometimes possible for a Court to award a Claimant what are called Provisional Damages.
These are Damages awarded on the basis that some foreseeable serious medical deterioration or fresh but foreseeable condition does not come about, whilst leaving open the chance for the Claimant to go back to Court and seek more compensation at a later date if that feared deterioration/condition does then come about.
In other words, it allows a Claimant to settle the Claim, but leaves the door open for them to go back to seek more compensation if some feared deterioration/condition later arises as a result of the original accident.
An award of Provisional Damages is therefore usually a lower award for a lesser sum of Damages than might otherwise be awarded on a full and final settlement. This is because it is an award made on the basis of the deterioration (or fresh but foreseeable condition) not coming about. If it does later come about then the Claimant must apply to the Court for a further award and must then prove that the specifically feared deterioration/condition has arisen.
These awards are pretty rare and defendants and their insurers don’t like them and try to resist them. This is mainly because they cannot close their file, which is hated by insurers because they not only need to leave the door open to a potential future liability, but also maintain insurance provision and cover.
That’s all for today. Give me a call or click on the link below if you want a chat or might have a claim.
An increasing number of people ask me about whether they can make a claim for compensation if they have had an accident in a stores such as a supermarket or shop. The simple answer to that question is “Yes”. Like any other type of accident, if you are able to show that your accident was caused as a result of negligence on the part of the manager or owner of the store then you can pursue a claim.
The most common type of accident in stores is a slip on a wet floor or a trip over an obstacle left on the floor. When accidents like this happen the injuries sustained can be serious; broken wrists, hips and ankles and back injuries are not at all uncommon.
So how do you know if the store has been negligent? Well the duty of care owed to you is found in the Occupiers Liability Act. This tells us that the owners/managers must take “such care…as is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises…”. Whether or not the store will be found to be in breach of that duty of care very much depends on the circumstances of your own particular case. As the solicitor dealing with a claim such as this for you the kind of factors I would take into account in advising you on whether you are likely to be successful in pursuing a claim are several. I would need to know full details of how and when you had your accident, if there were any warning signs up to alert you to the possibility of a hazard, what the store manager said and did after your accident, and whether there was anything that could have avoided the accident.
One of the first things I would do in investigating your claim would be to write to the store and ask them for a copy of their cleaning policy – it has long been accepted by the Courts that one of the most fundamental steps a store should take in keeping their premises safe for visitors is to have a policy of regular inspection of the floors and a system of cleaning up spillages or removing obstacles. Where stores are unable to show that they have such a system in place then the likelihood of them being found to be in breach of their duty to you increases.
And if you do have an accident in a store you should report it to the manager before you leave and get them to inspect the site with you. An Accident Report form should be completed by the store recording what happened. In all likelihood you will be asked to sign this and it goes without saying that you should carefully check it before you do sign; and if it is not correct, either don’t sign it at all or insist that it is corrected. The Accident Report form is one of the documents I would ask for when I contacted the store about your accident and this again can be very important since the information on that form can contain vital information to show that the store did not take reasonable care for your safety.
If you have had and accident whilst visiting a supermarket, shop or other retail outlet, call me and I will be happy to discuss it with you further and give you some advice on the prospects of you pursuing a successful claim.
Until next time
When I make an important “buying” decision, particularly for a highly personal professional service, I want to know a lot about who I am buying that service from. If you’ve had a nasty accident or injury and you are thinking of using an expert lawyer (like us) to help you consider claiming compensation then the same considerations apply. So why choose us?
Whilst there is quite a lot of detail about us on our website, a little more might be of help before you decide to trust us, so here is a little more biographical detail.
- We are a specialist litigation firm and we act only for Claimants in personal injury claims, so we never have a conflict of interest
- We opened our doors in July 2001 and in over 12 years of practice we have never ever had a single complaint or negligence claim upheld
- 70% of our new matters have come from clients, friends and professional colleagues recommending us, or from past clients instructing us again – we still believe in old fashioned word of mouth as the best recommendation
- We carry small, high quality caseloads and make a great effort to meet and get to know all of our clients to ensure that we maintain high standards of advice and give a personal service
- We act for clients almost exclusively on a “No win, no fee” basis (Conditional Fees), so if you don’t win your claim you don’t pay us a penny
- We do not accept instructions from work referrers, sometimes called “claims farmers” or “accident management companies” – we believe that they are needless middle men and add nothing
- The firm consists of specialist Solicitors who share an open plan office and a collegiate approach whereby we all know each others’ clients and support and monitor one another and our work constantly
- Our clients tell us that they like us a lot (“Benchmarq” external customer service survey, Gold award and we have an extensive praise section in our “Complaints and thanks” register – in fact we had to add the “thanks” section because we were getting no complaints and lots of thanks!)
- We are ISO 9001 accredited and we are always keen to listen and learn to get the most out of the ISO monitoring visits
Those are just a few extra biographical details about us, but the best thing to do is to pick up the phone, drop us an email or click on the contact button below. We will always speak to potential new clients confidentially, for free and as frankly and honestly as we possibly can. If we think you have, or haven’t, got a good chance of succeeding in a claim then we will tell you.
Give us a try.
That’s all for now,
Over the last week or so I have spoken to a couple of people who have asked what entitlement they have to make a claim when the cause of an accident was not the employer but was another employee.
The situation with regard to employers is clear in so far as their liability in law is concerned. There is a whole raft of legislation dealing with manual handling risks, protective clothing and equipment, health and safety at work – the list goes on. In England we probably have one of the most advanced legal systems for protecting employees in the world with legislation and regulations to cover just about every type of employment situation and eventuality. And running alongside that legislation is the common law rules on accidents at work which obliges an employer to take “reasonable” care of staff working for them. This means that if an employer fails to operate within the requirements of the law then they will be liable for any accident and injuries that are caused. So, for example by allowing you to work on faulty machinery, not providing you with the appropriate equipment or protective clothing to do the job or exposing you to unnecessary or unreasonable risks, puts your employer in breach of their legal obligations.
That situation is relatively straight forward. But what if an accident was caused not by the employer but by another employee? Again this situation is covered by the law which provides that in the event of an employee being negligent and causing an accident then it is still the employer who is liable for the accident and the consequential injuries losses. And this is the case even if the employer had no knowledge of what that employee was doing. For example if an employee left a guard off a machine even though he had been trained and instructed not to do so and another employee is injured when his hand becomes trapped in the machine, the employer is still liable. The employer cannot argue that the employer had been properly trained, nor could they argue that fault lies with a supervisor or foreman who were not doing their job properly. The law is quite clear – if an employee negligently causes an accident then the employer is liable. This is called “vicarious liability”.
The only time when an employer would be able to avoid liability is when they can show that at the time the employee causing the accident was acting “outside the course of their employment” which means that they were doing something so far removed from the job they were employed to do that the employer should not be held to blame. The courts however have taken a fairly liberal view on such cases and it would only be in very extreme cases that it would find that an employer should not be liable.
The reason the law stands as it does goes back to the industrial revolution. As manufacturing and industry grew the need for legislation to protect employees became essential. And the law has evolved ever since to ensure that employees injured at work have a right to redress. And to ensure that an employee who has an accident at work does not find that he/she cannot claim compensation because the employer has insufficient funds, compulsory insurance is required for every employer as a condition of them employing staff. The vicarious liability of employers for negligent employees is covered within that compulsory insurance so ensuring that claims for injuries and losses in the workplace are covered by insurance which in turn meets the financial cost of such claims.
Until next time
More sad news this summer concerning road traffic accidents involving motorcycles, usually serious ones. I remembered blogging about this summer phenomenon before and I found this article below from almost exactly two years ago (5/8/11). I’m afraid it all still rings true.
The good weather, light evenings and dry road conditions that summer (we hope) brings all help to entice bikers back out on the roads on their motorcycles. Winding country roads are a particular favourite for bikers who want to enjoy the open road and the real feel-good benefits of challenging biking.
Unfortunately this can all be a deadly combination. As it is, motorcycles make up only 1% of all road traffic, but 10% of all accidents involve motorcyclists [Source: Department of Transport]. Motorcyclists are not only much more likely to be involved in an accident, but they are also much more likely to be very seriously injured in one too, or worse and killed.
In summer some extra factors cause further or different hazards. Road side verges and crops grow and on winding roads that often means that visibility of the road ahead is poor, or very limited. Speed then becomes a major risk. Some motorcyclists get carried away and simply go too fast or take risks, like cutting corners. Some only go biking in the summer and so are rusty or just plain inexperienced, perhaps with bikes that are too powerful for them. There can also be a slightly reckless degree of peer pressure amongst the brother and sisterhood of some bikers’ groups.
Of course most bikers are sensible and careful riders and, as with other times of the year, the fault for accidents is very often nothing to do with the biker, but to do with other road users driving badly or just not looking for bikers hard enough. Add on to that any issues with road surfaces, particularly with the plague of pot holes we have following two very cold and harsh winters, and we are seeing a lot of challenges and risks for bikers to face.
Whatever the cause, these accidents, especially those at high speed on National Speed Limit winding country roads, often have catastrophic consequences, sometimes for all concerned. Inevitably, I’ve dealt with quite a few injury compensation claims arising out of these accidents and they can be incredibly sad and challenging. As injury compensation Solicitors based in Leeds, we see a lot of accidents like this on rural West, and especially North Yorkshire Roads. Beautiful areas, but dangerous roads if you are not careful.
As bikers and drivers all we can do is be sensible, drive and ride diligently and bear in mind the seasonal hazards like reduced lines of sight due to crops and verges.
More soon, John
PS – note that the pothole situation hasn’t improved in this time either.
Most people are now familiar with the fact that if a doctor, Consultant or GP fails to provide treatment to a satisfactory standard then they may be held to be in breach of the duty of care they owe to you. And if as a result of that breach you are injured then you may be able to pursue a claim for damages.
However, it is not such common knowledge that dentists ALSO owe a duty of care to their patients which means if the treatment THEY provide does not reach a satisfactory standard then they may be held liable. The duty of care is in fact the same duty owed by doctors, Consultants and GPs – to provide such care as you are reasonably entitled to expect and to do so to the standard of a competent dental practitioner. This of course is not to say that every time something goes wrong following dental treatment then the dentist will be held liable.
To pursue a claim against your dentist you have to be able to demonstrate that the treatment fell below the standard you expected (ie the dentist was NEGLIGENT) and that the negligence CAUSED the problems you then experienced. It might sound like a bit of a minefield but with some advice from a solicitor who deals with such cases you will soon be on your way to knowing if you have a valid claim.
I regularly see clients who have experienced problems as a result of treatment by their dentists and the problems they tell me about are wide ranging. They include cases where the dentist has simply failed to appreciate the extent of a dental problem and left it untreated and it goes on to become a much more serious problem that it would have been if it had been treated sooner. They also include cases where problems arise following treatment and the dentist fails to appreciate the need for a referral to specialist care resulting in more treatment and unnecessary pain. I have also seen cases where the dentist has carried out treatment that is simply outside his area of expertise and cases where the wrong tooth has been extracted.
If you think that this may have happened to you then it is worthwhile checking out the possibility of pursuing a claim. I am happy to chat with you about what has happened and give you my view on whether it sounds like you have a claim. I will ask you details about your visits to the dentist, what was said to you at the time, what treatment you had and what on going problems you have. If I then consider that it is worthwhile continuing and you would like me to then we can agree a course of action which in the first instance will involve getting copies of your dental notes and looking at them together for evidence of what went wrong. If the issues seem clear at that stage then I would suggest that letter of claim be sent to the dentist to pass on to his/her Professional Indemnity insurers setting out the allegations of negligence. If the issues are NOT clear from the notes then it may be appropriate to obtain a report from a specialist dentist to comment on the standard of care provided and to give HIS/HER view on whether your dentist was negligent. This is often referred to as a “Liability and Causation” report and is very useful in cases where we think the dentist has been negligence but we need some assistance in specifying exactly what went wrong.
If you think I can help then please call me.
Until next time