Queen’s Speech & The Law (II) : Legal Reform

Posted by Oliver on June 28,2017

According to Law Society President Robert Bourns the UK is a world leader in promoting human rights, and the government’s commitment actively to enhance this commitment and ensure our rights are there for all of us is to be applauded and is important to the reputation of the UK.”

As such, he expressed his disappointment and dismay at proposals in the recent Queen’s Speech which opened the new Parliamentary year (which will run for two years instead of one year due to Brexit negotiations).

Although there was much for the Law Society and the legal sector to applaud (as set out in the previous post), the Queen’s Speech also set out plans for the new government to continue with controversial reforms to modernise the court system, and also to reduce and limit personal injury claims.

This was not so favourable received by the Law Society. The legal sector has long expressed concerns about the proposed changes and reforms. Following the Queen’s Speech, it was Mr Bourn’s turn; “Continued progress towards the careful modernisation of our courts system is to be welcomed, although care will need to be taken to ensure that justice is not diluted as it is modernised … However, we are very disappointed that the government has decided to revive its misguided whiplash reforms … It will be a clear injustice if the government persists with denying essential legal advice to those injured through no fault of their own – if government is truly committed to targeting fraudulent claims, it should do just that.”

Although designed to tackle fraudulent or inflated personal injury claims, the reality is that much of the reforms will actually impact upon genuine and serious personal injury claims. As such, the fear in the legal sector is that many victims of personal injury will no longer be able to make a compensation claim for their injuries if the whole range of measures goes through.

Moreover, the reforms to the court system and structure could potentially limit access to justice for many – including civil litigation and personal injury claims. In a society backed by the rule of law, and imbedded with the concept of justice being freely available and accessible to all, any limitations to that ability to seek justice fly in the face of those ancient principles. Such a limitation on access to justice is also fundamentally unfair, and simply not right in an open, democratic society.

Those changes and reforms are on the Parliamentary agenda. However, there is no telling if those reforms will actually be passed. If they are passed, in the Parliamentary proceedings, those reforms might themselves be altered or toned down to secure the passage of the necessary legislation through both Houses of Parliament. Those discussions might even end in no legislation being passed to enact the reforms.

Whether the reforms ae enacted or onto, at CompensationClaims.co we remain committed to obtaining justice for those suffering from a personal injury. We will work hard to represent you, the injured party, and to fight your legal case and claim following a personal injury accident that was not your fault, to the best of our ability, and within the parameters set out and defined by the law – whether those change or not.

At ComensationClaims.co, we remain committed to seeking justice for those suffering from personal injury, in whatever legal landscape we find ourselves in.

Queen’s Speech & The Law (I)

Posted by Oliver on June 22,2017

After a General Election that was surprising and divisive from the moment it was called, that resulted in what many felt was an unsatisfactory alliance and arrangement with the majority Conservative Party and the Northern Irish DUP, in the following weeks Parliament was officially opened for the next Parliamentary year.

In an ancient ceremony full of traditional British pomp and circumstance, the Queen processed to Parliament and gave the annual Queen’s Speech, outlining what the government of the day would seek to enact in legalisation that forthcoming Parliamentary year.

Regarding the legal sector, there was much to be positive about. With EU law and regulations very much intertwined with domestic legislation, prominent in the government’s agenda was a package of measures to make the legal changes needed to facilitate an impending Brexit. In response to the Queen’s Speech, Law Society President Robert Bourn stated that “unravelling and redefining ties and laws made over the past 40 years, while providing as much certainty to individuals and businesses as is possible is a task of real complexity … The government’s focus on providing this certainty is welcomed, and we hope the series of bills announced today will allow parliament to work through these issues carefully, and give them the scrutiny they deserve … [The Law Society] will continue to offer the government the expertise and insights of the solicitor profession, and encourage it to draw on that to create a new relationship with the European Union that preserves and enhances our economy, our jobs, and the rights we all enjoy.”

Additionally, the Queen’s Speech gave greater prominence to a renewed focus on protecting and safeguarding the legal rights of the most vulnerable was also warmly welcomed. According to Mr Bourns, British laws and legislation “must be accessible to the most vulnerable in our society, and it was pleasing to see that the government will give this attention in the coming parliamentary session … A significant focus on combating modern slavery, both at home and abroad; law changes to protect victims of domestic violence; and updating our employment law to reflect modern working practices are all important steps which can help those who need it most.”

Whilst applauding the government’s intentions to promote and safeguard human rights and employment rights, proposals in the Queen’s Speech to modernise the court system, and to address personal injury claims were not so favourably received – but that is for another post.

It is reassuring, however, that this new government, for this new Parliamentary session remains committed to upholding human rights and employment rights. It is those rights that safeguard and protect citizens in any number of situations and occasions. Those and related rights and laws cannot be taken lightly, or taken for granted.

Under UK (and EU) law, employers have legal obligations towards their employees, and employees have certain rights whilst at work.

Those rights are and obligations are clearly understood, and are adhered to and followed by most employers. However, there are some companies, and some poor senior management teams, who are not so strict in adhering to the rules, laws and obligations imposed upon them, or who otherwise accidentally or intentionally infringe or limit employee rights. Although those companies are very much in the minority – their actions or omissions can make things very unpleasant or even dangerous for the employees affected.

June 2017 saw the Law Society (the regulating and governing body for the legal sector) step in regarding the workplace and employee rights. The Law Society recommended that the government form an independent inspectorate, backed by government and with full authority and legal powers, to enforce employee rights in the workplace. Such an independent agency would effectively stop and curb poor employers from breaking em0ployerment laws, and exploiting staff.

The recommendations of The Law Society to Matthew Taylor’s government – commissioned review into employment practices would see accredited government inspectors having the ability and power to enter a workplace and determine whether the staff are defined as employees, workers, or independent contractors. Further, those accredited inspectors would be able to review working practices, workplace conditions, and other aspects of employment legislation and working rights.

According to Law Society President Robert Bourns “rights at work are not optional – they are the minimum standard to which we are entitled … When there is a dispute our law relies on individuals taking their employer to court to get their rights recognised – a task that is simply beyond most people. Bad employers know this, and take advantage of it to cut corners and underpay people, knowing they’ll probably get away with it … An independent government inspector who can go into a business to ensure staff are being given their proper workplace rights will help put a stop to this exploitation, and put everyone on a fair and even playing field.”

Mr Bourns went further, stating that “new ways of working are bringing opportunities, but employment law must keep up with these changes if rights provided by parliament are not to be ignored and overridden … Our recommendations are carefully designed to create better employment laws that support improved working practices, enabling employers to create the thriving economy that we all want to see, without ignoring the rights of some of the most vulnerable in society.”

The workplace inspector recommendation is one of three key suggestions made by the Law Society, all of which are designed to ensure that employment laws are clear and transparent, and also work well amidst rapidly changing employment practices – and an increasing tendency of companies to treat people as independent contractors. With that in mind, the Law Society has also on several occasions called for employment statuses and related rights to be clearly defined in one single piece of legislation. Amidst such a rapidly changing employment landscape, and a bewildering change in working practices and techniques, Mr Bourns also stated that “Matthew Taylor’s review is a timely point to update our employment laws, and ensure they serve everyone well.”

Personal injury litigation is usually relatively straightforward. However, personal injury claims involving industrial diseases are not so straightforward.

To begin with, what exactly is an industrial disease? They can be complicated to understand – but are devastating if you are unfortunate to be affected by one. 

Essentially, industrial diseases are picked up over a long period of time – in some cases over ten years can pass. Industrial diseases are the result of the workplace; for example, being exposed to hazardous chemicals or materials over time. Work Related Upper Limb Diseases (WRULD) – of which RSI is the most well known and the best example – can impact those who perform the same movement repeatedly, and therefore wear out the joints or muscles. A very good example is RSI and related: office workers working on computers can see wear and tear of the wrists and fingers due to the repetitive nature of typing at a computer. However, industry can also see WRULD’s – a good example being a factory assembly line or warehouse where the same movement is made over and over, therefore putting wear on the joints. Some specialist indictors with specialist machinery can also be classed as WRULD’s, or indeed fall into their own category, such as Vibration White Tip Finger. In some cases, some sight and hearing issues can also can be classed as industrial diseases if they were picked up over time at the workplace.

Overall, it can be seen that industrial diseases are very varied, and the list of what is classed as one is very long. To attempt to simplify things, one definition commonly used is “Industrial Diseases are injuries or sicknesses resulting from exposure over a period of time to an occupational hazard in the workplace.”

The exact nature of the ‘occupational hazard’ will vary according to both the type of work being carried out, and the workplace,  but it could be a toxic or harmful substance or material, a harmful or potentially dangerous activity (such as the use of a vibrating tool of some type), or a harmful working  environment, such as a construction site.

Employers are obliged to take reasonable precautions at all times in all workplaces. This would include PPE, training and supervision, adequate breaks to ensure joints are not over exerted, maintenance of specialist equipment, safety checks, and similar. Quite often, it is a due to negligence or failings in management that gives rise to working environment prone to industrial diseases.

Most personal injury claims have a time limit of three years from the accident to make a claim. For industrial diseases, given that they can develop over many years, that is not the case. However, similar to other accident at work compensation claims, it does have to be proved that the employer in question was negligent as regards their legal obligations and duty of care towards their staff. The employer must have failed in that duty, such as not provided adequate PPE or training. Alternatively, the employer might have failed to address failings in the workplace or in working practices that resulted in an employee developing an industrial disease over time. 

Making a personal injury claim for any of the many industrial diseases possible is quite complicated, mostly due to the length of time usually involved. It is best to make such a claim with an expert by your direction assist and advise you every step of the way.

Our lawyers at CompensationClaims.co are just such experts in personal injury litigation – including industrial diseases. Contact us today to discuss making an industrial disease compensation claim. 

Consent, Personal Injury – and Sports

Posted by Oliver on June 2,2017

Following on from a previous post on the civil law term of Volenti Not Fit Injuria, competitive sports illustrate that point of law quite well.

Competitive sports can be great fun, a chance to challenge yourself, learn and develop new skills, and be with like minded individuals. Sports ranging from rugby, to football, to rowing, to tennis, even to target rifle shooting, all are excellent examples of that.

However, those and other sports can also be dangerous and potentially cause serious injury to those taking part. There are many cases in rugby, football and other sports of participants suffering from serious injuries, sometimes potentially lie changing. Time off work might be needed to recover, or specialist treatments, or occupational health therapy or physiotherapy – all from an amateur league match

However, you can make a legal claim against the organisers, or those legally responsible. All the elements and legal tests needed to make a claim (such as not the claimant’s fault, duty of care, breach, etc) are usually present. The organisers or those who were responsible will quite often cite Volenti. Essentially, under Volenti the injured party consented to take part in the match, and therefore consented that there was an element of risk and danger. The injured party understood there was a risk of injury – and still took part, essentially agreeing to that danger.

In some situations, the defence of Volenti Non Fit Injuria would apply. However, it is considered only a partial defence in tort law. What that means is that it needs to be supported  a by other legal principles and defences, orcby very strong and compelling evidence (a rarity in such personal injury litigation). Volenti Non Fit Injuria is also unwelcome in the civil courts, making it harder to prove according to judicial principle. It is also the case that it would be quite bizarre if a court ruled that essentially the injured party had indeed been injured – but by themselves, by indirectly agreeing to thier own injury!

Without Volenti, compelling arguments, or other civil law defences – a personal injury claim following a sport related accident will often succeed for the claimant. A successful claim can result in justice for the injured party following an accident on or off the pitch, and can see compensation awarded.

Competitive sports are meant to be tough, are meant to be a challenge – but playing sport is not about being injured or hurt. Sport should be enjoyed, and seen as the thrill and excitement that it is – not as a source of injury.

Contact our experienced team at Compensation Claims.co today to discuss a personal injury claim that was received on or off the sports field, and see whether you might be able to make a legal claim – or whether Volenti might apply!

The Danger of Heights

Posted by Oliver on May 23,2017

Working at heights is often required in many jobs and industries. Those working on building sites or construction yards, those working in the flies of a theatre, those working building a large ship, or those working as window cleaners all have to work at height.

However, working at heights can also often result in accidents, and is quite dangerous. That is why extra precautions have to be taken, and extra safety procedures followed. Training is often mandatory, as are safety harnesses, hard hats, specific working practices whilst at height, and precautions taken whilst ascending and descending. Working at any height above the ground needs to be attempted with all and every care and attention.

Despite all the best precautions, safety equipment, and training – it is sadly too easy for something to happen. A small accident or mistake can have big consequences when quite high off the ground. Ropes and equipment used – even safety equipment – can tangle people up. Even if there is a firm barrier, it is still too easy to fall from a height.

All of those, and many more incidents, can result in someone having an accident and ending up either falling from a height or seriously injured by working at a height.

In line with the law, in every workplace all and every precaution must be taken to minimise the risk of any accidents; this includes workplaces that involve heights. That workplace and the management will beheld to be legally responsible (unless proven otherwise) for any accident that occurred. In this way, an injured employee is able to make a claim against those held to be responsible following an accident at height that resulted in a personal injury.

Working at heights in any industry can be exhilarating, what with the views, and sensation of being so high. However, working at height can be inherently dangerous, and can ultimately result in a (often serious) personal injury if all precautions are not carried out. The law allows the injured party to make a claim against the party responsible for the accident, and allows compensation to be awarded in most cases following such an accident at work, whether heights were involved or not.

To discuss an injury that you recieved following an accident that occurred whilst working at height, contact the personal injury experts at CompensationClaims.co.

Negligence And The Law

Posted by Oliver on May 18,2017

Negligence. It is a very important word in law.

Civil litigation – in personal injury and other tortious cases – often depends on one key word – negligence. But what exactly does that word mean, and how is it defined?

According to the law, companies and professionals (such as accountants and doctors) are expected to act within the standards and abilities of the reasonable man, or within reasonable expectations. If those standards are breached, if by an act or omission the professional or the company management fall short of acting competently and within the abilities of the average person, then the person or company can be said to be negligent.

If there was such negligence, and an accident was the result – then a personal injury could very well follow. After an accident that resulted in a personal injury, then the injured party in most cases can make a claim against those responsible – usually the management of the company in question, whom the law automatically assumes to have responsibility until proven otherwise.

The key issue in proving and settling a legal claim is negligence; was the person or company negligent in discharging their duties and responsibilities to the standards expected?

The outcome of the case, and of the personal injury litigation, can depend on the answer to that question. Negligence is considered in law to be failing to act with reasonable care and attention, a failure to adhere to the reasonable practices expected of the average person or professional. Negligence will result of those reasonable standards are breached. Such a breach can also often result in a dangerous situation – which in turn could cause an accident – which can often lead to someone being injured, often seriously.

The law also attributes blame to the party considered to be negligent, unless proven otherwise. A legal claim can be made, and compensation sought, from that negligent party. Negligence can therefore be an expensive word for that at fault party.

In civil law, negligence is quite well defined, as a word and as a legal concept. The word negligence is used slightly differently in the legal sector, and outside it.

To discuss negligence further, or to see whether you might be able to bring a claim if you were injured due to another party’s negligence – then contact the personal injury lawyers at Compensation Claims.co today.

Pedestrians & Road Accidents

Posted by Oliver on May 10,2017

Pedestrians are often classed as vulnerable road users.

It is easy to see why. With drivers paying attention to the roads, it is often easy to miss seeing a pedestrian on the pavement. Zebra crossings, or large crossroads or roundabouts with pedestrian crossings lend themselves only too easily to road accidents. Pedestrians can often be concealed behind junctions, hedges or even open car doors. Indeed, quite often pedestrians can unwittingly cause a road accident themselves by not paying due care and attention to the road as they cross, or by jaywalking.

Car drivers have safety precautions such as airbags. Passengers have safety features such as (mandatory) seat belts. Pedestrians have no such protection from road accidents involving cars. Additionally, Most cars can brake very quickly now, or otherwise manoeuvre out of the way of a pedestrian in many cases. Pedestrians quite often can not do the same.

Accordingly, pedestrians are very much considered to be vulnerable road users. Despite modern safety features in vehicles – accidents on the roads still happen. In many cases it is the pedestrian who comes off the worse, and receives the worse injuries following a road traffic accident. In some accidents, the injuries received by a pedestrian can be very serious indeed.

Following suffering a personal injury in a road traffic accident that was not their fault, a pedestrian (or any injured party) can make a legal claim against the at fault party. Provided several legal tests under tort law are met, civil litigation proceedings can be started against the one responsible for the road accident. In some cases, the accident can end up additionally categorised as a criminal offence; the at fault party could have to pay compensation to the injured party, and also can end up with criminal proceedings initiated against them by the police arising from dangerous driving charges.

In any event, making a legal claim after being injured in a road traffic accident, whether pedestrian, driver or passenger, is more about seeking justice, and bringing the at fault party to court after their negligence or actions, rather than seeking any compensation. However, following a serious injury that resulted in lengthy medical treatment or time off work – any compensation awarded can be quite helpful.

To discuss making a personal injury claim following a road traffic accident, contact the specialist lawyers at CompensationClaims.co.

The Jackson Reforms a few years ago were vastly unpopular and unwelcome amongst the legal profession. The major aspect of the Jackson Reforms was essentially more reductions in legal aid, and a restructuring of the personal injury sector, with new guidelines imposed.

Amongst the Jackson Reforms, and other regulatory changes, was the fear that CFA’s would be totally abolished. Conditional Fee Arrangements  (CFA) are a method of funding personal injury and other civil cases. Essentially, the claimant does not pay any legal fees or costs up front. In most cases, all costs are met by the law firm representing them. If unsucessful in their legal action, then the firm will absorb the financial loss in most cases. If successful in court,  then the opposing lawyers will meet the legal costs, or costs and fees will be deducted by the lawyers from the successful claimant’s final settlement.

More popularly referred to as “no win no fee” case funding, they were a fair way of obtaining justice. In an open democracy that values and supports the rule of law, it is horrendous that many claimants suffering personal injuries after minor (or major) accidents are simply unable to obtain justice and compensation as a result of an accident that was not their fault or not due to thier own negligence. With CFA’s, such claimants could still obtain justice. Their cases could still be funded, even though it was after any settlement and legal action. Those injured could retain a lawyer to present their claim in court, using a CFA method of funding.

The Jackson Reforms, and other changes to the procedures and rules behind civil litigation, seemingly were the death knell of CFA’s. By extension, the end of the ability of many being able to obtain justice following an accident. Although the scale of CFA’s have been reduced, and in some firms replaced – many law firms in the personal injury sector still offer them as a means of funding personal injury cases, so justice and compensation can be obtained by those suffering a personal injury following an accident.

However, those many changes to the personal injury sector have had a significant impact upon both law firms and the ability of injured claimants to make such claims in other ways. Despite having the right to make a legal claim against the at fault party in the event of being injured in an accident that was not your fault – the ability to do so in practice has been eroded the last few years. There are still many law firms who champion such injured claimants and litigation, and who still work hard to see justice done – including by offering CFA’s in order to fund cases that normally would not make it to court.

CompensationClaims.co is one such firm. Call us to today to discuss your personal injury claim – and we will work hard to see justice done in your case, and to successfully settle your case against the at fault party.

Dr Ian Paterson: Medical Malpractice in the Dock

Posted by Oliver on April 30,2017

An eminent breast surgeon was recently charged and convicted in court for professional medical misconduct.

Dr Ian Paterson, 59, was convicted of carrying out unnecessary breast operations on patients. In most cases, he pressured and urged the women to have invasive, life altering and often unnecessary breast operations citing high risks, or evidence of, breast cancer.

In court, Dr Paterson’s motives were described as “obscure” but may have included desires for the private doctor (who also worked at an NHS hospital) to “earn extra money.” Dr Paterson was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent, in relation to cases involving nine women and one man, in addition to other charges. In the legal proceedings, the women described his behaviour and actions, and how they were subtly pressured into undergoing various surgical procedures. Jurors heard how he exaggerated or invented signs of breast cancer as the trail unfolded.

It was established that the NHS at least had had their concerns about Dr Paterson as far back as 2003 but a proper and full investigation was only carried out in recent years as his victims started coming forward. An earlier 2013 investigation had mostly cleared him. However, Dr Paterson has now been convicted, and struck off the register of the General Medical Council. It was further mentioned that in October 2017, up to 350 of his private patients will seek compensation at the High Court for his medical malpractice.

In their following press statements, both Spire Healthcare, which runs the private hospitals Dr Paterson worked at, and Heart of England NHS Trust, have expressed their regret at Dr Paterson’s actions. Whilst expressing sympathy with his former patients, both were at pains to stress that this was a one-off case of medical malpractice. No doctor or clinician ever seeks to harm their patients; quite the opposite. However, there are those very few cases where procedures, often through simple negligence, or a tiny error or fault, can go wrong. That can leave a patient worse off than they were before, or not tackle an existing condition at all. In those cases, as the October court hearing demonstrates that patients have a right to seek legal and financial compensation for a breach of the medical trust and duty of care that is owed to all patients.

Although extremely rare, it is the tragic and very rare cases of doctors such as Ian Paterson that illustrate that such a system is sadly necessary. No one wants to consider prosecuting or claiming compensation from honest, hardworking, dedicated doctors and nurses – but it is a patient’s right if the standard and nature of medical care is substandard for whatever reason.

Providing certain legal criteria are met, patients can seek compensation for medical malpractice. Talk to our specialist medical negligence lawyers at CompenstionClaims.co today to discuss this, or a potential claim, further.

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