Sunday, November 18, 2012

HSE Statistics for 2011

New annual Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics have been published in relation to workplace health and safety. 

On 31 October 2012 the figures were announced for the period April 2011 to March 2012. Numbers of fatal and serious injury incidents appear to be falling.

Some of the key findings are as follows:

173 workers were fatally injured. This is down from 175 in 2010/11. The average over the previous five years is 196 deaths a year.

22,433 major injuries were reported, in comparison to 24,944 in 2010/11. The previous five year average is 27,170.

88,731 other serious injuries, resulting in at least four days off work, were reported. This is down from 91,742 the previous year and the 103,627 previous five year average.

Around 1.1 million people said they were suffering from an illness caused or exacerbated by work in comparison to around 1.2 million in 2010/11. The average over the previous five years was around 1.25 million.

HSE prosecuted 551 cases in England and Wales, an increase of 6% from the previous year, and secured 506 convictions (92%). Local authorities prosecuted 95 cases in England and Wales, a fall of 23% from the previous year, and secured 92 convictions (97%)

The Procurator Fiscal heard 34 cases in Scotland, a drop of 11% on the previous year, and secured 32 convictions (94%).

27 million days were lost overall (17 days per case) with 22.7 million due to work-related ill health and 4.3 million due to workplace injury.

Construction, agriculture and waste and recycling remain amongst the higher risk sectors.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Big changes are coming to the medical negligence sector in England and Wales

Most people believe that legal aid is the last bastion of hope for people in the UK who need legal help and cannot afford it. That would indeed be a fair assumption to make because legal aid has long since provided an outlet to those on the breadline who deserve justice whether this be for a criminal or civil matter.

In recent years, legal aid has only been available within the personal injury field for claims involving clinical negligence. This takes in a considerable amount of claims involving children, pensioners and those on low incomes who need financial backing to pursue a case against a negligent doctor or healthcare professional.

Unfortunately things are changing as from April 2013 the legal aid system is undergoing radical reform. From next April the Legal Services Commission who manage legal aid funding in England and Wales will become a new entity known as the "Legal Aid Agency". Legal aid will no longer be offered across the board for clinical claims. Instead only a narrow band of claims (for example claims for damages caused by a neurological injury to a baby, resulting in them being severely disabled) will continue to be covered as a clinical negligence case by legal aid.

The Legal Aid Agency unlike its former incarnation can now make profit, this is a hugely radical shift. If a claimant using legal aid is successful the Legal Services Commission will automatically take up to 25% of certain elements of the compensation award. There are some aspects which are ring-fenced but, compensation for pain and suffering is not.

This move will hit people hard as they are faced with losing a percentage of their award to cover some of the most serious claims on the spectrum. But worse still is the fact that many claims will not now get off the ground as people who would otherwise have received legal aid are now scared off by the prospect of No win No fee advice.

Sad times for the industry and for the country.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Admiral make £24.5m per annum on referral fees

Admiral, the well known UK insurer recently confirmed it rakes in £24.5 million in fees from solicitors who buy personal injury referrals from their vast accident network. This astonishing sum amounted to 25% of their revenues for 2011.

Now given that referral fees are being banned from April 2013 in the personal injury field, what will become of Admirals hugely profitable referral mechanism..? The answer is that they will no doubt set themselves up as an ABS and develop an offshoot law firm. Rather incongruous circular arrangement when you consider there might be thousands of passengers suing negligent Admiral drivers via their own network at some point in the future. 

The lie that the insurer lobbyists propagate is that they do not fuel the so called "compensation culture" by selling leads en-masse for profit. The fact that Admiral have published such huge figures underlines how crucial PI referrals are to big insurers.

But times will soon be changing and it will be interesting to see how the insurer market reacts.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ministry of Justice report on the RTA claims process

Interesting report just published by our friends at the MOJ who are obviously determined to emphasise the success of the RTA Portal that has been set up to deal with road accident personal injury claims.

The findings, which one can only assume are slanted in favour of the portal system, to a large extent suggest only a modest outcome on the performance metrics that were measured.

Snapshot here:

"Small but statistically significant reductions in mean general damages, mean costs and mean speed of settlement in low-value RTA claims were found. The evidence suggests around a 6% reduction in mean general damages, a fall of around 3–4% in average costs, and a reduction of around 5–7% in the average delay to settlement. The results are based on a total of 7,416 pre-Portal and 8,584 post-Portal claims that reached a settlement within the observation period."

But these meagre savings are in fact just a minor part of what is a wider assault on the personal injury industry. The real objective is to a) streamline (dumb down) the RTA process and then b) cut the fixed fee that lawyers receive.
Cue more changes next year. Law firms that specialise in PI must diversify or ... die. Its that simple.

Main MOJ report can be found here

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The future of whiplash claims management in the UK

As discussed in earlier dispatches the government is taking the subject of compensation claims seriously at the moment. The firm belief is that we are a nation of "claimers" and complainers for which we have been branded Europes most litigious nation. Rather odd given that our nearest neighbours the French tend to sue at the drop of a hat and negligence is rarely debated in detail meaning insurers pay out willy nilly.

Here in the UK things are different. To make a claim there has to be significant blame. 

One area though has come under fire and that is the whiplash claims niche.

To fight against the tide of "spurious" claims the government has now decided to create a panel of trusted medical experts to examine claimants rather than rely upon the solicitors choice of expert. The latter potentially being biased in favour of a dodgy claimant. This initiative is sensible but unlikely to hold water. The numbers of claimants will approach 500,000 this year and no panel or even small army of experts can cope with this volume.

Nevertheless we are in interesting times and one thing seems certain, the powers that be genuinely believe there is a compensation culture in Britain and they seem determined to do something to stop the rot.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Insurer led government "crackdown" on whiplash claims

The big legal news this week concerned the so called crackdown on fraudulent whiplash claims which according to some observers, costs the average motorist £90 per year in extra premiums.

I have no problem with insurers going on the attack where fraud is concerned. The term "crash for cash" is commonly heard nowadays but this concept is often wrongly applied to all whiplash claims including those cases involving serious debilitating injury.

In my career (Im a personal injury lawyer in case you didnt know) I have come across a 3 types of claimant when it comes to whiplash compensation matters:

1) The genuinely injured: categorised by those who take time off work, need physio and generally are in some difficulty with their injuries.

2) Those with minor injuries who think it is their right to claim even where low grade harm has been suffered.

3) Fraudsters with no injury at all but who know they can get away with pretending there is one.

Cat 1& 2 claimants are in my view justified in bringing their claims. There is a genuine injury and if they have suffered a degree of pain / suffering ... it follows this should be compensated for.

Cat 3 claimants can be spotted a mile away and should be dealt with.

The question for our industry is ... what can we do to help here..?

I would suggest the following:

Senior management within the law firm should make it a priority to root out time wasters and fraudsters

They should reward staff for doing this rather than castigate them for "losing" a client.

Lawyers should accept that low velocity impacts - unless in extreme circumstances - ought not to result in a claim. Set the causation bar high in these cases.

Lawyers should run fraud checks of their own and have access to the CRU database to review a claimants history.

Finally lawyers should use tried and trusted medical experts who can themselves nail a dodgy claimant - the claimant should be charged the medical experts fee where fraud has been unearthed. The man down the pub who told you to try it on and claim will not be the one paying your £300 medical fee if it goes wrong. Word gets out, people think twice.

I actually believe that the legal industry should regulate these claims more closely rather than allow the defendant lobbyists to take control and more importantly take the high ground.

The real question is ... are senior people at the top of the law firm tree prepared to clean up this industry from within..?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Whiplash claim assault

This week will see a scathing assault on the whiplash claim industry as more and more insurers are seeking to clamp down on the so called compensation culture.

Insurers are developing ways to combat the surge in claims by reverting to superior diagnostic techniques that rule out possible time wasters.

More to follow later in the week as the announcements hit the press.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Legal Aid bill defeated in the Lords

Good news for personal injury lawyers is thin on the ground right now but this week saw a glimmer of hope for an industry that at times feels literally as though it is under siege.

The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has suffered a setback in his efforts to cut £350m off the legal aid budget as his controversial reforms were defeated in the House of Lords.

Peers voted in favour of amendments put forward by shadow attorney general Baroness Scotland which will provide protection for victims of domestic violence. The government had wanted to place a 12-month time limit on domestic violence evidence presented in qualifying for legal aid, but the amendment states there will be no time limit. The amendment will also clearly state what forms of evidence may be presented when deciding whether a victim should be eligible for legal aid.

The setbacks for the government came at the beginning of the report stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill in the Lords. Baroness Scotland said that Clarke’s proposals, if accepted, would have turned the clock back by a decade and would place victims of domestic violence at an “unacceptable risk”.

Peers also voted to state in the legislation that people ought to have access to legal services “within the resources made available” while they also voted against protecting the director of legal aid casework from ministerial interference.

The Ministry of Justice has already announced concessions in relation to possible medical negligence claims and stated last week that children who suffer brain damage at birth will still be entitled to legal aid. The ministry said: “A safety net will continue to exist for other more serious and complex clinical negligence cases where there is a human rights issue.”

A victory for common sense in my opinion. If legal aid was removed completely for clinical negligence actions, many seriously injured victims (including children and the elderly) would have no access to justice should the worst happen.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The PIP scandal and the role of the MHRA

A barrister friend of mine recently put together a paper which discussed the PIP implant debacle which has begun to unfold into one of the great medical scandals to hit the UK in recent times. Cosmetic surgery negligence can be hard to prove in many cases but the facts surrounding the PIP story are truly staggering.

My friend wrote:

The latest scandal to hit the mammoplasty industry relates to  breast implants produced by Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP).   In 2010 France banned the implants produced by PIP due to the belief that there was an increased chance of the implants rupturing and leading to complications.  In fact, it  was found that the company had been using industrial grade silicone, normally used for fitting mattresses and computer parts, instead of medical grade silicone; the usage of this cheaper silicone saved the company approximately £840m per year. Worryingly, it is estimated that over 40,000 women in the UK have had breast implants produced by PIP since 2001.

The legal industry has been lobbying the government for many years via the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency ("MHRA") warning them to wake up to the risks involved with breast implants and the manufacturing process. As far back as 2003 law firms have been raising concerns about the failure rate of some of the implant prostheses but the MHRA / NHS simply took no notice.

Now that this scandal has been the subject of a media frenzy (righly so) the government have kicked into action. However it is far too late for many women who continue to face an uncertain future. There are moves afoot to commence group action litigation against the MHRA and the government with the primary argument being that they did too little too late whilst allegedly being aware of the true facts for a considerable period of time.

This story will run for some time yet but for the 40,000 unlucky PIP recipients, one can only hope the government brings the uncertainty and misery to an end any time soon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

PM attacks No win No fee lawyers

Our dear old Prime Minister this week decided to have a go at us No win No fee folk by promising to cut legal costs on all personal injury claims below £25,000 in value. 

The plan broadly is to bump all non road accident related claims into a portal or computerised system which will mirror the current RTA system. Costs on RTA claims have been cut back dramatically but so unfortunately has the expertise and the skill applied to the job.

Most decent RTA lawyers have long since jumped ship after the margins got squeezed and ultimately as you automate a process to reduce costs, you de-skill at the expense of the client (customer). Dumb down an process and you end up with only dumb people involved.

There is life in the old PI dog yet but No win no fee work is definitely not what it used to be and big changes are on the way.