How many accidents are there in the UK each year which cause injury to people?
One estimate is 1.6 million – totalling up harmful incidents across workplaces, hospitals and on the roads. (There were 560,000 casualties on the roads in 2018).
All of these are preventable injuries.
Yet they can have permanent, life-changing consequences not just for the injury victims but also for their families.
On the other side of the picture, the wrongdoer who caused the injuries – an employer, the NHS, a business, a local authority – can suffer damage to reputation as well as financial cost.
Every year, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) hosts Injury Prevention Day.
It encourages us all to think about ways we can adjust our conduct to minimise the risk of harm to others (e.g. avoiding tailgating the vehicle in front if we are driving).
Everyone has a part to play in reducing accidental injuries but, for maximum effectiveness, the lead has to come from government. It is our MSPs and MPs who can introduce and promote policies which will make our lives safer at work, in hospital and while travelling.
A manifesto for the prevention of needless injuries
In the lead up to the December 2019 General Election, APIL are asking parliamentary candidates to become champions for the prevention of needless injuries.
There are three specific areas in which APIL are asking candidates for their help in modernising the law to help people who have suffered injury.
1. Support the modernisation of the law on bereavement damages in the rest of the UK, bringing it into line with the law in Scotland.
In Scotland, claims for compensation for bereavement damages following the wrongful death of a loved one are considered on a case-by-case basis.
This means that personal circumstances and the exact nature of the relationships are taken into account. Scots Law has no difficulty in recognising the close bonds between parents, children (whatever their ages), grandparents, siblings and other people living with the deceased as part of their family.
The position is much less well-developed in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Only certain relatives from a restricted list are able to claim.
Compensation is restricted to a statutory amount set by the Government. A statutory sum of £12,980 can be claimed in England and Wales by specific relatives as a token amount towards their loss.
The system is inflexible and tends to discriminate unfairly. Spouses, those engaged to be married, and parents of children under the age of 18 can claim. But a partner who lived with the deceased is not eligible (they are eligible in Scotland).
Yet, cohabitation is the fastest-growing family type in the UK. Such ineligibility to claim compensation makes no sense. It’s out of step with modern life and modern expectations.
We now move on to look at another aspect of fatal injury and compensation where law reform is needed.
2. Support the creation of a fund of last resort for sufferers of asbestos-related diseases.
Just going to work can have detrimental health consequences. Indeed, suffering exposure to asbestos can be deadly.
If someone has contracted a disease through the negligence of their employer, they should be entitled to recover compensation. But it is often very difficult to get compensation under the present system and it may prove impossible.
Asbestos-related diseases tend to develop only many years – decades, usually – after the exposure which seeded the illness. By that time, the employer may no longer be trading.
Employers’ liability insurance is compulsory but it may prove impossible to track down a relevant insurance policy which can fund the compensation that would be due.
At the moment, a fund of last resort funded by the insurance industry exists, but only for people who have developed mesothelioma. It’s available when all other avenues for justice have proved fruitless.
APIL is pressing for a similar fund of last resort to be set up for sufferers of other asbestos-related diseases, so these people are can receive full and fair compensation.
And this leads us on to the “umbrella” topic of full and fair compensation, the third of APIL’s manifesto action points for injured people.
3. APIL ask candidates to commit to ensuring that injured people receive full and fair compensation.
This can apply at either end of the compensation spectrum.
For example, at the minor injury level, in England and Wales there are moves to take whiplash injuries outwith the standard scheme for compensation for pain and suffering, governed by the Judicial College Guidelines. The new scheme will see a series of tariffs imposed – compensation levels will be cut.
At the other end of the scale, where you are dealing with very serious – possibly catastrophic – injury, full and fair compensation is crucial.
These injury victims may need 24-hour medical care. The everyday tasks most of us take for granted may be impossible without assistance. Only full and fair compensation will fund the necessary support package. Without proper compensation, life becomes more about existing than thriving. Injured people should not have to live in fear of what will happen to them if their money runs out.
People with the most serious injuries must invest their compensation wisely to make sure it will last for the rest of their lives. But they should not have to take risks with it.
Recent changes by the Government affecting the way compensation is calculated in the highest value cases – known as “the discount rate” – is increasing the risk that injured people will run out of money despite careful management of their resources.
The position is not the same as between Scotland, on the one hand, and the rest of the UK, on the other (it’s fairer to injured people in Scotland).
Quite apart from the hardship this causes to injury victims, it’s not fair to them or to the rest of society. It means the injured person ultimately has to rely on support from the State – which means we all end up footing the bill for someone else’s negligence.
The need for full and fair compensation is fundamental to any future discussion of personal injury issues.
How we can help
We hope you found it useful to learn about APIL’s manifesto, aimed primarily at prevention of needless injuries. Turning to situations where injury has happened, we highlighted 3 areas where APIL would like to see present unfairnesses in the law corrected. In the case of bereavement compensation, Scots Law is viewed as the benchmark with which other UK jurisdictions should be made to fall in line.
If you have any questions at all, please get in touch. We would like the information on this website to be as comprehensive as possible. Your questions help us to keep an eye on the information on this website , so we can help as many people as possible know their rights. You can contact us by phoning 01343 544077 or send us a Free Online Enquiry.
If you want to enquire about our personal injury claim services, you can get a free case assessment from us by making contact in the ways set out above.
Where a Free Case Assessment is something that might be helpful to you – because we would be local, specialist solicitors from your point of view – go ahead and make a Free Online Enquiry via this website.
From there, we can then get started on the process of investigation and consideration of your claim.