Accident Advice Helpline welcomes Lord Young’s report Common Sense, Common Safety, and its stated objectives to cut down on the amount of red tape that is apparently choking businesses when it comes to application of health and safety rules.
However, the report, eagerly awaited by some sections of the media, fails to stand up to scrutiny. A cursory glance through the report reveals some glaring inconsistencies, some of which have been implicitly acknowledged by Lord Young himself.
The term ‘compensation culture’ has become a mainstay of the newspapers in recent years, with some ill-informed commentators believing that it is symptomatic of all that is ‘wrong with Britain’ and other unsubstantiated accusations.
The fact is, that there isn’t a compensation culture; it’s a myth, ‘fuelled by perception’ in the words of the report. Some people ‘believe’ that such a culture exists, and this belief is the evidence upon which some of these anti-industry catcalls are based.
Figures obtained by the Citizens Advice Bureau demonstrate that up to 70% of the members of UK society who have a valid basis for a compensation claim don’t actually act to seek the financial redress to which they would be entitled. This may be a consequence of only 6% of people, interviewed for a recent survey, admitting that they felt comfortably knowledgeable about their legal rights.
The same survey found that around 80% of people feel that there are significant barriers in the way of them pursuing a successful case.
Earlier in the week before the report was published, Lord Young called the advertising of personal injury firms ‘incitement to litigate’ as opposed to ‘access to justice.’
The government no longer provides legal aid for personal injury claimants and does not spend any money promoting the services, so as legal commentator Neil Rose in the Guardian says, how else are innocent accident victims supposed to know how to claim compensation? It is up to PI firms to inform people of their rights since the government does not, otherwise they would be left in the dark.
‘I am not seeking to control the amount of personal injury advertising, only the content,’ Young told journalists at a post-publication press conference, and yet on page 21 of the report he writes that he wishes to control “both the volume of advertising that such companies produce, and also the content of these adverts.”
While we welcome the notion of adverts that contain as much informative content as possible, we would urge caution against curbing the frequency of these adverts, and would point to the above statistics to underline that the number of claims is still well below what it could, and arguably should, be.
As a further means of demonstrating that the number of claims has not spiralled into the sort of tailspin that most people apparently think it has, it should be noted that employer liability claims – a major element of personal injury law in the UK – have fallen by 69% from 2000-2010. This is as a result of the greater health and safety laws that are in themselves being reviewed.