What is this compensation culture? Where has it come from? And does it even exist?
Let’s consider where it might have come from. It could well be the result of isolated stories such as the two mentioned below, reported by the media this year.
The first concerned West Derby Road in Liverpool, which in July this year was reported by the Daily Mail as having been the source of seven personal injury claims, four of which had been successful and three of which were in progress, despite the pavement being ‘between 10ft and 20ft wide, making any obstacles easy to avoid.’
The article then, however, went to list a succession of claims that had either been nipped in the bud at an early stage or that had been reversed and exposed as a sham through the result of a successful fraud prosecution.
Then there is the story of opportunistic, but rather misguided, Nathan Williams, who despite living in a £500,000 apartment in London’s Soho, decided he would try and make a bit more cash out of local authorities by submitting no fewer than eight accident claims in seventeen months, and over a wide area of the Greater London area. In the event he was caught, successfully convicted, and got nothing.
So what do we learn from these stories?
Firstly, that the ‘compensation culture’ is based on some sections of the media hyping up stories with little substance – the Liverpool story’s sensationalism was diluted with the discussion, in the same article, of fraudulent claimants whose actions ensured they received nothing except community service orders.
Genuine accident victims are being given a bad name by conmen
If by ‘compensation culture’ what the media are actually describing is the notion that some unscrupulous individuals will try to defraud the system to make money for nothing, then they are right in as much as there are people who will try and fiddle any system that will reward them for little or no input. It is hardly a national problem – these stories are few and far between and often they are resolved in favour of the innocent party, which in both of the above cases was the local authority and the taxpayer, so often championed by the Mail and other papers like it.
Let us then consider that in his report, Common Sense, Common Safety, Lord Young admitted that the ‘compensation culture’ is a puff, a myth, a fallacy, something ‘fuelled by perception’ rather than reality. 90% of the public, he says, think there is one. Since when has public perception been as good as hard evidence? There is a danger, as research has shown, that as many as 80% of people who have had an accident would be unwilling to claim compensation because they think it’s somehow dishonest to do so.
The cases above demonstrate exactly what happens in these circumstances – if there is an inflated or untrue claim, then the claimant won’t get anything. It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of claims are ‘weeded out’ at the early stages before they can progress.
So what the government really wants to do is to ban spurious claims and discourage opportunistic fraudsters from trying their luck when they have not even had an accident. We couldn’t agree with them more.