Examining compensation culture

Anybody who has read newspapers or watched the news over the course of the past few years will be familiar with the term ‘compensation culture’. It’s a phrase bandied around by the media in an age where technological developments have made it much easier to report incidents ranging from slips, trips or falls through to workplace injuries.

What is compensation culture? And could it hinder my injury claim?

Compensation culture has stemmed from the ‘where there’s a blame, there’s a claim’ philosophy. This was originally thought of as an American phenomenon, but has become more prevalent in the UK in recent years. Compensation culture revolves around the idea that somebody is always at fault for personal injury, and has been described by Ronald Walker QC as: “an ethos [which implies that] all misfortunes short of an Act of God are probably someone else’s fault, and that the suffering should be relieved, or at any rate marked, by the receipt of a sum of money.”

The increased profile is due, in part, to the whole process of making a claim being made easier. More and more companies now offer to take the process out of the hands of the victim, removing much of the stress and causing people to be less reluctant to make a claim.

The idea behind compensation culture is that money can be made quickly from unjustified and, sometimes, fraudulent claims. Although it is not directly linked with fraud, many have associated it with such activity and attached a stigma to it.

Does it really exist?

Yes and no. It’s true that some claims made are not worthy of compensation, but these are often dismissed quickly. For the most part compensation culture is somewhat of a myth. The Which? Consumer Group conducted research that illustrated that the total cost of compensation claims has remained at the same level since 1989.

Further research also reveals that most sums received by ‘victims’ are actually below £3,000 and only 2 per cent make it past the £25,000 mark, rather dispelling the ‘quick buck’ element associated with injury claims.

The idea of compensation culture has risen in a time where health and safety has increased in prevalence. There are now increased levels of protection in general, everyday life and around the workplace, which has aided claims for personal injury. The existence of compensation culture remains unproven, but that is not to say that unjustified claims are not made from time to time.

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