We think it’s about time the term ‘compensation’ should be reclaimed. There can be no doubt that in recent times it has become, in the opinion of another prominent legal services company, a ‘dirty word.’
‘Compensation’ now inevitably gets paired with the suffix ‘culture’ and is used to lead into any story which the right-wing media use to tar everyone claiming compensation with the same brush.
This is rather unfair, in much the same way that the same journalists lump someone who claims disability allowance because they lost their leg in a work accident, in with somebody who is fraudulently claiming the same benefit because of a minor mishap ten years ago. It’s easy to generalise and sensationalise because it makes more interesting reading, but the fact is that there is not a ‘compensation culture’ and there never has been.
If you have an accident, you’ll want compensation
Let’s consider two points. There are those that like to leap on the maxim ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ as if it is somehow an abhorrent notion that a member of the public that has been hurt in an accident should seek some sort of recompense for it.
A friend of mine was recently hurt in an accident, in which he sustained whiplash. He was, it said, agonising, keeping him awake in the middle of the night. Before he had ever felt such pain, he said, he thought people making whiplash claims were just chancing their arm. He now admits that most of the people who still think the way the Daily Mail does would be forced to change their tune if any misfortune should befall them.
Even the word ‘compensation’ should exemplify what its innate function is – to compensate, to attempt to rectify that a wrong that has been done. It seems that some people think of it as some sort of lottery. The problem is that, again, thanks to the media, there seems to be a delicate line between providing access to justice and simply encouraging people to make money from fictional injuries. BBC blogger Mark Easton wrote an excellent piece in which he notices the curious incongruence between the attitudes of his fellow practitioners. They criticise everything, he says.
If people are hurt whle under the duty of care of a public body or employer, they bemoan any lack of action from the government that might address these issues, and yet when these principles are enshrined in law, they attack them. ‘Strange thing,’ he says.
Lord Young, the government’s ambassador for rethinking health and safety and accident compensation, criticised claims companies for creating an ‘incitement to litigate’ through their advertising, but then later admitted that he found no problem with the amount they were doing. Furthermore, without a provision for legal advice for accident victims, how else will people know their rights?
Date Published: October 21, 2010
Author: David Brown