The Truth About Where Theres Blame, Theres A Claim

Peninsula Team

April 23 2010

Over recent years the phrase "No win no fee" has become an established part of our everyday language. It certainly seems a growth business with increasing numbers of claims management companies touting for business on television and radio and sending their canvassers into shopping centres.

Is this really the case? The insurance companies claim there has been an increase in claims and that people expect to claim when anything goes wrong, in fact we are constantly being encouraged to do just that.

We hear similar messages from employers and their representatives, people expect compensation for every accident and injury. However the trade unions and solicitors deny that there is a claims culture and that it is in decline, even the Government’s own Better Regulation Unit report that there is no such culture.

What is the truth? I’m not sure, but from a personal perspective I tend to believe that the so called claims culture, particularly in regard to workplace injuries, is nothing new and does exist. As an Enforcing Officer I was often amazed to receive a letter from solicitors asking for information about an occupational injury that had happened just two days before; and this was in the days before the phrase “ambulance chasers” had become common.

As very large companies with closed shop trade union recognition have become but memories, trade union membership has declined. Many workers no longer have this free, and generally unpublicised, access to legal advice and a mechanism for making injury claims. This I believe is a vacuum that the claims management companies have filled. In my previous dealings with the unions they dealt with “personal injuries” in house with the company’s own insurers / safety advisers. Now people are “accosted” when out shopping, an industry grown out of need, or greed?

Whatever the truth about a compensation culture you should always bear in mind that this is a legal process that follows well established rules. Every compensation claim will be subject to rigorous investigation. Those representing the claimant will have to establish a valid claim and those representing the defendant or the employer will work to avoid being found liable and subject to a potentially large financial payout.. A claim can only succeed when negligence can be proved. In my opinion the easiest way to stop people claiming is to comply with the well established and publicised legal requirements in the first place. If there are no grounds, there can be no claim. This is the case in every circumstance, not just occupational health and safety.

We have found that what concerns employers most is the claims that succeed, only because they cannot produce evidence to disprove them; cases where they have almost done all of what was required but had not gone the whole way and kept records to prove it.. If you haven’t kept a record of a health and safety briefing, of training, or a tool box talk you will find it difficult to prove that it was ever delivered. If you haven’t got a record of a safety inspection how could you prove that it was done and the particular day on which it was completed?

Records don’t have to be pristine and typed, hand written notes and registers are often adequate, it is the content that matters.

Remember, at Peninsula we supply our clients with a safety management system and the supporting resource, guidance, record forms and checklists that help them meet their legal responsibilities. Provided they adopt and use the system as part of their day to day health and safety management they should not need to be worried by the compensation culture.

If you have any queries about the safety management system, or any other health and safety issue, call the Advice Service on 0844 892 2785 and one of our trained specialists will be on hand to help.

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