Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Worst Possible Light

There is an episode in The Simpsons in which Bart gets hit by a car belonging to Mr Burns. There is a subsequent claim for compensation for Bart's minor injuries which ends up in court and it is only Marge's honesty that prevents a big pay-out. The role of the lawyer is to present the accused in the best (or worst) possible light. I could give you many more examples of how ambulance-chasing lawyers do their best to line the pockets of their clients - did I get that right?

'Where there is blame there is a claim' encapsulates the idea that accidents may be preventable and the idea has been successful. It is now hard to think of an accident without thinking of factors that could have made it less likely.

In the news today is the story of a police officer who is suing a garage owner after she was called out for a suspected break-in. The owner 'Steve Jones said he found the case "shocking".' Even if you read the full report from the BBC you may still feel that a good lawyer would identify the 'proper' circumstances by which the garage owner may be blamed. Perhaps there was inadequate lighting. Perhaps the police officer was distracted by the owner as she attempted to step onto the kerb. Who knows what actually happened?

On the other hand don't police officers have to work in areas that are unlit? Don't they have to deal with distractions like members of the public talking to them?  It certainly seems that this police officer has succumbed to compensationitis. The local police federation chairman said "the claim has come in and we've honoured the officer's wishes by putting it through the solicitor", but I suspect that privately he wishes she hadn't put in a claim. Maybe he should have had a word with her before this happened. Maybe he did, but she was adamant. In that case the pervasive culture that persuaded her to be adamant has a lot to answer for.

The trouble is that even if the case is thrown out, simply making a claim will perpetuate a culture of compensationitis. There are people who gain substantial sums through the courts because their lawyers won the case and this too perpetuates the culture. The greater the injury, the greater the compensation. If you can't work again then the greater the compensation, and the greater the compensation the greater the need to live up to the decision of the court.

We have a series of welfare cuts coming in that have been aimed at the most vulnerable. Life isn't easy for those on benefits but the Government sees payments to the most vulnerable as an overspend and they have to balance their budget. In turn the most vulnerable (and everyone else) will see the idea of compensation for injury in a positive light. The additional problem is that anyone who gains compensation for injury also has to take up the attitude of someone who has been injured. This will give them more money. Wouldn't it make a nice change for the Government to target the Lionel Hutz characters instead of the vulnerable.

Change the world

P.S. It is nice to know that the news 24 hours later was that the Chief Constable  did not support his officer's claim.


  1. I gave in to people telling me that I should make a claim for my accident at work. The barrister changed her mind twice about what chance I would have of winning my case. Eventually I decided not to persue, but still had to pay my solicitor. If people hadn't pressured me I wouldn't have tried to claim. What makes this worse is someone else at the same place also had an accident, which could be said was just as much her fault as they claim that mine was, yet she got a pay out. These things often have no rhyme or reason. I really wish I had never tried to claim.

  2. You may have lost money because of undue pressure Sea, but at least you have not been labelled in court as an injured person and consequently have to live your life to those standards.