Compensation culture – do we have one?

Compensation culture – have we got one?

Lord Young has been put in charge of reviews in of compensation and health and safety.

He has already answered my question in a report in the Financial Times on 15 October 2010:

Lord Young admitted that the “perception” of a growing compensation culture was not wholly supported by the facts, although the NHS Litigation Authority had seen a 10 per cent annual rise in claims during the last two years.

So there you go, the man in charge says the fear of a compensation culture is not supported by the facts. The fuss is created by tacky advertisements by solicitors and middle men, and by the difficulty that some organisations and events experience when trying to get insurance.

We have always had health and safety law, and the major drives to improve health and safety have reduced death and injury at work. What has changed is the need to assess health and safety before a problem occurs. The old health and safety and compensation laws would be used to criticise with hindsight after something went wrong. The more recent laws, most of which have come from Europe, demand a thorough assessment of the work place and practices before the job starts.  What is wrong with that? Is making an environment safe a real issue? Is the alternative returning to a system where you only worry if something goes wrong?

Those who shout the loudest have not experienced or seen the consequences of a serious injury, or they have a vested interest. If you have suffered an injury or know of someone close, then I hope you will have a healthy respect for the compensation system. It can be slow and frustrating, but it is the only route to redressing your own financial balance. State benefits and employer sick pay certainly do not do the job.

Organisations shout about how much their insurance costs. Insurance companies complain about how much they pay out in compensation and solicitors legal costs. Make the environment safer I say to the first group, and to the second the answer is to handle cases quickly, and stop playing hard to get.

The compensation culture is a perception based on media headlines, and not on facts. By all means stop tacky adverts on the television, but do not relax the need to make our environment reasonably safe. It has taken a long time to get where we are in terms of safety, and relaxing the law and its enforcement will only lead to more accidents, and the inevitable death and injury. Then we might create enough compensation claims to have a compensation culture.

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About Mark Thompson

Personal injury and accident specialist solicitor
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