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Debunking The UK’s “Compensation Culture” Myth

Posted in: Personal Injury Workplace Injuries 

A report was published earlier this month seeking to debunk the idea that Britain has a growing compensation culture for injuries suffered at work. The Compensation Myth is a joint report published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) that challenges the contention that personal injury claims are stifling innovation and growth.

The report examines ten ‘compensation myths’, some of which are detailed below, questioning criticisms that personal injury claims for work related injuries or illnesses create problems for society and UK business.

  • Compensation claims are spiralling out of control‘ – In reality, there has been no increase in the costs of compensation claims since 1989. Further, except for Denmark, the UK awards less damages than any other major European country;
  • Workers are too ready to claim compensation‘ – Although over 850,000 people suffer injuries or illness such as back injuries, skin diseases and deafness while at work, only 1 out of 10 injured workers gets compensation;
  • Lawyers drag cases out for their own benefit‘ – Solicitors must act in the interests of their client and cannot extend cases simply to increase costs. Costs would be more affordable if employers and insurers admitted liability early rather than waiting until a claim goes to trial; This is also one of the reason that the No Win, No Fee system for personal injury claims has grown in popularity.
  • The UK compensation system is becoming similar to that of the US‘ – The US has a completely different legal system, dissimilar in law and procedure to that in the UK. Also, although the UK system is more strict, in reality many American workers either cannot claim damages against their employers or have the amount that can be claimed restricted;
  • Insurance companies shouldn’t have to pay out for asbestos-related diseases‘ –  Insurances companies are experts in risk and have been aware of the dangers of asbestos since the 1940s. There is no justification why they should not meet their obligations when they insured companies despite knowing that exposure was occurring;
  • Trade Unions encourage their members to claim‘ – Trade unions are meant to protect members from becoming ill or suffering injury through work, which includes ensuring members injured through an employer’s negligence bring their claims in time and are properly compensated.

The report concludes by making three suggestions for decreasing the cost of compensation for injuries or illnesses caused because of the negligence of an employer. First, employers should stop acting negligently and insurance companies should offer risk based premiums based on an employer’s health and safety history. Secondly, an employer should ensure that injured or ill workers are given access to rehabilitation early, rather than used as a ransom for accepting an offer to settle or forcing them to return to work early. Thirdly, insurance companies should more readily accept liability (where justified) early, and also follow court rules so costs do not mount up.

Matthew Stockwell, president of the APIL, said:

“There is a general lack of understanding about the way the personal injury system works. Compensation claims can only be made where negligence has been proven, not every mishap has a price tag attached…

Myths and misunderstandings create a smokescreen which obscures the fact that injured people need, and are entitled to, help to get back to work and put their lives back on track.”

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