According to the Health and Safety Executive, twenty seven million working days were lost last year alone through work related illness or injury and according to the Department for Transport, almost two hundred and four thousand people were killed or injured in traffic accidents in 2011. Although these are the most common types of accident or injury, there are many other pitfalls to modern life which can have life changing consequences.
Medical negligence, manufacturing errors and failure by businesses to comply with health and safety regulations can all result in a victim having to deal with physical, mental or emotional trauma.
In 1995 the British government passed laws which allowed Conditional (or no win no fee) claims for personal injury. The claimant would be required by law to pay up to twenty five per cent of the compensation awarded to their solicitor. Although this was a step forward in personal injury law, it still resulted in claimants losing a large amount of money in legal fees.
Before that, claimants had to pay legal fees whether they won or lost, which meant that many ordinary people simply could not afford to proceed with legal action in case they lost, or would have to attempt to represent themselves in court, often against large companies who could afford good legal representation.
In 1999, the government removed the requirement for the claimant to pay the twenty five per cent and allowed them to keep all the compensation awarded to them. All their legal costs were recovered from the opposing party. The introduction of the no win no fee law and the gradual increase in health and safety laws meant that it was easier to bring a case to court, although a personal injuries solicitor would usually only accept cases which had a greater possibility of being successful.
Making a claim for personal injury, however it occurred, was easy, and the large numbers of no win no fee law firms springing up made sure consumers had plenty of choice. UK law allows the victim three years from the date of the injury to bring legal action and the action can be not only against an individual but their employer if the incident occurred in the course of their employment. This has resulted in a large increase in the amount of employer’s liability insurance and public liability insurance that companies are required to pay, and very stringent safety regulations in many industries as well as a large increase in frivolous claims.
Homeowners and tenants are not exempt from litigation and there have been instances of contractors claiming against homeowners if they are injured on their premises.
In April 2013, UK law is changing again after protests by the insurance industry and many large firms, who are crippled by claims against them for a wide range of injuries. From April, claimants will have to pay insurance, a fee to the legal team if they are successful and twenty five per cent of all compensation will go to cover their legal fees.