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More Accident Prone, or More Compensation-Minded?

>> Feb 12, 2013

There has certainly been an increase in compensation claims involving accidents at work over recent years, but is this due to an increase in accident numbers, or is there just more awareness of legal rights?

Once, there was little or no information given about what your rights were if you sustained an injury at work. Serious injuries were generally compensated, but other injuries that may have been considered minor or just unfortunate were left uncompensated. There was very much an attitude of 'accepting your fate' or just getting on with things without complaint. This attitude is often referred to as being part of a 'golden age', where risk was just accepted as part of every day life.
Health and Safety.
However, time moved on and the work place was targeted in order to make it a safer environment for workers. This was deemed to be a good thing, but with increased worker right also came increased employer obligations. There were more procedures required of them and failure to adhere to health and safety rules and regulations gave injured workers a reason to seek accident at work compensation. This led to more claims coming before the court.

No win no fee.
Another development in compensation rights came with the introduction of no win no fee claims. This opened up the area of personal injury law to everyone, not just those who either had their claims funded for them (often through a workers' Union scheme) or could afford to fund their claim themselves. The prior system left whole swathes of people without recourse when they were injured due to the careless or negligent behaviour of another. But no win no fee meant that everyone who had suffered an accident at work could claim, no matter what their financial means.

The last factor that seemed to give the claims industry a boost was the increase in advertising from solicitors and claims companies dealing with no win no fee claims. The advertising led to an increased awareness amongst workers about what they were entitled to and gave them information on how to start a claim. Claiming was not now seen as a long and difficult process that would involve a lot of unnecessary stress, but as an easily accessible means of securing justice for a wrong. Many cases are just simple matters of procedure, with claims being settled outside of court in a matter of weeks, although there are still those long and hard-fought battles that involve huge amounts of money.

No matter what the reason, there has definitely been an increase in the number of compensation claims, but it doesn't seem likely that this can be attributed to a single cause. It is far more likely that the combination of increased worker rights, more information about claiming and easier access to justice have all had an effect not the number of claims brought before the court. Courts don't tend to look favourably on frivolous claims, so we haven't yet reached the record high litigation rate seen in the United States, but some still urge that it's a slippery slope there we're on and we need to put a rein on our tendency to sue.

Anna Mathews is a personal injury law expert with a specialism in accident at work claims. She has worked both in the UK and in the United States, where she was on occasion quite shocked at the litigious nature of the everyday American

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