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As a solicitor who acts on behalf of ‘accident’ victims, I think it’s easy to be cynical about the world. I find it difficult to list things that make me ‘happy’ at work. It’s easy to say what makes me sad, angry and frustrated. Once I get started and ranting about those I’ll not be able to stop!

Please bear in mind I spend quite a bit of my day at work either reading about or hearing about ‘accidents’. The term accident I find always conceals the truth that most injuries which occur at work or on the road could and should have been avoided.  Usually, in an employment context by the employer quite simply following health and safety procedures they are required to do by law. In Road Traffic collisions the majority of injuries occur due to bad driving practices. Speeding, not paying attention to the road, driving under the influence of drink or drugs, the list goes on.

So I often feel sad at work as I hear from people about their life after those events. Victims of serious injury or family members dealing with the aftermath of fatality often talk about their life in chapters, pre and post-accident. ‘Life is not the same now’, ‘I miss not being able to lift my grandchildren’, ‘People look at me funny because of my injuries’, ‘I don’t go out’ ‘I loved my job, I don’t know what to do now as I’m not physically able to do what I did before’. Sad, isn’t it?

So, I feel angry for them when an employer or an insurer say they’re not going to deal with the person’s claim. Even when evidence of serious health and safety failings are clear, the reality is that victims of injury to an employer or insurer are simply a statistic. The concern for most employers or insurers is the profit at year end and this is why they feel the need to either try to pay off a claim for less than it is worth based on the extent of injury and losses. Those who have suffered injury often face financial hardship. Insurers, in particular, are live to this and will make offers based on what they think it will take to buy a vulnerable person in that position off, rather than what the true loss is likely to be.

Fortunately, client’s at this firm, sometimes through a union legal service scheme are able to access expert advice so most, in spite of the further hardship it will bring in the short term, will hold off and let us help to recover the true value/damages they are entitled to. This is frustrating as it often means we are forced to raise an action in court and then it usually another 6 – 9 months before insurers will realistically look at paying the true value of a claim.

I can’t say I’m happy when this settlement takes place. There isn’t really much joy in receiving a sum of money for suffering. The idea is that compensation places you back in the position you would have been but for the accident. Whilst this may be possible in financial loss terms, for those who suffer serious injury and whose lives have changed because of it and those who have lost family members money might assist in taking some of their other worries away, debts etc that have accumulated away but it doesn’t take back the wrong. When I ask of injury victims what they’d like achieved in their case, without exception, their response is ‘I wish the accident had never happened’ and most then go on to say ‘I don’t want anyone else to suffer as I have so I’d like this to effect a change’.

The horrible reality is that prosecuting civil claims is sometimes the only way of making an employer or insurer, take note of the safety failings in their practice. The Health and Safety Executive do not have the resources to investigate all safety failings that could or do lead to accidents so without the civil claims procedure, hitting where it hurts the most, in the profit box problems would be ignored.

Why does all of this relate to happiness? Today is the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness. International Day of Happiness is effectively a call for solidarity in helping to make happiness this ‘fundamental human goal’ a greater priority.

What would make me happy is what would make my client’s happy also. Failings in an individual may be a human condition, but acting swiftly to take responsibility and insures acting responsibly in settling claims swiftly would allow client’s to move on and have a greater chance of happiness. Of course what would make us all really happy is if employers and drivers just acted more responsibly. If there is a risk you could injure, maim or kill through your actions generally speaking society doesn’t think it’s a risk worth taking. So why do employers think it is any different for them when they decide to flout regulations in favour of profit. Why does being in a car, make people bolder and make them take risks?

I call on employers and motorists alike to support the UN’s call. Do the decent thing and stop flouting health and safety laws or driving irresponsibly. The UN says unhappiness relates to feeling bad and being unhealthy so it’s really an easy way to spread goodwill and make people happy, it’s what you’re supposed to do anyway!

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