Last night, on prime-time television, the Tonight programme was ‘investigating’ the so-called compensation culture in the UK and the alleged rise in false claims. I must confess from the outset, I sat down to watch the show already a little bit riled and my annoyance did not subside until the closing credits.
In their investigations, the Tonight programme focused on two types of claims, whiplash and holiday sickness. The pre-amble of the show described how Britain is a nation obsessed with personal injury claims. It described the negative impact of claims on the insurance industry and tour operators and how they are fighting back – some real hard hitting journalism!
Claims for whiplash or holiday sickness are often branded as being bogus or a money-making exercise by the person making the claim. They frequently hit the headlines when insurers cry out about the increased number of claims being made and the impact this is having on their profit margins. Headline grabbing stories are used to attempt to deter genuine claiming being made and this supposed investigation by Tonight is no different. These attempts are nothing short of lobbying by the insurance industry to keep their margins high and pay outs low.
On the Tonight programme, they told the story of a family who went on holiday to Morocco and became ill. The couple returned to the UK and made a claim for the illness they suffered when their dream holiday was ruined. This one example was used to show that genuine claims are made. The remainder of the show was used to highlight the repercussions of a false claim being made including one couple who were ordered to pay court costs of £3,700 after their claim was found to be “fundamentally dishonest.”
The programme did not look at cases where catastrophic injuries were suffered. They did not look at accident at work. They did not consider the impact of being involved in an accident or suffering an illness abroad can have on a person. They did not interview any solicitors who pursue claims on behalf of injured people. Instead, the 30 minutes were used to bolster the plight of the insurance industry and tour operators.
On a daily basis, I deal with cases for clients who have been injured through no fault of their own whether at work, on holiday, in their car or walking down the street. When mainstream media outlets, such as ITV, are using scaremongering tactics to deter genuine cases being brought, this is nothing short of outrageous.
Under Scots law, personal injury cases are covered by the law of delict. The purpose of a claim for personal injury is to put the injured person back in the position they would have been but for the accident. The compensation they receive is not money for nothing. It is compensation to help them return to their normal day to day life. In order to make a claim for compensation, it has to be proven on the balance of probabilities that an accident or injury has taken place and this has caused harm. To pursue a claim, evidence is required. It is not as simple or straightforward as was portrayed on the Tonight programme.
I, in no way, condone false or spurious claims being made. I am proud of the work advance by solicitors in helping victims seek redress where they have been harmed by the negligence of others and am angered when this work is called into question by accusations of a compensation culture or money for nothing. I would call upon media outlets to consider the implications of such broadcasts and to look at the wider picture of the brilliant work which is undertaken by personal injury solicitors every day in seeking compensation on behalf of their clients.
Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Accident Lawyer