The increasing ‘compensation culture’ shouted about by insurers and criticised by the Government is a myth, according to a report which shows that the number of successful work injury claims fell from over 200,000 in 2000/01 to just under 90,000 in 2011/12 – a fall of approximately 60%.
The Government figures, published in the health and safety journal Hazards, indicate that many people, or their families, who suffer accident or illness through work never seek or recover compensation – even in cases where the injury or illness causes death.
In the last few years, both the Government and insurers have made much of the compensation culture and been highly critical of the personal injury industry as a whole. The recent wide-ranging costs reforms have taken the same sweeping approach targeted at cutting costs in all claims and in reality making it more difficult for people to access justice and litigate. In effect the recent Enterprise and Regulatory reform in effect makes it more difficult for individuals to bring claims against employers for health and safety legislation breaches.
Hazards editor Rory O’Neill, professor of occupational health at Stirling University and author of the report, said: “The Government’s cynical promotion of a compensation culture myth means many workers who are dying in pain are also dying in poverty… The Government is putting the health of the insurance industry and the safety of … the business community over the health, safety and survival of people at work.”
The report states that more than 4,000 people a year die of work-related chronic bronchitis and emphysema, though just 59 received compensation last year. And of the 221,000 cases of work-related stress, anxiety and depression last year, just 293 resulted in a payout.
Philippa Luscombe, head of the personal injury team at Penningtons Solicitors LLP, said: “We have some real concerns at the broad brush approach taken by the Government and the insurance industry to personal injury claims – indicating that many claims are trivial, exaggerated and/or unmeritorious and seeking to make it more difficult through new legislation for individuals to bring claims. This is particularly evident in complicated cases, which employer’s liability claims often are.
“The reality is that while there are a minority of claimants and their representatives who do not act in a genuine way bringing only genuine claims where there is a need for compensation but all claimants have been tarred with that brush. Many people suffer serious and totally avoidable injuries which adversely affect them in all aspects of their life. People don’t appreciate that there are strict tests to succeed in bringing a claim and the figures in the Hazards journal demonstrate this. In the last few years we have seen employers cutting corners on safety to reduce costs and it is time that steps were taken to protect employees rather than trying to drive out or down all claims, whether they are genuine or not.”