General PI News
The Ministry of Justice have announced measures to reduce the amount paid out by insurance companies for fraudulent cases. Courts will be given more powers to throw out cases where claimants have been dishonest.
Other changes include putting a stop to compensation culture by banning firms offering free incentives such as iPads and upfront cash payments. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman says they intend to ban all inducements such as “welcome payments, free gifts, cash advances and discounted services.”
The reforms are intended to reduce car insurance premiums for honest drivers which are forced to pay higher premiums as a result of fraudulent payouts pushing up costs.
Association of British Insurers director general Otto Thoresen said: “These changes are a very positive development for the vast majority of honest insurance customers who end up paying for the fraud of the minority.”
Currently the courts can pay compensation to individuals even if it is found their injuries have been exaggerated. Under the new rules the courts would be required to block all compensation payouts unless it is determined a serious injustice has taken place.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling says the changes will lead to smaller premiums for drivers and that the changers will be put into legislation before the end of the current parliament in May 2015.
Improved medical examinations will also be introduced to reduce the number of bogus claims. People suffering from whiplash will be required to undergo an examination by an independent professional working for a fixed fee.
The changes are also intended to reduce the compensation culture in workplaces where workers file for compensation for “slips and trips”. Workers won’t be able to receive compensation without evidence of injuries sustained to them.
According to the Association of British Insurers, the number of dishonest insurance claims reach 59,000 in 2013, costing the industry £811 million. In spite of the rise in fraudulent claims, insurance premiums have fell by £100 in the last year which shows how far measures have already gone to tackle insurance fraud.
The Ministry of Justice has been assured that the savings to insurance companies will be passed onto consumers.
Police are investigating a firm which hired out a pump to the Gbangbola family used to pump water out of their home in February due to flooding caused by heavy rain. It was found that carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the pump led to the death of seven year old, Zane Gbangbola, and paralysed his father from the waist down.
Zane Gbangbola and his parents become ill in February when using a petrol-driven pump to remove water from their home in Chertsey, Surrey. They were admitted to hospital on the 6th of February after calling an ambulance.
Zane and his father, Kye, suffered cardiac arrests which resulted in Zanes death and Mr Gbangbola being paralysed from the waist down. An autopsy on Zane was inconclusive which led to further tests being undertaken by a pathologist. It was determined the cause of death was due to carbon monoxide intoxication.
A petrol pump was taken from the house to be examined and an investigation has been launched by Surrey Police to determine if there is any liability or criminal offence in respect to the company who hired out the equipment.
There are still a number of unanswered questions in regards to what toxins were in the house on the night of Zanes death. His family are still waiting for the full post-mortem report which will be provided to the coroner when a full inquest into Zanes death is carried out.
Leigh Day, who is representing the Gbangbola family, said: ‘We await further information provided by other agencies following their investigations, as many questions still remain unanswered into what toxins were present within the property on the night of Zane’s death.”
Residence in the area have blamed the the council and Environment Agency for not making residence more aware of the dangers of poisoning when using petrol-driven pumps to remove water from properties.
A petition has received 1800 signatures and is targeting 100,000 in order for a debate to be open in parliament regarding the death of Zane Gbangbola.
The tragedy occurred in a period where much of Britain was devastated by floods. The met office described the storm as the worst in 248 years, with 80 mph gales affecting the Surrey area.
A woman from Pembrokeshire has suffered serious burns after her electronic cigarette exploded while she slept. The electronic device was being charged in a USB socket only intended for iPhones and iPads.
Lucy May, 22, was woken up by the sound of the blaze in her room and says she would have died if she hadn’t woken up sooner. Miss May suffered burns after the bed she was in caught fire.
Office manager Ms May said: “I had my e-cigarette on charge and went to sleep – next thing I knew I woke up to a fire.”
The device had ‘exploded like a bullet’ and caused hundred of pounds damage to her duvet, bag and clothing as well as causing extensive damage to the walls and carpet in her bedroom. She was taken to Morriston Hospital and treated for third degree burns to her legs, hands and the bottom of her abdomen.
Lucy had purchased the e-cigarette from a market for £35 to help her quit smoking. After a weekend away she put the eGo e-cigarette on charge but wasn’t aware the USB charger was too powerful for the device.
Her family are urging anyone who owns an e-cigarette to read the instruction before charging. them
Earlier this year a blaze occurred in East London which was believed to have started when an e-cigarette exploded while charging. Fire chiefs said it was likely the e-cigarette exploded due to overheating. The blaze was tackled by 20 firefighters and led to one lady being admitted to hospital for burns.
In April this year, a pensioner at Wythenshawe Hospital was engulfed in flames when she used an e-cigarette while on oxygen in her hospital bed, the fire caused serious burns to the 65 year old.
Many believe e-cigarettes are a safer option than normal cigarettes, which they often are however “The danger is that people sometimes use incorrect chargers which runs the risk of overcharging, which can potentially have explosive results.” said fire investigator Charlie Pugsley
When purchasing an e-cigarette it is important that it is purchased from a reputable source and that they aren’t charged longer than the recommended period.
Stoke Mandeville Hospital has admitted to a number of errors they made which resulted in the death of a 4 year old boy, Oliver Blockley. The young child was given a 95% chance of living when admitted to hospital and later died after the NHS trust made 28 mistakes in his care.
Oliver Blockley was admitted to hospital with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea. He was misdiagnosed with gastroenteritis, an illness that can’t be treated with antibiotics which means he wasn’t given the medicine that would have saved his life.
A blood test should have picked up that Oliver had Strep A, an invasive form of sore throat bacteria. The tests showed he was severely dehydrated and was headed for septic shock yet doctors continued to refuse him antibiotics and fluids. Throughout the night the doctors and nurses failed to identify Olivers unusually fast heartbeat and rapid breathing.
Hours after entering hospital, Oliver went into septic shock and suffered cardiac arrest which led to his death. His mother, Jennifer Blockley, was initially denied information about the chances her son had of surviving if medics had acted sooner. Even after the death nurses continued to tell Ms Blockley that Oliver died due to a stomach bug.
The trust admits that Oliver would have survived if it wasn’t for the negligent care he received while in the hospitals care. They admit he didn’t receive the proper medication, fluids or supervision required.
Anne Eden, chief executive of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust has said the investigation will be as transparent as possible. A letter of apology has been written to the boys family in which it admits to 28 counts of clinical negligence.
Ms Eden has revealed a number of changes have been made including improving the early warning process for recognising when a child’s condition is deteriorating, improving how they treat gastroenteritis and the use and types of fluids given to patients.
The family’s solicitor Laura Cook, of Darby’s Solicitors, said: “It’s another sad example of the NHS only admitting to mistakes after legal action is taken, putting the family through additional stress at what is already such a traumatic time.”
The British Medical Association (BMA) has said it is concerned about plans from the government to limit the kinds of doctors who are able to report on soft tissue injuries such as whiplash.
The Ministry of Justice has put forward plans to change the rules setting out which types of medical experts are able to be instructed by personal injury solicitors to write reports on whiplash injury cases.
These plans seem to restrict those experts who may be instructed in England and Wales to:
• Chartered physiotherapists
• Consultant orthopaedic surgeons
Now the chair of the medico-legal committee of the British Medical Association, Jan Wise, has commented that these proposals could severely limit the kinds of experts which those who have suffered a whiplash injury would be likely to see.
She insisted that reports should be allowed to be produced by any doctor who had the appropriate knowledge and expertise.
So that, for example, could extend to higher-level trainee doctors, staff and associate specialists and A & E department consultants.
Dr Wise added: “A & E consultants particularly are frequently involved in managing the treatment of patients with these kinds of injuries, and then often in the follow-up and management of their conditions in review clinics. So they should be incorporated within the list of experts who are permitted to write the reports for these cases.
“At the BMA, we will be making a response to this consultation. And it’s also important that, equally, doctors make submissions of their own responses so that the government appreciates the strength of feeling which is out there.”
The move is one element of a broader drive by the government to bring down the cost and number of whiplash compensation claims.
According to the government, personal injury claims increased by 60% in the six years to 2012, although reported accidents during the same time frame was down by 20%, and vehicles have generally become safer.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) which represents personal injury solicitors, and the ministry, have collaborated on the project to seek more information on road accident claims from medical experts. It ends this month.
Bloomfield Collegiate has been found guilty of health and safety breaches relating to its management of asbestos. A survey of the school buildings found asbestos in shelves, cupboards and in the hallway.
Bloomfield’s board of governors pleaded guilty to three breaches of health and safety law and were fined £7,500, plus costs of £1,750.
In June 2011 the affected buildings were rented out by Bloomfield Collegiate to a nursery. An asbestos survey was carried out on the school in 2004 but not on the smaller buildings that would later house the nursery.
The buildings were also used as an after-schools facility and regularly by girls from the main school along with teachers, administration and cleaners.
It wasn’t until May 21, 2012 that the school carried out a survey which uncovered asbestos-containing materials. The survey found high levels of asbestos in the air and asbestos debris on furniture. It concluded that staff, contractors and children using the building were at risk of being exposed to asbestos.
Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland was notified and conducted a test that discovered “elevated levels” of asbestos. The buildings were immediately closed to pupils as a precaution.
Prosecuting lawyers said the “board was aware there was a potential problem in June 2011, but did not do anything until May the following year.”
However the defence lawyer argued that the Board of Governors believed the buildings were checked during the initial asbestos survey in 2004 and that the principal was extremely proactive when raising the issue in 2011.
The Judge said: “It is clear that the individuals concerned and the members of the board have shown remorse and that it is obvious from the actions that were taken once this material was discovered.”
He added there was never any deliberate intention to expose anyone to the asbestos and that the offences weren’t financially motivated.
It was revealed to the court that the school is undergoing financial difficulties and has no way of raising more money or paying off debts. The school is now controlled by the Department of Education
Asbestos is the single greatest cause of death in UK workplaces and causes serious diseases when inhaled.
The publicist Max Clifford has been found guilty over indecent assault against young girls and woman between 1977 and 1985 and was sentenced to jail for 8 years. He becomes the first person to be convicted under Operation Yewtree.
Clifford was given the maximum sentence possible in accordance with the laws at the time his offending took place. If he was tried under today’s laws some of the offences would be considered rape which can hold a life sentence.
The maximum sentence was partly because of Clifford’s attitude in court having been observed laughing and shaking his head while the accusations were made against him.
The Judge said: “I find your behaviour to be quite extraordinary and a further indication that you show no remorse.”
He added: “These offences may have taken place a long time ago, when inappropriate and trivial sexual behaviour was more likely to be tolerated, but your offending was not trivial, but of a very serious nature.”
Clifford remained defiant until the end, claiming his accusers were “fantasists” and proclaiming: “I stand by everything I have said in the last 17 months.”
Since the conviction Scotland Yard has confirmed other people have come forward with fresh allegation against Clifford. The spokesman said: “We have received further information and this is currently subject to review.”
During the trial the prosecution told how Clifford’s actions have ruined the lives of the four women. In a statement read out by the prosecution it revealed one woman would cry whenever she saw him on TV and how a woman – 15 years old at the time – missed out on her first sexual experience with someone her own age.
The investigation into Cliffords crimes is part of Operation Yewtree which was set up to investigate the offences of British media personality Jimmy Savile and others. The sentencing has taken some pressure off the prosecution after a string of not guilty verdicts have been given to other media personalities being investigated.
Since the beginning of Operation Yewtree over 200 potential victims have been identified and 400 lines of enquiry have been opened.
The prosecution has applied for Clifford to pay costs of £66,704.
Babcock Flagship Ltd has been ordered to pay costs of £10,000 and a fine of £10,000 after three men employed to maintain the grounds of HMS Raleigh were diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The three men employed to maintain the grounds of the naval base in Cornwall had used machinery such as hedge cutters and trimmers for up to 8 hours a day. The prolonged use of the vibrating tools led to permanent nerve damage.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed the company had knowledge that vibration-related conditions or health issues could be exacerbated by the use of vibrating machinery and yet failed to take the necessary precautions to protect their workers.
Babcock Flagship Ltd had available to them reports between 2009 – 2011 which made them aware of the dangers of its staff developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. The court was told that Babcock Flagship Ltld failed to put any precautionary measures in place to protect their staff either before or after having the reports available.
The HSE said the company failed to put any controls in place such as such as limiting their exposure to vibrating machinery or providing alternatives.
Speaking after the hearing, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Emma O’Hara said: “Almost half of all the ill-health reports sent to the Health and Safety Executive relate to Hand Arm Vibration and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome associated with working with vibrating tools, many from the horticulture industry.
The HSE has reported that half of all the ill-health reports sent to them relate to hand arm vibration and an estimated 2 million UK workers are at risk of vibration-related ill health such as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HVAS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Once damage has taken place there is little that can be done medically to treat the condition.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is normally suffered by workers in the mining, steel and engineering industries. Machinery that can cause HAVS include pneumatic drills and hammers, chainsaws, hand-held grinders and gardening equipment. Symptoms include tingling in the hands, aching in the wrists and forearms and numbness in the finger tips.
A landmark ruling , in which a decade-old personal injury settlement has been allowed to be re-opened, could lead to thousands of old cases being revised. Joanne Dunhill settled for £12,500 in 2003 for a head injury that she suffered, with the insurance company not accepting liability. However, a new claimant firm took over the case, and argued that she was not of sound mind and that the settlement should not stand. A number of people have said that the decision by the High Court to allow the case to reopen means that similar cases could also be revised in the future.
Joanna Dunhill, now 53, suffered a head injury in 1999 and agreed to an out of court settlement of £12,500 without the insurer admitting liability. Ordinarily, in such instances, this would mean that the case had drawn to a close and no further action would be taken. Courts do not have to be involved in a settlement, and this typically means that the insurer and the claimant agree to a settlement where no liability or blame is agreed. For the claim this can mean access to compensation sooner, and with no lengthy court case, while the insurer typically agrees to pay an amount that they believe would be less than the court would dictate.
Ms Dunhill approached a different claim firm, and following this her new representatives argued in High Court that she was not of sound mind, and therefore not in a position to be able to accept the settlement figure at the time. They have said that she is due significantly more money that she was awarded, and rather than pursue a professional negligence claim, Dunhill’s lawyers have successfully argued that the original case should be re-examined.
The High Court has agreed with the argument, and a court date will be set to determine the new level of compensation that Dunhill will receive. However, lawyers and insurers have met the decision with worry and scepticism, stating that it means thousands of old cases could be reopened. Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, stated that protected parties required protection not only from themselves but from legal advisers too.
A specialist aviation barrister, Jonathan Chambers, has said that the lack of external data regarding the disappearance of flight MH370 could lead to the airline having to pay substantially more in compensation. Where the airline is able to show that they did nothing wrong, and were not at fault for death or injury caused on their plane, liability is limited to the equivalent of £100,000 per person. Where this cannot be proven, which is highly likely if the plane cannot even be located, they are open to unlimited personal injury liability. Mr Chambers went on to say that the industry as a whole should look more carefully into external data collection practices.
The vast majority of data recorded about a flight is recorded on the plane itself. From eye witness accounts, to the contents of the black box, and even the condition of the plane itself, if the plane and passengers cannot be found, then it means that the exact reason and cause of the accident cannot be proven. This is especially important to the airlines, because they must be able to show that they were not at fault. If they cannot call on any evidence from the plane, even though it may not be possible to prove that the airline were liable, they will not be able to prove otherwise.
The Montreal Convention is a specific set of rules that were drawn up in 1999 by members of the International Civil Aviation Organization. It is a multilateral treaty, which means all those that signed up agreed to be bound by the terms of the Convention. Primarily, it introduced a two-tier compensation system. Where airlines can prove they were not liable for damage or injury, their liability would be limited to £100,000. If they are not able to show this, then the liability amount is unlimited.
The search for flight MH370 continues, and even when the plane is found, it is uncertain what the findings will be and whether the airline is at fault, or will be able to prove that they are not. However, for now, at least, Malaysia Airlines faces a substantial compensation bill.