Category Archives: Samantha Hirst

68 Is Too Late!

Older employees face increased risk of accidents at work.

We know as a society we are all living longer.  As life expectancy increases it is becoming more common for employees to be working past the age of 65. By 2020, a third of our workforce will be over 50.  For some this is a choice but, with the forever increasing state pension age, for others it is a necessity.

The Pensions Act 2014 was given royal assent on 14th May 2014 and is now and an Act of Parliament.  This Act allows the government to regularly review the state pension age (SPA), at least once every five years.  In the HM Treasury’s autumn statement 2013, the Chancellor said that, based around the principle that people should expect to spend a certain proportion of their adult life in retirement, the SPA would increase to 68 by the mid 2030’s and to 69 by the late 2040’s.

With an aging workforce comes the growing concern that older workers are at a real risk of suffering a serious injury at work, especially those in manual labour, working past the age of 65.

In July 2014 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a report that considered health and safety for older workers.  They warned that although older workers are less likely to be involved in an accident at work, when they do have an accident is it likely to be more serious, which may lead to disability or even death.  They emphasised that although people are working longer ‘employers have the same responsibilities for health and safety for older employees as they have for all their employees.’

Although the HSE promote health and safety in the workplace the government’s priorities are blurred on the issue.  In October 2013 the government changed the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).  They reduced the amount of major injuries required a RIDDOR report.  Some injuries that don’t require a RIDDOR report include:

  • An electrical shock leading to unconsciousness, resuscitation or admittance to hospital.
  • A temporary loss of eyesight.
  • Unconsciousness or acute illness caused by a biological agent its toxins or infected material.

A campaign called ‘68 is too late’ was launched in 2012 which is fighting to reduce the SPA.  This campaign is backed by many unions, including the Union of Construction and Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), a construction trade union.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “The reduction in the requirement to report major injuries is dangerous. Many of these types of injury are potentially life changing for those involved. If companies no longer have to report them then they are less likely to take preventive measures to stop them re-occurring.”

Employers seem to be more open to employing and retaining older workers because of their broad range of skills, maturity and experience.  David Fairhurst from McDonald’s says “it might surprise people to learn that at McDonald’s we employ over 1,000 people aged 60 or above.”

To help protect older workers from an accident at work, the HSE suggest, amongst other things that employers should:

  • Review your risk assessment if anything significant changes, not just when an employee reaches a certain age.
  • Not assume that certain jobs are physically too demanding for older workers.
  • Design tasks that contain an element of manual handling in such a way that eliminate or minimise risk.

Samantha Hirst, a specialist in accident at work claims at Ridley & Hall says “The law surrounding accident at work claims changed in October 2013. The introduction of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 makes more difficult for employees to bring a claim for compensation.”

She adds, “I’m concerned that the government isn’t putting enough pressure on employers with regards to health and safety for older workers who are working in physically demanding jobs, where the risk of an accident occurring is high. The message to employees is clear, anyone doing manual work shouldn’t be afraid to ask their employers to do proper risk assessments – accident prevention must be a priority for everyone.  But if you’ve had a workplace accident, don’t assume it was your fault or that you shouldn’t ‘rock the boat’ by claiming.  If your employer is to blame, their insurer should pay you the compensation to which you are entitled.”

Samantha Hirst is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases. For further information please contact Samantha at Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

La Grande Cycling Soiree Tonight!

The Tour de France is literally around the corner and the final preparations for our Grande Cycling Soiree are underway. The yellow bike and bunting have been hoisted up to show our support for this weekend of cycling entertainment.

Ridley & Hall Solicitors are hosting a soiree where attendees can enjoy food and drinks with a French-Yorkshire fusion and watch the Huddersfield Criterium Cycle Race as it takes place right outside our office. All proceeds will be going to the Hollybank Trust and Brake (the accident charity).

We have been overwhelmed by the number of attendees but there are still a handful of tickets available which can be purchased via the eventbrite website.

With rain forecasted this afternoon, why not enjoy the spetacle with food, drink and a roof over your head. Formidable!

For more information, please visit our Grande Cycling Soiree webpage.

Builder Negligence Leads to Call for Mandatory Regulation

A Huddersfield woman Pamela Ciceri, who suffered serious injuries when a garden wall collapsed on her, has won her 2 ½ year legal battle to hold her builder Lee Marsden to account.

On 9th September 2011 Pamela (61) went into her back garden to take photographs of a retaining wall that was being built as she was making an album to show the reconstruction of her garden.  The aim was to create a large patio area with a wall to retain the remainder of the garden, leading by steps up to a lawned area at a higher level.

Lee Marsden of MWK Complete Building Services had drawn Mrs Ciceri’s attention to the crack in the wall that morning and he assured Pamela and her husband that the crack was nothing to worry about, but as she was standing next to the 60 ft wall later in the day it partially collapsed on her and she was buried under concrete breeze blocks and rubble, trapped from the waist down.

Her husband Alan said “I cannot forget her screaming as I called the emergency services”.

Pamela sustained a fractured jaw bone and had to have titanium strips implanted permanently.  In addition she suffered facial injuries, a head injury, a double fracture of her right lower leg and a crush injury to her right foot as well as fractured ribs and severe lacerations to her face and body.  She also suffered from flashbacks and post traumatic stress for months after the accident.

On 9th April 2014 Lee Marsden pleaded guilty at Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court to health and safety breaches leading to the accident.  After the hearing HSE inspector Dave Stewart said “Construction work should only be undertaken by those competent to do the job safely in accordance with a design that deals with specific risks.  Mr Marsden did not recognise the dangers posed by the structure he built which was incapable of retaining the forces exerted upon it.  He also failed to prevent access to the wall when cracks appeared”.

He went on to say “The wall did collapse and sadly the householder was in the garden at the time and seriously injured.  Building contractors should engage competent engineers to advise on suitable designs for structures that will be subject to considerable loads.  Inadequate design is a major cause of structure failure, the consequences of which can be serious and often fatal”.

Janet Watson, specialist personal injury lawyer with Ridley & Hall Solicitors who pursued a civil claim on Pamela’s behalf said: “Electricians and gas fitters have to be qualified – but rogue builders can carry out work and put up structures that are not structurally sound.  Regulations that apply to buildings do not apply to gardens.  When I took on this case I was astonished to find that there is no mandatory registration for builders in the UK.  The largest voluntary builders’ registration body is the Federation of Master Builders.  It currently has 10,000 members – but when you think that there are about 180,000 construction companies across the company that means potentially a lot of dodgy builders.”

She went on to say “money can never adequately compensate someone who has been through such a traumatic experience but I am glad that, alongside the criminal prosecution that was brought, I was able to negotiate a substantial out of court settlement for Pamela”.

In a final word of caution Janet said: “Unless and until the government introduces mandatory registration for builders, it is vital that consumers should do their best to ensure that any builder is competent and experienced and where necessary consults an engineer.  Always check that your builder has insurance cover.  But really the moral of this story is that mandatory regulation must be introduced now”.

Janet Watson is a chartered legal executive and has worked in civil litigation for over 20 years. She now specialises in personal injury law acting mainly for claimants handling a variety of cases from road traffic accidents on a fixed fee basis to complex accidents at work. Janet specialises in accidents involving cyclists. Janet is a member of APIL and has achieved senior litigator status. She is committed to achieving maximum damages for the appropriate injury taking into account the needs of the particular individual. Janet believes that it is important that each client receives a personal service – At a time when the injured person is most vulnerable they should be able to speak to someone who knows their case and to have face to face discussions whenever possible.

For more information on personal injury please phone 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the personal injury department.

Le Tour Comes to Ridley & Hall – Book Your Tickets Now!

We are now only a few weeks away from the world’s greatest cycle race, the Tour de France and the eyes of the world will be firmly on our wonderful county during le Grand Depart.

As part of the build up, Dave Sowerby of Sowerby Cycles in Mirfield and the former Mayor of Kirklees, Martyn Bolt, have organised the Huddersfield Criterium cycle race on Friday 4th July.  At this unmissable event you will see professional and top amateur cyclists racing on the streets of Huddersfield and the cyclists will be racing right outside the Ridley & Hall offices!

To view the route of the course, please see the video below. The Ridley & Hall office is ideally located on Market Street and can be seen on the left hand side after the first left turn on the video.

Ridley & Hall’s Personal Injury department are hosting a ‘Cycling Soiree’ on the night of the Criterium in order to raise money for Hollybank and Brake (the road safety charity). The aim is for the event to be informal, with families welcome. Please feel free to use our premises as a base for the Town Centre event and enjoy any other activities running alongside.

Tickets are £7.50 for adults, £5.00 for concessions (children under 16, OAP’s and students) and family tickets (2 adults and 2 children) for £20.00. All ticket prices include food on the night – a Yorkshire/French fusion buffet, and a complimentary drink on arrival. All money raised will be split between both charities. Tickets can be booked through the Eventbrite website (a small booking fee applies).

We hope you can join us to experience this once in a lifetime event. Please do not hesitate to pass this to your friends and families and let’s make this an event to remember. We look forward to seeing you there!

For further information please call Janet Watson or Samantha Hirst on 01484 538421.

Blame the Motorist!

A controversial campaign has been launched in Scotland to change the law in road accidents involving cyclists and motorists.

Cycle Law Scotland, the driving school RED and a number of cycling groups in Scotland launched an online petition last year named ‘The Campaign for Strict Liability: Road Share’.   They say that if a motorist was involved in an accident with a cyclist the driver should be presumed at fault for the accident, unless they can prove otherwise.  This is known in law as “strict liability.”

The current law relies on a cyclist to prove that a motorist has been negligent i.e. has ‘breached their duty of care’.

The national cycling charity CTC backs the campaign in Scotland and argues that it is much harder for vulnerable road users to claim compensation for injuries they sustain.  Cyclists are more likely to be the injured party in collisions with motor vehicles, but less likely to be at fault, and the current law does not reflect this.

Samantha Hirst, personal injury specialist with Ridley & Hall Solicitors, warns “the fight for strict liability in Scotland is likely to cause a lot of controversy, especially amongst motorists. But something has to be done to try and reduce the number of cycling injuries on Britain’s roads.  A change in the law could be a step in the right direction in transforming people’s attitudes towards vulnerable road users.”

The UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are the only countries in Europe that do not operate a system of strict liability.  The Netherlands and Denmark are two countries at the forefront of cycling safety and both have a system of strict liability.

But strict liability has a very small role to play in protecting Dutch cyclists and they consider ‘Sustainable safety’ a priority.

After years of research the Dutch have come up with specific principles that have made their roads some of safest in Europe.  Some of these principles are the functionality of their roads.  Instead of emphasising blame they recognise that humans make mistakes and so design their roads in such a way that our natural human behaviour does not lead to crashes and injuries.  Details on the Dutch ‘Sustainable Safety’ model can be found here.

Samantha adds “There is a careful balance to be struck when making changes to the law.  From a legal point of view, although strict liability would place the initial blame on the motorist, the driver could still defend their claim by proving the cyclist wholly or partially caused the accident.  However, the lessons from Europe are that apportioning blame for accidents is not the best way to prevent collisions.  The government needs to take a more holistic approach to road safety to reduce the number of accidents.”

Samantha is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases.

For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

Death of Cyclist on a Yorkshire Road Caused by a Pothole

Back in June 2011 experienced cyclist Martyn Uzzell, 51, took part in the famous cycling challenge, Lands end to John O’Groats in aid of Macmillan Cancer.

His tragic death happened whilst he was travelling on the busy A65 Bypass through Giggleswick in North Yorkshire when he fell into a 10cm pothole around a drain and was thrown into an oncoming vehicle. He was killed instantly.  Last week at the inquest the coroner, Rob Turnbull, said he had, “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.

One twist to this catastrophic tale was that police had warned North Yorkshire County Council about the pothole one month earlier, but the Council failed to repair it!

Samantha Hirst, a paralegal specialising in cycling accidents at Ridley & Hall, said, “Leeds City Council have introduced a programme of road maintenance which includes road resurfacing at five sites in preparation for the Tour de France Grand Depart route.  Although the council’s efforts are a positive step to reduce accidents on the Tour de France route why are they isolating one event to repair Yorkshire’s roads? Surely it should be an all year round project to secure cycling safety, and not just when the whole world is watching for the Tour de France?”

Mr Uzzell’s distraught widow, Kate Uzzell, criticised the council for failing to take action, telling the Yorkshire Post: “It is simply disgraceful that a pothole on such a busy road was allowed to go unrepaired. We lost a husband, a brother and a brother-in-law, a dear friend and a son. Martyn’s death was entirely avoidable.”

The CPS has decided not to criminally prosecute the council for their failings.

Samantha Hirst commented, “Councils and local authorities are required to take reasonable steps to protect users.  They often use the section 58 defence whereby the council will say that they had a reasonable system of inspection in place.  This defence can make bringing these types cases difficult.  I would imagine Mrs Uzzell is now pursuing a claim under the civil procedure.  I do hope the council steps up and takes responsibility for this tragedy that happened on their road that they had a responsibility to maintain.”

It is clear that Britain’s roads are not in an acceptable state.  According to the Daily Mail, compensation claims to councils for injuries or damage to vehicles from potholes rose to 39,249 in 2013 from 25,977 in 2012. Only a fifth of claims were successful with the average payout falling to £375 from £1,565 in 2012.  With one of the wettest winters on record, councils have a huge task to make Britain’s roads safe, especially for vulnerable road users like cyclists. Council’s should adopt effective road maintenance projects rather than sporadically repair a pothole when someone makes a complaint or is injured.

Samantha is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases. For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

Tour de France; Improved Cycling Safety for Yorkshire?

The organisers of the 2014 Tour de France Grand have predicted that it will boost the soaring popularity of cycling in Britain and put Yorkshire on the global map, as they begin their final six months of preparations for one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Samantha Hirst, a personal injury lawyer at Ridley & Hall solicitors believes that there is a lot of optimism and excitement surrounding the upcoming Tour de France event:

“I will personally feel a sense of local pride when the riders cycle through towns such as Leeds, York and Harrogate. But I’m concerned that this rise in cycling will be unsustainable, unless parliament is prepared to address road safety concerns.”

Some of the accident statistics are concerning; the Department for Transport’s 2012 road casualty statistics show:

  • a 10% increase in cyclist fatalities from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012 and a 4% rise in serious injuries from 3,085 to 3,222.  This is against a trend of decreasing casualties in road accidents for all other modes of transport.
  • the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSIs) per billion miles cycled has risen by 18% from the 2005 to 2009 average to 1,074 casualties per billion vehicle miles – this is 3% higher than in 2011.

Samantha goes on to say, “Action needs to be taken by the government to prevent cycling accidents – I deal with too many cases often involving serious injuries, which would have been prevented.”

Chris Boardman, a former Tour de France yellow jersey holder and adviser to British Cycling said, “The government’s apathy and poor understanding about the causes of cycling accidents are no better now than over 16 years ago.”  He considers that this causes a direct threat to the governing body’s plan to attract more people into cycling.

Samantha Hirst says, “It has been fantastic to see two British riders winning the Tour de France over the last two years. According to Sport England (a public body that distributes funding for sport) this success has seen an overall increase in cycling participation by 137,000 to 2 million between April and October last year. Encouraging people to participate in sport and be more active is a positive change, but are Britain’s roads equipped to deal with such a high increase in cyclists, especially after the Tour de France event?”

Last year a total of 14 cyclists were killed in London. 6 of these cyclists were killed between the 5th and the 18th November 2013. The UK Transport Select Committee is currently investigating cycling safety and the causes of these deaths.

Opposition Labour Party member Louise Ellman, who leads the Select Committee, said, “Progress is being made, and the findings of the current probe will be published in the first half of this year.”

However, Chris Boardman said in a British Cycling statement that lawmakers should be ‘embarrassed’ over their lack of basic knowledge about the issue. Boardman’s experience of cycling around the world has encouraged him to come forward with some ideas of how Britain could improve its road safety.  He suggests that the UK needs better cycling paths, especially in urban areas with more junctions.

He goes on to say:

“The government has a difficult choice. There is a finite amount of space so to make better cycle lanes you are going to alienate others. It’s a scary change that could lose votes.”

He suggests we should look across the pond, specifically at New York, where he says cycling accidents have stayed at the same level since 2007 even when popularity rose by 250%. Boardman believes there is a deeper, political motive and has said “In New York, there was a political will for change. David Cameron says he wants to make Britain a cycling nation, but what good is that if you have no participation target, no strategy and no funding commitment?”

One Yorkshire city that has seen a huge increase in cyclists is Hull. According to the Yorkshire Post, about 8.5 per cent of the working population cycle to work, compared with about 2.5 per cent per cent outside London.

Samantha concludes:

“Local authorities will have to be prepared for this shift. A lot of work needs to be done and the government will have to look at making practical changes to improve our roads to ensure road safety. I think the biggest challenge is changing people’s attitudes to make cyclists and motorists more tolerant of each other. I enjoy my work…but I would be very happy to see fewer injured cyclists.”

Samantha is a Paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases.

For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

Workplace Accidents – New Law Scraps Employees’ Rights

New legislation will make it more dangerous for employees to go to work, according to Huddersfield solicitors Ridley & Hall.  The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 removes the right to sue for breach of health and safety regulations as from 1st October 2013 – this massive change in the law will have a huge impact on anyone who is injured at work.

The most recent Health & Safety Executive figures for 2011/12 show: -

• 172 workers were killed at work.
• 111,000 other injuries to employees were reported.
• 27 million working days were lost due to work related illnesses and workplace injury.
• There are 1.1 million people suffering from work related illnesses.

The Act states that it “aims to cut the cost of doing business in Britain, boosting consumer and business confidence and helping the private sector to create jobs”.  The government produced Guide to the Act makes one of its aims even more transparent:

“limiting civil liability for breaches of health and safety duties.”

The government has relied on cases such as that of Stark v The Post Office in support of its argument that the law needed to be changed.  Mr Stark was employed as a postal worker and rode a bicycle to carry out his duties.  The bicycle was supplied to him by his employers, the Post Office.  He was injured at work when the front brake of his bicycle snapped, which locked the front wheel – Mr Stark flew over the handlebars and suffered injuries.  He brought a claim against his employers and the Post Office argued that they should not have been expected to foresee the random nature of the fault.  The Court ruled however that there was an obligation on the Post Office to ensure that the equipment was at all times in an efficient state of repair.  They were in breach of workplace regulations that were introduced in law in 1992 as a result of a European directive.  Mr Stark did not need to prove that his employers were at fault – but simply establish that they had been in breach of the relevant regulation. This is called strict liability.

Employers and their insurers have long sought to remove strict liability so that any employee suffering an injury would have to prove negligence before they could succeed in a claim for compensation.  In the coalition government, they have finally found their champions.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 significantly reduces the burden on employers to care for their employees’ safety.

The President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Matthew Stockwell says: -
“The effects are likely to be profound and the consequences will not just effect employees but society as a whole”.

There is now a risk that that employers will down grade the time and investment that they spend on health and safety.  Samantha Hirst, personal injury specialist at Ridley & Hall Solicitors commented: -

“Health and Safety Executive statistics record that employer reported non fatal injuries have been decreasing gradually over the period from 1997/98 to 2011/12.  Removing the financial pressure on employers and their insurers to focus on health and safety at work is almost certainly going to lead to an increased number of fatal and non fatal workplace injuries.”

She is concerned that injured workers will also suffer:

“Employees who are injured are going to find it harder to claim compensation because of the new Act and will struggle to get solicitors to take on their cases on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.  So this is good news for employers and insurers but almost certainly very bad news for employees.”

She went on to say: -

“We often hear about the “compensation culture”.  The reality is that if someone is injured at work and it wasn’t their fault, they ought to be compensated fairly for their injuries.  There is always the odd case that hits the headlines but the vast majority of claimants are hard working individuals who were just doing their job.  Reducing the regulatory burden on employers is a good thing – but not at the expense of protecting employees.  Profits are not more important than people.”

Samantha Hirst - Personal Injury specialist

Samantha is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases.

For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

Ridley & Hall in Final Preparation for the Jane Tomlinson Leeds 10km

Ridley & Hall Solicitors are participating in the Jane Tomlinson Leeds 10k on Sunday 14th July. They are running for MacMillan Cancer Support – their Charity of the Year for 2013/14.

Ten hardy souls have volunteered to take part in this year’s race having braved the varying weather over the past few weeks as part of their strict training regime.

If you would like to support us on the day, the race starts at 9:30am on Sunday 14th July in Leeds Millenium Square.

If you would like to sponsor us, please feel free to go to our JustGiving webpage. Alternatively, if you would prefer, you can donate money our reception.

We would like to thank everyone who has already donated to such a wonderful cause.

Casa Gelato are partnering us on this. Stewart Proctor is running with us on 14th July and they have kindly put on a free coffee day on Wednesday 10th July. If you would like a coffee from their shop you can have one free of charge. If you wish to make a donation then all proceeds will go to MacMillan Cancer Support. For more information on the free coffee day, please phone Casa Gelato on 01484 548835.

Personal Injury Victims Under Attack

Government proposals to increase the small claims limit for personal injury claims are bad news for accident victims, claims local lawyer Janet Watson of Ridley & Hall Solicitors.

Janet who specialises in personal injury claims is concerned about the government’s plans: -

“At the moment so long as the value of your claim is more than £1,000 you can instruct a lawyer to act for you knowing that their fees will be paid by the other side if you win your case.  In February, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed that an increase in the small claims limit for personal injury claims is likely and the limit could be raised to as much as £15,000.  Most accident claims are worth less than £15,000 so if this becomes law, accident victims will either have to pay a solicitor from their compensation or just deal with the case themselves”.  The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has published a letter in regional newspapers about the proposed reforms.  APIL president Karl Tonks has attacked Mr Grayling’s comments saying “Any arbitrary increase in the small claims court limit to personal injury would just force injured people into a system which is fit only for settling disputes about faulty goods and services, not for dealing with complex matters of law”.

Janet Watson is concerned that innocent accident victims will be at risk if the limit increases:-

“Someone who is injured may be tempted just to accept a low offer from an insurance company.  If they choose to fight then the only option available to them will be a damage based agreement which means that they will have to agree that their solicitor is paid a percentage of their damages – it seems outrageous that someone who is injured through someone else’s negligence will have to lose some of their compensation in this way.  The insurance companies argue about a compensation culture but they are the ones who will be laughing all the way to the bank if these reforms are introduced.”
For further information please contact Janet Watson on 01484 538421.  Janet is a Senior Legal Executive specialising in personal injury law handling a variety of cases from road traffic accidents to complex accidents at work. Janet is a member of APIL and is committed to achieving maximum damages for her clients. She believes that it is important that each client receives a personal friendly service.