Tag Archives: personal injury

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.

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.

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.

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.

Accident Claims and Inheritance Disputes Deadline – 31st March 2013

Crucial reforms affecting the funding of litigation cases are coming into effect on 1st April 2013.  The Jackson Reforms, as they are called, are the biggest shakeup of the civil litigation system in England and Wales since 1999.

At the moment, for example, anyone who wants to bring a claim against the estate of someone who has died who is on a low income, may qualify for legal aid.  After 31st March 2013 legal aid will no longer be available for this kind of case.  So if you think that you might want to bring a claim and would qualify on financial grounds it’s vitally important that you should get legal advice now.

If legal aid is granted to you before the end of March then your funding will continue (unless your financial circumstances improve).  After the end of the month -  unless you can persuade a solicitor to take your case on a no win no fee basis  – you may not be able to bring a claim at all.  Sarah Young, Partner at Ridley & Hall Solicitors comments: -

“Although the legal profession is well aware of the changes ahead, very few members of the public are aware that legal aid is being withdrawn for a huge number of cases.  I specialise in inheritance disputes and I know that they can cost a lot of money – without legal aid a lot of people will struggle to bring a claim and I would urge anyone who thinks they might have a claim to get advice now.”

It’s not just inheritance disputes that are going to be affected by the reforms.  Anyone who has been injured in an accident will be familiar with no win no fee agreements (also called conditional fee agreements).  These agreements mean that if you lose your case your solicitor is not paid and if you win they are paid by the other side’s insurers who also have to pick up the tab for a success fee (which is an extra amount that your solicitor is entitled to charge for taking on the risk of being paid nothing if they lose).  At the moment insurers also pay for the accident victim’s insurance cover – this protects them against the risk of having to pay the other side’s costs if they lose.  From the 1st April 2013 the success fee and the insurance premium will have to come out of the injured person’s compensation.

In personal injury cases up to a maximum of 25% of damages may have to be paid.  In other cases, for example in inheritance disputes where there is a no win no fee agreement, up to 50% of a client’s compensation may have to be paid to their solicitor.

Sarah Young has this message: – “The obvious point to make is that if you think that you may have a case, you need to get specialist legal advice urgently and if a no win no fee agreement is the best way to fund your claim you must sign one before the 1st April if you want to receive all of your compensation.  Any agreement signed after 1st April will be subject to the new regime and you may well be worse off.  Insurance companies, who have lobbied the government intensively over these reforms, will be hugely better off.  Those who have been injured or suffered loss, through no fault of their own, will be penalised”.

Sarah Young is a Partner with Ridley and Hall solicitors. She specialises in contentious probate and personal injury. Sarah has an LLM in Personal Injury Law and has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.

For further information please contact Sarah Young of Ridley and Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 2HL on 01484 538421 or mobile 07860 165850.