Fiona Duff: All of us will pay the price for spurious legal claims
At the company where my husband works there was a man who picked something up that he hadn't been asked to move. He hurt his back, so had a painkiller and carried on working for the rest of the day. The following morning he phoned in sick and wasn't seen for three days.
A couple of weeks later a letter from one of those ambulance chasing “no win, no fee” legal companies popped through the letter box. Apparently the employee thought that he was due some compensation. Needless to say the management was appalled and so, too, were his colleagues who had been working beside him when the “accident” occurred.
After meeting with the insurance company with whom it had employer’s liability cover, the firm was told just to settle out of court. It obviously went against every grain of its nature to cave into sort of behaviour, but the loss adjuster pointed out that if the case went to court it could drag on for days, cost a fortune and no-one can ever predict an outcome. There is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to getting face to face with the beak.
I am sure this chap was told that it was worth putting in a claim as the company he worked for would not be digging into its own coffers for this – that’s what insurance companies are for, isn’t it?
A few years ago I was involved in a car accident when someone pulled out and crashed into the side of my car. Ever since then I get calls every week from various people telling me that there will be money put aside for any injury I may have suffered as a result. Despite telling them that the only damage was to the car, and if they call at the wrong time of day I may tell them to go take a running jump (but obviously take heed of any dodgy looking paving stones), they continue to pester me.
The thing is that this isn’t “free money”. There is, of course, a need for employers to ensure that someone with real reason gets compensation; if malpractice has led to serious injury then those in charge should be financially and corporately punished.
If I hadn’t been able to work as a result of whiplash or something more serious than a broken fingernail – look, I am not a hand model – I would expect to have the lack of income covered. However, for the rest of the spurious claims all it does is ensure that premiums go upwards. If a company has to pay more for its liability, then that is a pay rise or bonus out of the window. For every shyster who puts up with wearing a neck brace for a fortnight in order to pocket a few grand, that is extra that will be charged on car insurance for everyone.
So the next time you are tempted to sign along the dotted line and are told that it is a no-lose situation, think again, because it is you and I who will foot the bill in the end. As often or not in life the only people laughing all the way to the bank are the lawyers.