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THE COMPENSATION CULTURE

The government has decided to reduce the funds available to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) by £10 million, much to the vocal dismay of the Victim Support Agency. At the same time, the government has decided to ban “referral fees”, which are controversial payments received by insurers, garages and even the emergency services in return for passing on the names and phone numbers of car crash victims to lawyers and claims management firms, also known as ambulance chasers. They have been blamed for helping to increase premiums by up to 70% over the past two years. The average comprehensive car premium rose more than 30% to £924 during the 12 months to June 30, according to the AA. The ban comes as the Office of Fair Trading said it is investigating high car premiums. Following an undercover investigation, a handful of Indian doctors have been offering false medical certificates, and in some cases death certificates, to enable false claims for compensation to be made. And finally comes the news that Rupert Murdoch of News International has authorised the payment of £3 million to the family of Millie Dowler as part of the phone hacking scandal, and yet they want more. The compensation culture has spiralled out of all control over the last several years.  It is all part and parcel of the “something for nothing” mentality which the outgoing Labour Government nurtured to display its caring credentials as the party of the people. The principles behind it may be laudable, but as we have seen time and again, the system is open to abuse, and it is being regularly abused. Ambulance chasers are an absolute disgrace.  They ply their tawdry wares on day time television, fronted at times by well known faces who should know better, and in collusion with doctors of dubious ethics, even the most minor injury becomes life threatening.  The advertisements border on the ludicrous.  Some twerp on an insecure ladder falls down and wants to blame anybody but himself, and an octogenarian driver who should never be behind the wheel of a car is shunted, and according to the advertisement, drives away clutching a cheque for £7,500, ready to cause another accident and ready to blame anybody but himself. I am not against fair and reasonable compensation where the case is merited, but the problem is that the dishonest applicants and their acolytes spoil it for the rest of us. I have done my fair share of personal injury cases following a motoring accident, and I am appalled at the time and money thrown at some of these claims.  In many cases the legal costs far outweigh the award of compensation, and in many cases the claim should never have been brought in the first place. Most honest and sensible people who suffer minor injury from time to time get on with the rest of their lives.  Some discomfort after injury is expected, but with the obvious exception of serious and life changing injuries, they live with the discomfort and get on with the rest of their lives, or at least they should. With criminal injuries, the CICA has been faced with an ever increasing number of claims, which they have addressed by making ever increasing awards.  Understandably, the government is trying to rein them in, to persuade them to use better judgment and less of the blank cheque approach.  We simply cannot afford to throw money around like confetti at a wedding. As for the Dowlers and the £3 million compensation, you can bet your bottom dollar that their “legal advisers” are telling them to hold out for more.  After all, as Rupert Murdoch is one of the richest men in the world, the Sky’s the limit if you’ll forgive the pun.   When greed, not need, becomes the driving force in the compensation culture, it is time for a complete rethink.

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