February 17, 2012 9.45 am This story is over 117 months old

Lincoln Lawyer: The UK compensation culture fallacy

Compensation culture: We now have to feel guilty about claming compensation but accidents can cause pain and hardship.

Katherine Jones is a law graduate who trained with McKinnells Solicitors in Lincoln. She is now a solicitor in the busy personal injury department.

To be able to claim compensation, any accident victim has to show that the accident was someone else’s fault, that they have been injured (proven by an independent specialist doctor or medical consultant) and that they have suffered loss. If they can’t show this, they won’t be paid a penny, despite what you might read in the newspapers to the contrary.

The prime minister has said he wants to ”wage war” (something recent prime ministers seem to do rather a lot) against an all-pervasive compensation culture. This simply ignores the government’s own research evidence. This found that, in fact, there is no such culture in the UK.

Narrowing the attack even more, the government is now demonizing victims of whiplash injuries, suggesting that in many cases where a claim is brought, there is no such injury.

Imagine you are driving home one night. You stop at traffic lights. Someone driving a car behind you is driving too quickly and not paying attention. Their car rams into yours. You are taken unaware. Your head snaps backwards, hits the seat rest and jerks forward.

Sometime later the symptoms emerge, you have headaches, nausea, stiffness and lack of mobility. Your neck is affected, but your back could be too. You can hardly move. The symptoms could last a few days or a few months. All of which are medically recognized symptoms.

In the legal text book which sets out details of reported accident cases there are over 200 pages dealing with successful whiplash claims, so it is hard to see where the government is coming from in doubting its existence.

So, still imagining you have had this injury, how are you going to feel if when you want to claim back your lost earnings because you could not go to work, the cost of prescriptions for painkillers, the excess on your car insurance policy for the repairs, let alone compensation for the pain and suffering, you are made to feel like a benefits cheat or a shoplifter, as if what you were doing was somehow wrong?

All anyone wants, in these circumstances, and all the law allows them to receive, is to be put back in the position they would have been in as if the accident had not happened. So there is no profit element.

Ask accident victims if they would have preferred not to have had the accident in the first place or to have had it and been paid some compensation, most would chose not to have had the pain, distress, inconvenience and cost. Hardly a compensation culture, Mr. Cameron.

Spotted an error? Please notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Katherine Jones is a law graduate who trained with McKinnells Solicitors in Lincoln. She is now a solicitor in the busy personal injury department.