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It is probably true to say the personal injury claims are so vilified by the general populace and the ‘claim blame’ tabloids, that if William Shakespeare were alive today he would have urged used to ‘kill all the PI lawyers’ rather than writing the unfairly sweeping statement that he did. Now, far be it from me to call the Bard to task but, given his pretty mercenary ways I am sure that Bill would not have been averse to a whiplash claim for a horse drawn carriage rear shunt!
Many of the equally lauded and derided Jackson reforms to civil litigation which came into force this year can be said to be necessary to streamline procedures and to rein in an undoubted excess on the part of a small number of these lawyers (there, I said it!). However the Grayling lead cavalry charge to stamp out this particular brand of legal evil almost completely overlooks the extremely important role that this area of the law is there to perform.
People get compensation to compensate. It is a very simple underlying principle but one that is often forgotten. If there is no loss to the claimant, be it physical, mental or financial to compensate then there is no compensation. Even the slickest, used car salesperson of a PI lawyer will still be claiming for the quantifiable damage for someones accident at work, in public or in a car. It should be remembered that even in a whiplash claim (there I go with that bad word again!), no claim will ever succeed without the supporting medical evidence of a suitably qualified doctor. Why are these professionals, who get paid very handsomely for this work, not derided in the tabloid press in the same way that the lawyers are? The fact is that lawyers, since Shakespeare’s time, have been a very easy target in the same way lawyers and claims handlers are scorned for aggressive marketing for PPI claims whereas the banks who fraudulently sold this unnecessary insurance and made many millions in process… and by the very same aggressive marketing, get an easy ride.
People are rarely able to see through a tabloid fog of misinformation to the victim. I remember a few years ago, when I was Director of the patient group action for Victims of Medical Accidents, threatening to sue a leading writer (and well respected ‘national treasure’) who wrote in one of the most insidious of all tabloids that having a brain damaged baby was ‘like winning the lottery’. A very stark reminder that even the most seemingly intelligent can forget the essence of these laws in our country and the important part they play. I will spare you all a lecture on the necessary safeguards of employers and public liability but will merely point you to my three tome work in progress ‘health and safety is your friend’.
The battle for a balanced view of this law is one that is doomed to failure. It is unlikely any year soon that we will find the Factory Acts being taught at schools. No one took to the streets in protest at the Jackson Reforms. The Law Society Gazette reported a small gathering of protesting lawyers but frankly it was no larger than a group meeting for lunch at El Vinos.
I would never ask anyone to shed a tear for lawyers… but I would ask you to give a second thought to the victims of these claims and perhaps to think again about the protection that these laws afford to each and every one of us.