Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Recommendation: Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson

The classic story of an otter living in the Devonshire countryside which captures the feel of life in the wild as seen through the otter's own eyes.

Available from Amazon

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sponsored post: Avoiding injury at work

Injuries in the workplace can be especially stressful, not only are you injured and unable to work, you may fear retaliation if you decide to claim compensation from your employer. Every business that hires employees is required to have injury liability insurance in case of accidents that result in injury occurring to their staff or patrons. This insurance is what pays out if you make a claim against your employer and not them personally.

If you are concerned as to what rights you and your employer have to agree a claim, consult with your personal injury attorneys to check if your employer has any legal right to terminate your contract if you decide to claim against them.   

Type of employment
Some professions are considered to be more hazardous than others. For example construction worker or police officer may be professions that are considered hazardous in different ways. Working in a shop may not be considered hazardous at all but all employers must set some level of health and safety legislation. Employers that can be proven to be in breach of that code are liable to give compensation to the affected employee(s).

It is your responsibility as an employee to be vigilant for your own health and safety and report any hazards to the management team. Once the hazard is reported, it is their responsibility to ensure it is dealt with within a reasonable amount of time. Failing to deal with the hazard will result in the business being liable for any accidents caused by that hazard. A spillage that has not been cleaned properly and where there are no warning signs is an example of the employer being liable for any accidents caused as a result.

The catering and food industry can be a fairly risky place to work. With the proper training and a vigilant health and safety team, they are completely safe, however if there is hot kitchen equipment such as grills and vats, burns and slips are likely accidents waiting to happen.

In these cases, each accident must be logged in the accident book and liability must be established quickly if there is a claim to be made as there is a fine line between what you are responsible to look out for and what the employer is required to look after. If you are injured be very sure that you have evidence that accident was a result of the employer’s negligence and not your own.    

Book Recommendation: The Warden (Penguin Classics) by Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope's The Warden is the first of his well-loved Chronicles of Barsetshire, edited with an introduction and notes by Robin Gilmour in Penguin Classics.
The tranquil atmosphere of the cathedral town of Barchester is shattered when a scandal breaks concerning the financial affairs of a Church-run almshouse for elderly men. In the ensuing furore, Septimus Harding, the almshouse's well-meaning warden, finds himself pitted against his daughter's suitor Dr John Bold, a zealous local reformer. Matters are not improved when Harding's abrasive son-in law, Archdeacon Grantly, leaps into the fray to defend him against a campaign Bold begins in the national press. An affectionate and wittily satirical view of the workings of the Church of England, The Warden is also a subtle exploration of the rights and wrongs of moral crusades and, in its account of Harding's intensely felt personal drama, a moving depiction of the private impact of public affairs.

Available from Amazon

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Article on extending the RTA Personal Injury Scheme

I've done an article for a blog I write for a firm of solicitors on the government's proposal to extend the RTA Personal Injury Scheme to other accident claims. You can read it here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Potential Injuries At Music Festivals

Brought to you by our friends at Thompsons Scotland solicitors

The social experience of attending a music festival for friends may well be a significant factor of all injuries sustained at the events.  Many people wait months for the chance to visit a music festival and they see it as a time to both let their hair down and have lots of fun.  The dangerous cocktail of people letting their guard down and dangerous or unfamiliar environments can spell out a nightmare of injury and illness at music festivals.

There are a myriad of ways that we can pick up injuries and illness at festivals, most of which are made all the more dangerous in the presence of alcohol.  Festivals are nothing like going for a drink at your local pub or even at a nightclub, they are inherently unfamiliar surroundings which might change year on year.  Even people who are re-visiting their favourite festivals will experience some disorientation with re-arranged stages and campsites.

Being in unfamiliar surroundings, especially when separated from friends, can be very stressful and trying on festival-goer’s mentality.  Most of the action takes place after dark at festivals and this makes even the simplest of tasks difficult.  Trying to find ones tent amongst a dark campsite can find you tripping and falling, potentially onto broken glass or other sharp objects.

With festivals now catering for over 100,000 people, the venues are being increasingly cramped and crowded.  Barriers that keep the public away from the musicians can often cause injury through the press and crush of the crowd.  Flailing arms and elbows whilst dancing in such a small space can cause a problem as can slips and trips which put you on the floor amongst hundreds of people.

Another feature of injury at festivals is the ever popular ‘crowd-surfing.’  This involves somebody being lifted up and ‘surfing’ around on top of the crowd, with everybody underneath bearing their weight.  This represents a serious risk to both parties, the surfer and the crowd beneath them.  Being dropped from six feet in the air can cause serious injuries to any part of the back, but a swinging leg can cause dangerous head injuries and even blindness if it connects with an eye. 

Trying to cram a weekend’s worth of supplies in a bag light enough to carry around the campsite is no simple task.  You always find yourself weighed down and lugging too many possessions and you probably don’t realise that you’re risking injury to yourself.  Whiplash on your back, stretched and pulled muscles and sprains are all potential upsets when you carry heavy loads.  When next you start to pack for your festival, consider investing in a backpack which is designed to spread the load across your back and shoulders. If for any reason you get an injury and would like to discuss your claim options you should contact Thompsons Scotland as soon as possible.

Byline:   This article was a guest post from Thompsons Scotland.

Driving Whilst In Other Countries

Brought to you by our friends at Thompsons Scotland solicitors

Renting a car abroad is often an exciting and enjoyable experience, allowing you to fully appreciate your chosen holiday destination.  Very few countries require additional driver training to accustom them to the changed laws and roads, meaning that a lot of drivers will be on the road without understanding and experience of the local conditions.  There are a few things that Thompsons Scotland solicitors can do to prepare ourselves for driving in a foreign country.

Reading Up On Laws
Each country has its own specific set of laws and customs on the road, some of which are enforceable by the authorities and some of which are seen as required etiquette.  You’ll want to be revising the local speed limits and which side of the road to drive on, at the very least.  We are all very familiar with signage from our own country and can instantly recognise the meaning of signs which don’t have instructions or text on them, but the imagery can differ hugely between countries and you need to familiarise yourself with what they represent. 

Some countries like Germany have additional requirements concerning the vehicle themselves.  It can be illegal to drive in winter months without having specialist winter tyres fitted to your vehicles and in some countries it is illegal to drive with tinted windows or certain exhaust systems.  Most of these will be covered by rental companies, but you should always check beforehand.

One of the most important things to consider is your insurance coverage as an existing driver.  Contact your insurance broker and find out whether you’re covered for incidents in foreign countries.  Even if you are, you may need to pay additional fees to include breakdown cover and any motoring related injuries sustained.
Licensing laws can vary across borderlines.  In some countries your UK license might be sufficient but in others you may need a provisional local license or even an international driving permit. 

Vigilance and Awareness
You may need to revisit your driving style that works so well in the UK, cultures can define the characteristics of driving in foreign countries.  It’s much safer to adopt a defensive style of driving whilst abroad as you won’t be familiar with local customs and road etiquette.  Try to avoid drinking (even lightly) if you’re going to drive, unfamiliar alcohol and different tolerances may land you in trouble with the law unexpectedly.  Displaying the correct stickers on your car is important to let others know that you’re not a local driver, which may make all the difference in them staying aware, being more patient or giving you more room on the road. In the unlikely event that you are injured whilst driving abroad, consider getting in touch with a no win no fee lawyer to make a claim if it wasn’t your fault.

Byline:   This article was a guest post from Thompsons Scotland solicitors.

Personal Injuries Whilst On Holiday

Brought to you by our friends at Thompsons Scotland solicitors

When you’ve spent the past three weeks frantically washing, drying and packing clothes for an entire family, you’re bound to miss out a few things.  If one of these things is travel insurance, you might be mistaken in thinking that you’re not entitled to any personal injury claims pay out if you injure yourself whilst on holiday.  Personal injury claims are all about negligence of a third party, and this doesn’t change over borders.

Common Causes of Injuries/Illness Abroad
At the end of a stressful year, you’re probably likely to let your hair down during your holidays.  Letting your guard down when you’re relaxing and having fun might be feel good after a stressful year, but in a foreign country there are a whole sequence of unfortunate circumstances which can jeopardise your health.  Unfortunately your relaxed manner couldn’t come at a worse time, when you’re in unaccustomed surroundings which unique circumstances that you’re probably not used to.
High-risk activities like jet-skis, diving, snowboarding and skiing are some of the leading contributors to injuries sustained abroad.  Driving amongst unfamiliar roads and rules can lead to dangerous mistakes which emergency services in less wealthy countries can sometimes fail to deal with. 
When travelling, you must do all you can to avoid these circumstances from occurring.  Needless to say you shouldn’t be drinking and driving, but you can often get carried away when you’re having fun in a strange environment.  Always check the integrity of your rental cars and resist the urge for the dangerous European mopeds, scooters and quad bikes.  Always wear flotation jackets on boats, participate in activities in groups and one of the most forgotten and committed mistakes; don’t drink and swim!

Claiming Whilst Abroad
The blurring of lines and boundaries whilst abroad can often make you feel as if you’re partially to blame for your injury or illness.  You should always check with professional solicitors and lawyers to find out if this is the case.  Even if it is, you can sometimes be eligible for partial compensation.
The process is very similar to claiming whilst at home, but it’s even more imperative to build up a substantial document collection.  Any treatments made by doctors and receipts from the events concerned should be kept safe.  High profile accidents like jet ski crashes will often attract a crowd, try to get some credible witness testimonials down on paper and signed by local officials.  Get in touch with your chosen personal injury lawyers as soon as possible, speed is key to assuring a successful claim.

Byline:  This article was a guest post from Thompsons Scotland Solicitors.

Winter winds bring considerations for landowners

Brought to you by our friends at Stephens Scown

With winter now upon us the chances of plummeting temperatures and windy conditions inevitably increase, bringing the possible legal issues surrounding fallen trees to the fore says litigation solicitor Catherine Brealey.

The topic is a personal one for Catherine, who last year came home to find a large tree had fallen into her garden from developer-owned woodland causing significant damage. 

A person responsible for trees owes a duty of care to those passing nearby to take the steps of a “reasonable and prudent landowner.” The Occupiers’ Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984 also outline that an occupier with control over premises is liable to take reasonable care, ensuring visitors or even trespassers are kept reasonably safe, with even higher standards required for children.

The measures required to prevent falling trees can depend on many factors such as location, species, age/condition and any previous damage.  Greater care would be required for trees overhanging paths/roads and in gardens/parks.  Regular inspections by appropriate specialists may be necessary, records kept and remedial action taken when required. 

The consequences of falling trees can sometimes be tragic - a recent 2011 case Harry Bowen & Others v The National Trust [2001] (Felbrigg Hall) saw a falling branch kill a child and injure three others.  In this case the Court found the work the National Trust had done to assess the risk posed by trees on the property was sufficiently robust to discharge their duty of care.

Felbrigg Woods contained over 2500 trees, which were reviewed and zoned into three risk categories, determined by how many people passed a particular tree.  The tree in question was deemed “mid risk” and had been inspected by qualified professionals twice in the 6 months prior. 

In another 2011 case (Joanne Micklewright –v- Surrey County Council), Mr Imison was fatally struck by a falling tree on a public highway with no steps having been taken by the Council to inspect the offending tree.  The Court found, however, that it would not have been possible for a reasonable inspection to determine a problem or that a branch was likely to fall, so had the Council taken steps to discharge their duty, the accident would not have been prevented. 

It is perhaps reassuring to landowners that even when an inspection has not been carried out, the Court will consider the tree itself and whether a defect would be visible upon a reasonable inspection by an appropriate expert. 

Although criminal liability has not been discussed, simply attempting to avert liability by chopping a tree down could leave you open to criminal liability; it could be protected or a licence required.  Always take advice first before doing so and this may be from a tree specialist, the local authority and/or the Forestry Commission.  It is worth remembering health and safety legislation also places duties on employers to ensure employees and the public are not at risk by falling trees.

Stephens Scown has a team of Solicitors in Exeter that can assist with business, financial or family related legal issues.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why false imprisonment in HM Prisons could prove costly

Brought to you by our friends at David Phillips & Partners

A report on failings at Lincoln Prison may have wider implications for prisoners and government officials alike, writes Iain Gould, Solicitor.

HMP Lincoln was subject to an unannounced inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons staff in August 2012. The Chief Inspector’s report, published on 10 December 2012 and accessible here, highlights grave problems:
• Occupancy was at 50% over maximum capacity
• External and communal areas were dirty
• There was a high incidence of violence and assaults
• Drug and alcohol abuse were common, with 1 in 5 prisoners on opiate substitution treatment and ‘clear evidence of prisoners developing a drug addiction in prison’
• Poor offender management and other significant issues

Although the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) said it was taking ‘urgent action’, the government has been criticised by Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns for the Howard League for Penal Reform, calling the report ‘among the worst we have seen’, and asking whether the Prison should remain open.

Serving Extra Time
Shocking though these findings are, to an extent they can be expected in a prison with gross overcrowding, poor prisoner care and low morale. However, a surprising issue was the fact that two foreign prisoners have been detained for long periods of time beyond the end of their sentences through no fault of their own. One of them has been held for an additional nine years on the basis that he was unable to be re-patriated at the end of term. As the Inspector says, ‘it cannot be right that they continue to be detained for so long without the authority of a court.’

Strict Liability for False Imprisonment
I agree with this view, and so, in my experience, do the courts, who apply the doctrine of ‘strict liability’ to false imprisonment (a.k.a. unlawful detention). Strict liability, which in tort law applies absolute responsibility to a person or party even if they were not at fault, could potentially be used against the Prison to compensate inmates who are forced to over-stay their sentences through no fault of their own. By way of an example of how the doctrine works in practice, my client Mr. H received £3250 compensation for having been unlawfully detained by the Ministry of Justice at HMP Walton for a mere (compared to the prisoners at HMP Lincoln) five days.

Miscalculation by HMP Walton
On 27 September 2010 Mr. H was sentenced to 10 weeks imprisonment. As he had already spent 2 days in custody, his sentence of 68 days should have ended on Saturday, 30 October 2010. As that was a Saturday, in accordance with accepted procedure, he was due to be released on Friday 29 October. His girlfriend waited for him at the prison gates, but Mr. H did not appear. He had been told before the expected release date that he would be allowed to leave on 5 November and not before. The prison was working on dates from an incorrectly drawn Warrant of Commitment which stated that Mr. H was to be detained for 12 weeks (less the 2 days in credit), not 10 as ordered by the Court. Despite Mr. H’s complaints, and repeated correspondence from my firm (who represented him in the criminal case), HMP Walton refused to release him. On 3 November, when the prison received confirmation from the Court Service of the mistaken detention period, Mr. H was released.

My colleagues in the criminal department of David Phillips & Partners Solicitors asked me to review Mr. H’s case. I sent details of Mr. H’s claim for false imprisonment to the Prison, arguing that strict liability for Mr. H’s unlawful detention applied following the House of Lords case of R v Governor of Brockhill Prison ex parte Evans (No 2) [2001]. (In that case a prisoner’s release date was miscalculated, leading to her continued detention after the correct date being deemed unlawful. She received damages for false imprisonment as it is a tort of strict liability.)  Mr. H was offered a miserable £500 without admission of liability. Following negotiations, I am pleased to confirm that Mr. H secured a settlement of £3,250 plus full costs, an appropriate amount in this case. He received 100% of his compensation without deductions.

I relied upon established authority from the House of Lords (as it then was) to recover compensation for Mr. H. Irrespective of the reasons, the highest court in the land made it very clear that any party detaining another (including prisons, police forces and private security firms) faces a false imprisonment claim if they fail to release someone in their custody on time.
Government officials at HMP Lincoln, other prisons and courts should take note. Failing to do so could be a very costly mistake, not only for the unfortunate victim but also for the State.

Iain Gould is a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police. You can read more about him at his website

Brain Injury Lawyers – unravelling the compensation complexities

Brought to you by our friends at ASB Law

Brain injury compensation claimants now responsible for legal fees
In  a move designed to curb insurance company pay outs and open the way for lower premiums, the government is attempting to curb the “ No Win, No Fee “ compensation culture by altering the way in which personal / brain injury lawyers are paid for their work.

Under the current arrangements, an insurance company which loses a claim against it would not only have to pay the agreed compensation but also the claimant’s lawyer’s fee of up to 25 % of the damages in a no win, no fee scenario. However, the system is due to change in April 2013, from which point the legal fees will have to come out of the compensation awarded.

Clearly, this could have a major impact on anyone suffering from a severe personal / brain injury. Awards of damages in personal injury cases are calculated as closely as possible to reflect the actual past and future losses resulting from the injury.

Of course, some people might query why lawyers actually need as much as 25 % of damages to cover their costs in the first place. The opportunity for claimants to engage lawyers on a No Win, No Fee or conditional fee basis was originally introduced by the Conservative government in 1995 to give people the opportunity to make legitimate claims without relying on the state for so much of the legal costs involved.

Under the 25 % system, lawyers have to make sure that the fees received from the successful cases which generate these conditional fees not only cover the costs involved, but also the costs incurred by them in failed cases where they get nothing for their work. This was why the government let them charge as much as 25 % in the first place.

Brain injuries justify maximum compensation
We tend to think that brain injuries are very few and far between and generally just affect a few unlucky souls involved in traffic or industrial accidents. Alarmingly, however, there are currently around 500,000 people in the UK (nearly 1 in 100 ) who currently live with disabilities resulting from a brain injury. Therefore the need for a professional brain injury lawyer becomes even more apparent.
According to BIG, the Brain Injury Group, there are several types of brain injury:
·       Brain Concussion is the least severe and most common injury
·       Closed head injury occurs when there is impact without breaking the skull.
·       Penetrating head injury occurs when an object fractures the skull and enters brain tissue.
·       Diffuse brain injury occurs when the brain is moved back and forth within the skull when the head is shaken backwards and forwards. Damage can occur in several areas where the brain hits the skull.
·       Brain contusion is bruised/swollen brain tissue that occurs when the skull cracks or breaks. This can be caused by a depressed skull fracture when fragments of the broken skull press against the brain or a penetrating skull fracture when bone fragments enter the brain tissue.
·       A haematoma is bleeding around the brain.
·       An epidural haematoma is bleeding between the skull and outer layer of the brain. A subdural haematoma occurs when blood collects between the outer and inner layers of the brain.
·       An intracerebral haematoma occurs when there is bleeding directly into the brain tissue.
There are, of course, other types of brain injury such as strokes which do not generally occur as the result of an accident. Where someone else is or may be responsible for the injury, as the result of a traffic accident or industrial accident, or even medical negligence then clearly the matter of compensation has to be addressed.

There are expert brain injury lawyers who specialise in cases of this nature.

ASB Law have very particular experience in head and brain injury, also with significant experience extending to a full range of catastrophic injuries including spinal injury, fatal accidents and amputations.
ASB Law’s Brain Injury Lawyer specialists include members of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. ASB Law are also members of the Brain Injury Group (BIG), Actions for Victims of Medical Accidents, the Disability Alliance Panel, the Sussex Acquired Brain Injury Forum (SABIF), the Kent Acquired Brain Injury Forum (KABIF) and Headway, the brain injury association.

For further information or advice, please visit:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is it time to reform causation in the law of clinical negligence?

I've just done an article for a blog I write for a firm of solicitors suggesting that it might be time for the law of causation to be reformed for clinical negligence. You can read it here.

Book Recommendation: Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth

"The key British theatre work of the last decade." Time Out 2012. An Instant Modern Classic. A comic, contemporary vision of life in our green and pleasant land. BEST PLAY Evening Standard Awards BEST PLAY Critics Circle Awards. On St George's Day, the morning of the local county fair, Johnny Byron, local waster and modern day Pied Piper, is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his children want their dad to take them to the fair, Troy Whitworth wants to give him a serious kicking and a motley crew of mates want his ample supply of drugs and alcohol.

Available from Amazon

Friday, December 7, 2012

Article on government banning CMCs from paying financial inducements

I've just done an article for a blog I write for a firm of solicitors on the government proposal to ban CMCs from paying financial inducements. You can read it here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Recommendation: How the Law Works by Gary Slapper

How the Law Works is a refreshingly clear and reliable guide to today’s legal system. Offering interesting and comprehensive coverage, it makes sense of all the curious features of the law in day to day life and in current affairs.
Explaining the law and legal jargon in plain English, it provides an accessible entry point to the different types of law and legal techniques, as well as today's compensation culture and human rights law. In addition to explaining the role of judges, lawyers, juries and parliament, it clarifies the mechanisms behind criminal and civil law.
How the Law Works is essential reading for anyone approaching law for the first time, or for anyone who is interested in an engaging introduction to the subject’s bigger picture.

Available from Amazon