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‘Heroes bill’ protects the negligent not the injured, says APIL vice president

Government findings show compensation culture does not exist

4 June 2014

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Government findings show compensation culture does not exist

Jonathan Wheeler, the vice president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has questioned whether the introduction of new legislation really is a victory for common sense.

"The Government says it wants to protect "everyday heroes" from the risk of being sued for negligence. But how could someone who has negligently or recklessly caused injury to another be a hero in anyone's eyes? And in any event isn't this going over the same ground as covered by the Compensation Act 2006?"

Wheeler comments that the purpose of section one of the Compensation Act was to address public perception of the 'compensation culture'.

"A report from the Better Regulation Task Force had already found that the compensation culture was, in fact, a myth," said Wheeler. "The Act effectively says that, when deciding if a defendant has been negligent or breached statutory duty, the court may take into account whether any steps the defendant should have taken to provide a standard of care would have resulted in the prevention of a 'desirable activity' or discourage people from undertaking 'desirable activities'. According to the MoJ's press material, the proposed so-called 'SARAH', or 'Heroes' Bill will do much the same thing."

Wheeler believes that this announcement sends a worrying message about the importance of health and safety. "Once again we see the emphasis on protecting the negligent rather than the person who has been injured through no fault of his own," he said.

"Public views about the 'compensation culture', or the 'health and safety culture', can only be addressed through education, not by legislation" he added. "This Government has done nothing to address common misconceptions about the civil justice system through education and it would seem this Bill is not going to help.

"Lord Young, who reported on the 'compensation culture' for the prime minister in 2010, found that it was a 'perception rather than reality'. Rarely has a Government worked so hard to tackle something through legislation which its own investigation has found does not exist."

Removing red tape to protect good Samaritans and responsible employers is "common sense", according to the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling who has revealed plans to change the law so judges must give weight to certain factors when deciding negligence cases.

The government believes that bureaucracy and the risk of claims of negligence deters would-be volunteers or members of the public from helping a stranger. Of those who do volunteer, research suggests 47 per cent, are concerned about the risk of liability, he said.

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