You are here

Grayling pledges protection from ‘compensation culture’

New legislation designed to protect members of the public and insurers from spurious claims

4 June 2014

Add comment

The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling has revealed that the government is to introduce legislation to protect 'good Samaritans' from claims of negligence. The Ministry of Justice said the new law would help cut insurance premiums by reducing payouts by insurers.

The new legislation will provide volunteers with greater protection from claims of negligence when acting in 'the common good'. It will also protect responsible small-business owners against claims from their employees.

Grayling dubbed the proposed legislation the 'Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill' or 'SARAH'.

"All too often people who are doing the right thing in our society feel constrained by the fear that they are the ones who will end up facing a lawsuit for negligence", he said.

"The best way to describe the proposed bill is that it will serve as a signpost from parliament to the courts," Grayling continued. "It will set out very simple protections for those people who act in the interests of society, responsibly or heroically."

If passed next year, the law will require courts to consider the context of an incident when a claim for negligence is brought by an individual. Courts will potentially have to give weight to people who were doing a good deed; give consideration to the care taken when organising an event, even if an accident later happened anyway; and consider if the defendant was acting in an emergency.

"I don't want us to be a society where people feel that they can't do the right thing for fear of breaking regulations or becoming liable if something goes wrong. I don't want us to be a society where a responsible employer gets the blame for someone doing something stupid. I want a society where common sense is the order of the day, and I believe this measure will help us get there," said Grayling.

'Grayling is instilling fear and mistrust'

Zahra Nanji is a personal injury solicitor at Leigh Day

"Mr Grayling states that new measures are set to tackle a 'perception' that people are at risk of being sued if they do something for the common good or in an emergency situation. However, what about the reality?

"Acting in the common good should not permit mindless detraction from a common sense approach to the safety of others. What these new measures will achieve is questionable, particularly since the implementation of the Enterprise Act. The Act removed civil liability for breach of health and safety regulations. Civil claims for breach of regulations are based on the common law duty of negligence and therefore factors such as: are people carrying out a good deed; had they been acting in a 'generally responsible way'; or if they were 'acting in emergency'. These are already accounted for, albeit it in a non-prescriptive manner.

"Will the proposals mean blanket immunity for people who do 'community work' but are negligent? The teacher who fails to adequately protect children, or the swimming attendant who doesn't appropriately monitor swimmers? If the proposals are viewed from the injured person's, or in the case of a child, their parent's perspective, would we not see a demand for accountability?

"Mr Grayling's proposal, therefore, adds nothing to the current health and safety landscape and is a continuation of government posturing against a 'compensation culture' that does not actually exist. The government remains focused on instilling fear and mistrust of health and safety laws causing people to believe that they are a hindrance rather than a form of protection.

"The UK boasts an enviable safety record due to its health and safety laws. There is no logical reason to weaken these laws under the guise of protecting the 'good Samaritan' at the expense of the safety of many thousands more, except to advance the government's mission to reduce protection the individual for the benefit of big businesses such as the insurance industry."

Categorised in:

Health & Safety