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Do we really live in a compensation culture?

The Law

To make any claim for compensation, there must be a legal entitlement to do so. For most accident claims there must be negligence to establish a successful claim. For instance, in a car accident it is accepted that each driver of a car owes a duty of care to ensure that they do not cause harm or damage to another driver. If somebody breaches this duty, for instance by driving into the rear of another vehicle, and the other vehicle experiences damage or the person inside suffers an injury, this amounts to negligence and a claim for compensation can be made.

Therefore, a compensation claim can only be made if negligence is established. It is not possible to claim compensation if there is no legal right to do so. Often the media implies that people make claims for no apparent reason. This clearly cannot happen due to the requirement to establish negligence.

Are The Number Of Claims Increasing?

Again, there is no evidence to support that the number of claims made each year are increasing. Many reports in the media still confirm that the majority of people that are entitled to make a claim for compensation do not do so. What happens, however, is that the stories which make the press are obviously those which seem unfair. These often relate to injuries involving children at schools or in playgrounds when many people think there was no need to make a claim for compensation. However, again, there must be negligence for a claim to be successfully made, the court does not award compensation unless someone was legally at fault for the accident.

Certainly, I do not see an increase in the number of claims being made year on year.

Legal Costs

Often, the headlines relate to the amount of costs awarded to the solicitor which in the past have exceeded the amount claimed by an individual. There are several reasons for this and I will attempt to summarise the most common ones. However, before I do so, in most smaller claims now the amount of costs awarded to the solicitor if the claim is not contested are fixed and usually less than the amount claimed by the victim.

On occasions where the costs are greater than the amount claimed by the victim, this can be due to a number of reasons such as:-

  1. The insurance company defending the claim when it is straightforward; meaning the solicitor acting for the victim has to obtain witness statements, take photographs, and obtain full supporting evidence to prove that the other party was responsible for the accident.
  2. The insurance company might accept responsibility for the accident, but deny that the injuries claimed by the victim were caused by the accident. Once again, in this situation the solicitor must obtain evidence to support the extent of the injuries. This can include obtaining statements from family members confirming the impact on the victim and the inability to carry out tasks which they would have done prior to the accident.
  3. Insurance companies are in place to make profit, and therefore dealing with and responding to compensation claims is not the highest part of their priority and may lead to delays. These delays mean that the solicitor acting for the victim must take more and more action to make sure progress is made.


I do not believe that we live in a compensation culture. I believe that the system is relatively fair and on most occasions innocent victims will recover compensation for their injuries. Many people do not make claims because they do not want to enter into a process that can take as much as one or two years for a small amount of compensation. However, writing stories on these people who do not claim is not an exciting headline which is why we do not see it in the press so there is little chance to balance the ‘Compensation Culture’ articles that we see so often.

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