Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Dr Botox - The Epilogue

A few weeks ago I wrote about the remarkable case of my claimant client with moderately serious orthopaedic injuries directed by insurers to the distant and grubby premises of their “expert witness” – a botox injector, who eventually confessed that he hadn’t a clue.[1]

The case has settled now after a few more exchanges of correspondence but not until after client received further strange telephone calls from a withheld number – a nameless somebody wanting to arrange another medical examination, this time even further away in Gloucestershire.

Our man is reasonably sanguine but others would be justifiably anxious to know who has what information about them and what they are doing with it.

Insurers do what they like, of course, as the widespread sale of policyholders' data to claims farmers has demonstrated. I wonder incidentally when we can expect to see action by the Information Commissioner’s Office which has been levying substantial penalties on local councils and NHS trusts recently.[2]

The key point here seems to be that resistance crumbled after we latched onto the fact that insurers were actively steering this perfectly genuine and deserving claimant to an ‘expert’ who probably had no more qualification for the job than that he would say whatever insurers wanted him to say in return for not very much money.

Had any report from this guy seen the light of day it would not have been challenged at latest until trial by most ‘self-representing’ victims, or those using the monkeys that the insurance industry wants to force upon claimants one way or another.

As it is, insurers paid almost twice the five-figure sum they previously offered.


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Someday is now

Something of a guest post for mid-week, this apparently hit the web about three months ago but doesn’t seem to have gained much profile (sadly).

It’s reportedly a quote from the Principal of a secondary educational establishment in New Zealand who in turn was relating comment from a judge who deals regularly with young offenders:

“Always we hear the cry from teenagers ‘What can we do, where can we go?’

My answer is, “Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book.”

“Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in poverty or sick and lonely again.”

“In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you”

As the rain lashes down here on this midsummer evening, the antipodes look ever more attractive.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Legal highs

I just caught up with an article published last week spotlighting the rising cost of compensation paid to NHS patients whose illnesses were misdiagnosed, from £56m in the previous year to £98m. 

A Department of Health spokesman was quoted as saying: "Unsafe care will not be tolerated in a modern NHS. The vast majority of the millions of people seen by the NHS every year do get good quality, safe and effective care. However, if patients do not receive the treatment they should and mistakes are made, it is right that they are entitled to seek compensation.” 

Wow. Are you sure about that? 

It’s a reminder that the annual report of the NHS Litigation Authority is due soon. It will be interesting to see what Kenneth Clarke has to say about it. 

Some will no doubt remember the minister’s breathtaking ‘double-counting’ gaff last March when he announced on the Today programme that “In 2008-2009 the National Health Service did pay out £312 million worth of damages. It paid far more out to lawyers in fees - £456 million.” 

Of course it transpired that £456m was the total expense, £312m of which was compensation and the rest costs, including £40m paid to defence lawyers employed to try and escape responsibility for the cock-ups. 

The disparity between costs incurred by claimant lawyers and NHS lawyers is now perennially blamed on success fees. Too little attention is paid perhaps to the cost for claimants of expert evidence (which the NHS has in-house) and the ease with which defence lawyers paid at reduced rates for guaranteed flow of work may do nothing but delay to ‘earn’ their fees. 

One expects Mr Clarke to blame the expense of clinical negligence – which rose to £863m last year – on “compensation culture” and “fat cat lawyers”. 

Within last year’s total, in excess of £600m was paid in compensation – not costs. In a no win, no fee environment, costs only have to be paid in successful cases – those claims by people who deserve to be compensated, but had to fight (with professional help) to get it. 

This is not an expense generated by lawyers, claims farmers or greedy claimants, Mr Clarke. 

This is the cost of incompetence, Mr Clarke. 

So what’s your answer? 

Improve the service? Learn from the mistakes? Arrest the needless wreckage of lives and lost opportunities to stay alive? 


Your answer is to kneecap the claimant lawyers – stop them exposing the shortcomings. We’re not just tiresome – we also cost money when we succeed. 

Who allowed that? Well, it was Parliament that makes the law and the courts that uphold it. 

Why did Parliament make that law? That would be to relieve the taxpayer of the perceived burden of legal aid for injured people to pursue redress to which our society’s law deems them entitled. 

Mr Clarke’s response to all this is not to solve the root cause (wastage, mismanagement, incompetence etc in the Health Service) but to stop the infringement of legal rights being exposed. Cover it up. Warp the stats. 

Injured innocents can go without a remedy. Many more can fall victim as standards of essential healthcare decline still further. 

Don’t (or didn’t - when we could afford it) we spend billions valiantly (sic) crusading against regimes that deny their citizens justice whilst using the wealth and influence of the state to wage war on the more powerful and influential opponents of tyranny and champions of what is true and just? 

What sort of regime do we now have here?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

To me, to you...

So, eleven weeks in and we’re getting into the stride of things with the new Money Claims Centre at Salford which so many North-West legal practitioners forecast would be a new nightmare.

Actually, our very early experiences have been fair to good. But what is happening behind the scenes and how has the long-established black hole in Northampton been keeping up, as parent of this new outpost?  Well, we had some insight yesterday.

One of the claims we prepared for issue last month was dutifully sent to Salford, indicating Yeovil as our preferred court for any defended proceedings.

Apparently it is becoming a common problem that defendants send their notice of intention to defend to the claimant’s preferred court when in fact they should send it to Salford which deals with all steps up to the filing of a detailed defence.

The time had come for us to enter judgment in default if no acknowledgement of service had been filed and as so often we rang to check the position with the court.  Here’s how it goes...

Salford can tell us that on 23 May 2012 the defendant filed an acknowledgement of service but sent it to the wrong court.  “The system” tells the operator that it was then sent to Northampton but so far nothing has been received.

Northampton told us subsequently that if they receive anything that doesn’t belong to them then they simply send it back to the person who sent it.  They were able to tell us, though, that somebody at Yeovil had sent the acknowledgement to Northampton.

The person at Yeovil when spoken to informed that she had telephoned Northampton who were currently seven to eight days behind but any documents Yeovil had sent to Northampton would be returned to Yeovil.

Helpfully, our local representative has said that when the documents are returned to them by Northampton, they will fax a copy to us...  before they forward them to Salford!

We don’t see what goes in the pack to the defendant.  Obviously it is not clear enough to ensure that the response is returned to Salford. 

What is amusing is that having arrived at the wrong (local) court, the document is then sent to the wrong “centralized” processing centre.  Yeovil helpfully explained to us that there are “three Northamptons”, being the County Court, the Bulk Centre and Salford (literally!).

Well, it’s looking like another raging success for the MoJ to chalk up (a bit like the Portal).

Exuberant nights out and beer production facilities come to mind, anyone?