If someone you knew was left paralysed either by a driver convicted of careless driving or a negligent doctor and then the driver or doctor complained about how much their insurance premiums had gone up where would your sympathies lie; with the driver/doctor at fault or the person injured?
Imagine then if the insurers who had raised their premiums complained about the fact that the victim’s paralysis had cost them money and newspapers went on to publish their complaints, detailing the cost to the insurer of the injuries their own insured had caused, without mentioning the severity of those injuries or the fact that they could have been avoided with just a bit more care. Would you not think they had their priorities wrong?
If the person paralysed was you or your loved one would you not be outraged?
Yet insurers, the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) and the Medical Defence Union (MDU) regularly issue figures of how much they have had to pay out to those injured through negligence.
And newspaper articles regularly focus on these figures, complaining about the “compensation culture” which they claim is rife across the country (but which in reality it is accepted does not exist).
They give little or no column inches to the person who has been injured. Nor often is there any emphasis on the fact that those injuries were caused because of carelessness by the other party, i.e. that there was fault.
Instead of expressing regret at the unacceptably high levels of unnecessary injuries those figures evidence or promising they will do more to ensure that these figure are reduced they complain about how much it is costing to compensate those who have been injured, maimed or killed through the carelessness of their insured or member.
These figures are actively pushed into the media with the suggestion that the cost is not connected to another’s failings but to the audacious way in which the victims of negligence complain and ‘greedily’ ask for compensation.
Why is the focus not on the reason that money is being paid and to whom it is being paid?
The paralysed victim and their family are human beings whose lives have been devastated and will never be the same again.
They can only claim compensation because something went wrong through no (or usually little) fault of their own.
They have been injured, often seriously, because someone else has been careless.
Why is the focus not on what the money is for?
A young girl with a spinal cord injury may not be able to move, stand, sit or go to the toilet herself and will need someone to do that for her for rest of her life.
Why is the focus not on the motivation of those who do make claims? It is not because they think it is “easy money”. It is about need, not want.
Making sure someone who is severely injured is looked after is expensive there is no doubt - but that is not the injured person’s fault- and the compensation paid will cover some of the costs of care so that the NHS/local authority doesn’t have to.
I ask those complaining and those reading those complaints to put themselves in the shoes of those who are living with disabilities that could have been avoided with more care, before they pass comment.
I believe that those who have to pay out compensation should stop the victim blaming and instead focus on the victim and future victims and look to reduce the devastating injuries that are unfortunately still occurring every day.
Nicola Wainwright, Partner – Leigh Day