The legal locum market is booming

LR Legal

The Legal locum market is booming. Firms of all sizes are increasingly seeing the benefits of sourcing qualified legal assistance on a locum basis, but what is the locum-motive?

There are a variety of unavoidable scenarios, where a locum can be the perfect solution. When a partner goes on a long summer holiday, a sabbatical or maternity leave, small and medium firms can really feel the pinch. Hiring a locum solicitor can also help with a specific project or a temporary increase in your workload, which can provide multiple advantages. You get the benefit of obtaining an experienced, flexible solicitor who is used to adapting to new environments and getting to grips with projects quickly. This is someone who can add value to your team immediately. Locums are also invaluable as an interim measure during the recruitment process. This prevents your talent acquisition decisions being made in haste, and allows the work to be done in advance of the new team member entering the firm. Whatever your motivation, LR Legal Recruitment is ideally placed to help solve your needs.

Historically, there has been a reluctance to use locums based largely on the view that no-one knows the cases as well as the regular fee-earner. Sourcing a locum through LR Legal Recruitment, you can be rest assured that the quality of each professional on our books will be extremely high, and capable of understanding and tackling the cases presented to them. We have moved away from the perception that locum candidates may be of lower quality than their permanent counterparts. Locums today are no longer viewed as inferior, but rather as highly flexible, motivated and adaptable individuals. People are becoming locums as a career decision rather than accepting the role passively due to lack of options in the job market. By electing to be a locum, individuals are taking control over their work life balance and are no longer slavishly following the traditionally long hours of regular employment. Many locums are choosing to work for a portion of the year, before spending the remaining months abroad.

Due to the nature of locum work, the individuals that are attracted to it are highly adaptable and are excellent at understanding and taking on a caseload, with immediate effect. Some former city partners are interim locums, between permanent jobs, while others are professional locums who would never consider a permanent position. The best locums tend to be a certain type of lawyer – someone who is not only technically excellent but has a real flair for business development. Hiring a locum can give you access to a top-quality lawyer without needing to maintain a high-end position for that individual. This can be exceptionally useful in a variety of scenarios.

With the world becoming more instant, the days of expecting your clients to wait for long periods of time are past us. Hiring a locum to keep you on top of your workload if you experience sudden fluctuation in you work flow, is an excellent solution to keep your clients happy, and retain their services. People have become less loyal and are more inclined to move firms if they feel the service they are receiving is not within their stringent time frames. So if you are experiencing sudden expansion, maintaining client satisfaction needs to be considered a top priority. Hiring a locum is an economically viable solution, when you consider the cost of losing good clients.

Locums are a perfect solution for providing cover for sickness or maternity leave and they are often hired to provide an extra resource for transaction, litigation deadlines or sudden bursts of client activity. More specifically, locums can cover gaps, in the capability of, and provide relief to, permanent associates during the often long, and occasionally contentious search for a new permanent team member. The use of a locum can help smooth over the on-boarding process of a new employee, keeping the workload up to date, while the new employee can take their time to understand the operating system of their new firm. Clients who choose to do this take the view that locum cover for a difficult-to-fill permanent vacancy will allow them to be less reactive and more discerning in finding the ideal talent for their team. The costs associated with making a bad employment arrangement are notoriously high, so providing your firm with the time to make a well-considered decision is an economically advantageous situation to be in.

The market for good locums is recession proof. In an economic downturn, In-house, private practice and local government sectors will want to keep their fixed overheads under control so permanent hires may not be possible. Likewise, at the beginning of an economic upturn, initial uncertainty may mean firms do not want to commit to adding to headcount, and a locum is an obvious solution. This makes being a locum a wise decision as the fluctuations in the employment market are well documented. Many locums enjoy exciting openings in firms that may not have previously been available to them in the permanent job market.

The legal profession is slightly behind other sectors in taking advantage of temporary and flexible contracts but the tide is changing and the concept evolving. For firms looking to expand, or deal with a sudden influx of work, the hiring of a locum is an ideal solution. Likewise firms who are wishing to restructure, or re-orient their offerings can use locums to provide a good service for their clients, while they move their firm onto its new trajectory.

With both parties benefitting, the future for locum arrangements is only getting brighter. In  world in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to juggle the work-life balance, this can only continue to strengthen. It seems to be a case of ‘All Aboard!’ unless you want to be left behind.

LR Legal Recruitment LogoAbout us, we have over 15 years of specialist legal recruitment experience and a unique hiring and induction process that ensures we engage the best talent for each sector of law we provide for. With our extensive network of locums and other highly trained individuals, we have a range of talent waiting to be placed. Due to the expansion of the locum market, we have developed a network of highly engaged professionals. As we maintain and improve our relationships we are in the position to know who is looking for a new opening, and which firms are considering a locum. This relationship with our clients means that we will often have the ideal candidate waiting for you. With our understanding of what motivates people, we can help you to choose the right individual to fit in with the ethos of your firm.

To discuss what every law firm should know about locums, whether you are a locum, or are looking to recruit one, please contact LR Legal Recruitment for an initial confidential discussion on 0208 464 2503. To learn more about what we do, please visit our website www.lrlegalrecruitment.co.uk.

Considering a pre packed sale? Know your legal responsibilities

What is a pre pack?

Before we start, let’s be clear exactly what a pre pack sale is. A pre pack sale is a sale of a business that has entered into Administration, with the sale being effected almost immediately after the Administrators have been appointed – in most cases, this is usually the very same day. The term “pre pack” is used, given that virtually all of the negotiations to buy the business are completed pre the appointment of the Administrators. Once the Administrators are formally appointed, they then have the legal powers to complete the sale.

Sounds all a bit odd? Not really – in most such cases, speed is absolutely vital in ensuring the survivability of the business, especially with one that has significant financial problems. In such circumstances, very few if any prospective Administrators like trading on – the risks are just too great. There are exceptions – BHS, Woolworths etc. – those companies had huge amounts of stock that could easily be sold through their own retail outlets.

The pre pack time lines

Let’s look now at the mechanics and key issues to consider when thinking about a potential pre pack Administration. The time line works something like this:

  • The company directors recognise the company has problems and seeks out the help of a reputable insolvency practitioner. Alternatively, the company’s bankers/lenders decide that the directors need advice and recommend that an Insolvency Practitioner should consult with them.
  • The directors and IP meet so that the IP can get a better understanding of what the company does, what its problems are, and what solutions are available.
  • Assuming that a pre pack sale of the business is the most viable option, and the one that returns the most to creditors, then the planning for this process begins.
  • The IP will organise a valuation of the company’s assets, whilst the directors look to secure the funding to buy the assets back and then to continue trading.
  • Once the valuations and funding are finalised, the IP will arrange for his solicitor to send to the directors’ solicitor, a draft sales agreement – usually referred to as the SPA – sale and purchase agreement.
  • Once the terms are finalised in draft, the IP will then assist the directors in completing the relevant forms to formally appoint the IP as Administrator.
  • As soon as the Administrator is appointed, he will then immediately complete the sale of the business.
  • Depending on the size of company and its complexity, pre packs are usually completed within two to three weeks of the IP first being consulted.

The legal considerations

The main legal requirement of any pre-packaged sale, is that it must be the deal that returns the most back to creditors. However, there are some transactions where that simply will not be possible, given that after paying secured creditors and the costs of the Administrator, there will be no surplus funds available.

When the Enterprise Act came into force , it abolished the right of HM Revenue & Customs to be preferential creditors. To partially compensate for this and also, to try and return some funds to unsecured creditors, the provision dealing with the “prescribed part” became law. Basically in all Administrations, the Administrator has to put to one side a proportion of the sales proceeds in order that a dividend can be paid to the unsecured creditors. This is worked out by reference to the “net property”. The net property is the amount realised for none charged assets, after the costs associated with the realisation have been deducted. The Administrator must then take 50% of the first £10,000 of net property and 20% of the balance up to a maximum of £600,000, and use this to pay a dividend to unsecured creditors. Let’s say that the Administrator has realised £100,000 for stock, and other assets that are not charged. His costs amount to £20,000, so the net property is therefore £80,000. The prescribed part is therefore £19,000, being 50% of the first £10,000 (£5,000) and 20% of the next £70,000 (£14,000).

Another key consideration are the SIPs that any IP must work with – Statement of Insolvency Practice. These are effectively best practice guidelines that all IPs must follow. The two key SIPs that affect pre pack Administrations are SIP 16 and SIP3. SIP 16 deals with all of the relevant issues affecting how an Administrator goes about effecting a pre pack sale. SIP 16 covers the following key points:

  • The IP must be clear as to his role in giving advice to the company pre appointment and his role post appointment in acting as Administrator.
  • The IP must inform the directors of the existence of the pre pack pool and recommend that the directors submit their proposal for pre pack sale to the pre pack pool. The directors are under no legal obligation to submit their plans to the pre pack pool, although doing so does help with the issue of transparency.
  • Independent professional valuations of the company’s assets should be organised by the IP.
  • The IP/Administrator must demonstrate that he has marketed the business to the widest possible audience – the guidelines on this are fairly strict and are given in an appendix attached to SIP 16.
  • The Administrator must within 7 days of the transaction completing, issue a comprehensive report to all creditors explaining why the pre-packaged sale was in the best interest of creditors.

SIP 13 deals with transactions with connected parties – as most pre packs are with existing directors, then this SIP will usually also apply. This SIP is not as detailed as SIP 16 and the key issue is that the Administrator must demonstrate that, by completing a sale of the business back to the directors, that he has acted in the best interests of the creditors.

General considerations

Most of the onus for ensuring that a pre-packaged sale complies with statute and the relevant SIPs, falls mainly on the IP/Administrator. That said, you do need comfort that the IP/Administrator has complied with all relevant statutes/SIPs etc. to ensure that there’s no comeback later on. The best way to ensure that you are protected is to engage a suitably qualified lawyer to act on your behalf – ideally, one that has some insolvency knowledge.

For most directors looking to complete a pre-packaged sale, the most important issue is finance – how to fund the actual acquisition of the business and then how to fund trading in the new business until cash flow kicks in. These issues are best addressed with your own accountants. It is an issue though, that you must have resolved before contemplating a pre-packaged sale/purchase – very few Administrators give credit!

Richard Saville is a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner with Corporate Financial Solutions. He has over 40 years of experience helping companies large and small who may be experiencing financial problems. Richard takes pride helping to save struggling businesses and return them to profitability. He has an extremely broad knowledge across most industries having effectively dealt with pretty much every type of business around!

Concerned about Brexit? Find out how an immigration lawyer can help you obtain EEA Permanent Residence

Since the EU referendum in 2016 there has been a lot of hysteria, media outrage and panic. EAA nationals have been caught in the crossfire of politicians and voters with their livelihoods used as bargaining chips. Due to the uncertainty and instability it is sensible advice for any EEA national and their family members to secure a document certifying their permanent residence. By obtaining Permanent Residence, an EEA national will guarantee their long-term rights in the UK and only be one step away from British Citizenship. In previous years, EEA nationals could apply direct for British citizenship after 6 years of exercising treaty rights, but rule changes in recent years have required proof of EEA PR first.

Do I need legal advice?

Like many tasks in life, people can do these themselves. Many people file their own taxes, fix their plumbing problems or repair their car. For many others, they understand that seeking help from an accountant, a plumber or a mechanic is the right thing to do. This avoids costly mistakes down the line. It may appear that by doing these tasks an individual can save themselves money, but it’s when it all goes wrong the problem quickly escalates. Would you want to install faulty brakes on your car and find you can’t stop on the motorway? The same reason applies to seeking legal advice. You will receive help from a professional who is experienced and knowledgeable. With immigration, the stakes are higher. Mistakes can mean losing jobs, families being separated and having to leave the UK.

What if I’ve already been refused an EEA application?

Previous refusals don’t mean you don’t qualify. It only means that you need to address any short fall in documents, procedures or wait until you meet the specific criteria. Immigration lawyers can always explain a refusal and help you work through any problems with your application. A prior refusal does not mean that you will have a black mark or problem with further applications.

What help can I receive if I’m an EEA citizen in the UK?

If you are considering making your status in the UK permanent, the best option is to apply for EEA Permanent Residence. This is typically achieved through exercising treaty rights in the UK for 5 years, with the most common form being through work. Immigration advice would ensure that you are eligible to apply, you understand all the procedures and steps involved and what documents are suitable to prove you meet the requirements. Often, the minor details and specifics are what cause applicants’ problems. By having your documents assessed and your forms completed by a competent UK Immigration Advisor you will have peace of mind knowing that your application will be filed correctly.

How long does the process take?

Waiting times vary for EEA PR applications to be approved by the home office. Currently estimates are 3-6 months. Due to the lengthy time it takes to process and the uncertainly that lies ahead, it’s best to ensure you obtain your EEA PR certificate the first time around. EEA nationals can’t avail of the premium service centre same day route for these types of applications, leaving the only option to mail the application. If you want to ensure smooth sailing with your immigration matters, it’s best to seek expert legal advice.

Why you should hire a motoring lawyer if you have been caught speeding

Speeding is the most common driving offence in England and Wales, with more than 159,000 drivers being caught driving over the speed limit in 2015. The penalties range from a £100 fine and three points on the driver’s licence to a £2,500 fine and a lengthy ban. There’s also the option to attend a speed awareness course – at the driver’s own expense.

The UK’s speed limits

In built-up areas the speed limit is 30mph but more and more urban areas impose a 20mph speed limit. On single carriageways the limit is 60mph and on dual carriageways and motorways it’s 70mph unless there’s a clear sign saying otherwise.

There’s the right to challenge the allegation, of course, but this usually means hiring a strong legal team like motoringoffencelawyers.com to navigate the subtleties of UK law.

Why you should use a lawyer

It is never advisable to attend Court unrepresented. Human nature dictates that corners are often cut when it comes to evidence and procedure and without an expert in this often complicated area of law, you will lose the chance to use it to your advantage. There is a much greater risk of the Court misapplying the law when it comes to unrepresented defendants, so that you are wrongfully convicted or receive a harsher sentence than you would have done if you had a solicitor. You need expert knowledge and experience and that comes from a genuine specialist.

Those three points may seem relatively harmless at first glance but if you reach 12 you will be facing the possibility of a 6 month ban which could have a catastrophic effect on your livelihood and family. If you need a clean driving licence for your job you’ll be very worried, and if you face losing your licence, it could mean unemployment. Bringing a legal team on board to argue in court for you will almost certainly help you.

If you believe you’re being wrongly accused

If you plan to contest your speeding charge you can’t do it by yourself as you simply won’t have the training or knowledge. It can be a scary process, taking on the prosecution, which is why you shouldn’t do it alone. With lawyers, you’ll have someone confident, knowledgeable and experienced in your corner.

If you were speeding

If you’re planning to plead guilty and there’s enough evidence against you to secure a conviction, you still have options that can reduce the penalties or the ban. Lessening the severity of the punishment can help you to retain your job and keep your family financially supported.

You could have your case dismissed altogether

If your legal team can spot a flaw in the prosecution case then they can get your case dismissed. The police may not have followed procedures properly, or the speed camera could have been wrong (it has been known). If it’s your job and your family security on the line, why wouldn’t you give it a shot?

Breach of conditions of bail in the UK

Persons accused of different types of offences in the UK and kept in custody have the right to apply for bail. The term bail denotes the case where the offender can be released from custody for a particular amount of money and if the circumstances are suitable for granting the bail. But there are cases where breaches of conditions of bail might intervene. Our criminal defence solicitors in London can make a full analysis of your case and can represent you in the court of law when applying for bail.

Breaches in cases of pre-charge bail

If there are suspicions that the pre-charge bail in the UK has been breached, the police can keep the individual accused of criminal offences in custody. This time, the authorities need to establish the grounds and to determine if the suspect needs to be charged. It is good to know that unauthorized charges will not be taken into consideration and the suspect can be released with or without bail. The Bail Act 1976 also stipulates that the defendant will be subject to the terms applied right before the arrest for breach. One should know that if he is involved in such matters, where the conditions of bail have been breached, he should solicit help and guidance from an UK criminal lawyer.

Breaches in cases of post-charge bail

Post-charge bail means the police will not enforce certain conditions on an offender, like electronic monitoring or asking to be available for weekly reports. The method for trading with breach of police imposed bail conditions, that are in the position preceding the first hearing, corresponds with the technique for dealing with breaches of enforced court conditions.

What you need to know about the breach of conditions of bail

The police officers in the UK have full rights to arrest a person who is considered guilty of breaching the bail terms and conditions. The magistrates’ court can remand the defendant in custody if he/she broke the bail conditions and if in this situation the accused is considered to be a potential danger to the society. The police officer who made the arrest needs to make proof and to state the grounds he believes the offender broke the bail rules.

You can contact a criminal defence solicitor in London if you need assistance and legal advice related to bail in the UK.

No Win No Fee solicitors services in Ireland

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident or suffered from any form of injury or illness due to an act of negligence or a lack of duty of care, we could help you to claim the compensation that you deserve.

Our guarantee is that if there is no win, then there is no fee, so in the unlikely event that we do not succeed with a personal injury claim, there will be no cost to you.

We provide personal injury and medical negligence advice in Ireland. We will deal with your personal injury claim in an efficient, effective and sympathetic way so you receive the best compensation settlement possible. We are extremely proud of all the wonderful feedback we have received from our clients in the past. We will do what it takes so the feedback continues into the future.

A No Win, No Fee agreement is an arrangement between you and us who are your personal injury Solicitors which means that if unfortunately, your compensation claim with us is not successful, we, your no win no fee  Solicitor at http://cli.re/gA3YQ5 will not be paid for the work we have done. If you win your claim, we, your Solicitor is paid our fees by the other party, typically an insurance company.

The No Win No Fee agreement covers both our fees and costs and applies to Road traffic accidents, which cover accidents with cars, Lorries, motorbikes, bikes and pedestrians; it also covers slips and falls and of course, works accidents and injuries. Where there is a lack of duty of care in a medical established then we also offer No Win No Fee agreements.

A no win no fee claim is a conditional agreement between you and us your Personal injury solicitor. We fully agree that if your case is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay the fees or costs to us. If your case is successful, on the other hand, your personal injury solicitor’s fees and costs are paid out by your adversary. That means, win or lose, it will not cost you anything upfront to make a personal injury claim.

No win no fee claims mean an opportunity to seek accident compensation without worrying about the serious financial risk involved. Many people who suffer personal injuries in Ireland turn to no win no fee claims for two key reasons;

  • No financial risk for you in going down the No Win No Fee route
  • It focuses our mind on winning your Personal injury claim for compensation as if we lose we are out of pocket!

You should know that in Ireland we, your personal injury solicitors and indeed all solicitors in Ireland are not allowed to charge clients a percentage fee for winning a case. Only work performed can be charged.

The insurance industry is very critical of No Win No Fee agreements as they claim that it fuels the Personal injury industry, but we believe that No Win No Fee makes justice available for all.

Personal injury solicitors design new site for Ireland

PISD help people to contact the best legal representation for those who have been injured in an accident or by a medical intervention either physically or mentally due to the negligence of an individual, company or another party. In short, it is their job to prove that the negligence of a third party or parties caused your injury. They work mainly on a No Win No fee basis which makes personal injury claims easy to access for all. No Win No Fee solicitors are the way to go.

Their experienced personal injury solicitors at http://cli.re/gzKzbm have specialist expertise in all areas of personal injury and medical negligence law. If you have been injured or suffered medically because of someone else’s negligence, they will guide you through the process of making a personal injury or medical negligence claim for compensation against the individual or organisation responsible for your injury.

Following any such injury from an accident or medical intervention, it is important to contact a personal injury solicitor as quickly as possible. Although by law, those injured in such incidents are allowed up to two years (unless you are a minor) within which personal injury claims must be commenced, they would always recommend commencing your claim as soon as possible so that all the necessary information can be documented as accurately as possible while your recollection and that of any witnesses of the accident remains fresh.

Personal injury may be defined by injuries suffered because of an accident that was not your fault and could involve road traffic accidents, slips, and falls and work accidents and injuries. Road traffic accidents may involve, cars, Lorries, buses, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Medical personnel have what is called a “duty of care” to their patients. Doctors, Surgeons, Consultants, dentists, and nurses may define medical personnel etc. When there is negligence and the duty of care is not provided then the patient may take a Medical Negligence claim out for damages due to the harm, loss of income and quality of life etc.

Personal injury solicitors may seem like an expensive option just to make a personal injury claim for compensation for what could be a minor injury, but when you consider the experience and knowledge they bring to the table, opting to hire a solicitor like them is simply a no brainer. On top of that, they are also No Win No Fee solicitors and that makes life easier.

Their Personal injury solicitors love their job not only because of the money they can earn but from the satisfaction they get from helping those that very often are in a situation when they need it, and their team are no exception.

If you need an expert, then contact us today to find out how they make a serious difference in helping you. They have a team of personal injury solicitors with many years of experience in successfully claiming compensation for clients, mainly on a No Win No Fee basis.

Crowdfunded funerals on the rise

yolande's funeral

We’re all familiar with the concept of crowdfunding being used to raise money to finance new products or rare medical procedures, but funerals?

Welcome to 2017. Crowdfunding for funerals is on the rise in England. When Big Issue seller Peter Toulson last year, a friend set up an appeal to raise £3,000 for his funeral. The friend managed to get more than £5,000 from donations through the fundraising site JustGiving.

According to figures from JustGiving, more than 2,000 funeral services were funded by crowdfunding from January to September in 2016. In the same period in 2015, there were less than 500 funerals paid for in this way.

No doubt, the rising costs of funerals plays a part in this increase. In England, funeral costs vary according to which part of the country you’re in, but on average a funeral costs roughly £3,700. This only covers the basics – a funeral director, a simple coffin and ceremony and hearse. If you want flowers, catering and a headstone, this pushes the price up considerably.

There is a Social Fund Funeral Payment that is supposed to help people on low incomes with funeral costs, but the maximum award for other funeral costs is fixed  at £700 as it has been since 2003. Funeral director costs have risen steeply in that time, well above the rate of inflation.

If someone dies without money to pay for a funeral and there are no relatives who can cover the costs, often the only resort is a Public Health Funeral, sometimes called a pauper’s funeral. Research by BBC News shows that such funerals cost councils £1.7 million in 2013–14, relating to some 3,500 funerals.

Finders International set up a Funeral Fund last year to help hard-pressed local authorities and health boards deal with the cost of Public Health Funerals.

Daniel Curran, founder and managing director of Finders International, explains:

“These will be cases where there are genuinely no known next of kin – rather than next of kin who just refuse to pay. We will have done the research to prove this and when we receive an application for a subsidy, we’ll assess each case on its merits and decide whether or not we grant a payment. This might fund the funeral completely or partially. As hundreds of thousands of pounds is spent on Public Health Act funerals every year, we hope to make a small difference by giving funds to deserving cases.”

On average, JustGiving users raised £1,300 for each crowd-funded funeral in 2016. In total there were more than 52,000 donations, compared to 9,069 in January to September 2015.

People can opt for a basic cremation which costs £1,600 and just involves a cremation without a service. The singer David Bowie asked that there be no funeral or memorial service after he died last year. He was cremated shortly after he died with no family or friends present.

Talking to the BBC about crowdfunded funerals, JustGiving’s chief operations officer, Charles Wells said it could be a practical way for family, friends and the community to work together to help take the strain off families.

To find out more about Finders International’s Funeral Fund, please see our website, email us at contact@findersinternational.co.uk or call us on Freephone (UK only) 0800 088 8796.

Image Yolande’s funeral, cc by Tom Coady on Flickr.

Whiplash claims reform to benefit insurers most

RTA UK 2 CC license

In early January of this year, the UK’s Ministry of Justice closed a consultation on soft tissue injury claims, or whiplash, reform after a seven-week response period. During that time, interested parties were given an opportunity to analyze the significant impact the proposed changes to the claims process relating to whiplash after road traffic accidents would have. The reforms, coming only a short three years after similar measures benefiting large insurers, purport to address the perception of an excessive compensation culture throughout the UK, focused on fast cash for claims that burden the insurance companies and ultimately, raise premiums for motorists.

Within the proposal for reform, the government offered four substantial changes to how claims are handled currently. The first change hones in on the need to reduce fraudulent claims made by dishonest motorists or cash-hungry whiplash victims by altogether taking away compensation paid for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity (PSLA). An alternative to completely dissolving the opportunity for compensation is to cap the total amount paid to no more than £400 per incident. In addition, the reforms propose a denial of any whiplash claim brought against an insurance company that does not come with medical evidence to support it, and an all but forced small claims track for personal injury claims after road traffic accidents.

The combination of these reforms is, according to the proposal, intended to reduce the frivolous soft tissue injury claims and starkly reduce the average amount of a claim, currently at an estimated  £1,850. The reduction to compensation amounts, increased maximum for small claims court, and requirement of medical evidence of whiplash is all meant to deter individuals from making claims that may not be substantiated. Although the reform for soft tissue injury claims processes is spun under the guise of saving safe, honest motorists some money each month in insurance premiums, the true motivating force behind the potential changes is clearly an industry interested in higher profits.

The case for insurers

No altruistic driver is apparent in the insurance industry, despite the narrative of wanting to create a more honest, claim-wary population. Instead, insurers have created a story of a growing epidemic of fraudulent whiplash claims, pointing to the detriment erroneous lawsuits cause for the vast majority of motorists. In the opening letter of the reform, the government cites that an increase in whiplash claims has taken place over the last ten years, to the tune 50%. In addition, individuals filing soft tissue injury claims tack on costly attorney fees in addition to pain, suffering, and loss of amenity, creating a substantial blow to the insurance companies and the road users who rely on affordable coverage.

The reality of the soft tissue injury claims issue is not nearly as excessive as insurers might hope to promote. Instead, the cost of claims have fallen steadily for the last five years, and the associated cost to the insured population has experienced a 30% decline since 2010. Yet insurance companies have raked in more than £2.5 billion in profits by slowly increasing insurance premiums since 2013. The rise in cost to motorists can’t be directly correlated to an increase in fraudulent soft tissue injury claims, nor the cost of paying for substantiated claims. Motorists are required by law to hold insurance – the insurance companies have taken that mandate straight to the bank, and now are on the path toward limiting the benefits they provide to road users throughout the country.

A missing piece

Insurers claim to be on the right side of the reform, touting a reduction in premium costs to the insured population by putting an end to abusive whiplash claims. The unfortunate truth is that, while some motorists will be afforded cost savings by way of lower monthly premium payments, others will continue to be left out in the cold. A representative from a personal injury firm dealing with motorcycle accidents in the UK states, “The vulnerable 1%, including motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, should be protected from the potential impacts of the proposed reforms, but they stand to be adversely affected instead. Motorcyclists represent just 1% of road traffic but account for 19% of all road user deaths. Given that accidents involving vulnerable road users are often more complex and more severe, the proposed reforms have the potential to keep them from receiving just compensation when they need it most.”

The soft tissue injury claims reform is a singularly focused method to reduce the number of fraudulent claims against insurers. Unfortunately, the perceived benefits of the reform put a heavy burden on the individuals who turn to their insurance companies for the financial assistance they are entitled to after a road traffic accident, especially road users who are more vulnerable to injury. Insurers are standing firm in their narrative that abusive claims work to drive up costs for the average motorist, but the data points to a driving force produced by the need to increase profit margins. The potential £40 savings possibly passed down to safe, honest road users hardly offsets the handcuffs placed on their ability to receive compensation from insurers after a road traffic accident occurs.

The Human Tissue Act and the issue of consent

human-tissue

When it comes to DNA testing, the UK is one of the very few countries in the world to have a system which regulates the way in which DNA samples are collected and how they are used. Anywhere else in the world, DNA samples can be collected from anyone without them even knowing or being aware that their sample has been collected. The HTA covers consent and designates a code of practice in several areas, including:

  • Donation of solid organs for transplantation
  • Post-mortem examination
  • Anatomical examination
  • Disposal of human tissue

The concept of DNA theft is unknown. The Human Tissue Act broadly regulates the removal of all human tissue. Any infringement of the HTA and the perpetrator is liable to a hefty fine or even a prison sentence of up to 3 years. The 2004 Act applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland whilst the 2006 act applies to Scotland (the 2006 is very similar to the 2004 act, it includes additional regulations which came into force in the aforementioned year).

The law arose following the widespread removal of post mortem human tissue, with one of the major scandals in the UK being at the centre of the drive to create and implement the Human Tissue Act– the Alder Hey children’s hospital scandal of 1998. The scandal centred upon the discovery that organs were removed from deceased child and retained by the hospital or sold to pharmaceutical companies for research – without the consent of the parents. The bodies were often returned to the parents without many organs removed. The scandal caused much public outcry and emotional aggravation to the families involved who had to carry out multiple burials as their child’s organs were handed back gradually.

How does the HTA affect somebody carrying out a DNA test in the UK?

htaThe issue of consent is central; anybody who wishes to carry out a DNA test in the UK needs to know that they may be liable to prosecution if they collect a sample from somebody who has not given their consent to the test. Leading UK based DNA testing companies, such as International Biosciences, easyDNA and The Genetic Testing Laboratories highlight the important of the Human Tissue Act on their site. It is not uncommon for people to carry out DNA tests to establish all kinds of relationships – most commonly it is probably paternity that is brought into question and often, a paternity test is carried out with either the father, the mother or the child being unaware that their DNA sample has been collected and that it will be used for any type of paternity test whether peace of mind or a prenatal paternity test.  Individuals will often keep their eyes peeled in the hope that they might be able to find a sample, collect it and send it for testing.

The appropriate term here is “informed consent” – the person to which the tissue sample belongs (let us say a hair, a blood stain or a swab samples) need to be made aware of the following:

  1. That their DNA sample has been collected
  2. What their DNA sample will be used for (in this case, a DNA test)

Of course, the HTA makes provisions – people under the legal age of consent cannot give authorisation to test their samples. In such cases, their legal guardian or parent may give consent on their behalf. In the case of people who are disabled or incapable of giving their consent, the Act also makes provisions. The tissue must only be used if it is deemed in the best interest of the person to use the tissue for research or any type of analysis.

It is also important to note that the failure to give consent or the absence of it does mean that the person has acquiesced for the testing to go ahead. Consent must be clear and explicit; DNA testing companies offering such tests in the UK will normally provide consent forms. These forms need to be signed by every person submitting a sample, thereby giving consent to the laboratory to test their samples. Some companies undoubtedly do not warn or explain the Human Tissue Act even exists but these companies could be making themselves and the people tested legally liable.