How have personal injury claims been impacted by Covid?

The impact of the novel coronavirus has been felt in just about every part of the economy. Among the most obvious implications have been medical ones. We’ve all been paying close attention to the number of reported cases and hospitalisations due to Covid-19.

Statistics elsewhere, on the other hand, might indicate a silver lining or two. For example, the number of personal injury claims have hit an eight-year low.

It might seem obvious that claims are in sharp decline because fewer people are in work, and thus they’re instead having their accidents at home. However, the statistics released by the Ministry of Justice in March describe a fall to just under twenty-seven thousand personal injury claims in the last few months of the previous year – in other words, before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

According to the MoJ, this decline is largely due to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which effectively made litigation more affordable for those who might not otherwise have considered it.

How might Covid impact my claim?

The damages awarded in personal injury claim serve two purposes. First, there’s a sum to compensate for any financial loss incurred as a result of the injury. Second, there’s a sum to offset the pain and suffering that the ordeal might have inflicted.

If you’ve been injured during the pandemic, then your recovery might have been complicated by the lockdown restrictions. If this is the case, then you’ll want to ensure that you’re working alongside a personal injury solicitor who understands the current difficult circumstances. For example, the people who might otherwise have looked after you might have to isolate socially themselves. The process of collecting medication might have become extremely difficult. Moreover, the psychological impact of having to recover from an injury might have been further complicated by the loneliness of enforced lockdown.

What changes are on the horizon?

The future is difficult to predict, because the medical facts on the ground are uncertain. However, changes to the law due to come into force next year thanks to the Civil Liability Act 2018, which will raise the threshold for the case to be taken beyond the small claims court. For road accidents, the estimated damages will need to exceed £5,000. For other incidents, the figure is £2,000.

At present, only very minor injuries are lumped into the ‘small claims’ category. Once the changes come into effect, even those suffering from broken bones and permanent scarring might find themselves unable to secure a no-win-no-fee solicitor.

Neck injury and the resulting impact

A neck injury is one of the most serious and traumatic injuries it’s possible to suffer. It can result in life-changing or long-term damage.

Neck injuries are different to the pain or discomfort you might experience as a result of tension – such as from sitting in a certain position for too long. Acute neck injuries can cause real damage to the spine and surrounding tissue.

If you’ve hurt your neck after being involved in a personal injury, you could end up suffering serious consequences.

Types of neck injury

The neck is made up of a number of different bones, muscles and ligaments. The cervical spine is located at the back of your neck and is made up of seven vertebrae, which are separated by discs.

Whiplash is likely the most widely known type of neck injury. It mainly affects the soft tissue in the neck and results in symptoms including neck pain and stiffness, headaches and muscle spasms.

You might also find yourself suffering from nerve damage or slipped or damaged discs – often due to heavy lifting, pressure on the neck or being struck by a falling object. But the most severe form of neck injury can be a broken or dislocated neck. This can cause your vertebrae to crack or fracture, which can then result in paralysis or even death.

Causes of neck injury

Among the most common causes of neck injuries are car accidents. When you are involved in a car crash, you can find your body remains stationary because of your seatbelt, while your head snaps forward with the momentum, causing your neck to be damaged.

Also responsible for a number of neck injuries are falls, usually from a height. Falling objects can also cause significant injuries.

Manual handling carried out incorrectly can result in back pain, as well as neck injuries, while engaging in certain sports can also pose a risk of injury to the neck. Contact sports such as rugby and boxing and activities like horse riding can be particularly dangerous when it comes to neck injuries.

The impact of a neck injury

Among the most serious and lasting impacts of a neck injury is paralysis. Suddenly being unable to control your own body when you previously could is a hugely traumatic experience for anyone.

The inability to control your bladder or bowel can also end up being a lifelong consequence of a neck injury. This can have a huge impact on your quality of life and can take a significant mental and emotional toll.

The link between neck pain and anxiety and depression has been pointed out by a number of studies, including by Moroccan researchers published in the Pan African Medical Journal and US scientists published in Pain Medicine.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has also said that adjusting to a spinal cord injury is a lifelong process. Losing independence, dealing with changing emotional reactions and adapting to activities like work and family life can be challenging to victims of neck injuries.

It’s for that reason that support is generally advised in cases of severe neck and spinal injury. Specialist clinicians will be able to offer advice and guidance on how to adapt to life after suffering from a neck injury.

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How property solicitors can legally advertise purchase and mortgage services

As a lawyer or solicitor operating in the UK, you’ll be aware of rules on how you can promote yourself. For many years, any form of advertising was looked down upon and in some cases, prohibited. But in 2020, things have changed.

What are the rules on advertising?

In 2019, the SRA enacted a new provision of their Standards and Regulations relating to how a solicitor, REL or RFL can advertise. It stated that unsolicited, unwelcome, or intrusive approaches to members of the public, with the exception of current or former clients in order to advertise legal services, aren’t allowed.

This means that telephone calls, SMS, emails, and other forms of direct communication, with the aim of generating new sales, go against the Code of Solicitors. It was however clarified that legal professionals in the UK are allowed to advertise in a “non-intrusive and non-targeted way”. The SRA said that this could include adverts on TV or radio, newspaper publications, and social media adverts.

Legal services for mortgages

Legal services for mortgages include liaising with the broker, reviewing legal documentation, negotiations, and ensuring that the deal is the right one for the interests of the client. Solicitors are also involved in title searches, issues with deeds, creating and reviewing contracts, liaising with other parties, and ensuring the transaction is in line with UK law

Strategies for ethical promotion of mortgage services

Content writing

As mentioned above, certain forms of advertising are now allowed but they are still frowned upon by the legal community. One of the best ways to promote your firm and services is through writing articles, analysis, and case studies and publishing them in industry publications. 

For example, writing (with the client’s permission) analysis of a large or particularly complex transaction can demonstrate your skill in the area. Writing a detailed explanation of changes in the law relating to property can show your legal prowess or publishing relevant sector-specific news can prove that you have your finger on the pulse. Submitting articles of these types are great ways to position yourself as a professional in the field, without going for the hard sell.

Networking

As a law firm practising in the area of mortgages and property, you should be connecting with mortgage providers and brokers. This way you can increase the possibility of being recommended as a trusted provider of legal services in this area.

Networking will also allow you to understand the needs and demands of the industry so you can ensure your marketing efforts reflect what buyers want. There are several mortgage comparison sites where great mortgage deals can be found using Trussle’s free service. This will give you a great idea of what is available, and what kind of advice your future clients may need in relation to the mortgage deals they are going for. Networking and this kind of market research are key to knowing how to advertise your services in this sector.

Legal directories

There are several legal directories and ranking systems that your firm and partners can submit to. Chambers and Partners, The Legal 500, FindLaw, Lawyers.com, and HG.org are great ways to get your practice’s information out there along with independent reviews of your performance. 

Each year you are required to submit information about your firm and details of notable cases you have worked on over the last 12 months. This information is then analysed to give you a ranking as well as provide the public with detailed information about you and your firm.

When promoting your services and specialities, we believe it is best to be subtle in your approach. Creating smart content, getting yourself listed, networking, and positioning yourself as a specialist is more effective than any billboard.

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Making a claim as a car passenger

Suffering an injury in road traffic accident is a traumatic experience at the best of times. But when you are a passenger in a car and you are injured because of the driver’s negligence, it can be even more difficult to come to terms with.

It’s a common misconception that passengers aren’t able to get compensation for their injuries, but fortunately that isn’t true. If the driver of the vehicle you were travelling in or another driver was at fault for the accident, then you can bring a claim for compensation.

A driver’s duty of care

The driver of a vehicle has an obligation to drive safely so that they minimise the risk of other road users and prevent injuring their passengers. In legal terms this is called a duty of care and also applies to the operators of any other type of transport, such as buses, boats and aircraft.

If a driver fails to show a duty of care and this results in an injury to the passengers of that vehicle or another, then they can sue for damages.

What if a friend or member of my family was driving?

A lot of people feel awkward about taking legal action against the driver if they are a friend or loved one. However, you should remember that it is your legal right to get compensation for injuries you suffer through no fault of your own.

The money you receive is to cover your losses, compensate you for the injury you suffered and to help get you back on your feet. You should also remember that it will be the driver’s insurer that will be paying any settlement, and not your loved one.

What can I claim for?

As with all personal injury cases there are a number of things you can claim compensation for. These include:

  • General damages for any pain, suffering and injuries you sustained
  • The costs of any medical care you received
  • Medical expenses including treatment, drugs or equipment
  • Travel expenses for trips to get medical treatment
  • Loss of earnings, both now and in the future

Are there any time limits on making a claim?

You have up to three years from the date the incident took place to make a claim, or until your 21st birthday if the accident happened when you were under the age of 18.

For anybody who does not have the mental capacity to make their own legal decisions, for example if somebody has suffered a serious brain injury, there is no time limit.

If you have been involved in an accident as a passenger you should seek out specialist legal advice  from road traffic accident solicitors like those working with First4Lawyers to ensure you get the compensation you need and deserve.

Finders International up for two awards

Finders International, a global probate genealogy company that traces missing heirs to estates, properties and assets, has been shortlisted for the Best Use of Marketing and Social Media and Probate Research Firm of the Year at the British Wills and Probate Awards.

 “Outstanding contributions.”

Karen Babington, the Director of the Practical Vision Network that runs the Today’s Wills and Probate publication, and subsequent founders of the awards, said:

“Demand on professionals working in the [probate] sector during extremely challenging times has never been greater and so it is important that individuals and firms are recognised for their outstanding contributions.”

Finders International hope to be successful at the British Wills and Probate Awards, scheduled to be held on 22 October 2020, to add to their successes; the firm, who have offices in London, Dublin and Edinburgh, have won Best UK Probate Research Firm for two years running at the UK Probate Research Awards

Virtual ceremony

Danny Curran, Managing Director of Finders International, said:

“Everyone at Finders has been working incredibly hard to ensure the highest standards have been maintained during these uncertain times. We are absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted at the British Wills and Probate Awards in not one but two categories!”

The awards, headline sponsored by Arken, will be held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To find out more about Finders International, you can visit their website. Alternatively, you can find them on their social media channels: please visit their Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram.

#BWAPAwards2020

When good advice turns bad: finding a reputable lawyer

Navigating legal issues can be a tricky, and at times nerve-wracking, experience. Legal experts like lawyers and mediators are among the most trusted professionals in the country, and the majority of the time help to protect the public from injustice.

However, as with any industry, the quality of service provided can vary hugely from lawyer to lawyer, and on occasion things backfire. Whether issues arise because of negligence, ignorance, or deliberate deception, dealing with the consequences can be a long, stressful experience.

Luckily, there are plenty of free and easy ways you can safeguard against choosing a fraudulent or incompetent lawyer, so you can feel confident whatever legal issue you are facing.

Opt for a local firm

Wherever you are in the UK, chances are there will be several law firms to choose from in the area. As well as being convenient should you need to meet face to face or sign documents, opting for a local solicitor means you will benefit from the rapport they have built with other professionals in the area. It is also important that you find a lawyer who can quickly understand your circumstances. Being from the same area will give your lawyer greater insight into your individual needs. A good way to begin your search is via a website called Law Firms, which has a huge database of solicitors in the UK, organised by location and areas of law covered. The site has contact details for firms, information about location, and reviews from past clients.

Do your research

It might sound obvious, but the more you understand how the law in the UK works, the less likely you are to take bad advice. Legal terminology is often difficult to understand, which is unfortunate because the concepts behind the jargon are usually much simpler than the wording suggests. Sites like legalcases.co.uk are a fantastic resource for learning about the fundamentals of UK law and how the court system works. Best of all, it’s completely free.

Check for SRA approval

The SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) is the biggest regulating body for solicitors and lawyers in the UK. The organisation monitors firms and independent lawyers to ensure they are operating according to the authority’s guidelines. You can check a firm or lawyer for SRA approval via its website. If it is approved, then you can expect that the firm works:

  • in a way that upholds the constitutional principle of the rule of law, and the proper administration of justice
  • in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons
  • with independence
  • with honesty
  • with integrity
  • in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion
  • in the best interests of each client.

Using a solicitor who is SRA approved means you are more likely to be entitled to compensation if something goes wrong, and can make complaints through the service. Their website also features updated lists of current scams to watch out for, and detailed records of any disciplinary action taken against a particular solicitor.

Double-check with an independent legal expert

Nine times out of ten, the advice you get from your solicitor will be sound. That being said, it’s always worth getting a second opinion, if only to reassure yourself that you are taking the right action. But before you fork out yet more hard-earned cash to instruct a second lawyer, take advantage of the plethora of free resources online, which can provide quick, expert advice about most legal issues. Websites like legalquery.co.uk are set up to answer a huge range of common questions, and provide lightning-fast responses to help you move quickly and confidently through your case. The Citizens’ Advice website also offers free advice and is particularly good at defining individual rights.

What do I do when something goes wrong?

If you are unhappy with the service from your solicitor, or if something goes wrong, then you have a legal right to complain. Firms must tell you how you can complain to them, and publish their full complaints procedure to the public. Normally you will be able to find this on their website, but if not, you should contact them directly for the information.

There are two main routes you can follow if your complaint is not resolved by the firm. Firstly, for concerns about the work your solicitor did for you, or your bill, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman. As long as your solicitor is regulated, the Legal Ombudsman can instruct them to refund or reduce fees, to pay you compensation, to put things right, apologise, and to return your legal documents. The service is free and impartial, and can only be used if you have already lodged a complaint with the firm in question.

If your concerns relate to the way your solicitor has behaved – for example, they have lied to or stolen from you – then you should contact the SRA. As with the Legal Ombudsman, the service is free and impartial and has the authority to enforce penalties if legal professionals break the rules.

Employment experts predict whistleblower boom

As the national lockdown is eased and millions of Brits ditch home offices for communal workspaces, health and employment experts are voicing concern over the lack of protection in place for vulnerable employees.

Under current guidance, all employees able to work from home should do so. But from August 1, employers will be able to decide whether their staff can safely return to the office. The move, which policymakers hope will give the UK economy a much-needed boost, could see workers return to their workplace at the “discretion” of their bosses, provided the work environment is ‘COVID-secure’.

What safety measures will be in place?

To aid the return to work, the government has published in-depth guidance for employers about how to minimise the risk of infection in their workplace. The information spans 14 separate documents, each focused on the specific measure that should be implemented across a range of industries.

The safety measures include ensuring one metre plus social distancing, revised rotas to minimise contact, ensuring a good supply of ventilation and increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning. Bosses must be vigilant to ensure that these safety requirements are met, and take proactive steps to maintain health and safety standards. This will include measuring distances between desks and new entry/exit rules. Employers will also have to carry out a COVID risk assessment. It is strongly advised that employers share the results of their assessment with workers, and discuss any concerns in an open manner. The government also expects all firms with over 50 employees to publish the results online.

However, for many British workers, the prospect of returning to public and private offices, factories, and shops, is concerning. A survey, carried out by YouGov for the CIPD, revealed that 44 per cent of employees felt anxious about returning to their workplace because of Covid-19, and a further 31 per cent were anxious about commuting to work. Many employees said they felt pressured to work even when sick or unwell, and feared that others would come into the workplace when ill, due to sick day stress.

These worries have many asking what to do if their employer fails to protect their health, and how to go about reporting their concerns.

Whistleblowing and the law

According to employment and whistleblowing experts at leading UK law firm, Axiom Stone, all employees have a legal right to hold their company to account if it fails to protect their health. A spokesman for the firm said its lawyers anticipated an increase in the number of complaints relating to wrongdoing in the workplace, particularly concerning health and safety.

They went on: “When the activity comes to an employee or worker’s attention, they should notify the employer or anyone else identified within a policy or procedure as the person to whom the complaint should be made.”

Although whistleblowing may seem like career suicide, UK employment lawyers have been quick to highlight the legal protection afforded to employees who decide to speak out about health and safety issues at their place of work.

An employment expert at Axiom Stone said: “A whistleblower is protected irrespective of how long they have been in the workplace and whether they are directors, partners, freelancers, agency workers, workers or employees. To qualify for protection, the whistleblower must have a reasonable belief that a wrongdoing has occurred, or is likely to occur, and it is in the public interest to make a disclosure.”

Keeping the law on your side

However, despite the protection afforded to whistleblowers in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA), workers are being warned about the potential risks of pursuing legal action without due cause.

According to Workright, a blog which provides free legal advice about UK employment, recent changes to the ERRA have limited the circumstances which allow employees to qualify for whistleblower protection.

It said: “The changes of ERRA, meant that for an employee to make a disclosure, there had to be “reasonable belief” that the case was in the public interest.”

Employees would qualify for this if they had evidence that official safety advice was not being followed, or if bosses were creating a hostile environment for workers taking sick days.

Work Right said that in most cases, issues could be resolved by discussing concerns with a manager, or the company’s appointed health and safety representatives. Alternatively, if the employee fears the repercussions of internal reporting, or is concerned about a potential coverup, then they should make a protected disclosure to HMRC, their MP, or an external body like the FCA.

There are also many charities and independent organisations which provide practical and confidential guidance for whistleblowers. These include Protect, the NSPCC, and WhistleblowersUK.

What do I do if I have suffered a medical misdiagnosis?

Getting the news that you have a serious illness like cancer or heart disease is a devastating blow at the best of times. But when this diagnosis is delayed, and your condition has got worse as a result, the news will be even harder to bear. If you have suffered a misdiagnosis then you may be able to claim compensation for medical negligence.

What is misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis is where a medical professional offers a patient a prognosis on a condition based on their symptoms, but the prognosis ends up being incorrect and the condition is actually something else. Similarly, misdiagnosis can be where a patient is told they are fine, when they have a condition.

Fortunately, most of the time patients get correctly diagnosed and treated. However, when a patient receives an incorrect diagnosis, or their condition is missed altogether, the results can be potentially life-changing or even life-threatening,

What kinds of misdiagnosis are there?

The most common types of misdiagnosis are:

  • Where you have been told that you have something less serious than your actual condition and as a result you’ve had delayed treatment.
  • If you’ve been told you had a condition, but you did not and had unnecessary surgery.
  • Where you have received the wrong diagnosis and had unnecessary treatment.
  • If you had a condition but it was completely missed by the medical professional.
  • If you suffered psychological harm at being told a medical diagnosis that was not true.

There are a number of ways that misdiagnosis can happen, from not carrying out the correct tests to misinterpreting results.

What can I do if I’m not able to work after a misdiagnosis?

Unfortunately, the misdiagnosis of a serious condition like cancer could leave you extremely unwell and unable to work as a result. This can make a difficult time even more stressful as you worry about your condition and how you are going to make ends meet.  If you have suffered medical negligence then you may be able to secure interim payment to get you through while your claim progresses.

The amount you can ultimately claim in compensation varies greatly from case to case. This is based on how seriously you have suffered and the impact the misdiagnosis has had on your life. You will also be able to claim for loss of earnings and for any long-term rehabilitation that you may need.

Claims must generally be made no more than three years after the misdiagnosis is discovered. While this is a challenging time, getting compensation for your suffering will help you get you the rehabilitation and support you need.

Fatalities at work fall, but how can accidents be avoided?

According to work accident specialists First4Lawyers, a total of 111 workers died in the UK last year in an accident at work, according to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The figures represent a decrease of 38 from the previous year and is the lowest annual number on record. The HSE has stressed that the pandemic may have skewed the figures as the vast majority of people were either working from home or furloughed for the final two months of the year.

What were the most dangerous sectors to work in?

The construction industry came out top with a total of 40 deaths last year, up from 30 the previous year. A total of 20 workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing sector lost their lives in accidents at work, down from 32 on the previous year, while 15 died in the manufacturing sector – down from 26 the previous year.

In terms of risk of injury, the waste and recycling and the agricultural, forestry and fishing sectors were the worst culprits. Shockingly the rate of injury in these sectors was 18 times higher than the average sector.

The most common cause of a fatal accident was falling from height, with 29 deaths. This was followed by being struck by a moving vehicle with 20 deaths, being struck by a moving object with 18 deaths, being trapped by something collapsing or overturning with 15 deaths and having contact with moving machinery accounting for 11 deaths.

The figures show that 97% of those who died were men.

How can accidents at work be avoided?

As the HSE says nobody should be killed or hurt because of the work they do. While it is impossible to avoid all accidents, it is possible to minimise the risk of them in the workplace. Things that employers can do to avoid accidents include:

  • Give proper training to employees for their job and the equipment they use.
  • Keep vehicles maintained.
  • Provide proper equipment needed for the job, whether this be safety harnesses or goggles.
  • Keep the workplace tidy and uncluttered to avoid falls or things falling from height.
  • Make sure employees don’t take shortcuts, such as not using a harness or other safety equipment.
  • Ensure dangers and accidents are reported.
  • Remind employees of proper safety procedures with signs in noticeable places.

While the number of workplace fatalities has fallen by half in the past 20 years, employers have a duty to get this figure down and employees have a duty to follow procedures and act responsibly. Only then will the number of accidents at work fall.

No-fault divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill recently progressed through the House of Commons, offering hope to those seeking amore amicable separation.

In early June 2020, the proposal to offer a more conciliatory route toward divorce passed through commons with little contest, offering greater hope to those wishing to move on from a fractured marriage without lengthy periods of waiting, or bitter disputes over blame.  Rather than insisting on lengthy separations or for faults to be attributed on one party, this new revision represents a more understanding approach toward divorce. Read more below.

What are the current requirements for divorce?

Under current legislation, a couple wishing to divorce will need to live separately for at least two years before divorce proceedings can take place; if one person refuses to agree to the divorce, however, then this period of separation must last for five years.

If both parties are in agreement, however, and want to divorce before the two years have been completed, then at least one of the following reasons must be given:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour, including violence, drug use, drunkenness, verbal abuse or refusing to pay toward the costs of living.
  • Desertion

Of course, whatever route both parties choose to take, lengthy periods of separation and drawn-out disputes can be extremely mentally taxing for all involved, and can cause those suffering to feel ‘trapped’ within a stage of their life from which they feel ready to move on. For many couples looking to circumvent a lengthy separation, the only option is for one to allocate blame to the other, which can turn an otherwise amicable split into something far more bitter, and cause a great deal more emotional upheaval than necessary.

For couples with children, maintaining stability amid significant upheaval is often made much more difficult by these lengthy procedures. A solution that facilitates family life and seeks to “reduce parental conflict”, say Cheltenham divorce lawyers Willans, is long overdue.

What is the no-fault divorce?

The proposition for a no-fault divorce under the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will make the process of ending a marriage much simpler for both parties. Most notably, it will allow for a joint application for divorce to be made by both parties, and for the ascription of blame to be replaced by the formal assertion that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Furthermore, the opportunity for the divorce to be contested will be removed

Under these proposed changes, the process of seeking a divorce will have the potential to be far more manageable for both parties. The emotional upheaval of a long separation or the allocation of blame for unacceptable behaviour can be avoided, and couples can aim to end their union without resorting to hostilities.

Despite a few obligations owing to the importance of reconciliation over disunion — and the pressures the outbreak of Covid-19 has placed on marriages — the bill has been agreed by the house of commons. This marks a clear, long-awaited breakthrough for those seeking greater flexibility and understanding when a lifelong commitment is no longer possible.