News reports have confirmed that the owners of the Alton Towers theme park, Merlin Entertainments, have admitted responsibility for the incident on The Smiler ride on 2 June 2015. The full Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation has not published its findings and the cause of the accident is not in the public domain. Whether on legal advice in terms of the health and safety obligations on the park, or as a result of the public attention, the park’s owners have admitted liability and confirmed they will be paying compensation to those injured.
We frequently read about ‘ambulance chasing’ and compensation culture with expressions of anger that children are no longer allowed to compete in conker championships. The stark reality, highlighted by the incident at the theme park, is that health and safety is a matter of life and death. This country has one of the highest health and safety standards in the world. Rather than criticising this, we should embrace the value we place on life and the health of individuals. Statistics show that the number of injury claims has not increased significantly. It is the perception that a claim may be pursued that can lead organisations to withdraw activities. The negligence and health and safety laws which apply to workplaces and to public areas hold organisations to account where failings or reckless actions cause injury (sometimes of a life changing nature).
Sadly those involved in the incident suffered serious and potentially life threatening injuries. If this was found to have been caused by failings on the part of the organisation, it is entirely right and proper that those involved be compensated. Such injuries have devastating consequences and it can take a significant amount of time and effort to rebuild the lives of those involved. Some may no longer be able to pursue their intended careers or may require significant care and assistance for the rest of their lives. It is situations like this that should be borne in mind by politicians, insurers and those in the media when they comment on those claiming compensation.
The important thing for all victims of any accident is to obtain expert legal advice from advisors who will understand the full impact of the accident and give an honest appraisal of the claim and their legal rights. This means that justified claims are properly pursued benefitting the individual, their family, the organisation, their insurers and society generally.