The BBC news website runs a very insightful article this morning on the inconsistency between compensation paid for breach of privacy and compensation for injury. It rightly highlights the unfairness of a system which allows a celebrity to receive £200,000 for newspaper articles about their private life and phone hacking, but which only allows the bereaved widow in a medical negligence claim to recover £12,980 for the loss of her husband due to a hospital's negligence.
While the victims of phone hacking have every right to be compensated for the distress this has caused, our legal system seems to attach less value to physical injury caused by another's recklessness or even intention to cause harm (in the case of criminal injuries compensation claims). Insurance companies and sections of the media try to cause concern about 'massive payouts' and even fraudulent claims due to a compensation culture. Large payouts are only received where the claimant needs significant care or has a loss of earnings claim. The law requires the Defendant to be at fault. The claims process requires the financial losses and the physical injury to be proven - independent doctors provide reports which are tested and probed by Defendant insurance companies.
As the article highlights not all family members can claim this bereavement award and sadly, a culpable Defendant (or their insurers) often pays less when the injured person does not survive. When I explain this potential outcome of a fatal accident or negligence claim to bereaved families, they are understandably confused when read of claims for less severe cases receiving larger payouts.
The focus should be on ensuring claimants are rightly compensated in a fair way. This is the basis of a society where all are subject to the law whether injured by another individual, business or a public service. This benefits all involved whether it is the individual or society in terms of justified compensation paid by insurers, which we all contribute to as purchasers and also maintaining safety standards and practice.
For all involved, it is vital that the both parties to a claim have expert advice and representation from someone who takes the time to fully understand the impact of the accident or the loss of a loved one. This ensures the process is efficiently pursued but importantly, that the appropriate losses and impacts are explored, backed by evidence and then claimed.