Harm in the army

11.17am
Every now and then a personal injury case comes along which reignites the debate about Britain’s so-called compensation culture.


Harm in the army25 February, 11.17am

Every now and then a personal injury case comes along which reignites the debate about Britain’s so-called compensation culture.

You know the sort: Man sues after scolding himself on coffee or woman walks into lamp post, sues council.

Back in March 2003 banker Brian Piccolo was walking through Marylebone Station when he slipped on a flower petal outside florist Chiltern Flowers, causing a whole bunch of problems. Piccolo claimed £1.5m in damages after severely damaging his back.

Piccolo’s barrister, Christopher Wilson-Smith QC of Outer Temple Chambers, secured damages after Mr Justice Altman said the florist had a “duty of care” to clean up outside the shop.

The case was due back in court this week with quantum to be decided. But before it could reach court and attract the media spotlight again, the case was settled.

Such cases are often frowned upon by the national media, but Piccolo’s legal team had a case and, while it took almost six years, they got him access to justice.

According to Hilary Meredith of Hilary Meredith Solicitors the same cannot be said of military personnel who have been injured while at work.

While Piccolo was able to fund his case, Meredith says victims in the armed services are faced by brick walls when it comes to seeking compensation for what can be critical injuries.

Legal expenses insurance (LEI) policy terms, she says, can be arduous and in some cases it might not be in the best interest of the claimant to enact them.

According to Meredith, when the family of a deceased soldier looks to make a claim insurers will refuse to fund any case until the coroner’s verdict is delivered – this can be two years after the accident.

The Ministry of Justice was given the opportunity to fix a personal injury system that many deemed to be broken, but it failed to address key issues (The Lawyer, 28 July 2008).

As the recession deepens, inevitably more PI cases will come to the fore and questions will be raised again about the UK’s compensation culture. Cases such as these serve to show how, for some, the road to justice is blocked.