Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Friday, 20 December 2013

Personal Injury Compensation Claims – be aware of the time limits or risk losing out

Guest PostPersonal Injury Limitation PeriodIn the UK, there is a general time limit of three years in which a personal injury claim for compensation must be made. If proceedings are not started in a court within this time frame, then the case becomes statute-barred and cannot be pursued.

Usually, the three year timeline starts either from the date of the accident or from the date that the person becomes aware that the injury is linked to the original incident. This is referred to as ‘the date of knowledge’. This ‘date of knowledge’ can be extremely useful for cases that involve exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos which may not reveal itself until decades later.

However, there are some variations about when the time limitation is set. For example, in fatal cases, the three year limitation begins from the date of death or from the date the death was linked to the original incident, be it an accident or exposure to a toxic substance. In addition, if a person dies part way through making a claim for compensation, the three year deadline begins from their date of death, enabling their family to continue with the claim if they wish to.

There are special rules too for children and for people being treated under the Mental Health Act (1983). In such cases, the time limit does not begin until their ‘legal incapacity’ is removed. For a child, this is at eighteen years old and for a patient being treated under the Mental Health Act, the date of their discharge. The three year time limit still applies. Therefore rather than having three years from the date of the accident in which to pursue a claim the law states that a ‘child’ has three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday, that being the age of maturity, in which to bring a claim. Their claim, therefore, must have either settled or court proceedings have been issued before the child/adult reaches the age of twenty one. This rule gives the parents or guardians of the injured child a choice, at the time of the accident, as to whether to pursue a claim immediately (and have any compensation awarded to the child placed in a court fund until the child reaches the age of eighteen) or to wait until the child reaches the age of maturity and let them make their own decision as to whether to pursue a claim for compensation for the injuries they sustained as a child.

A peculiar anomaly to this is if an accident occurs on an aircraft. The limitation period in this instance is only two years from the date of the accident.

In order to minimise the risk of your claim being prevented in law from being made due to the statute of limitation it is advisable to seek legal advice from an expert personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after the accident. Similarly, if a child has been injured it would be beneficial for the parents or guardians to talk through the options with a solicitor who specialises in child injury claims so that they are clear about what action they need to take.

For those who have had the misfortune to be in an accident or have been exposed to a toxic substance, it is also a good idea to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. In this way the injured party can avoid the risk of becoming statute-barred and have the best chance of making a successful claim for compensation.

Close Thornton Solicitors have a team specialising in personal injury claims. For further information, please contact Shaun Burke on 01325 466461 or email shaun.burke@close-thornton.co.uk

How to Budget for a Court Case

Guest Post

legal fundingOn the 1st of August 2013, High Court judge Master McCloud cut to the root of the issue regarding budgeting for civil litigation with these words.

“Budgeting is something which all solicitors by now ought to know is intended to be integral to the process from the start, and it ought not to be especially onerous to prepare a final budget for a CMC (Case Management Conference) even at relatively short notice if proper planning has been done.

The court must now, as part of dealing with cases justly, ensure that cases are dealt with at proportionate cost and so as to ensure compliance with rules, orders and practice direction. The stricter approach under the Jackson reforms have been central to this judgment.”

Following the new funding rules implemented by Lord Justice Jackson on the 1st of April 2013, civil procedures follow new guidelines and requirements regarding funding.

These new guidelines and procedures essentially state that:

1. Each party involved in civil litigation needs to prepare a costs budget for the case in a standardised form, which includes estimated future litigation costs.

2. Before (or during) the first case management conference, the court will review and approve the costs budgets submitted by both parties.

3. As the case progresses, the court will ensure that both parties comply with the agreed upon costs budgets.

Given that over five months passed between the implementation of the new funding laws and Master McCloud’s statement, it’s far from shocking that Master McCloud is taking such as strict and straightforward approach to their endorsement.

The majority of lawyers have been aware of these laws since 2010, or at least their coming. The lawyers for Andrew Mitchell MP – the former chief whip whose libel case against News Group Newspapers stalled due to a budgeting issue – learned the importance of complying with the laws the hard way.

While leave was granted in this case and the lawyers eventually filed a costs budget for the case, the notable issue makes it clear that the court system is taking a strict and focused approach to budgeting and costs management. This approach is being used already in the Technology and Construction Court and Mercantile Courts.

One of the major objectives of the reforms was to control the large increase in the cost of litigation. Uncertainty regarding costs, particularly the total fees a client in any court case could end up paying, was also an issue. The new rules require that costs are reasonable compared to a claim, making it significantly simpler for potential litigants to prepare a realistic budget for their cases.

As budgets are agreed upon early in the case – in some cases, six weeks before the first case management conference – clients can enter their cases knowing, to a far greater degree than before, what their potential costs may be. Both parties benefit from this and are able to enjoy a greater level of confidence regarding their case.

With these laws now almost nine months old and Master McCloud’s statement over five months old, it’s very unlikely that solicitors should expect a degree of flexibility if the rules are broken. When followed and enforced properly, these laws give both clients a heightened level of confidence and clarity regarding case budgeting.

This article was written by Vannin Capital. Visit their website to learn more about legal funding options in the UK.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Goodwill to all: charity volunteer assaulted over Christmas greeting

Christmas-Charity-Collection_thumb2
From Las Vegas CBS Central 17/12/13:

A Salvation Army bell ringer claims she was assaulted by a woman for saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” outside of a Walmart.

Kristina Vindiola was ringing a bell outside of a Phoenix-area Walmart when she said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” to a woman.

“The lady looked at me,” Vindiola explained to KNXV. “I thought she was going to put money in the kettle. She came up to me and said, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And she says, ‘You’re supposed to say Merry Christmas,’ and that’s when she hit me.”

What the woman did next caught Vindiola by surprise. She told KNXV that the woman hit her in the arm and proceeded to go inside the store to shop. Vindiola told a manager who called the police.

The surveillance video didn’t have enough evidence for Phoenix police to arrest the woman accused in the assault. However, Vindiola said she plans to take legal action.

As a non-American, I’ve always found the expression ‘Happy Holidays’ to be a little odd.  But, come on: punching someone because they used that phrase is a touch OTT – even in America.  

Why is it the original values behind celebrating Christmas seem to grow scarcer (and more alien to the modern world) as each year passes?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Festive Makeovers and Choosing Christmas Trees

Law Actually has been given its annual festive makeover today. I made a conscious decision to try and keep the design at the minimalist end of the spectrum, steering well clear of my usual tendency to use a hotchpotch of ill-suited colours and elements.

Quite where it ranks in the all-time list of Law Actually headers is anyone’s guess but it’ll do.

The house decorations are proving more of a headache. Rather unwisely, we decided to head out to B&Q* yesterday evening to pick up our Christmas tree. It was dark, blowing a gale and bucketing it down – hardly conducive to picking the perfect tree.

Christmas TreeIn all the circumstances, I thought we’d done a pretty good job of selecting a nice looking and well-proportioned specimen. Having successfully manhandled it in and out of the car, we duly plonked the tree in the shed overnight (without a bucket of water I might add – it, like us, was wet enough already).

Anyhow, I had quite a shock this afternoon when I took it out of the shed to erect the fine-needled beast in all its glory.

As Christmas trees go, it’s been blessed with looks only its mother could love. Darkness, wind and rain aside, I’m still rather bemused how we managed to overlook the fact its trunk is about as straight as quasimodo’s back.

Still, it’s got character, I suppose.

We haven’t had chance to decorate it yet – that delight awaits us later on this week.

Just like every other year, I had to look online to remind myself of the recommended method for trimming a Christmas tree’s trunk to aid optimal water absorption.

It seems that 90 degrees is the generally favoured approach. Although some recommend cutting the trunk at a shallow angle for maximum surface area, angled cuts seem to have fallen rather out of vogue.

So there you go.

*Other DIY and hardware stores are available. Consult your yellow pages the Internet. :p

Friday, 13 December 2013

Victim of tragic paddling pool horseplay stunt has claim dismissed

Paddling Pool Injury

From the Huffington Post 06/12/13:

A student who was left tetraplegic after horseplay in a paddling pool has lost his damages claim against one of the UK's leading drama schools, which he said was to blame for the accident.

Andrew Risk had reached the last day of his second year of a scenic arts degree at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, south east London, when he took a long run at a large paddling pool filled with water to a depth of about two-and-a-half feet and dived in, hitting his head on the ground.

Mr Risk, 25, […] suffered immediate loss of sensation, was unable to move, and had to be supported by fellow students to enable him to breathe until he could be taken to hospital.

Now in a wheelchair and needing 24-hour care, he claimed his injury in June 2009 was caused by a breach of duty of care or negligence on the part of the college, which denied liability.

Today, Mr Justice Jay said that Mr Risk had not succeeded and, even if he had, he would have found him 75% to blame for the accident. [In short] the college did not owe a particular duty to protect the claimant from the risk he took.

On the facts of the case, [the college] did not assume responsibility for Mr Risk's safety and his accident was not reasonably foreseeable.

Cases like this are always difficult. Indeed, as Mr Justice Jay noted:

"On a human level, I regret the conclusion that I have reached, but to my mind the legal principles are clear and the weight of authority overwhelming."

Utterly tragic.

One question, though: have you ever known a claimant’s surname to be more apt?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

High Court Judge Blasted After Comments on Marriage

Married With ChildrenFrom the London Evening Standard 09/12/13:

A high Court judge who said people wanting children should get married had his comments dismissed today as “patronising irrelevance”.

Labour MP Graham Stringer said the comments by Sir Paul Coleridge were not helpful for young people thinking about how to plan their lives.

His attack came after Sir Paul said people had “no right to have children” but only “responsibilities”.

The truth hurts, but it doesn’t do to shy away from it.

Mr Stringer said people should not automatically equate marriage with stability and added: “Telling young people whether they should marry or not doesn’t help — it’s patronising irrelevance.”

Granted, marriage isn’t a panacea, but the statistics speak for themselves. And whilst children can be successfully brought up in family units of all shapes and sizes, I think there’s still a lot to be said for the conventional structure.

But regardless of your views on marriage or how best to bring up children, anything which gets potential parents to stop and think for an extra second about all that’s entailed in parenthood can be no bad thing.

Sir Paul made his comments after the Marriage Foundation think-tank published research suggesting children born out of wedlock were twice as likely to suffer a family break-up.

And official figures show the proportion of children born to unmarried mothers in England and Wales reached a record 47.5 per cent last year.

Sir Paul was reported as saying: “There is this idea out there that it doesn’t make any difference whether you cohabit or marry. No it doesn’t — except that one tends to last and the other tends not to last.”

He went on: “If your relationship is not stable enough to cope with children you should not have them. You have a responsibility — you have no right to have children, you only have responsibilities if you have them.”

Well said that man.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

‘Spike Away’ vest turns commuters into hazardous porcupines

From the Huffington Post 04/12/13:

Sick of your face being shmooshed into someone's armpit? Your head being used as a book rest? Feeling violated before you've even got into work?

Err, yes, yes and yes.  On a daily basis.

Cramped commuters of the world rejoice, a young designer has come up with the perfect solution.

clip_image001

Siew Ming Cheng has evidently had enough of rush hour on the Singapore subway.

Those space-invading commuters have brushed up against, knocked and pushed her one too many times, and now the young creative is declaring war on space snatchers with special body armour: the Spike Away vest.

Explaining her idea she said: "A quick brainstorming leads to a everyday situation. Trains are usually crowded during peak hours. Everybody will push each other to try and get onto the train.

"How can I protect my personal space? The idea was then conceived. 'What if I wear a vest that is full of spikes?'"

Yikes. That really could have someone’s eye out!  Just look at the reaction of the chap on the left. Pictures really do tell a thousand words.

Plus, wouldn’t it make it tricky to wear back-pack or other shoulder bag?

Quirky though it is, I fear the Spike Away vest may never make it past the ‘proof of concept’ stage. Every time it’s used, the wearer is potentially inviting dozens of personal injury claims being brought against them, not to mention the risk of being dragged off the train or bus head first and given a thorough beating.  Have you seen some of the people travelling on the tube?!?

And whilst it might help to encourage some people to keep their distance, the vest doesn’t appear to offer much protection from opportunistic gropers on the prowl.  ‘Bum grazing’, as I’ve heard it called, is rife on on the underground!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Why law schools should teach humility

Because otherwise they might churn out graduates capable off this type of nauseating display of pomposity.

Pompous Law Student Letter

I’m assuming it’s a law student in private accommodation. Please don’t tell me it’s a trainee solicitor!

The full, painful text is as follows:

Dear Neighbours,

My name is [blank] and I live in Flat [blank] on the [blank] floor of [blank]. As Saturday is St Andrew’s Day, I will be throwing a small party at my place to celebrate the day with friends. My guests are expected to arrive soon after 20:00 and leave before midnight. I will do my best to keep the noise levels down, but, as accommodating to everyone’s idea of what noise levels should be during a party is not always possible, I apologise in advance for any disruption that may be caused.

If any problem arises during that time (or if you think I should be kicked out of the block straight away), please do not hesitate to:

(a) Contact me directly on [blank] as I will do my best to solve it immediately.

(b) (i) As people expected to turn up are lawyers-to-be and trainee solicitors, I suggest you don’t try calling the police, since they probably know the law better than you.

(ii) If you are a lawyer, please refer to section (a) above.

Knowing many of you are going away for Christmas, I would also like to seize the opportunity and wish you a very Merry Christmas, full of love, family memories and understanding (noisy neighbours included).

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Best Regards

[Blank]

Seize the opportunity and wish them a merry Christmas?  I bet the neighbours in question want to seize him or her by the neck!  (Something tells me it was a male who wrote this – and probably a male with ‘small man syndrome’.)

The clincher for me, though, was the capitalised R in “Best Regards”.

Found here.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

PCSO takes a tumble and sues

slipped over injury claim

From the Metro 29/11/13:

A police community support officer (PCSO) is suing the owner of a derelict school building after she tripped and injured her knee while responding to a report of a break-in.

Pauline Harrison, 53, […] sent a letter to landowner Lightflask Ltd alleging that the firm failed to display warning signs outside the property […].

She says she suffered ‘soft tissue damage’ to her right knee when she fell over the 3ft high wooden fence in 2009 and is also claiming for a £14 prescription and £102 physiotherapy charge.

That’s not a prescription for spectacles, right? Just kidding. But perhaps the biggest question in all this is exactly how a person is able to fall over a 3 foot high fence in the first place. That’s quite an achievement.

Merseyside Police said they did not approve of the claim but that it was a private matter for the individual.

A spokesman for Lightflask Ltd has warned that this could set a dangerous precedent.

‘I don’t think people expect to be sued by somebody working in the police who claims injury in the course of their duties,’ he said.

People rarely expect to be sued, period. But it happens. Whether it should routinely happen in these types of situations brings public policy considerations into play.

‘Surely the nature of the job carries inherent risks and one obviously grows concerned that in this case the claimant is a community support officer and there must be a worry that these support officers may not be trained to the level of a regular officer.

Actually, I’m not sure that’s the point at all. The main point of the story, I think, isn’t so much that it involves a PCSO rather than a fully-fledged PC, but rather that this highlights the fact our emergency services are being increasingly litigious. But how concerned should we be about police officers regularly bringing claims against landowners from slip and trip injuries obtained whilst carrying out their routine duties? How many of these types of claims are succeeding? Is the law sufficiently sophisticated to properly consider the circumstances in which these injuries are occurring so as to give rise to a just result?

The police (and that includes PCSOs) are there to protect the public and enforce law and order. Like all emergency services, they are charged with responding to emergency calls in dangerous and difficult circumstances. Being in the line of danger unfortunately goes with the territory.

What’s more, it’s reasonable to expect police officers, including PCSOs, to be sure-footed, observant and capable of exercising common sense. But the scope of that expectation is necessarily affected by the prevailing circumstances in which that officer finds themselves. Clearly it’s vital for any claim brought by a member of the emergency services relating to an injury suffered whilst on duty to be assessed in the full and proper context in which it occurred. This means keeping the circumstances of their coming onto the land in question very much top of mind.

However, I think the law is already flexible enough to manage these difficult situations. Whilst landowners generally owe people who come onto their property (invited or otherwise) a duty of care to protect them from personal injury, that protection is subject to the rigours of the legal test for negligence. That test essentially considers whether a duty of care is owed to the claimant in the circumstances, whether that duty was breached, whether there was a causal connection between that breach occurring and the injury complained of, and whether the foreseeability of that injury occurring as a result of the breach was too remote.

In point of fact, in Higgs v Foster [2004] EWCA Civ 843, where a police officer in pursuit of a suspected criminal fell into an uncovered inspection pit at night, it was held that the landowner owed no duty of care to trespassers in the circumstances. This was because the landowner did not know, nor did they have reasonable grounds for believing, that a trespasser would enter his premises and come into the vicinity of the pit.

What’s more, in Donoghue v Folkestone Properties Ltd [2003] EWCA Civ 231, it was held that the duty owed to trespassers must be determined by reference to the circumstances at the time the alleged breach of duty resulted in the injury to the trespasser. For instance, injuries flowing from a police officer forcing his way onto property in hot pursuit of a suspected criminal might be treated very differently to injuries suffered by the same officer who carefully made his way onto open land, uninhibited by walls or fences, to carry out routine enquiries. Potentially, applying the requisite legal tests for negligence claims in both of these different scenarios could give two very different results. Put simply, the law is readily able to take proper account of the context in which claims arise.

So maybe these fears of claim-happy cops is nothing more than media scaremongering after all.

‘I think the public seem to be at risk of being on the receiving end of litigation every time an officer does his or her duty and more so if that officer is not full-time or has not received the level of training commensurate with the role.’

I don’t know the full facts here, but it seems strange to suggest that a greater level of training would have prevented this; I’m not sure that ‘climb carefully over 3 foot high fences rather than fall over them’ is a lesson offered at Hendon Police College.

Earlier this year, PC Kelly Jones dropped a compensation claim that she was seeking from a Norfolk garage after she tripped on a kerb.

I covered the original story on Law Actually; let’s overlook the fact I hadn’t subsequently heard the claim had been dropped.

Ahem.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Stupid article headline of the week goes to…

the Guardian.Screenshot - Ban Smoking on Hospital Property
I understand the need for the media to come up with provocative, inflammatory headlines to drive readership, but when it crosses over into stupidity, it rankles a bit.

Yes, there are key human rights issues involved in deciding whether or not to let people smoke on hospital premises.  Yes, there might even be some limited merit to the argument that the short-term benefits of an occasional fag in stressful situations might somewhat mitigate the long term adverse effects.

But let’s not kid ourselves: the consequences to smokers’ health and, more perhaps more importantly, the very real harm caused by passive smoking (yes – even outside), far outweigh those considerations.

Sometimes people need more stick than carrot when it comes to helping themselves. I think this is one of those occasions.

Friday, 29 November 2013

People Love a Bargain - Black Friday Attacks

BlackFriday Chaos (Small)From the Independent 29/11/13:

Black Friday, the American holiday dedicated to discount shopping, seems to have been successfully imported into the UK, bringing with it both crowds and chaos.

[…] Asda seems to have been particularly affected by the frenzy, with multiple reports of hospitalizations and injuries from Asda stores across the UK.

In an Asda store in west Belfast there were claims that heavily pregnant woman had been pushed and shoved and pensioners had been knocked to the ground [with one reportedly sustaining a broken arm in the process].

"It was just a free-for-all. It was frightening," said one woman who witnessed the scenes at the Westwood Centre. "People were getting trailed to the ground. [Getting what to the ground?] People were arguing with people. [At least they weren’t trying to argue with inanimate objects then!] Two of my friends were injured."

The woman claimed her friend was kicked in the stomach by a shopper trying to take a TV from her.

Similar reports have emerged from stores in Liverpool and Bristol, with eyewitnesses reporting in the latter store that a man had to be restrained by security guards after becoming annoyed that he could only buy a single TV.

Only on Bristolian could start a fight trying to purchase a TV!

I’m certainly not excusing the generally loutish behaviour seen during ‘Black Friday’ but, let’s face it, shopping is stressful. Christmas is more stressful still. Combine them both together (and add in herd instinct and small-man-syndrome) and you’ve got a potentially dangerous mixture. The January sales are bad enough, but after Christmas shopping is for fun; before Christmas, lives depend on it.

There’s simply no escaping from the fact that people love a bargain and when there’s the prospect of losing out on a good deal, people act irrationally. Heck, some would kill to get 40% off of a TV (or at least start a stampede).

Sadly, I think Black Friday is here to stay. Clearly the safety of customers is going to be an important consideration as the phenomenon grows even bigger. As I’m fond of saying, liability is never far away, and shops are going to have to start taking these risks seriously if they’re to avoid a wave of costly litigation.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for a documentary ‘Police, Camera, Action’ style which compiles all the CCTV footage showing customer scrums in supermarkets and shopping malls up and down the country on Black Friday. No doubt it would be voiced-over by a 20-something Northerner muttering an endless stream of utterly trite comments – as is the preference for narrators on TV shows at the moment.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been a bit of a sucker for a bargain this year, albeit from the relative safety of my office chair. Amazon have had a field day today (and that’s just down to me). Still, if you can’t spend of a bit of money at this time of year, when can you?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Open plan offices were devised by Satan after all

open plan shirkingFrom the Guardian (Oliver Burkeman’s Blog) 18/11/13:

In case you still needed persuading that open-plan offices were devised by Satan himself in one of the deepest caverns of hell, the Harvard Business Review delves into new research showing just how frustrating people find them – and just how paltry, on the other side of the scale, are the benefits they bring. [The most bothersome aspect of open plan offices appears to be] a “lack of sound privacy” – hearing other people’s conversations, and perhaps equally crucially, knowing that other people can hear yours.

We already know that open-plan offices have been associated with less persistence at challenging tasks, lower motivation, higher stress and blood pressure, and more. But Kim and Dear’s work, published in the December 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, puts paid to any suggestion that the benefits of easy communication between workers – effortless exchange of information, useful chance conversations sparking new ideas – outweighs these irritations.

It’s difficult for me to remain restrained on this topic. I don’t just dislike large open-plan offices – I absolutely can’t stand them! Employers’ faith in the supposed benefits of them is absolutely misplaced.

It’s difficult to imagine creating a more unproductive environment. I think it’s very possible that many employers choose to operate open plan offices because of convention and nothing else. Doors are seen as crippling barriers which fatally inhibit the flow in knowledge and productivity throughout the office. Strangely, the last time I checked, doors were designed for people to walk through them.

The downsides of open plan offices far outweigh any benefits. Everyone is less productive as a result of the constant breaks in concentration via endless interruptions, inane chatter and the frankly bizarre desk habits of some of our closest and most despised colleagues. Everybody must surely see that open plan offices aren’t efficient. So why aren’t we doing something about it?

It’s not as though they can be relied on to help keep shirkers in check. Employees inclined to shirk will always find a way to do so whether it’s behind a closed door, a flimsy and futile office partition or anywhere else.

Why can’t society embrace common sense and return to more conventional offices?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

UK Drink Driving Law: Is Enough Done To Curb Deaths?

Guest PostDrink Drive DeathsWith the Christmas period quickly approaching, police forces all over the country step up their efforts to fight drink driving over concerns that too much enjoyment of the festive period (and all it brings) will inevitably lead to a rise in the crime. They’re not wrong to be concerned either – according to the Department for Transport, while deaths caused by drink driving have had a trend of steady decline in the last thirty years, last year’s statistics showed a rise of almost 30%.

It comes as no surprise, then, that there have been consistent calls this past year for tougher laws and regulations against a variety of driving offences – whether it’s drug/drink driving, or just using a mobile phone. There are plans to introduce stricter ‘drug driving’ laws next year (with harsher sentencing), Scotland plans to cut their limit by almost 50% and a victim’s sister has handed a petition to Downing Street calling for an immediate ban for those arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

A Steady Drop and a Sudden Rise: What’s Behind the Increase?
The RAC’s David Bizley has called these rises, which were announced earlier this year, a ‘call for concern’, and he’d be right to do so – while figures have shown a general decline since records began in 1979 (from 1,640 a year down to just 230 in 2011), last year’s figures showed a one of the first rise in almost a decade.

The reasons behind the rise are unclear, and it’s still lower than the figures from 2009 (as well as all years previously), but the suggestion seems to be that limits need changing and more effective enforcement of existing law is needed – both too high a limit and ineffective policing could be behind the cause.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) has therefore called for a drop in the drink drive limit (recommendations have suggested lowering to 50mg per 100ml of blood) and for the government to re-evaluate their anti-drink driving campaigns, as well as to invest in tighter policing.

The Line between Lower Limits & Stricter Bans
A terrible case was brought to our attention once again recently as the sister of a student, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2010, submitted her 13,000-signature petition calling for a drastic change in law. As it stands, by default, those arrested and awaiting trial for a drink-related driving offence are still able to drive – a ban is to be handed down by a sentencing judge in the event a guilty plea is entered or guilty verdict is reached.

Of course, there are always going to be exception circumstances (like repeat offenders, High Risk Offenders, incredibly serious incidents etc.) and in these instances judges do have the power to ban anyone on bail. The Ministry of Justice have argued that, as a result, the powers already exist for judges to ban drivers in these most serious of cases.

A much lower drink driving limit could help to curb deaths, as well as result in harsher sentencing for what seems like a serious case but is not considered as such by law. As it stands, the UK’s alcohol limit is 80mg per 100ml of blood – while there are no plans for changes across the board, Scotland is going through legislative changes cut this by almost 40% to 50mg.

Automatic Bans – Not Considering ‘Special Reasons’?
However, a blanket ban could have adverse effects on either those who might later be found innocent, or those who are successfully able to argue exceptional hardship to appeal a ban. There are also special reasons to consider including drinks spiked/laced, or driving in an emergency (eg. if you’re fleeing from very real threats to your life).

Of course, incidents like the one above are absolutely awful, and shouldn’t ever happen – the man found guilty of causing the teenager’s death was, quite rightly, sentenced to four years in jail for death by careless driving. He was also almost twice the legal alcohol limit, so it’s perfectly understandable why the victim’s family felt the defendant’s ability to continue to drive while awaiting trial was ‘totally disrespectful’.

Nonetheless, the law has a duty to be fair and judges need the power to be able to make their own judgements (which is why the MoJ argue the powers already exist) – the appropriate line is a difficult one to find, especially with cases such as this and figures revealing a rise in deaths.

This guest post was written by Tom McShane – blogger and writer for drink driving specialists McMillans Drink Driving Solicitors. While all drink driving offences should be taken seriously, Tom hopes new legislation changes won’t fall down hard on innocent drivers or defendable cases.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Most Common Causes of Car Accidents

Guest Postfatal car accident

Driving is a dangerous activity as not only does it have the potential to affect your safety, but it can also affect the passengers in your car, other drivers and their passengers, and any pedestrians. There are many causes for car accidents, but there are three main ones that are extremely worrying as they all come back to driver behaviour.

Driving whilst distracted, driving at high speeds and driving whilst tired are the main perpetrators. With a few adjustments, the chance of being involved in a car accident can be drastically reduced.

Driving Whilst Distracted
Driving whilst distracted can be extremely dangerous as it means you do not know what is going on around you. If a child runs in front of the road, you may not have been paying attention to notice them in time or, if you did, you may have slammed on the brakes or swerved and not noticed the car behind you or the cyclist on the other side of the road.

Being aware of what is going on around you at all times is important whilst driving. You need to be constantly checking for potential hazards and preparing for them early on. Distracted driving could be a result of changing or playing with music or the radio, using your phone whilst driving, eating or even dealing with children in the passenger seats.

Driving At High Speeds
The higher the speed you are driving at, the less reaction time you have. This could be a change in traffic, an obstacle you need to avoid or a change in road conditions. This means that an accident you could of potential avoided, could cause serious injury or even be fatal.

Due to the fact that you are driving at such a high speed the impact of your car on a person or piece of property is likely to have more damaging effects than if you were driving at a much slower speed. By reducing your speed and sticking to the designated limits, you could potentially save your life as well as the people around you.

Driving Whilst Tired
Driving should have your full attention, and that is something you can’t give if you are driving whilst tired. This is because your reaction times are much slower and you may not notice things that you may have done if you were fully alert. You are much more likely to miss road signs and any warnings indicating conditions up ahead, meaning that you will be unprepared for them.

You need to be able to react quickly to sudden changes in traffic and road conditions in case things happen quickly, especially on high speed areas such as motorways. If you are planning a long car journey, try swapping over every so often so that one person can get a bit of rest in between. Try to avoid travelling at night but, if it’s necessary, get a good night’s sleep the night before or take a nap before you leave; if you are too tired to carry on, stop off at a service station to take a break.

By making these minor changes to your driving you are less likely to be involved in a car accident that could be your fault. You do, however, still need to watch out for other drivers as they may not all be following such dependable driving conventions.

This post was written by Ekta Mair who, after being involved in a car accident that wasn’t her fault, wanted to provide some safer driving tips to other drivers. She sustained injuries from her accident, so used Claim Advance to ensure she received the compensation she deserved.

Monday, 11 November 2013

How Litigation Funding Aids The UK's Legal System

Sponsored Post

As the legal profession and wider society continues to adapt to the Jackson Reforms, this infographic from Vannin Capital highlights the important role that third party litigation funding plays in the civil justice system.

How Litigation Funding Aids The UK's Legal System - An infographic by the team at Vannin Capital

Friday, 8 November 2013

Co-op legal scales back training contract targets

cooperative legal services

From Roll on Friday 18/10/13:

Co-operative Legal Services has admitted that it will be unable to reach its target of providing 100 training contracts a year.

Yikes. That’s a lot of training contracts (suddenly not happening).

CLS, which is the legal branch of the Co-operative, announced only last year that it planned to take on more trainees than any Magic Circle firm: 100 a year within just five years. But students who signed up for expensive law courses thinking that this heralded an upturn in the grad rec market should have saved their money.

Whoa. Hang on a second. Since when did the average law student become the proverbial moron in a hurry (actually, don’t answer that!)? Any law student (current or prospective) should have their eyes wide open when considering their career and they shouldn’t be mollycoddled or forgiven for naiveté if they plan on a career in law thinking it’s still the gravy-train it once was. Let’s face it: there’s plenty of doom-mongering and tales of unemployment woes out there for any ignorance to be utterly inexcusable.

Let’s stop treating law students like morons. They know what the chances are of their careers panning out perfectly (or they damn well should do). Give them a little credit.

The Lawyer reports that after a bad year for the Co-op, only ten trainees were taken on in this year's intake.

A spokeswoman for the Co-op told RollOnFriday that said that the numbers might increase in future, but "we are focussing our efforts on our learning academy". In other words, filling its ranks with loads of cheap paralegals rather than investing in training the solicitors of the future.

Sadly, that seems to be what every law firm is doing at the moment. Pity the poor trainee solicitor, I say. They’re a dying breed (soon to be made extinct if we carry on at this rate).

I once overhead someone say that a paralegal is to a solicitor what a processed fish stick is to caviar. I’m not going to attribute that statement to anybody in particular, but they know who they are. (I’m sure they go home and cry themselves to sleep at night.) Whilst no one can doubt the value, skills and knowledge of paralegals out there, I find the notion of a mass ousting of solicitors in favour of an army of paralegals a rather worrying prospect.

At any rate, if this paralegal invasion continues at its current rate, the whole structure of the profession is going to quickly change beyond all recognition. It follows, then, that legal education, qualifications and vocational training is going to need a massive re-think before it’s too late.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Judge, a penis pump and an unfortunately-placed banner ad

From Roll on Friday 25/10/13:

A judge who was jailed for using a penis pump in court has had his pension stopped.

American County Court judge Donald D. Thompson was convicted of indecent exposure in 2006 after being caught using the device under his robes while presiding on the bench. He served 20 months in an Oklahoma prison - hardly a walk in the park for anyone, but presumably particularly grim for a judge with an enhanced penis.

Ahem.

Rather than make any wisecracks at this story (believe me, it was quite tough to refrain from doing so), I’ll simply post a screenshot that I took when I first saw the story.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Screenshot_2013-10-25-20-17-25 3

It looks like the well-endowed LexisNexis has lucked-in on some unexpected extra publicity.

I guess some legal publishers fall on their feet and others just don’t.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Tubby Trick-or-Treaters Refused Treats on Weight Grounds

Trick or TreatFrom Think Progress.org 30/10/13:

In North Dakota, one woman is taking the issue of childhood obesity into her own hands. If any of the trick-or-treaters that knock on her door this Halloween are “moderately obese” — at least according to her own standards — she plans to give them a letter explaining why they shouldn’t be eating candy.

Trick or Treat refusal letter

In an interview with local radio station […] the woman explained that she’s just trying to help encourage healthier habits. “I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight… I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ’cause all the other kids are doing it,” she said.

How about simply giving kids healthy treats, such as fruit or a nut/seed/fruit mix?  That seems a far better option than singling the tubbier trick-or-treaters out for ridicule.  Discrimination is hardly going to help someone come to terms with any weight issues they might be experiencing.  And let’s remember: one person’s idea of ‘tubby’ might be another’s ‘scrawny’.

Or if a healthy food choice is still too risky (there is a lot of natural sugar in fruit after all), what about just not answering the door when trick-or-treaters call?  Aren’t most adults meant to spend 31 October hidden behind the sofa, pretending to be out, so as to avoid pesky trick-or-treaters?

For what it’s worth, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters this year – none called after we arrived home from work at any rate.  After 5 or so years of being kept at the back of our store cupboard, the dreaded tub of pear drops we habitually dish out to trick-or-treaters as a punishment has finally been discarded.  After spending such a long time in storage, age had taken its toll and the contents of the tub had congealed into one big super-sweet.  The ants and other insects are going to love consuming that candy monstrosity now it’s been deposited into our composter.

All part of the circle of life, I guess.

Monday, 28 October 2013

HSE uses intervention powers to inspect workplace cooling towers

Sponsored Post

legionnaires' diseaseIn recognition of the risk of Legionnaires’ disease associated with workplace cooling systems, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) plans to inspect around 5000 sites with such systems over the next 6 months.

A cooling system may consist of a cooling tower, evaporative condenser or other cooling element, together with the associated pipe work, heat exchanger, pumps, supply tanks and pre-treatment equipment.

Legionellosis is the collective name given to the pneumonia-like illness caused by legionella bacteria. This includes the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the less serious Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. However, people over 45 years of age, smokers, heavy drinkers, those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease and anyone with an impaired immune system are at the greatest risk.

The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers and evaporative condensers.

There is a reasonably foreseeable legionella risk in water systems which:

  • have a water temperature between 20–45 °C
  • creates and/or spreads breathable droplets, e.g. aerosol created by a cooling tower, or water outlets
  • stores and/or re-circulates water
  • is likely to contain a source of food for the organism, e.g. presence of sludge, scale or fouling

As a result, the conditions found in workplace cooling systems can allow naturally-present bacteria to grow considerably, thereby increasing the risks of Legionnaires ’ disease. Consequently, it’s vital to take precautions to manage the risk of a serious bacteria outbreak developing.

The HSE’s intervention programme has come about as a result of concerning numbers of Legionnaire’s outbreaks over the last decade. Fostering greater awareness of the risk associated with workplace cooling systems is very much at the heart of the programme.

The HSE advises workplaces which have cooling towers or evaporative condensers to should put in place suitable measures mitigate the risk of legionella. Information on the way to manage these risk are described in Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems.

This document outlines the requirements for all workplaces to follow in respect of their cooling systems which present a Legionnaires’ risk. It includes information on the commissioning, operation and maintenance of cooling systems, what steps can be taken to combat the presence of high levels of legionella bacteria, and details suitable monitoring systems and processes which can be deployed.

Remedial measures taken to guard against Legionnaire’s disease do not necessarily mean the relevant cooling system must be replaced.  For example, Covac's Tank Relining allows for an existing water tank to remain in use and brings with it the assurance of the Covac brand.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Buttock-shuffle claimant gotcha’d via covert surveillance

buttock-shuffle pensionerFrom the London Evening Standard 24/10/13:

A grandmother who claimed she could only shuffle down stairs on her buttocks managed to trick a hospital consultant as part of a “fraudulent” bid to claim more than £750,000 in compensation, the High Court heard.

Yowsa!

Barbara Fari, a mother of 13 who is in her sixties, sued Homes for Haringey on the grounds her life had been “drastically altered” after she tripped on a paving stone in Hornsey in May 2008 and hurt her knee.

You’ve got to watch out for those paving stones (particularly the uneven ones)! Of course, it will help your claim considerably if you actually trip over the ruddy thing and injure yourself as a result.

The council-run organisation initially admitted liability and offered to settle. But it changed its mind after Mrs Fari said she needed round-the- clock care because she could no longer walk unaided and could only climb stairs by shuffling up and down on her buttocks and lodged a claim for more than £750,000.

That claim was struck out at Central London County Court last October after Mrs Fari was caught on camera moving around without help during a secret surveillance operation.

That makes a change. Alleged cases of benefits fraud (or fraudulent civil claims) are usually uncovered via evidence of the relevant person dancing drunkenly on a table or twerking like the world isn’t watching - Miley Cyrus style.Go-go dancer on a tablemiley cyrus twerking

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Requisite photos of drunken table-dancing & Miley Cyrus twerking … as if you needed reminding!

The judge rejected Mrs Fari’s right to any payout and referred her case to the High Court for abuse of process.

That really will give Mrs Fari a reason to clench her buttocks.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Jimmy Savile Zombie pulled from Amazon

From Breaking News.ie 21/10/2013:

Yes, that's right - online retail giant Amazon have been forced to withdraw a Jimmy Savile Zombie Halloween costume from sale after a flurry of complaints.

[…] Jimmy Savile, the late UK TV presenter alleged to have sexually abused hundreds of young girls in the 1970s and 80s.

The costume, which had been available on Amazon for £14.99, included a metallic blue shell suit, pink glasses, medallion, fake cigar, platinum wig, face paint and a bottle of blood.

It was described on the site as "perfect for bad taste parties, dead celebrities and Halloween".

However the outfit was heavily criticised by children's charities and is now listed as 'currently unavailable'.

SavilleAfter all of the revelations of 2012, I think it would take a ‘special’ kind of person to wear a Jimmy Savile outfit – irrespective of the occasion. In fact, anybody who ever felt the need to dress up as him was probably making some kind of cry for help.

While I guess a human rights argument can always be wheeled out to support the notion that people should have free choice as to what they wear in public, there’s a broader public policy argument at play too. Quite aside from that, selling a Savile outfit is a PR disaster for any business and, for individuals, I can’t think of a graver example of poor taste. Actually, those words don’t even come close.

Inevitably, though, you’ve got to think there’ll come a time when the concept of a Savile costume becomes less repugnant, notwithstanding the fact his unique (read: warped) style of fashion was never exactly in vogue.  If people are now in the habit of attending fancy dress parties styled as Adolph Hitler, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the Jimmy Savile lookalikes.

Now that’s a disturbing thought.  Halloween is scary enough without that prospect.

Monday, 21 October 2013

LLB students – ignore your first year at your peril

Sponsored Poststatutory interpretationThe early stages of your university career can often seem unimportant at the time, but the content covered in the early months can be just as important as that dealt with in years two and three. While it won’t count towards your degree classification directly, that early ground can be vital in giving you a good grasp of broader legal principles which can help make studying law that much more manageable. And what’s more, those early lessons have a habit of proving unexpectedly useful (yes, even in practice), and usually it’s when you least expect it.

For the majority of law students, the first few weeks at university are spent in an alcohol-fuelled haze as they explore their newly-found sense of independence having finally flown the family nest. As freshers’ week gives way to lectures, seminars and the onset of academic work, the majority of first year students keep having a good time firmly at the top of their list of priorities.

While any student’s university experience should be much broader and richer than merely studying, it’s important to balance those extra-curricular activities with those that are definitely on the curriculum. All too often, that first year sets the tone for the rest of your degree and if you spend that year in a drunken stupor, you might never fully recover.

Speaking from experience, I was a (relative) mess during the early weeks of my first semester, but by the time the first reading week had come round (in early November) I was beginning to see the need to apply myself. By the time we’d reached Christmas, I’d definitely hit my stride and never looked back. I count myself as one of the lucky ones as I know not everyone’s university career maps out in the same way.

Inevitably, at some point in each law student’s first year, they’re required to study a module concerning the court hierarchy system, the doctrine of precedent and aids to statutory interpretation. All LLB courses tend to have at least one ‘filler’ module in which all miscellaneous content from the first year diet is tossed in for fear of finding no other place for it on the timetable. For me, that module was rather disappointingly entitled ‘National and International Legal Systems’. I know what you’re thinking – a very safe choice.

As part of the focus on our domestic legal system, I remember covering aids to statutory interpretation and construction. Of course, the principles are very similar throughout commonwealth countries (statutory interpretation in Australia, for example, is much the same as in England and Wales).

I recall paying rather scant attention to that segment of the lecture and treating the preparation for a subsequent seminar with even greater disdain. I really couldn’t see that I’d need to have frequent recourse to the literal rule, the golden rule, the mischief rule or the purposive approach. Equally, the fact I was familiar with the canons of noscitur a sociis, ejusdem generis and expressio unius est exclusio alterius hardly made my heart skip a beat. In short, I short-sightedly chalked it up to academic codswallop that would be of limited application in practice.

How wrong I was. On several occasions, those misleadingly hazy principles of statutory interpretation have been central to the advice given to a client.

You live and learn is very much the moral of the story.

There’s no need to wait to see the folly of your hot-headed student ways; it’s far better to appreciate the full value of the material being taught at the time. The LLB is a hectic course, so its’ safe to assume that anything on the syllabus is on there for a good reason.

So, take it from someone who learnt the hard way; those rather broad, all-encompassing lessons that are covered in the first year are vital in helping you manage the challenges of the rest of your degree and indeed later on in practice.

Who was it said that light dawns slowly over the whole?

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Nope, it’s not coffee: students’ laundry defaced by ‘poopetrator’

From the Huffington Post 03/10/13:

Yale University students are being terrorized by what some students are referring to as a "poopetrator."

The university is tightening security in the residence halls in response to someone defecating in the laundry room of an on campus residence, the New Haven Register reports (emphasis added).

Holy cow! You don’t see that on the Ariel ad, do you? I guess if the blonde had been studying at Yale, she’d be asking mummy to send down an extra box of detergent. Ahem.

Ariel adWhat is that? Coffee, right? Wrong. Very wrong!

The Yale Daily News writes that "it took the physical delivery of the excrement to the Saybrook Master's Office to catch administrators' attention." At least four such incidents have occurred in the laundry room of the Saybrook College.

[Saybrook College advised] students not to leave their laundry unattended, [and explained] the affected machines have been thoroughly disinfected, and [the college were] actively seeking information about who the perpetrator might be.

And here’s a further piece of advice to students using laundrettes whilst living in halls: make damned sure you check the contents of the powder drawer before you switch the washing machine on!

Yale sophomore Attila Yaman told WTNH students are taking turns keeping watch over their laundry to ensure the "poopetrator" is not able to soil their garments.

Lucy Fleming, another sophomore, summed up her feelings to the Daily News thusly: "I simultaneously wanted to throw up, cry and punch someone."

Get used to it, Lucy. That’s kind of what being a student feels like most of the time.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Blogging in a barren landscape

lonely blogger

No comments are the ‘new normal’.

The diversity of social media options now available means that people don’t have the attention span, time or energy to typically comment on blogs.

As the habits of internet users have changed, the modern blogger has had to adjust to the changing landscape and not get too downbeat at the tumbleweed blowing past.

I remember in the early days of blogging, over on my F1 blog, I was able to garner a few commenting readers quite quickly.

At Law Actually, I’d been blogging about 6 months when a friendly reader called Law Minx introduced herself via the comments feed. As 2008 dawned, the law student/graduate blawgosphere quickly established itself and the rest, as they say, is history. Looking back, I can honestly say that I was privileged to have experienced and been involved with that community.

Speaking of history, that’s exactly what that rich, vibrant community of bloggers is now. For a whole host of reasons, the blawgosphere has slowly receded to the point of extinction and I’ve long given up on any kind of revival. That’s not to say I don’t get readers (visitor counts are very healthy year on year). I get spam comments by the bucketload, but I reject all such comments without hesitation. Let’s not kid ourselves (ahem – myself) here – blogging is very different now compared with just 3 years ago.

Throughout 2011, it became very clear to me that the community was disappearing and blogging, in the short term at least, would be a more lonely business. That was probably the most difficult period. It was a time when I had to try and adjust to receiving very few comments on my posts and the lack of encouragement from reading the content produced by other like-minded folk.

I suppose lesson number 1 of blogging in a barren landscape is to acknowledge the lack of two-way conversation via your blog, accept it and just get the hell on with things. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had to adjust my mind set and expectations to account for this.

For me, comments were important but not vital. Even without that two-way conversation, I like the ‘voice’ that blogging provides me with and I find the process of producing content strangely satisfying. I’m not too sure how cathartic blogging is for me, but the sense of satisfaction is beyond doubt.

In a comment-less world, it’s more important than ever to blog for fun and to choose to blog about topics which interest YOU rather than trying to second guess what your readers want. My approach has been the classic pebbledash one: throw up a bit of everything and see what sticks. That kind of approach has also been useful to see what kind of content I enjoy producing.

The style of my posts has had to change too. Where I could once could ask questions and expect an answer, I’m resigned to the fact that those days are long gone.

I tend to create fewer of my own graphics now and rely instead on stock images. That frustrates me sometimes (when I stop to think about it) as I often found the creation of the customised graphics one of the most satisfying parts of blogging. A lack of time has sadly curtailed my ability to frolic about in Photoshop - at least for now.

I really should make more effort with Twitter. I’ve been an on-off user of it since January 2007, but despite keeping my account private and being very selective in who I follow, I’ve always found the background ‘noise’ on there often too much to bear. I seem to spend half my time weeding out and blocking morons who swamp me with follow requests which is even less fun than it sounds.

As a blogger, you need to adjust to a new non-commenting readership. I’ve noticed an upturn in the number of people who no longer comment on mainstream news sites and prefer instead to post a shortened URL of the story with a few words of their own on the matter via twitter. For all the possibilities of communication that twitter has opened up, the harm it’s done to blogging is unforgivable.

But it would be too easy to blame them. Clearly that’s what modern web users want so we’re stuck with it for now.

In the meantime, I intend to carry on blogging albeit with a reluctant acceptance that the blogosphere isn't what it once was.

Oh well.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Is Placing Defibrillators In Public Places Legally Right?

Guest Postdefibrillator liabilityEvery year, around 270,000 people suffer a heart attack in the UK, many of these sudden and unprovoked. Being able to act quickly, safely and most importantly, effectively, can quite literally be the difference between life and death.

Keeping calm and collected is key to not becoming overwhelmed, and with sufficient training, first aiders are taught how to keep calm under pressure and follow the required procedures. In the business world, detailed and well-rehearsed strategies are put in place to ensure that should the event of a sudden cardiac arrest, a trained first aider has the equipment and know-how to act accordingly.

How Would You Act?
However, whilst it’s all well and good distributing defibrillators in commercial institutes, can you really do the same in public places? In any business there will be an individual or team of first aiders who are trained in defibrillator application, but can you really expect a member of the public to carry out such a task?

In February 2007, the National Defibrillator Programme placed and distributed defibrillators in public locations across the UK. This was implemented so that members of the public could act quicker thanks to closer access to life-saving Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). But is it right to entrust the unknown skills of the public with the responsibility of saving someone’s life?

The Legalities
No-one likes legal red tape and in such a situation when someone’s life is at risk, many could be hesitant to take responsibility. What if something goes wrong? What if you don’t follow the procedures? What if you’re held responsible? It’s easy to see how quickly things can escalate out of your control.

This is where the debate really begins to gain momentum. For members of the public that have not received formal AED training, the legal implications can be split into statutory rights - those imposed by parliament - and common law - century long laws - and it is this last point where potential liability can arise.

Could I Be At Fault?
The main legal loop that many people can become entangled in is liability and negligence. Acting to save someone’s life can fall on both the individual and the location. If an institution supplied an AED yet did not offer training on how to utilise it, they would be held accountable. Similarly, a non first-aider may not be expected to employ the standard care of a trained professional and so is unlikely to face a claim. There is no legal obligation to assist and individual in need of resuscitation providing they are not the cause.

It is this grey area that often sees family members, friends and indeed strangers unsure, liable and legally dwarfed by their human intentions. Emergencies require emergency action and in the face of a cardiac arrest, every minute that passes, the victim’s chance of survival decrease by 10%.

So What ‘s The Best Course Of Action?
The real answer quite simply falls into your own judgement. If you own a property that provides an AED in a public place, then ensure that a qualified individual is located nearby. Similarly, if you have previous first aid / Defibrillator training or you are confident at the chance of resuscitating the victim, then have faith in your actions.

Sudden Cardiac Arrests can happen anytime, anyplace so make sure you are prepared. Always recruit the expertise of a defibrillator or AED supplier should you have any question and make yourself aware of the laws, procedures and practices surrounding AED’s in the public domain.

Phil Warrington, a law student, looks at the debate surrounding the distribution of AED’s within the public sector and the legal implications that have come with it. For reputable and reliable AED’s and defibrillators, he recommends Defibrillators UK; the UK’s leading defibrillator and AED training provider.

Monday, 30 September 2013

New Personal Injury Law may drive up quality of care

Guest PostPersonal Injury lawEarlier this year there was a drastic change in the law concerning personal injury claims. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) was introduced in April 2013 and now represents a profound change in aspects of Legal Aid.. There are winners and losers with this new act but the reason it had to be done has a sound basis. It was basically to combat the many fraudulent claims being made in ‘crash for cash’ illegal groups who arrange ‘accidents’ just to claim and also the surprising amount of legal companies who were making money from this.

Before the New Act:
Previously a personal injury claim was done on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis and nobody could fail to notice the intense media advertisement of the companies handling these claims. If you were injured you would actually receive the full amount of compensation due with no personal cost at all. The solicitor handling your claim would rake back any costs involved, e.g. medical reports and expenses, fees from the court etc from the other party being claimed against – via their insurance cover.

After the April Act:
There is now tougher regulation and a ban on the ability for solicitors and claims management companies to handle any referral fees. Some rogue companies previously also took fees from customers just on a verbal basis without there being any written and agreed contract. This is now also banned.

The client now has to pay any of these additional fees out of their compensation amount awarded; they will be totally responsible for all their expenses.

The crucial part of this regulation is that if there is a dispute fees may be anything from just a few hundred pounds up to thousands. Any complex cases may even result in the personal injury claimant having to pay the defendants costs too. Consequently small claims have to have substantial and hard evidence of proof of accident to make sure that their claim is proven. Even so the problem has to be faced that the claimants costs may rise substantially and even wipe out the amount they are awarded completely. Good legal advice is therefore advisable before any claim is pursued.

So is this Act working?
In July the government reported that many Claims Management Companies have now shut down – and this is not just an odd few – it is hundreds! The Claims Management Regulation Unit (CMRU) released figures that proved the efficiency of the new Act. In March 2012 there were 2,435 registered companies handling personal injury claims. In June 2013 – only 2 months after the new Act was introduced, this number had reduced to only 1,700.

There are still mixed views on the eventual outcome of the new regulations and only time will tell as to whether they have achieved all their goals. However conclusively it has to be said that these measures are bound to have an effect on the ‘compensation culture’ which was becoming far too open to misuse. Ordinary people who are honest have been suffering the consequences of dishonest claims through a rise in their insurance costs. It is therefore definitely now advisable for anyone who feels they have a right to make a personal injury claim from an accident, to consult a solicitor first before contacting a Claims Management Company. The quality of advice honest claimants need can be now almost guaranteed to be of higher quality and the company handling the claim will necessarily take more care in their judgements and legal advice.

Pre-Approved Free Speech

Guest Postfree speech lawIt seems that around the United States, 1 out of every 6 major colleges have designated areas where students are "allowed" their Constitutional right for free speech. In these colleges, exercising your right to free speech requires a permission slip at least a couple of days in advance, as well as having the administration approve the contents of a student's speech.

A prime example of this hilarity recently took place at a California Junior College. As UCLA LAW Professor Stephen Bainbridge reported, “a student found his exercise of free speech shut down" on none other than Constitution day, quite possibly the worst and/or most ironic day of the year for a college to make such a bold restriction.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Law graduates lose out in the early salary stakes

Sponsored Post

Despite having a reputation for rewarding its professionals with high salaries, new research suggests that law may not be the most lucrative subject to study – at least in the early years following graduation. New research from the Higher Education Statistics Agency revealed that law graduates typically earn less than the average salary of their peers.

Indeed, even those graduating with degrees in social studies (long regarded – unfairly or otherwise – as being less demanding subjects compared with many traditional subjects) earn more than their counterparts who opted to study law. This is unlikely to be welcome news to current law students studying in London or elsewhere.

law graduate

Figures from the class of 2008/09 show that law graduates earned an average of £26,000 in November 2012, £1,500 less than the overall average of that year’s graduates. Social studies graduates earned an average of £3,000 more than their peers who studied law.[1]

On the flip side, however, law has one of the highest levels of full-time employment amongst its graduates of any subject.

Some 79% of law graduates are currently in full-time employment, compared with a total average of 72% for all graduates from 2008/09.[2]

Of course, that’s not to say that all law graduates are employed in legally-related jobs, let alone having secured training contracts or pupillages. Indeed, some estimates suggest that of total number of law graduates, as few as 10% - 15% go on to become practising solicitors.

Nevertheless, law has long been recognised as being a well-respected and worthwhile subject to study and one that equips its graduates with a vast array of useful, transferable skills that employers are anxious to see.

While the legal profession is undoubtedly changing, with fewer graduates going on to qualify as solicitors and barristers as firms develop a preference for armies of paralegals, law remains a solid choice. It also happens to be an exciting and challenging degree. Universities are also increasingly offering law courses which combine law with other disciplines such as Law and Management to provide even more diverse and specialised courses.

Potential law students should not be discouraged from studying law just because their first salary post graduation might not quite match their peers who studied other subjects. Adopting a longer-term view of the quality of career that law can offer, there are lots of far worse subjects out there.

[1] Story cited from the Law Gazette 09/09/13.
[2] Story cited from the Law Gazette 09/09/13.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Even lawyers need a break from the day job

relaxing lawyer comic

According to the ABA Technology Survey (which the Lawyerist blogged about here) only 41% of lawyers claim to read the terms of service for cloud computing services.

Note the words “claim to”. I think the percentage of lawyers who actually read the terms they claim to read is more likely to be 4.1%!  In my experience, lawyers are the least likely to read contract terms when purchasing things online for themselves.

And that applies to practising lawyers right through to those in academia!

After all, there’s only so much of that stuff that anyone can stomach. Everyone needs a break from the day-job.

Put it another way: how many restaurant chefs do you think go home and cook for themselves at the end of a tough night’s service?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Working with Legal Interpreters: 6 Things Every Lawyer Needs to Know

legal interpreterLegal interpreters are crucial within the legal field. They work with lawyers in helping them communicate with clients as well as represent parties in court, tribunals and the like. Without interpreters, one could argue, there would be no justice whenever a language barrier exists.

Working with interpreters, to get the best out of their expertise, is something every lawyer should know, no matter their status or position.

This guide offer 6 points every lawyer needs to know about legal interpreters.

1.  Set ground rules
Legal interpreters work in a highly pressurized environment; so planning is key to effective communication. Before you begin working with an interpreter, it is useful to agree some ground rules. For example, you may want to agree in advance where the interpreter will sit, how parties will be introduced, when the interpreter should translate and how sensitive subjects should be approached.

It’s always useful to provide a written confirmation of the rules you require adherence to in advance, as this will make things easier for the interpreter who will then be able to focus on the task at hand.

2.  Speak clearly and slowly
The tone of your voice, your body language and facial expressions will all help you in getting your point across, so when speaking through an interpreter stay calm, speak slowly and take regular pauses and breaks. Always remember an interpreter has to remember exactly what you have said before translating and relaying that; giving them time to process what you say helps them become more accurate. If you feel you have rushed a sentence, simply repeat it or say you want to rephrase it.

3.  Prepare the interpreter for the task ahead
If an interpreter is going to translate in a complex legal matter or for something sensitive, it will help if they have some time to prepare for the task ahead. It will help if the interpreter has access to some useful background material which highlights any issues involved. These usually come in the form of case notes, witness statements and the like. Anything written in the press also helps gives context. If specialist legal terms are going to be used, it will be helpful to explain this in advance so they can familiarise themselves with the best-fit translations they can adopt during the case.

4.  Guide the interpreter
If the interpreter is speaking too quickly, or is not making points clearly enough or carrying out their job in a manner you are not happy with, you should always say so. This helps the legal interpreter give you exactly what you require. If you are unsure of something you should be forthright and request that it is explained again. This avoids misunderstandings that can crop up from time to time. Always remember the interpreter is there to translate what you say and help you; they should not have their own agenda.

5.  Stay away from humour
Humour is notoriously difficult to interpret so when communicating through an interpreter it is best to avoid it altogether. The same applies to idioms, sayings and phrases which will cause the interpreter headaches and get in the way of clear, simple communication. Keep your language simple and straightforward.

6.  Use visual aids
If the interpreter is to be asked to interpret something which has been prepared in advance, for example a speech or a legal submission, it is a good idea to give the legal interpreter a copy of it in advance if possible. This will be a helpful aid and it can really make a huge difference in the quality of translation. Similarly, use visual aids whenever it appears that people are confused or haven’t quote understood what is being discussed. Photos, images, graphics, etc can all help cut through potential confusion.

Interpreters working in the legal world are first and foremost professionals. They are aware of the demands of working within the sector and the protocols that govern their conduct. However, it is important as a lawyer to ensure the interpreter does the job you need them to do; and this can only be done by working closely with them, communicating your goals and agreeing boundaries.

This Guest Post comes from Kwintessential, a UK based translation and interpreting company. 45% of their work is carried out for legal firms giving them unique insight into the need and use of language services within the legal sector.