Monday, 28 January 2013

Valentine after Christmas?

Guest PostDivorce Valenines (Small)

Now that the New Year is well and truly underway and the festive season is a fading memory, it may well be a good idea to remind readers that Valentine's Day will soon be upon us.

February 14th is, of course, the big day - and don't you dare forget it (remember that

Saint Valentine was martyred)!

This may seem somewhat flippant, but the occasion comes so soon after the Christmas period; a time which can be extremely stressful for relationships of all kinds. Whilst forgetting to indulge your better half with a card, gift or gesture may not be the cleverest thing to do, it probably can't compete with the many factors which can contribute to making Christmas a relationship minefield. Financial worries, domestic confinement, the amount of time spent together during the festivities and an abundance of available alcohol are among the most common elements in exacerbating Yuletide woe.

Indeed, January traditionally sees a big rise in couples starting divorce proceedings. Enter the family lawyers, who, in some quarters, are viewed quite unjustly as part of the problem, rather than a means to a resolution. The breaking down of a relationship is hardly the fault of the legal profession and those unfortunate enough to be involved in such a scenario would be best advised to try to keep a cool head and at least try to maintain some degree of civility with the other party. Prior to getting a solicitor involved, consideration should be given to avenues such as referring the matter to an organisation such as Relate, which can and does provide a valuable service in conflict resolution and has a wealth of experience to draw on. Alternatively recourse could be made to one of the growing number of third party mediation companies, whose remit includes both commercial and family dispute resolution, and whose services are becoming increasingly popular.

Anyway, that is enough of the gloom and doom. Let's lighten up and think ahead to Valentine's Day. Don't forget that gift and bear in mind the words of an unknown author: “I really do not understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, golden-haired cherub pointing a primitive weapon at me.”

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Lunching Lawyers beware

lawyer's lunchLunching at your desk is disgusting... says Anna Soubry, the minister for public health.

From the Telegraph 24/01/13:

Office workers should take a proper lunch break rather than engaging in the "disgusting" habit of eating a sandwich at their desk, a minister has said.

She disclosed that she had banned her daughters from using the word “fat” at home because she did not want them to become “obsessed with their weight”.

What a great idea.  Ahem...  If only all the world’s problems were so easy to solve, eh?

“Today, people don’t get paid for their lunch. It’s mad and it’s wrong,” she said. “Also, it’s disgusting eating over a keyboard.”

Please don’t give me all that crap about office desks and keyboards containing more bacteria than a toilet seat.  I have alcohol hand gel at my desk (which I use like an OCD sufferer), but quite frankly, we could all do with a bit more exposure to germs, bacteria and dirt.  No wonder we’re all breaking out in allergies and other conditions.

However, Miss Soubry confessed that she did eat lunch in her own office, which her officials would help provide.

“One of the things that freaked me out when I came in here was, they said, ‘minister, we’ll get your food.’ I thought, ‘how kind’. It was to keep me at my desk so I can’t escape,” she said.

Hmmm... the words “pot” and “kettle” spring to mind.

Modern life seems to centre on rushing around like a proverbial blue-bummed fly, with no time dedicated to the present. Since Christmas, I’ve been dwelling more and more on the nightmare we all seem trapped in; the confines of an office-bound job in which I, along with millions of others, trot about day to day totally wrapped-up in our miserable, pointless little lives in which we’re busy being busy.  

I can sense an early mid-life crisis coming on...

Anyhow.  I honestly believe the vast majority of lawyers out there eat lunch at their desks either everyday or on a fairly regular basis.  Given the ridiculous workloads that have become the norm, fee earners are generally grateful for lunch of any description.  .

I always make a point of going for a walk at lunchtime, either 20 minutes around the blog block or a 40 minute round trip down to town (60 occasionally if I nip into the local supermarket ... cheeky!!).  I generally then eat lunch when I come back to the office.   Yeah, I’m not above taking the odd liberty.  

I really feel that escaping the drudgery of the office is vital.  I’m much more productive in the afternoons when I’ve got some fresh air at lunchtime and it seems to free up my brain for a bit of creative legal thinking.  Sadly, I’m not much use to anyone unless I get that lunchtime escape (I probably shouldn’t be admitting this).

Anyway, before I veer too far off piste, let me wrap up by saying that lunch at your desk is fine (bacteria and other nasties notwithstanding) providing you also take the time to treat your lungs to that increasingly alien substance - fresh air.

And don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Ice Injury Claims

ice snow injuries

Here is a mash-up of a couple of emails I’ve received over the last few days from careless pedestrians who were on the scrounge for legal advice.  I added a pinch of my own imagination, too.

During the recent icy weather at the weekend, I slipped over on a non-gritted pavement which runs along public road. It’s my believe [sic] that the local council is responsible for this and they have failed in their duty by not gritting. I want to know if I can sue them because of their negligence. They are totally irresponsible if you ask me.

Although I was not badly injured , just battered and bruised really, at one point I ended up doing ‘the splits’ quite involuntarily on the pavement. I thought my days as a gymnast were well behind me – apparently not.  I was badly winded and embarrassed as anybody in the houses that overlook the road would have seen me sprawled out on the pavement scrabbling like a beached whale.

But worst of all, I ripped out the crotch on my trousers. If I decide to sue them what are the chances of claiming the cost of the trousers back from the local council? A friend of mine ‘in the know’ mentioned something about special damages and wondered if they would be relevant here? But I also want compensation for the injury I suffered because I’ve been walking with a limp since.

Do you think I have a good claim?

Are there any claims specialists or solicitors that you could recommend?

Thanking you,

Hmm... how to answer this and avoiding using profanities... tricky.)

s 41(1A) of the Highways Act 1980 (which was added by s 111 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003) provides that a highway authority has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway for which it is responsible is not endangered by snow or ice. This essentially reverses Goodes v East Sussex County Council [2000] 3 All ER 603.

The truth is, establishing the local authority were in breach of their statutory duty considering the inclusion of that phrase “so far as is reasonably practicable” is the very tough bit. While each case must be judged on its own merits, the obligation on authorities does not appear to be particularly onerous and the duty to keep all roads and pavements free of snow and ice must be balanced with what is feasible in reality and particularly financial constraints under which councils operate.

In short, you ain’t got a chance, chuck. I’d keep your silly ideas (and emails!!) to yourself and try and be bit more pragmatic. For instance, I’d suggest a needle and thread on your trousers and ice grippers for your shoes in future. Next time you fancy a brisk winter’s walk, think twice, and switch on Deal or No Deal instead.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Domain Names – When an apostrophe makes ALL the difference

Remember these brarmers?  Well, I discovered one ‘in the wild’ just the other day.

Trawling through some results on Google, I spied a URL which didn’t seem to quite fit the search term: (www dot) oneillpatient (dot co dot uk).

One-ill-patient. Thinking it was in poor taste and that I’d discovered a new low in the level to which medical malpractice firms would stoop, I quickly discovered it was a case of crossed wires.

It turned out a missing apostrophe was to blame and it was these guys (a wholly reputable law firm I might add). 

Not a medical negligence specialist

Funnily enough, they don’t specialise in medical negligence claims … (I wonder if they’re missing a trick there!!).

If only URLs could accommodate apostrophes, the world would be a much less confusing place.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hot Cross Madness - Sickening Commercialism at its Worst

hot cross madnessOn the first day back at work after Christmas (the 3rd of January as I recall) I nipped into the local Sainsbury’s during my lunch break.  I was astounded appalled to see the special offer rack which is parked just inside the main doors was stuffed to the rafters with hot cross buns.  Seriously.

Three days into the new year and they’re trying to offload those bumptious bakery ballsaches on customers who, let’s not forget, were still reeling after the excesses of the festive season.  Talk about taking advantage.  I still had a batch of mince pies to finish off for goodness sake, not to mention my Ecclefechan tarts.  (They’ve all gone now, by the way – thank ‘fechan for that!!)

As each year passes I’m finding the commercial encroachment into the different seasons increasingly grating.  Why the big push to move onto the next event the second the current one is close to being over?  Why not milk the current season a bit more?  Customers would find it less offensive, I’m certain.

I saw Sainsbury’s (and some other supermarkets) responded to the media outcry at the time saying what they stock was in response to ‘customer demand’. I find that hard to believe – no basta*d wants hot cross buns on the 3rd of January.  And to vindicate my point, the buns have been on half price ever since, piled up like sandbags on the bakery shelves.  And please, Sainsbury’s staff – you can leave small squares of buttered bun as samples on your bakery counter until the cows come home – it’s not going to help you shift them!!

I’ve flatly refused to entertain the idea of eating, buying or doing anything else with a hot cross bun until we’re firmly into March.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Do ex bloggers ever pop back for old times’ sake?

blogger at work (Small)I’ve been having a massive clear out of Google Reader subscriptions over the last couple of days. I must have deleted dozens and dozens.  It’s certainly not creaking under the strain any longer.

Many of those I deleted were for old (once prolific) contributors to the blawgosphere who had either deleted or mothballed their blogs or had suddenly disappeared without trace, having left virtual tumbleweed to blow across their slowly decaying posts.

I kept a subscription to many of them on the off chance they suddenly returned to blogging, but many of them have been absent for over 2 years now.  I think that says they aren’t coming back - however painful that might be to accept.

It got me thinking about whether old bloggers who have suddenly left the ‘sphere ever pop back out of curiosity.  Once you pack away the keyboard for good, is it possible to just switch off completely and never give the blogosphere another thought?   That’s quite a sad prospect if it’s true.

Personally, I love trawling back through old blog posts and looking (and cringing) about some of the stuff I’ve posted in the past.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Law Schools as Charities

law school charityAs the portly gentlemen observe to Scrooge at the start of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

“At this festive season of the year it is more than […] desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.”

Well, thank God all that charity and benevolence was flushed out as the New Year rang in.

Since graduating from the university at which I studied for my LL.M, I’ve found they have an annoying tendency to come cap-in-hand begging for donations on a fairly regular basis.  And their quarterly magazine aimed at their alumni simply doesn’t make up for the inconvenience of being frequently hassled.  When I flick through it (usually with scant attention before I toss the thing aside in mild disappointment), I am often hit by a wave of guilt that I should make a donation.

I freely admit that I absolutely loved my LL.M and save for that awful summer I spent cocooned in my home office slaving over my dissertation, it was a wonderful experience I’d happily repeat again and again.

Anyhow.  Completely out of the blue, I received a call a few weeks ago from one of the university’s marketing people (he sounded like a student himself - probably was).  After making some very thinly veiled smalltalk, he proceeded to tell me all about the valuable research the university was doing and how vital contributions from its alumni are in keeping that going.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

However, I really wasn’t prepared for the hard sell I got.  After asking whether I would be willing to contribute £3.00 a month, I politely but firmly declined.  When the chap pressed me why - whether it was the amount or some other reason - I felt my blood pressure rising.  The simple fact is, I hate having my pocket picked by these do-gooders.  (I never give to beggars either; I’d rather get a knife stuck through me than voluntarily part with loose change).

Clearly feeling he could press me further, he asked whether a one-off donation of just £20 or £10 pounds would satisfy me.  Whether it would satisfy me?  Because having your pocket picked is always so satisfying isn’t it?

Appalled at the nerve of the chap, I told him (in no uncertain terms) that it wouldn’t satisfy me, and that the only thing that would was if he got off the phone and stopped hassling me for money.  Bastards!!
Unfortunately for them, I had been seriously contemplating making a donation (of my own volition) towards the end last year.  However, after that pestering call, I have reconsidered and think I’ll be holding on to my money, or at least giving it to a worthy charity that don’t pester me with phone calls.  The RNLI, for instance.

Let’s hope not all of their alumni are like me - else they’ll never get any money!  Be right back

Monday, 7 January 2013

Workplace chemicals and occupational dermatitis claims

Sponsored Post

An employer is responsible for protecting workers from occupational dermatitis. A breach can affect workers' health and lead to industrial disease claims.
dermatitis claim

Employers have a legal obligation to assess the risks presented by chemicals in the workplace and then eliminate hazards or provide employees with a less dangerous alternative.

Industrial disease solicitors deal with people who have suffered as a result of employers breaching this duty of care. When individuals contract the skin condition through their workplace, they are eligible to make occupational dermatitis claims against the business in question.

However, through adhering to health and safety regulations regarding chemicals, businesses can avoid such costly and time-consuming law suits and also defend themselves should one arise.

An employer's legal obligation
All industries need to protect employees' skin from occupational dermatitis. For example, construction workers are exposed to cement, healthcare staff work with disinfectants and hairdressers use peroxides and dyes on their clients. Regardless of the chemical or substance, it is important that businesses take the appropriate measures to completely eradicate hazards.

When following Control of Substances Hazardous Health Regulations, employers need to carry out a risk assessment on tasks involving chemicals and other substances, implementing ways to eliminate or reduce exposure to the skin. Such measures include:

· Substitution - replacing a substance with one that is safer for employees to use.

· Personal protective equipment- handing out hard hats, goggles, gloves and more to protect the skin from irritation.

· Control, training and monitor- ensuring that employees are supervised when using hazardous substances. They can also provide training on the safe use of chemicals and what to do in the event of an accident.

· Health monitoring- surveying a workforce for symptoms of ill health. This allows employees to identify the beginning of dermatitis and intervene should a worker develop the skin condition.

Dermatitis claims
If an employer is negligent or fails to stick to their legal obligations, which then results in an individual developing the skin disease, the worker could be entitled to make a claim for dermatitis compensation.

Within such industrial disease cases, it is vital that the claimant is able to prove that they have developed occupational dermatitis as a result of their workplace. Medical evidence is required and the substance used must be deemed as potentially harmful to the skin.

During an occupational dermatitis claim, there are two types of compensation available. Firstly, claimants can receive a settlement for loss of amenity as the pain and suffering has resulted in the individual being unable function as they did prior to the skin condition. Also, compensation can be awarded for the losses endured as a result of dermatitis or if the individual has been unable to continue to work.

The employee's duty
If an employer has put all the appropriate measures in place to protect their workers from occupational dermatitis, employees are then responsible for following the processes and making full use of the protective equipment.

Employees can further protect themselves from the skin condition through barrier creams. Using mild cleansers and soaps to wash the skin after work is also effective, while an emollient cream can help replace moisture loss. Organisations could even provide their workforce with such ointments to prevent them from developing dermatitis, further protecting their business from occupational dermatitis claims.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Train Travel – Too Much to Bear

From the Guardian 06/01/13:

David Mitchell writes:

Rail minister Norman Baker insists that fares are fairly fair. He must be one of those paragons who books online, months in advance [and who inhabits cloud cuckoo land].

The main point Baker was trying to make was, as he told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Once you take the basket of fares, include early advance and off-peaks, we are not nearly as expensive as has been presented." In other words, once you factor in the cost of tickets that no one wants, the picture is not so bleak. As Baker said: "You could argue that the people who are travelling in the rush hour are using the premium product and therefore ought to pay something which reflects that premium product which they are buying." By "the premium product", I presume he means the early morning smell of a stranger's armpit.

I’m a daily rail commuter and I’m honestly finding the experience of it more and more grating with each passing week.

What with those hi-vis clad morons who insist on bringing their cumbersome bicycles onto the train, the stench of recently-used train toilets which greet you at the end of each carriage or the tart hag with a cart who buffets (no pun intended) you with her trolley as she wheels extortionately priced snacks through the train, it’s all simply too much to bear.

And now further price hikes for season tickets. Another joy to look forward to when mine’s due for renewal in July.

Which reminds me, I spotted the following poll on the UK MSN site a few days ago:Railway Problem Poll

Erm, where’s the, “All of the Above” option? 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The History of ‘No Win No Fee’ Solicitors

Guest Postspinal injury lawyers

Anyone who is a fan of courtroom-based dramas on American television will have long been fascinated by the mix of business practice and law that makes up the legal system in the USA.

Indeed, the complex relationship between State Law and Federal Law and the many layers of officials, such as District Attorneys and Public Prosecutors, all add to the dramatic scenarios.

One of the biggest surprises about the American legal system is the amount of cases which end in 'deals', where an agreement is reached between the litigants before the trial ends and a judgement is allowed to be made.

For many years, the differences in how USA and UK courts operated were put down to the way in which legal teams were paid. In essence, someone might be far less likely to pursue a claim against a third party in a civil court if they were to be faced with a large bill for fees in the event of an unsuccessful outcome.

'Conditional agreements' were introduced into law for personal injury claims in the UK in 1995, with the aim of opening up legal redress to people who might otherwise not be able to afford court action against an individual, a business or an official body.

These changes meant that what is commonly called a 'No Win No Fee' contract became available, whereby a law firm could take a case on the basis that they would only take a fee if they achieved a successful judgement. This works in practice because the funds generated by the successful claims comfortably outweigh the costs involved in the unsuccessful ones.

The law was changed once more in 1999, to the effect that the fees of the winning side were paid by the losing party, rather than coming out of the 'compensation' that the successful claimant was awarded. This is the way the law currently stands, but there are potential changes ahead in 2013.

Many insurance companies are unhappy with the current set-up because they feel the arrangements mean that too many speculative cases, with little grounds for success, are taken on as 'no win no fee' actions.

If you would like to find out more information about the current situation or think that you might benefit from talking to someone about a possible claim, click here for details regarding no win no fee solicitors.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Millions of British workers don’t see daylight

January Blues (Small)From Law Donut 21/12/12:

The dark mornings and even longer, darker nights mean that millions of workers who don't take lunch-breaks only see the sun on weekends. And research conducted on behalf of Beurer, makers of Brightlight Daylight Lamps, finds that more than a quarter of us regularly stay in the house over the entire weekend too. As a result, 35% of those polled experience a lack of energy at work during the autumn and winter months, 42% said they don't have enough sleep, and 33% suffer from subdued moods.

These depressing statistics are truly horrific when you stop to think about it.  I’m sure submariners get more vitamin D than the average UK office worker (if only by way of diet).

As a general rule, I try and force myself to go out of the office at lunchtimes - even if for only 15 minutes or so.  It’s bad enough to be chained to your desk for a ridiculously high proportion of the week, without not bothering to leave that imprisoning piece of furniture when you’re actually given the chance.  You’ve got to help yourself sometimes, too.

Besides which, I find a good stomp down to town can work wonders on the creative side of my brain.  A seemingly insurmountable legal problem before lunch can be all but solved by the time I’ve got back the office.

And people not leaving the drudgery of their homes at weekends sounds almost too much to bear.  I know the weather might not always cooperate, but breathing stale air whilst acquiring prison pallour is hardly a recipe for good health.

Which reminds me, how are those January blues coming along there?  Be right back