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Lawsuit Culture-No Win No Fee-Society Loses
No win No fee, had an accident not your fault, where there's blame there's a claim and many more tag lines I do not care to remember. One thing is for sure; compensation culture has swept the civilised world and compensation lawyers are getting rich beyond their wildest dreams. Personal injury lawyers seem to have bred on tree's in recent years, litigation lawyers, medical negligence lawyers, civil attorneys, professional negligence solicitors and on and on, where did they all come from.
Recent announcements about changes to the "Legal Aid Scheme" in the United Kingdom have led me to investigate the the fact's behind the headlines. I am not a lawyer, most of the law speak will go over my head but I am interested in the motive behind the policy change and more importantly; who wins in this deal.
You may have noted from my tone; I am not a fan of the compensation culture. That doesn't mean I disagree with the practice of enforcing your civil rights, nor does it mean compensation lawyers have no place in society, I would argue however that the greed of claimants and legal practitioners have tainted a respectable profession.
In this article I want to answer three very specific questions:
- Why did the compensation culture sweep the world?
- Who really wins?
- How has this culture affected society?
This is not an academic article, I am not an academic writer, it is a layman's observation of the practice of suing anyone you can; for as much as you can without any risk or cost to yourself
Claim Compensation- Make Them Pay
For time and memorial law firms have been making them pay, lawsuits are nothing new. Issuing legal proceedings against another person or organisation however was predominantly the preserve of the wealthy, most normal folk simply didn't have the resources to take on the big boys.
The emergence of a contingent fee, conditional fee or no win no fee; call it what you like it meant that for the first time poor people could exercise their civil rights without running up a debt. Perversely law firms could quadruple their income by opening up an area of law that anyone could access.
In short no win no fee allows anyone to sue another person or organisation without up front fees, if the case is successful the claimant and the lawyer get paid. There are exceptions were the lawyer will take out insurance against you losing the case therefore the lawyer gets his fee, you get nothing.
I should point out that individual countries will have there own laws with their own idiosyncrasies, the fundamental principle is the same, sue like you have never sued before and don't worry about the human or financial cost.
We are led to believe in the UK that the craze for lawsuits started in the USA, I can fully appreciate the need to take legal action against large corporations when they are negligent and most giants of industry are American. Far be it for me to besmirch a nation; I certainly wouldn't do that but the compensation culture would have thrived wherever it started because it panders to a basic human trait; GREED!
There are millions of genuine cases brought to court every year, there are however millions of fraudulent clams also. I am all for getting what you are entitled to but when greed is thrown into the mix a section of society see a quick buck and a way of getting what they are not entitled to.
I won't go into specifics for legal reasons, I remeber a case not so long ago when a bus crashed, 33 compensation claims were lodged with personal injuries ranging from whiplash to broken bones. The cost of these claims ran into the £100,000 and could have sank the bus company and their insurers. The case was dropped 24 hours before it was to be heard in court as it transpired that the bus was out of service and was carrying no passengers at the time of the crash.
We have all heard the term ambulance chasers, we all know people who fall over fictitious paving slabs, even if we won't admit it. Local councils are spending millions, settling out of court fees to people who haven't been anywhere near a hole in the sidewalk.
Greed caused ordinarily law abiding citizens to make these claims, this story is a window on society, a sort of micro society. For every case like this one there are many that don't fall at the first scrutiny and end up with compensation being paid.
We can conclude that the reason compensation culture thrived was greed, greed from fraudulent claims and unscrupulous legal professionals.
No Win No Fee-Who Really Wins
The answer to this question doesn't take a lot of working out. In a genuine lawsuit the claimant will be compensated for their loss, the law firm will be paid a fee for their services and the defendant will be fined for their wrong doing. This is justice and the law at it's best, which I fully support.
When no win no fee practices became common the rules of the game changed, natural justice changed also for the worse in my opinion.
Yes companies and organisations have public liability insurance, we could argue that the insurance companies foot the bill. Sadly insurance companies are profit making business, when their profits are effected they increase their premiums. The companies pay the higher premiums and pass this cost onto the customer or service user, that is you and me.
When we sue the local council this cost directly affects the taxes they charge us, we all end up paying more, ultimately again it is you and me that lose out.
Enough about who pays, the question is who wins.
There are two winners in the compensation culture arena. The person who brought the claim, the person who fraudulentlyclaimed wins as they receive compensation and have not suffered loss or injury. The law firm wins every time, they can't lose, their bill will be paid regardless.
Sadly there are always more losers than winners, it is a shame that it is you and me who always lose and ultimately end up paying.
Start a Lawsuit-It's a Way of Life
It is accepted in 2011 that societies have become very insular, selfishness is endemic now. Communities have been ripped apart by this wave of societal change. there is a saying in the UK "where there is muck there is brass", claiming compensation without just cause is the same thing. Whole sections of the community have been captured by the opportunity to get something for nothing, it has become a way of life.
Like any successful business law firms have developed schemes to increase their profits, marketing strategies that meet the greed of individuals. Not content with systematically undermining the law these firms now actively encourage people to refer cases to them, they reward handsomely anyone who can bring new cases in; regardless of the potential for success.
Under the radar business have sprung up all over the world to capitalise on this opportunity. The net result is once again law firms win, parasites win, society and honest law abiding citizens lose.
Have we answered the questions?
I think we have, a sound legal system that affords people the opportunity to seek legal recompense is a prerequisite to any successful society. A way of getting free money at any cost is always going to become a phenomenon. Parasites will always develop schemes to deprive someone else regardless of the human cost. Societies with a mix of free individuals will always have winners and losers, good sadly doesn't always prevail.
When I started writing this article I didn't want it to become a rant, I hope it hasn't but it is such an emotive subject. As I mentioned it was the change in the legal aid system in the UK that inspired me to write this article and I can conclude that the poor will lose out by taking away their ability to exercise their rights.
I wonder if the area's of law. welfare rights, family law, consumer law, housing law and employment law will be picked up by the above law firms, at least then the no win no fee system will serve a useful purpose even if it is fundamentally flawed.