• Frank Furedi
  • Frank Furedi
  • Sociologist, commentator and author

Warning over compensation culture

It warns that demanding damages for accidents is now seen as a way of holding public services to account, and a way of preventing others from suffering similar fates.

This litigation culture has become part of the national psyche, and is seen as normal behaviour, the study suggests. But it has come at a cost, with the health and education sectors spending a large amount of money on dealing with litigation, impacting on services.

The Centre for Policy Studies report, by Kent University’s school of social policy, sociology and social research, found that the financial and social cost of litigation has been a “growing cause for concern”.

Instead of improving safety and accountability, it has resulted in “significant costs to the quality of services, the experiences of those who use them and the role of professionals”.

The report claims: “Litigation culture has become institutionalised into the workings of the public sector life, and ingrained in the national psyche as a warped form of normal behaviour.”

The report says it is increasingly unusual for individuals not to seek compensation after an accident: “Today, head teachers are surprised when parents of children injured at school do not immediately begin down the route of litigation.

“Demanding recompense for accidents is now perceived not only as a common-sense way of gaining financial compensation but as a way of holding public services to account. From this standpoint, suing is not seen as the selfish act of the ‘have a go’ parent, but a selfless, responsible act to stop other children from having similar accidents.”

The researchers claim that payouts by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) have trebled in the last decade, standing at £911 million in 2010/11. Of this, £863 million was paid in connection with clinical negligence claims, the report says. As of March last year, the NHSLA estimated its potential liabilities at £16.8 billion, of which £16.6 billion related to clinical negligence claims.

It adds that a large proportion of cases do not reach court. Out of 63,804 medical negligence claims received by the NHSLA, 38% were abandoned by the claimant, 45% were settled out of court 3% had damages approved or set by a court and 14% have yet to settle.

Copyright © 2012 The Press Association. All rights reserved.

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