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String of No Win No Fee Successes for School Staff

30th January 2013
By Keylaw in No Win No Fee
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Recent figures have shown that UK teaching staff made over 300 no win no fee claims and won more than £4 million in compensation in 2011. These figures mark a significant rise in claims made by school staff, prompting questions over whether schools are becoming increasingly dangerous places to work (and whether the Con-Lib government’s stance of cutting red tape can therefore be justified) or whether teaching staff are being targeted by no win no fee lawyers who are making money from councils with already strained budgets.

The range of accidents which county councils have had to pay out compensation for is varied and extensive; from the shocking and understandable, to the, frankly, ridiculous. In 2011, no win no fee lawyers won compensation claims for school staff in cases including the following:

Wheelchair trip
Compensation: £800,000
Legal fees: £140,000
Lancashire council were ordered to pay out a huge £940,000 in combined compensation and legal fees in one of the largest claims brought by a member of school staff in 2011. The staff member in question (a teaching assistant) sustained injuries to fingers and an elbow after tripping over the waist strap of a wheelchair belonging to a student.

Eye dust
Compensation: £4,500
Legal fees: £10,200
One of the smaller compensation cases which has accrued some criticism resulted in Southampton council paying a total £14,700 in damages and legal fees. In this controversial case, a member of teaching staff claimed for eye irritation after stating that the problem had been caused by dust from a nearby building site.

These claims are a huge burden on cash-strapped councils already struggling with reduced budgets. This isn’t to say that teachers should not be making claims for workplace accidents, but that more rigorous health and safety standards need to be observed. Many of the incidents arise from avoidable issues; from maracas thrown across classrooms to trips caused by loose goal nets. And, perhaps, a line needs to be drawn in the courts too.

Criticism of no win no fee lawyers has arisen after claims like the ‘dust in eye’ case detailed above. Some quarters believe that personal injury lawyers who operate on this basis are now directly targeting those working in schools, irrespective of the seriousness or validity of the injury claim. Of course, valid claims for those injured as a result of negligence are essential for protecting the quality of life and livelihoods of victims. Yet, in cases where compensation could be called into question, should cash-strapped councils be forced to foot the bill?

The fact Is, it’s all a difficult tightrope. Whilst teachers deserve to work in safe environments with financial compensation should they sustain serious injury, county councils simply cannot afford to face compensation claims from every teacher in their catchment who stubs a toe.

The rise in no win no fee successes for school staff prompts many questions; from concerns about health and safety, to questions about the deterioration of behavior in schools, to debate surrounding the practices of personal injury lawyers. Questions surrounding ‘compensation culture’ abound in the current climate, and the outcome of the debate remains to be seen, however, things are set to come to a head. Keep your eyes peeled over the coming year for more discussion.

If you have been involved in an accident which was not your fault, certainty about your future is vital. The right level of compensation for your injuries and your life going forward brings peace of mind, comfort and security. Whatever happens in the political and legal arena, Keylaw remain experts in no win no fee personal injury claims. For assistance and support with your claim, contact Keylaw’s highly experienced team today.
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