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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Where there's no blame, there's no claim

It isn’t always appreciated that if you are going to succeed in a claim for damages you normally have to show that the incident causing the injury was somebody’s fault. This is straightforward in some cases. If you are stationary in your car when it is struck from behind it is usually not hard to prove it was the other driver’s fault.

This is what we mean by negligence and it is a concept which underpins a person’s right to be compensated if they are injured.

This might sound obvious but some politicians and media commentators would have us believe otherwise. We are told about the cost of motor insurance premiums caused by road traffic claims or the cost to the NHS of Medical claims. But without some initial fault there is no claim. You are compensated by the person or the insurer of the person who negligently hurt you. It doesn’t matter how serious the injury is – if it is nobody’s fault there is no case.

This is starkly illustrated by the tragic case of Glennroy Blair-Ford who has just failed in a claim before the High Court despite suffering a catastrophic injury. He was teacher who was on a school holiday. They were all taking part in a welly wanging contest which simply involves throwing a wellington boot as far as possible. It is usually a piece of harmless fun. I’ve done it myself. The catch here was that the teachers had to throw their welly backwards and through their legs. As Mr. Blair- Ford threw his he fell forwards and cracked his head on the ground suffering a broken neck. He is paralysed for life and his claim was potentially worth millions of pounds.

His case failed because the judge was unable to find that the accident was caused by anybody’s negligence. He found that no steps taken by the organisers could have made any difference. He said - 

"There was no foreseeable real risk. Extremely sad though it be, this was a tragic and freak accident for which no blame can be established."

So there is no compensation. It is highly likely that his lawyers will not be paid a penny if it was pursued on a no win no fee basis. Nobody would deny that a person who suffers a life changing injury should not have the opportunity to pursue a case like this, especially a person who will never work again.

This is nothing to do with a compensation culture. It is a case of somebody seeking damages which would mainly cover medical care for life. In the end I think it is probably a fair result. But don’t let anyone say he had no right to bring the case. This is the real world of litigation as opposed to the fantasy world portrayed in the media.

He may have lost his case but as a society we should do all we can to protect his right to bring it.

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