Sue, grabbit & heal

No 202: ACCIDENT ASSIST
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The Independent Culture
Accidents do happen, don't they? But the traditional English response - accurately caught in the French and Saunders sketch of the tough old county women who soldier on, rather glorying in the odd amputation - was to regard them as acts of God. But now, we're getting more like Americans, who like someone to blame, and someone to sue (and then, of course, someone to counsel).

The kind of American lawyer who dealt with this sort of thing opportunistically, pressing his card into the nerveless hands of accident and mugging victims, was always called an ambulance chaser. And now we've got it here, on TV, with Accident Assist, which presents its "no win, no fee" service in a whimsical way, with white-chalk animated matchstick figures on a black ground, suffering whimsical horrors - a fall, a car crash, a mugging.

"Life's a gamble," AA says brightly. "You never really know what's in store, so if you've suffered an accident in the last two years that wasn't your fault ... Freephone any time." The neo-Californians among us will filter out those last weasel words; analysis, assertiveness training and all the things that tell us it's never their fault. AA clearly wondered whether to show us life's distresses in close-up detail (our Bob in intensive care; our Bob on the recovery ward, etc) and decided against it, reckoning that the accident victim wants a cheerful solution with a clear promise about money rather than anything identifiable. It probably decided that anything too American would raise atavistic worries, too.

This ad suggests that a wave of American-style personal-services communications is on its way. We'll see more of these for more lightly regulated aspects of our national economy, like gay chat-lines and liposuction clinics. It'll certainly help update the old characterisation of the solicitor as Stuffy of Guildford.

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