Lawyers warned to end 'compensation culture'

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The Independent Online

Lawyers were today warned to end the compensation culture or face Government regulation.

Lawyers were today warned to end the compensation culture or face Government regulation.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, said aggressive advertising created a climate of fear despite falling numbers of accident claims.

"The problem is that lots of organisations like schools, like the voluntary sector, like local authorities are so worried about claims being brought against them that they don't do things that everybody would like to do.

"They don't do enough school trips. The voluntary sector gets worried about arranging things because they fear they might be sued if somebody is injured.

"I don't think that is the fault of lawyers. I think it is the fault of quite a lot of claims companies that advertise in such a way that they make people believe that if you are injured, even if it is no one's fault, you can make a claim.

"You can go to some hospitals and you can see adverts that say 'Did the doctor or nurse make you worse? We can get you compensation'.

"Now, if you see that sort of advert in a hospital waiting room you are going to think 'if I don't get better, even if it is nobody's fault, maybe I have got a claim'. That is the wrong sort of atmosphere, I think."

While the number of accident claims had fallen, numbers of schools and other organisation practising "defensive activity" to prevent claims had risen, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"More and more people believe 'If I get injured, then even though maybe nobody is to blame, even though I was doing something that was inherently risky, I can get compensation from somebody'.

"It is that perception that one needs to scotch, it seems to me.

"I am saying much of the advertising by claims managers is creating that atmosphere."

Lord Falconer said the situation was so bad that some local authorities would not open beaches for fear of swimmers making claims.

If firms continued to "create false expectations" they would face regulation, he told Today.

Conservatives blame the Human Rights Act for fuelling the compensation culture.

However, the Cabinet Minister said: "It has got absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Human Rights Act.

"The Human Rights Act is a convention of human rights drafted in the 1950s which sets out things like the right not to be tortured and the right to a fair trial. That is not encouraging greater claims."