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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Is compensation culture on the rise?
The Human Rights Act which has been blamed for fuelling a compensation culture is to be reviewed.

The shadow home secretary, David Davis, said that 'all too often it seems to give criminals more rights than the victims of crime'.

Mr Davis says that the fear of litigation is leading to the loss of the most attractive aspects of parks and public spaces because they are deemed 'too risky'.

In the article for the British magazine The Spectator, Mr Davis said the 'human rights' industry has created a compensation culture which limits freedoms and costs Britain 10bn a year.

Is there a compensation culture? Are people more concerned with their rights than their responsibilities? Or are litigations a sign that people are not prepared to put up with substandard facilities?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

During a trip to San Francisco earlier in the year, I was astounded to read a notice in a shop door saying 'Caution - there is a glass pane in this door'. I wouldn't be surprised to see that over here soon as people try and get rich quick.
Vanessa, Essex, UK

I would normally agree with the rise of 'compensation culture' being partly due to opportunist people who can't take responsibility for themselves, and greedy legal types who are making a fortune pursuing claims for people. However, our councils and government take a significant slice of earnings one way or another and should be held financially accountable if they fail to deliver a decent service for an extortionate amount of tax etc.
Gary Finnigan, Washington, UK

I am just about to sue the coffee industry
Colin Heyes, UK / Germany
I am just about to sue the coffee industry. I spilled some when driving and it left a stain on my shirt. How dare they produce stain-making coffee? Oh yeah, it was hot too. They will pay for this!!!
Colin Heyes, UK / Germany

Claims are often based on the most spurious grounds and the fact that there has to be negligence as a basis is ignored. Furthermore the maxim "volenti non fit inuria" (no claim where the claimant has consented) is totally ignored..
BR Paterson-Todd, Villiersdorp, South Africa

If there's enough money to fight useless wars, then there plenty of money around for people claiming compensation.
Basa, London

As an expatriate lawyer now living in the USA all I can say is "You ain't seen nothin' yet".
Nigel Pond, Brit living in the USA

People only win cases when they can prove in court that they have suffered because of someone else's fault
Nick, London
People only win cases when they can prove in court that they have suffered because of someone else's fault. One question is who should pick up the pieces? Is the victim that should shoulder the entire burden, or is it the NHS that should when a Doctor makes a mistake. We have had a situation where the victims have suffered. We need more people getting compensation when things go wrong. Without it, the organisations will not change. Till now, it has been covered up.
Nick, London

This compensation culture makes me sick. I think its time to take these ridiculous adverts of the TV, after all they are just encouraging people to claim stupid amounts of money for tripping over a piece of paper.
Matt, Lincoln, England

A re-introduction of common sense to people is what is needed. It is depressing to see it fade away as it is in favour of a "sue you sir?" attitude
Philip Parker, UK

Our local wood is a sanctuary for strollers, dog walkers and a shortcut to town. Volunteers strived to keep it tidy and lay natural walkways. Then, I believe somebody tripped and claimed compensation from the council. The result was the woods were closed for a year. It has now re-opened but the paths are now metallised and the more eventful passages permanently closed. Yes the compensation culture is real and is spoiling life in more ways than we can imagine.
Iain, Lytham, Engalnd

Nothing is anyone's fault. No one is supposed to be able to use their own common sense. Just watch the day-time TV and you'll see why! And people wonder why the UK keeps getting more like a nanny-state!
Wendy Harrison-Fox, Oslo, Norway

I do not personally think that we have a compensation culture. The practice we been doing is full form of democracy. And people are enjoying to practice that right. One most not forget that all the claims are not compensated.
Krishna Acharya, UK

Compensation culture is destroying local community organisations because of the huge cost of insurance
Jim Hartt, Portsmouth, Hampshire
Compensation culture is destroying local community organisations because of the huge cost of insurance required to run even the smallest of events. Unless deliberate negligence can be proved these claims must be stopped. The Tories would get my vote for this alone.
Jim Hartt, Portsmouth, Hampshire

Don't bother! I tried to claim against an employer for a genuine injury which left me (and still does) disabled and affects my career choices. I was off work for seven months, prescribed anti-depressants, spent a fortune on prescriptions, hospital visits and osteopathy. They wriggled out of it on the grounds that there wasn't enough evidence that the injury was caused by work, even though we both know it was, and that they ignored my repeated complaints of pain, and requests for help... It took over a year, and now I'm just left with a feeling of being done over by them twice. If they'd hurt my feelings I could have sued them for a fortune!
Sarah, UK

Of course there is a compensation culture here. Pretty much anything bad that happens in America finds its way over here sooner or later.
Marc, London, England

This is long overdue, people must realise that with rights come responsibilities. The usual suspects are accusing the Tories of 'opportunism' as they seem to every time they have a decent idea.
P Phillips, Birmingham UK

It is up to those courts, not politicians, to judge if a case has merits
Mike, Ipswich, UK

It is the fundamental right of every citizen to seek redress through the courts, and it is up to those courts, not politicians, to judge if a case has merits. It seems that, in various nefarious ways; Mr Blair's government is seeking to preside over the legislature. I would advise those supporting Mr. Davis's intentions to think long and hard about which institution they would most trust to uphold a person's rights - the government or the judiciary.
Mike, Ipswich, UK

Frankly the link to the Human Rights act is nonsense. It is not human rights that has borne all these claims; it is the selfish society that the Tories created themselves in the 80s. They should jump off the band wagon of the tabloids and concentrate on undoing their work
Chris, Scotland

There is definitely a growing compensation culture in this country. This has led to massive increases in insurance for many activities, including my sport of paragliding/paramotoring. The cost of premiums is now such that many of these activities are barely viable, mostly thanks to these ambulance chasers.
Tim Fathers, Guildford, Surrey, England

My day job involves working in and around a lot of rivers and watercourses. I dread the day that I may need to rescue someone from a watercourse and in doing so open myself up to the possibility of being sued for personal injury simply from rescuing someone from a potentially deadly situation (i.e. being swept down stream in flood water or high flow). It's madness, these people need to get their priorities right.
Al, UK

You can answer this question by tuning in to daytime TV and seeing the amount of adverts for greedy lawyers on the make!
Philip Cleveland, UK

People told me I could get 5,000 in compensation
Nick Skeens, Essex
There is no doubt that the compensation culture is ruining our lives. It is fuelled by the insurance industry and supported by mad health and safety decisions. And it goes hand-in-hand with growing national paranoia. New trees for our local park were objected to because one councillor was concerned that "perverts and paedophiles might hide behind them." My son broke his arm falling from a swing in a local park. People told me I could get 5,000 in compensation. But my view was - if everyone does that, how are we going to be able to afford swings? I am worried that people are getting greedier and more selfish.
Nick Skeens, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex

Typical of a leading light in the Conservative party to blame the Human Rights Act for the rise of compensation culture in all walks of public life. His article proves conclusively that the one thing that would be worse than the present Labour government would be a Conservative government. Protection and enlargement of human rights is the most vital requirement of government.
Raymond Rudaizky, London, UK

Although I disagree with Mr Davis on many issues, on this one he is absolutely right. The selfish belief that compensation claims help keep councils and services on their toes is absurd. It merely causes a vicious cycle taking what little money there is away from where it is desperately needed. Claiming compensation for one's own carelessness is stealing from oneself.
Joe, Bath, UK

People will do anything for a few pounds these days. Understandably some people DO deserve compensation but with all these companies on TV telling people to claim, no wonder there are so many payouts and insurance premiums going through the roof. People need to work for their money, not take other people's!
Roy, Belfast, UK

I work in the corporate events industry. Insurance has gone through the roof and companies are no longer offering a number of good activities due to perceived risk. The end result is an increase in cost and a reduction in the experiences on offer. We all pay for the scammers in the end.
James, Ringwood, UK

In Detroit some years ago I bought some cartridges for my fountain pen and was amazed to see that the pack was marked "Test before using". The US lawyer I was with explained that that was the result of litigation-mania and that the only products that were not so marked - yet - were condoms!
Andrew, London

People should be responsible for their own actions. If you trip on a wet pavement, you learn to walk more carefully! Of course organisations and individuals must be able to be held to account for real breaches of safety but the current situation is completely crazy. To really solve the problem, perhaps the government could force 75% of lawyers to retrain as plumbers and actually provide a useful service.
John, Reading, England

I cannot condemn people who claim compensation, in fact I would encourage it
Karen, Devon

Having seen the results of how a serious injury can affect people's lives I cannot condemn people who claim compensation, in fact I would encourage it. If someone else's laziness, mismanagement or negligence caused me to loose a leg, be off work for six months or left me unable to live my life as I do now I would not hesitate to make a claim. I believe that the marketing and advertising campaigns of large Accident Management companies, has effected how this service is seen, people have been claiming compensation for many years but this more recent attempt to cash in on peoples misfortune has changed how Personal Injury Law is perceived. It also encourages a much deeper routed view in today's society of "I'm owed" or "I deserve". As for stories of bizarre compensation awards for minor injuries. There are strict rules on what can be claimed, and as the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We're not America yet!
Karen, Devon

We need to start to take some responsibility for our own actions - there is not always someone else to blame! I undertook a first aid at work course four years ago and I was advised then not to help anyone on the street as it could lead to litigation.
Ben, Derby, England

I work for an American Insurance Company and some of the successful claims we see in America is astounding. A woman sued a shop, and won, because she fell over a child. The child was her own. I hope the UK doesn't go down this route of blame someone else, but I fear that we are beginning to go that way.
Kevin Miller, Warrington, Cheshire

The compensation culture, or wanting money for nothing, is merely another manifestation of society's slow drift away from the belief in individual responsibility

The compensation culture, or wanting money for nothing, is merely another manifestation of society's slow drift away from the belief in individual responsibility. It has not been helped by seven years of a Labour Government who seem intent on trying to provide everybody with everything they could possibly want without anybody having to earn it. We are not going to see a return to the values of personal and social responsibility, hard work and application until the state ceases to support so many people's incomes and aspirations via such means as the unnecessary expansion of public sector jobs and increased benefits or the reduction in examination standards.

If you think this is a one sided question you have got it wrong. I do not care for the rhetoric of David Davis's case, but many people feel quite rightly insulted by frivolous applications of human rights. If on the other hand you think it is alright for ordinary citizens to be crushed without redress by powerful interests, then it is obviously even uglier than allowing the frivolous cases. I think that people sue the NHS because they no longer have any sentiment about it. That is a serious and depressing loss.
John Stone, London, UK

Let's not overlook our culture of welfare dependency, which encourages people to seek remedy from anyone except themselves
Euan Gray, Edinburgh, UK

No-win, no-fee legal services are a much more important contributor to the claim culture. Another major factor is allowing lawyers to advertise - previously this was forbidden, and every country which has followed the same path of lifting a ban has seen exactly the same thing happen - increased petty litigation and claims for everything. Finally, let's not overlook our culture of welfare dependency, which encourages people to seek remedy from anyone except themselves.
Euan Gray, Edinburgh, UK

Too much talk of rights and not enough about responsibilities. Surely it is my responsibility to ensure I don't eat walnuts out of a bag marked "contains nuts" when I am allergic. It is my responsibility to look where I am walking. People seem to be far too keen to claim rights and assume someone will take the blame rather than searching their own soul for fault. I think it reflects onto our children - they have no respect for those in authority because they know their rights. Think of all the claims against teachers we have heard of recently.
Susan, London, UK

Yes and no. There are far too many people taking advantage and claiming compensation when it is absolutely unnecessary. This puts genuine claims in jeopardy. I had an accident almost three years ago; I was stationery at the time when a 27 ton lorry went into the back of me. I am still trying to get compensation and my solicitors now have to take action against the other parties' solicitors for not responding to endless communications. The whole compensation issue needs to be revisited.
Cate, Henley

Unfortunately, changing the law is the only way that silly claims like the ones we hear about are going to be reduced, because the idea of thousands of pounds for what is essentially your own fault is just too appealing for some, so well done to the Tories for highlighting this.
Max, Bedfordshire, UK

Do people not realise that every time they claim for compensation unnecessarily more money is taken away from that service that could have been spent on making it better for everyone? Unless you have been seriously injured to the point of loss of earnings then I think any claims for compensation should be thrown out of the window. Stop spoiling life for the rest of us...
Gwen, Aberdeen, Scotland

What's wrong with a compensation culture? If someone causes you harm they should pay for it. Another Tory Bandwagon.
Gary Gatter, London, UK

Fear of litigation seems to be rife nowadays. I know one person who was a first aider and gave it up because she was scared of being sued if she tried to help someone and it went wrong. You also get the sheer stupidity of some product labelling. I recently bought a bag of walnuts to make a cake and the bag actually says - Caution, this product contains nuts!
Carole, Bristol, UK

We've all seen the people hanging around in the town centres: 'Have you been injured at work or in a public place? You may be eligible for compensation' The litigation industry is on the rise and those with a vested interest in doing so are promoting the growth of attitudes which will benefit nobody in the long term but the lawyers.
Adam Hoskins, High Wycombe

The reality is that the number of claims has actually fallen and those that do succeed do so because they have merit
Tom Davies, London, UK
Why does some half baked Tory nonsense, founded on nothing more than the perpetual whinge that the country was better 50 years ago when 'common sense', whatever that is, supposedly took precedent, make headlines. While the recent report by the (Independent) Better Regulation Task Force which actually took the time to study this problem in depth found that "The compensation culture may be a myth - but the perception of it results in real and costly burdens" gets barely a mention. The reality is that the number of claims has actually fallen and those that do succeed do so because they have merit.
Tom Davies, London, UK

I work in an office where we process calls from members of the public wanting to claim for personal accidents, today we've had a woman wanting to sue the council as her son broke his arm while skateboarding at a skate park! A woman wanting to claim against a supermarket as she slipped on a grape and a man wanting to claim for a strained wrist as he fell over at a company do, the reason he fell over was he was drunk but he says that was his employers fault as it was a free bar! YES we have gone mad in this country and everyone is trying to claim whatever they can.
Anonymous, Hertfordshire

What rubbish! Using the legal profession to punish negligent councils and other service providers is a good thing. It will make them account for their action and punish them accordingly. The UK is an absolute shambles, nothing works or is broken. Hooray compensation culture!

Totally agree that people obsessed with 'rights' and ignore their responsibility. We now have a blame culture where no-one appears to be responsible for their own actions.
Val Oreilly, London, England

This compensation culture makes a mockery of the health & safety law that exists for a good reason. People are abusing the system!
Kay, Herts, UK

You can identify the "compensation junkies" a mile off
Steve Lynch, Sale, UK
I work for a local authority and you can identify the "compensation junkies" a mile off. Once they have one successful claim they keep coming back for more. I don't like to generalise but invariably those that claim compensation from public services contribute nothing into the system. They receive full benefits, never work and then have the cheek to complain about the service they receive.
Steve Lynch, Sale, UK

It's all very well people complaining and litigating after accidents if public facilities aren't kept in top notch condition. But there is only so much money to go round. Vandalism and payouts to compensation claimants and the lawyers that feed on them, reduce these funds. Given the choice I'd rather have slightly run down facilities than none at all. Compensation culture however, drives councils to remove facilities that it can't afford to maintain perfectly and the rest of us suffer because of a greedy few.
Paul, Sheffield

While some people may bring specious cases under Human Rights legislation, David Davis is disingenuous in ignoring the Conservative legislation that allows them to do it. The last Tory government abolished Legal Aid for personal injury claims and pressured solicitors into accepting the US concept of "no win, no fee" litigation. As a result, dubious cases can be brought that an independent arbiter -- the former Legal Aid Board (now LSC) -- would never have funded because there was no chance of success. The present government has shamefully cut Legal Aid even further; higher insurance premiums, Council Tax and retail prices are the cost we all pay for some people exploiting opportunities for selfish gain.
Don Keller, London, UK

David Davis is right to be concerned about the compensation culture but quite wrong to blame the HRA. There is nothing in the act that is not already reflected elsewhere in our domestic legislation. You cannot sue someone for breaching your rights under the HRA - that is a simple fact and David should know it. All this act does is to allow our domestic courts to rule on convention matters that would previously have been referred to the court in Strasbourg.
Paul, Horsham, England

Service providers got away for years with shoddy services because "one-mustn't grumble" culture
David Anderson, Wakefield
Service providers in this country got away for years with shoddy services because there was most definitely a "one-mustn't grumble" culture. We certainly haven't reached the levels or costs of litigation in the USA, so they're still probably getting off fairly lightly.
David Anderson, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Walking along ice- and leaf-strewn pathways in Northampton a few years ago, I constantly slipped and almost fell on many occasions. I often thought that if I DID slip, I'd sue the government for not cleaning up the pavements. Why? Because it's obviously someone else's fault if I'm clumsy and hurt myself. That's the culture we live in these days - it's just too easy to blame others for our own stupidity, and get away with it.

A woman in the US sued a leading trainer manufacturer because she tripped and fell over her untied laces - and WON! What kind of message is the legal system giving to the world? Of course everyone in the future will sue for anything instead of working - it's money for nothing!
Jason Miles, Reading, UK

People do not take responsibility for their own actions. Too many blame others and are looking to make a fast buck if things go wrong.
Alan, Scotland

Just another excuse to make more money
Scott Mills, Jersey, UK
This is just another excuse to make more money. Bearing in mind...some people are a danger to themselves. Soon we'll end up just like in America, when you order a cup of coffee, the container will state "the contents of the container are hot, please be careful". In my mind if you spill hot coffee on yourself you have no one to blame other than yourself.
Scott Mills, Jersey, UK

There are too many instances where it is actually financially better for councils to just settle a claim than fight against it in court. So every time we complain about the increases in our council tax, don't blame the council, think of the people we know who have put forward stupid and irresponsible compensation claims and then you'll know where your money is going.
Kiltie, Staffs, UK

People should take responsibility for their own actions, if there's a manhole open and no sign then yes, you should get compensation. But if you just trip over something obvious then perhaps you shouldn't be allowed out on your own anyway?!
Bob, Cardiff, Wales

I work in Health and Safety for a construction company and I can tell you that there is definitely a compensation culture out there. We have had men actually pay other men to injure them so that they could make a claim. It is about time it was stopped. Why should the ordinary man suffer the loss of green areas and rising insurance costs to assist the work shy wasters who make their living from making claims and who would sue for psychological damage if someone so much as bumped into them. It is utterly ridiculous.
Sal, UK

The Tories are actually talking sense for a change! I firmly believe that virtually all of this country's problems are due to people being mad keen to claim their (perceived!) 'rights', but have no interest whatsoever in carrying out their social responsibilities. The compensation culture is ruining our country and we urgently need a return to common sense.
Reg Pither, London, England

The problem is that for decades Doctors, other professionals, the M.O.D and the government have messed up peoples lives and been able to hide behind bureaucracy and walk away. Now something is being done about it (accountability) .Scaremongering via naming justice as "the compensation culture" is another means of eradicating justice (call it McCarthyism if you like).
William Hawkins, Caerphilly/ Wales

A climbing frame was removed from our local park as children may fall onto the grass under it. Trees had their lower limbs removed for the same reason. The reason behind this was that the council could be liable if someone hurt themselves.
Carol, England

Yet another "common sense" attack on the concept of human rights, by people decrying a culture of blame yet who are quite happy to hurl blame at everyone else! Oh dear.
Shanti, London, England

At my son's school, there are no field events like shot put and javelin. The School is scared of being sued in the event of an accident. Ultimately, that is what it would be, "an accident"; But now one persons accident is another persons compensation claim.
John Irelan-Hill, Huddersfield, UK

Gwen, people don't care that "every time they claim for compensation unnecessarily more money is taken away from that service that could have been spent on making it better for everyone" all they care about is that they now have the money. It's called greed, and sadly it's human nature.
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK

I couldn't agree more with David Davis. I am a keen supporter of human rights and civil liberties, but these must be placed within a culture of common sense rather than compensation.
Martin Isaac, currently Siem Reap, Cambodia

There is a compensation culture, and it is getting out of hand. For example, in my local area, a young child was roller skating in a small shop and he ended up hitting the door, so his mother took the case to court and she won 210,500! The shop owner was put out of business!
Alex, Great Yarmouth, UK

I think the Better Regulation Taskforce has put its finger on it: it is fear of claims rather than the real likelihood or number of successful claims which gives rise to the perception of a compensation culture. It is right that we should take responsibility for our own actions, but also right that duties of care owed by others are enforced. It is the balance between these two that is getting out of kilter: organisations are pandering to the fear of claims by producing more and more rules and restrictions or simply withdrawing facilities which could give rise to liability.
Adam, London, UK

Human rights & health & safety must cost this country billions! It's time it was all done away with so we can all live our lives in peace & assess & take risks for ourselves if we want to. Living involves taking risks all our lives, lets just get on with it!
David, England

There are too many people unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions now. I think it's ridiculous that people make claims when they themselves have been stupid. I think it's even more ridiculous that they successfully manage to take companies and councils to court and win. Can we have a reality check please?
Craig, Falkirk, Scotland

Tony Blair's big mantra was "rights and responsibilities" and I agree with him - unfortunately too many want their rights and won't accept their responsibilities. We urgently need strict limits to what people can be compensated for, making sure you can't blame & claim when your losses are your own fault, or caused while you were breaking the law. We also need to drastically change the Human Rights Act, which is too often used to protect criminals at the expense of the rest of us!
Fabian, UK

Not surprised to see that this idea from the Conservatives is immediately opposed by the something for nothing socialists.
Brian, Brighton

I know of people who have given up voluntary work because they're worried if someone falls over, they'd be sued if they helped. My mum works for a company that won't put salt down in the cold weather -- because ice is natural, but if you put salt down you admit that it's dangerous. This compensation culture must be eradicated, but with so many selfish people out there I don't think it'll go away any time soon.
Tony, UK

My friend was sued by her own aunt for falling down the stairs due to her own stupidity
Carmen, Blackpool, UK
It is absolutely ridiculous, my friend was sued by her own aunt for falling down the stairs due to her own stupidity. Accidents happen, get over it! Why do we have to find always someone to blame? What's wrong with admitting we are human and entitle to mess up. Bogus claims make insurance go up and discredit genuine ones. I am disgusted with the compensation culture, let's hope we don't become little America
Carmen, Blackpool, UK

Another piece of American culture reaching us and invading our lives. In the US you find warnings everywhere. On toilets explaining you how to make the best use of them so to prevent people, say, to use them for brushing their teeth. I mean if you catch a illness by brushing your teeth with the toilet water it should only be your fault for being so damn stupid and no law should protect these sub-humans!!!!

When I was a child I had accidents, I fell off things, I broke things, I scratched myself or worse and I was the one who did it. If I climbed a tree and then fell out of that tree it was my fault. Why was it my fault? because I climbed it, no one forced me to do it and when I fell it was simply because I was a kid who shouldn't have been there in the first place. So when I accidentally cut myself with the chain saw I bought to trim my trees I accept it as an accident. I don't look to sue the people who made it because no one sat me down and told me in plain English that I might hurt myself. People are greedy, lazy and in for a quick fix windfall at someone else's expense. People make me sick with these stupid and in my opinion unjust claims. Here's a tip for all those people who are looking to make someone else pay: get a job you lazy slobs, learn a trade and stop leaching a parasitical existence of the backs of hardworking people.
Simon Fisher, Croydon, Surrey

Tories to end 'culture of claims'
20 Aug 04  |  Politics


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