Compensation Culture

Is the UK in the grips of a compensation culture? You will no doubt have seen many articles and even television debates about the UK being in the grip of a compensation culture. Is this correct? Are more people making claims for compensation than ever before?

To examine this closely, we need to look at the reasons that the stories make the papers.

Who Endorses The Idea Of The Compensation Culture?

If you look at the main supporters of the “compensation culture” argument, you will almost always find the promoter to be an insurance company. Why is this the case? Insurers make their money from cashing insurance policies but prefer not to have to pay out when someone claims against one of them. If they can reduce the number of people making a claim, their profits increase. Insurance companies are very keen to make increasing profits year on year, as all businesses are. Therefore, if they can regularly sow the seed of the “compensation culture” to the media, who always enjoy attacking solicitors, this serves their purpose well. If only one or two percent of the people that are injured in an accident do not make a claim because they feel they will be adding to this so called “compensation culture” the insurance company will have achieved their objective and will have saved themselves tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation payments that were due to those victims.

The UK Compensation System

The law of compensation in the UK states that if someone is injured by someone else’s fault (negligence) that person should pay them compensation to put them back in the position they were in had they not been injured. Insurance policies developed so that insurance companies must now pick up the bill for the payments on behalf of their insured. This is what we all pay insurance for, to protect ourselves and anyone that we may injure whilst driving a vehicle or in the course of our work.

However, the views in the UK are markedly different from those in Canada. For instance, our first reaction usually in the UK if we damage our vehicle is “Oh no, I must protect my no claims bonus”. In Canada, the view is very much more a case of “Great, I have insurance which will pay for that repair so I do not have to”. It is an interesting cultural difference and perhaps explains why we are sometimes wary of making a claim because we are fearful of being a part of the “compensation culture”.

Compensation Culture – Reality Or Myth?

The reality is that compensation claims have largely stayed the same in number over the years. Very rarely will you find an insurance company able to quote hard figures which show that the amount of people claiming is increasing. There will always be a slight increase because we always have more vehicles on the road and the population is increasing, but aside from this, there is very little increase in the amount of compensation claims. In addition, the reality is that the awards made for the injuries sustained have not increased for more than ten years, despite recommendations that they should do so. Once again, the “compensation culture” argument is put forward by insurers as the reason why it should not increase. However, every other price and cost faced by the victim has increased, yet the amount they receive for their pain and suffering. Is this fair? You decide.

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