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Who Decides On Non Criminal Responsibility

Jul 26, 2008
Every day we can read in the press about compensation claims for all manner of injuries or affronts. It has led us to what has now been dubbed the 'compensation culture' where people hire injury lawyers to extract money from anyone and everyone in any case, instead of taking responsibility for their own behaviour. The 'where there's blame, there's a claim' phrase has been used to exhaustion because it seems, everyone can blame someone else for any slight mis-hap.

Some claim that the only people making any real money from this are the injury lawyers themselves. This can be true in some cases. Some injury lawyers charge such extortionate fees for their services that there is very little compensation left to give the injured party. This has become such a problem that injury lawyers are now claiming to do this work for free although you will probably find it means that extra charges are put on the claim which they then take as their fee.

But where is the uniform policy for working out what compensation is deserved and what is received? One day we can open a paper and see that a court has awarded someone millions for the loss of a finger whereas a life has been lost and a family have been awarded 14.50 pounds for the trouble. A little exaggerated but you get my drift - there is no set policy for making the decisions over what a person is worth in the way of finances or what their damages are and how much the so-called responsible party should pay.

This is because the laws governing personal injury, deliberate or accidental, negligence and defamation are different to current criminal laws. It is all decided by what is called 'Tort Law'. This law is used to determine who is responsible for an issue that does not arise from a neglect of contractual duty. It defines who is legally responsible for a legal injury, whether that be to the person, to the person's reputation and character or to their property. It will cover intentional and accidental acts.

If an intention cannot be proved then negligence has to be established. Negligence is defined as not carrying through a proper duty of care which brings about an accident or injury to another party. And this is where it all gets messy. There is no definition of what a proper duty of care should entail and it is left open to interpretation by injury lawyers and judges. To prove a case on principle alone is notoriously difficult as everybody is entitled to their own interpretation of what are and are not acceptable principles.

Thus we have court cases where injuries are deemed as being more significant in one case than they are in another. It all hinges on one man's personal principles. We also have issues arise where a judge has to decide whether a person has made their own choices that have led to a problem, whether they were led into a bad decision, whether that be a deliberate mis-leading or an mis-understanding.

Only this week the press reports of a woman who became dangerously ill following a dieticians advice on a very strict detox diet. After complications, the woman was left with brain injuries and epilepsy and was awarded 800,000 pounds in damages by a court who ruled she had been mis-informed and that the care was possibly negligent. Maybe if a different judge had been residing, he may have decided the woman was solely responsible for her own eating habits and it was her choice to follow the diet. Who knows what could happen on the day and until some definite legislation is put in place, injustices will still seem to be happening.
About the Author
Compensation expert Catherine Harvey looks at the use of Torts Law when injury lawyers are deciding on compensation claims.
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