Compensation litigation is big business and thousands of people have found that it's a good way to earn a living. All you need is something that you could describe as an ‘accident' and a wealthy target. Specialist companies have been set up and with the aid of television advertising recruited litigants by the thousand. Usually the claims are modest enough to encourage the targets (or their insurance companies) to settle rather than run up huge costs and waste vast amounts of time fighting the case. The people bringing the legal action don't get much of the money, of course. In many cases the firm representing them would take most of the proceeds as their fee.
But these accident claims, although still continuing (and a major cause of the dramatic rise in insurance premiums for people running small businesses) are small beer compared to the money that can be obtained by suing an employee for some perceived grievance. So far most of the big compensation claims have involved government departments (the armed forces, the police, the NHS) or local authorities.
A doctor was awarded £465,000 because she became terrified of needles after accidentally pricking herself.
A social worker sued the council for which she worked and claimed that she had been exposed to stress at work. (She received £140,000.)
A mother who tried to commit suicide won £2.8 million from her local ambulance service because it took 26 minutes to arrive.
A police officer was awarded £2,000 after being bitten by his own dog; another received £5,000 for exposure to ‘excessive noise levels' while riding a motor cycle.
A fraudster received £248,000 after claiming he suffered erectile dysfunction after his foot slipped down an uncovered drain at a shower while he was in jail. A violent criminal received £75,000 after blaming his career on his attendance at a school for children with learning difficulties. The mother of a child who was expelled from school for taking a knife to school with him received £11,000 in compensation because the incident made her feel anxious.
A mortuary technician received £15,000 compensation after developing a morbid fear of death.
A British soldier who was injured when he fell from an army lorry as he ‘windsurfed' on the tailgate received £75,000 of taxpayers money.
An employee who was not given a reference by her former employer sued and was awarded £195,000. She claimed that the employer's failure to give her a reference had `ruined her career'.
A woman received around £500,000 after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running around inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were rather surprised by the verdict since the toddler who was misbehaving belonged to the woman who broke her ankle. (Why didn't they sue her for allowing her toddler to misbehave? They might have won back their £500,000.)
A man who was trying to steal hubcaps won £50,000 and medical expenses when his hand was run over.
A robber got stuck in a house for 8 days and sued the houseowner's insurance company claiming that the incident caused him ‘undue mental anguish'. The jury awarded him over £350,000.
A woman who slipped on a puddle of soft drink on a restaurant floor was awarded £80,000 in damages. The drink was on the floor because the woman awarded the damages had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier.
A man who was bitten by a dog was awarded £10,000. Fair enough? The dog had been on a chain in the owner's back garden at the time. And the man given the £10,000 had climbed over the fence and shot repeatedly at the dog with a pellet gun.
A holiday maker who was hit by a falling coconut sued her travel agent and accepted an out of court settlement. (An estimated 98% of cases are settled out of court).
A woman who was trying to sneak out of the window of a night club in order to avoid paying her bill fell and knocked out her two front teeth. She was awarded £9,000 and dental expenses.
A woman whose boss told her that he thought she had nice ‘waps' was awarded £7.8 million in compensation.
A woman whose boss allegedly called her ‘a tethered goat' got £100,000 and a woman described by her boss as a ‘bit of skirt' received £1,000,000.
In America, a woman whose boss thought women ‘snippy' received £40,000,000.
A man who bought a Winnebago Motor Home and subsequently received over £1,250,000 in damages and a new motor home. After setting the cruise control at 70 mph he left the driver's seat and went into the back of the Motor Home in order to make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, with no one at the wheel, the Motor Home crashed and overturned. The man sued Winnebago because the owner's manual didn't warn that this might happen.
A dinner party guest sued her hostess after grazing her bottom when she fell through a chair. (The chair was said to be defective and the litigant used the Occupiers Liability Act which requires the occupier of a property to take all reasonable care to ensure that visitors are safer when they are on his or her premises).
A burglar sued a householder when he caught his trousers on a protruding nail in a garden fence. Another burglar sued when he fell through a skylight which didn't take his weight.
You may be tempted to laugh at this bizarre list of money hungry morons and the crazy society which gives them money. But don't laugh. Every one of these incidents actually happened.
Solicitors and companies specialising in compensation claims fight on a no-win, no fee basis. The litigant risks nothing. If there is a successful outcome the solicitor gets paid well and the litigant gets something for nothing.
Naturally, the litigants (and their solicitors) tend to target people who have money. They check out their victims before a case starts because they don't want to get involved in expensive litigation and then find that their victim can't afford to pay anything. It isn't difficult to obtain confidential information about an individual's financial situation these days. If a litigious plaintiff and a hungry solicitor think you've got a little money they'll want it.
And so here is another reason to be private, very private, about what you own. And to make yourself (and your money) as difficult to find as possible.
Taken from How to protect and preserve your freedom, identity and privacy by Vernon Coleman. How to protect and preserve your freedom, identity and privacy by Vernon Coleman is available as a paperback on Amazon.