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Ayrshire lawyer slams Byers condemnation of public service accident and injury claims

NEWS RELEASE: 10 March 2004.

An Ayrshire lawyer has slammed accusations today by ex-Cabinet Minister Stephen Byers that accident and injury claims by staff against the National Heath Service and local authorities are causing nationwide shortages of nurses and teachers.

Norman Geddes, senior director of Ayr-based Solicitors Frazer Coogans argued: “To say that health workers and teachers who suffer as a result of accident or injury at work through no fault of their own should not have the same recourse to the courts as any other citizens is palpably unfair. Obviously society should have no truck with vexatious or spurious claims, but when people suffer damage to their lives or to their careers it is only equitable that they should be awarded adequate compensation.

“The suggestion of Mr Byers that a voluntary scheme of no-fault compensation would cut lawyers out of the equation might sound fine in theory. But who, if not the courts, is to decide what is adequate compensation in the case of justified claims? This proposal is just a cost-cutting exercise in disguise, (“setting financial limits to settlements” being a key phrase in Mr Byers’s speech), and would not be at the expense of the legal profession so much as the accident and injury victims themselves.”

Mr Geddes accepted that television and newspaper advertisements by cowboy accident and injury firms often set out to mislead the public. But he countered by pointing out that many of the health and safety improvements that society has witnessed and benefited from in recent decades had only come about as a result of successful court claims by accredited lawyers on behalf of victims against careless employers.

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