ABI Calls for Lawsuit, Health and Safety Regs Reform to Help UK Business

March 20, 2012

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has issued a call “for action to free businesses from the fear of the UK’s compensation culture and overzealous interpretations of health and safety rules that could hold back Britain’s economic recovery.”

Insurers and business leaders in the UK have frequently cited the burgeoning of lawsuits as a sign that Britain is becoming more like the U.S. in allowing contingent fees, and permitting lawyers to file legal actions seeking recoveries – and fees – for matters that could be handled through other, less costly, procedures.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance, speaking at a Chartered Institute of Environmental Health conference on March 14, summarized the problem as follows: “Businesses, especially the small businesses crucial to our economic recovery, need to be able to thrive, not operate worried by the constant risk of being sued for the most minor of injuries and confused by health and safety requirements.”

He also pointed out that “insurance is here to help businesses do what they do best, free from the fear of being sued or engulfed in red tape. This is why following the industry’s recent insurance summit with the Prime Minister, the ABI has agreed to work with other stakeholders and develop a short simple leaflet to be included in policy documents, dispelling myths around what is and isn’t required from insurers.”

The ABI said data it has collected reveals that “for every £1 [app. $1.58] paid out to settle ‘slip and trip’ style liability claims, nearly the same amount – an additional 93 pence [app. $1.47] – is paid out in legal fees.

“This together with a legal system that encourages people to make exaggerated and fraudulent claims – fuelled by ‘no-win-no fee’ [i.e. contingent fee] claims management companies – means UK businesses are left shouldering high and disproportionate legal costs, which they are paying for through their employers’ and public liability insurance premiums. One large supermarket chain said it needed to keep five stores open a year to pay for personal injury costs alone.”

The ABI urged that action be taken “to prevent UK businesses feeling bogged down with overzealous interpretations of rules and health and safety myths. From annual electric testing of kettles, onerous risk assessments, misinformation about the need for dedicated health and safety consultants and even a ban on the use of bunting at events, there is a risk that prevailing health and safety myths can slow UK businesses down and foster risk aversion.”

The ABI said it “supports the Government’s intention to introduce a portal for dealing with workplace injuries and public liability claims to speed up the payment of genuine claims and make the system more efficient and cost effective.”

Starling added: “The UK’s compensation culture and high fixed legal fees means businesses are all too often left paying the high and disproportionate cost of settling compensation claims. The ABI has long argued for reforms to make our legal system more efficient, tackle spurious claims and relieve the burden on UK business. To help all firms, the Government must implement its reforms without delay.”

Source: Association of British Insurers

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