Good Samaritans and Community Heroes will have law on their side
Good Samaritans and community heroes will have the law on their side in future, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today.
The move is designed to bring some common sense back to Britain’s health and safety culture.
The government is taking action to support the millions of people who volunteer and carry out good deeds every year. An important part of this is to make sure they are not put off from participating by worries about risk and liability if something goes wrong.
It’s also bringing forward measures that will put the law more clearly on the side of employers who do the right thing to protect employees if something does go wrong through no fault of their own.
Changes are being made to counteract the growing perception that people risk being successfully sued if they do something for the common good – like leading a school trip, organising a village fete, clearing snow from a path in front of their home or helping in an emergency situation.
The measures will also provide greater protection to small business owners who face challenges from irresponsible employees even if they have taken a responsible approach to safety training and procedures.
To make sure everyday heroes are protected, the law will be changed so that judges will have to give weight to three additional factors when deciding negligence cases.
If the person was doing something for “the benefit of society” –to give weight to the fact people were doing a good deed like volunteering, running an event or trip, or helping out by clearing snow. If they had been acting in a “generally responsible way” – to make sure the court will give consideration to the fact people may have taken care when organising an activity but an accident has happened. If they were “acting in emergency” – if they stepped in to help someone in danger but something went wrong.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling:
I don’t want us to be a society where people feel that they can’t do the right thing for fear of breaking regulations or becoming liable if something goes wrong. I don’t want us to be a society where a responsible employer gets the blame for someone doing something stupid. I want a society where common sense is the order of the day, and I believe this measure will help us get there.
The law changes will be made in new legislation. They are expected to come into effect next year.
Notes to Editors
The proposed changes to the law would make sure the courts take into account the context of an incident if a negligence case is brought. They would not prohibit cases from being brought, in order to ensure that people can still seek justice if they have fallen victim to an accident caused by genuine negligence. The changes follow on from ongoing work by the Government to tackle the growth of compensation culture. Major reforms have already begun to bring down high insurance premiums which have been blamed for making it to expensive to run a car or organise an event. The new law changes could have a further impact on insurance premiums by reducing the amounts insurance companies expect to make in payouts and allowing them to pass on savings to their customers. In February 2012, the Prime Minister David Cameron pledged action to tackle high insurance premiums following a summit with the insurance industry, where insurers committed to pass on savings to their customers.
Since then the Ministry of Justice has:
Transformed no win, no fee deals so lawyers can no longer double their fees if they win, at the expense of defendants and their insurers. Banned “referral fees” paid between lawyers, insurers, claims firms and others for profitable claims – which have driven the growth of compensation culture. Reduced by more than half the fees lawyers can charge insurers for processing basic, uncontested claims for compensation for minor injuries suffered in road accidents – from £1,200 to £500. Banned claims management companies from offering cash incentives or gifts to people who bring them claims. Recommend a friend deals also banned, along with contracts agreed only over the phone. Changed the law so that regulated companies which breach Claims Management Regulation Unit rules can be fined (as well as the existing sanctions of being suspended of closed down). We have recently consulted on the level of the fines – which are proposed at up to 20 per cent of the annual turnover of companies – for offences including using information gathered by unsolicited calls and texts, providing bad services or wasting time and money by making spurious or unsubstantiated claims. This will mean fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and potentially millions in some cases.