Accidents (not incidents): the message of integrity

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I recently had an accident where a car hit mine from behind.

I have been talking about experience, trust, leadership etc in my previous articles. I’m now going to talk about something different: advertisements from the no win no claim lawyers promising thousands of pounds for an accident or injury that was not your fault. People are raking in a lot of money from this. Whiplash injury being the most common. 

I recently had an accident where a car hit mine from behind. Thankfully no one was injured and the individual accepted responsibility. We got the car sorted and I thought that was the end of that.  

I have been getting calls from various insurance agents promising me thousands of pounds which they say has been set aside by third party insurance and if I decide not to take the payment it will go back to the rich shareholders. When I insisted that I don’t have any whiplash they then said that I don’t have to go to a doctor or anyone to prove, all I had to say was I suffered discomfort.

When I told her that I was not comfortable telling a lie, she even had the guts to say that why would it bother me if I get a few thousand pounds for saying that I had a discomfort. 

I reflected on all this and then went and looked for data to understand what’s going on. I was shocked to notice that the UK as a country has become the most litigious country in the world.  

Being curious, I looked at the nature of advertisements and noticed that they primarily focused on injuries in health care (often dentists), accidents at work and road traffic accidents.  

For ten years now, the legal profession has been allowed to advertise. In that time: 

  1. Car insurance premiums have gone up by 50% caused by £1bn in claims. There has been a significant rise in fraudulent claims and you have some law firms and insurance firms calling up the drivers promising thousands of pounds; 

  2. Health care premiums have gone up for the private sector, and the NHS paid out £1.7bn last year for a service which you have had to pay if you were living outside the UK. The total cost of all claims if successful would amount to £65bn according to the latest figures; 

  3. When it comes to work place injuries, common reasons were trips and falls (29%), lifting and handling (22%) and stuck by an object (11%) - all costing employers £14.9bn by way of lost days and ill health.  

What we are seeing is undermining the very fabric of how we operate as a society.

I am not even going to start talking about other claims that happen in schools, supermarkets etc. It takes this to a new level.   

When you watch an advertisement where an accident is portrayed in a fashion to wrench your emotions, you feel that the poor souls have suffered injustice. I do agree that there are certain situations where it was a perfect case of negligence. They are what I would call rogue employers and they don’t care about their people. However, organisations in general take extra care to ensure the safety of their work force and their customers.  

Whilst these adverts appeal to our monetary needs, it is also creating a culture where we as individuals are failing to take responsibility.

We don’t acknowledge that accidents do happen and that is why it is an accident and not an incident. 

As we know, every time someone makes a fraudulent claim, that amount is spread across all customers and the insurance premium goes up.  

We are not just hit in the wallet. This ability to extract money has created a mesh of processes and protocols and unnecessary paperwork for healthcare providers. Why does this happen? Because they want to ensure that they are protected. A 10 minute procedure is followed by 30 to 40 minute paperwork. And then we scream and say hospital waiting times are abysmal. 

Unsurprisingly, it has created a lot of stress in the working environment. One in five specialist doctors are thinking of quitting before they are 50. There is an exodus of talent abroad. The UK is still seen as an excellent country for training doctors yet the talent shortage is stretching resources. This litigation driven approach is causing people to curb their line of work to a narrow area which means the quality of surgeons could be impacted over the long term. A similar context is unfolding in education.  

Don’t get me wrong, we need to have reasonable controls in place to ensure that people are not harmed or to prevent wrong doing. 

The society we live in is like a river and legal structures are like river banks. They ensure that the society functions effectively without anarchy. We need to shore up our river banks. 

We need to start thinking about this now to inspire some corrective action around lobbying decision makers to act, and spreading the message of integrity. Can we all do that?