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"Compensation culture" in the UK grossly exaggerated

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New research from personal injury solicitors Hubbard Pegman & Whitney (HPW) reveals that the majority of people have modest expectations for compensation following injuries at work, casting doubt on the widely-made claim that Britain has developed a compensation culture. 

In fact, HPW’s own experience is that people often stoically avoid seeking compensation for injuries, even for modest amounts, in case they are made redundant as punishment by their employer.

The  research (undertaken by YouGov and based on a representative sample of nearly 2,000 adults reveals that while over 90% expect some form of monetary compensation after an injury at work, people typically under-estimate how much they would receive and very few over-estimate, even though awards can be surprisingly modest.   

For instance, typical compensation awardedfor an arm fractured at work is in the region of £6,000 (£4,000 for the injury and around £2,000 for loss of earnings for an average earner) – however, 44% of adults expected £2,000 or less, 61% estimated under £5,000 and only 4% expected a bumper payout of over £10,000.   

The typical compensation awarded for a leg broken at work is £8,650 (£5,750 for the injury and £2,900 for loss of earnings for an average earner) – however, 46% of adults expected £5,000 or less, while only 12% expected more than £10,000.

The typical compensation awarded for permanent blindness in one eye from an injury at work is at least £31,500 (with additional sums for loss of earnings while recovering and further compensation, set by the court, for the impact on the victim’s lifestyle) – however, 27% of adults expected £20,000 or less and only 21% expected a significantly higher payout of over £100,000.

Only when you get to really serious injuries do people, not surprisingly, expect very substantial compensation.  The typical compensation awarded for permanent loss of the use of both legs from an injury at work is at least £140,000 and generally substantially higher (depending on loss of earnings and effect on lifestyle) – however, 20% of adults expected £100,000 or less, while 42% expected over £200,000 (which in most cases people would get).

Charlotte Pegman, Managing Partner of HPW, said: “Not only are most compensation awards unspectacular, but most people actually have very modest expectations – typically in-line with average awards or even expecting substantially less. Our research indicates to us that most people only want fair and reasonable compensation when they are injured at work. While large compensation awards for seemingly minor injuries and slights rightly attract hostile media attention, the reality is that awards for most workplace injuries – often nasty ones – are generally much more modest.

“In fact, our experience is that British people are often too stoic – failing to claim compensation as they are worried about losing their job, even in the case of injuries causing permanent disablement.  This trend is likely to increase in the current economic environment as workers, often those on low income manual jobs, worry that they will not get a replacement job if they are made redundant as punishment for claiming compensation for an injury.”


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