Insurance Downgrades Due to Personal Injury Exposure

Insurers which are dealing with multiple personal injury claims are facing the prospect of a downgrade from credit rating agencies. This is largely due to Periodical Payment Orders (PPOs), which are an alternative to lump sum settlements in personal injury cases. Under a PPO a claimant will still receive a lump sum, but a smaller one, which is then periodically topped up to cover costs such as medical expenses and to compensate claimants for loss of earnings.

PPOs were introduced by the Courts Act 2003 which gave courts the power to grant claimants settlements to cover them for the rest of their lives. Two years after their introduction less than five claims were settled using PPOs whereas by the end of 2010 almost 20 claims were settled in this way. This increased trend has been driven by low interest rates amongst other factors.  Continue reading

Defective products & personal injury

What Constitutes a Defective Product?

A defective product is, quite simply, a product which is not safe or not as safe as expected. The injury may be caused by a defect in the actual product itself, through not being put together or used properly because of poorly written instructions or through unsuitability of the use for which the product was advertised.

Some of the most recent cases involving defective products include:

  • Drugs and medication
  • Children’s travel/car seats
  • Sofas

Making a Claim

Anyone who has suffered an injury from a defective product has the right to put in a claim for compensation against the product’s manufacturer.

The defective product does not need to have been bought or even owned by the claimant and if more than one person has suffered an injury from the same defective product then it may be possible to make a group claim or ‘class action’.

When an injury has occurred via a defective product there are several forms of evidence a personal injury solicitor will require in order to put a case together and make a claim.

  • If possible the individual should take photographs of the injury as soon after the occurrence as is feasible
  • If the injury required hospital treatment then the individual should keep records of visits and travelling expenses
  • If possible the individual should try to obtain written statements or reports from all medical staff who saw and treated the injury including nurses, surgeons and GPs
  • The individual should keep records of any medication prescribed and any prescription costs incurred
  • The individual should also keep notes on the symptoms suffered as a result of the injury as, often, symptoms can be ongoing
  • If possible the individual should try to find receipts and original packaging for the product or, if the product wasn’t owned by the individual, ask the defective product’s owner for any receipts and proof of purchase they may have
  • The individual should also keep an accurate record of any loss of earnings incurred because of the injury

Most personal injury solicitors work on a ‘no win no fee’ basis which means that if, for some reason, the individual making the claim doesn’t win their case then their insurance will cover the legal costs incurred by the defendant as well as their own solicitor’s fees.

If the individual making the claim is successful then the defendant will be expected to pay all court costs as well as the compensation.

The compensation will be calculated by:

  • The severity of the injury and the symptoms suffered by the individual
  • The impact the injury has had on the individual’s day to day living
  • Whether the individual has suffered any loss of amenity due to the injury – can no longer carry out or take part in activities which gave them enjoyment or pleasure
  • The long term effects of the injury
  • Loss of earnings suffered by the individual as a direct result of the injury
  • Any other costs incurred by the individual as a result of the injury such as travelling expenses, prescription costs and treatment costs

The Case of the Toxic Sofa

In the past few years numerous claims have been put forward for defective product compensation due to cases of so called ‘toxic sofas’.

The toxic or contaminated sofas were treated with a highly toxic chemical used to prevent mould. This chemical is known as Dimethyl Fumarate and, once the crystals within the chemical are exposed to a heat source such as body heat, the crystals turn into a gas which can then pass through and individual’s clothing and cause quite severe health problems.

Dimethyl Fumarate gas can cause:

  • Breathing/respiratory problems
  • Skin rashes
  • Blisters and burns
  • Sores and lesions
  • Eye irritations
  • Fatigue

The sofas were purchased from a number of UK retailers including Walmsley’s Furnishing, Land of Leather, Argos and Homebase.

The retailers were ordered to pay a joint sum of £20 million to all the people who suffered from exposure to the Dimethyl Fumarate inside the sofas with payments varying from between £1,175 and £9,000 depending on the severity of the victims’ injuries, making this one of the UK’s largest consumer group litigations in legal history.