Personal Injury Claims
The Law Society Gazette recently reported that law firm workers were being forced to come into offices unnecessarily during the lockdown, and ordered to keep quiet if they had any concerns. The piece went on to say that staff at various firms were reporting that their employers were unreasonably refusing to allow them to work from home, despite the obvious concerns for their safety.
Recently The Observer quoted the TUC’s General Secretary Frances O’Grady who said “If the government is upping enforcement, Ministers should start with employers who break Covid safety rules”. Ms O’Grady also called for Health and Safety Executive to be much more assertive in issuing enforcement notices against rogue employers who put staff at risk.
Of course businesses are facing huge difficulties, and many are struggling to survive, but this can never be a justification for taking serious risks with the health, and possibly even the lives of employees.
Workplace compensation claims usually relate to unsafe practices, or poor health and safety standards which give rise to accidents and injuries. Obviously Covid is an infection that might be picked up anywhere. However, if it can be shown that an employee caught Covid within the workplace - for example because there was a cluster of infections within a group of people who were working together at the same time, and that with reasonable adjustment those employees could have worked from home, they could well have viable claims.
It is particularly disappointing that law firms are apparently being careless about their staff, and if they deal with Personal Injury claims then it will be even more so. Kingsley Napley LLP is of course a law firm, and most of our staff have been working remotely throughout the pandemic.
Clinical Negligence Claims
We have had a lot of enquiries about people asking about claims against the NHS, for failure to diagnose and treat Covid in a timely fashion. Many of them are very sad indeed, and involve the death of a much loved elderly relative. We have not been able to accept any of those cases, because the standard of care for a Clinical Negligence claim is that of a “reasonably competent practitioner in the field at the time” and there can be very little doubt that the NHS is not breaching that standard. On the contrary, it appears to be making heroic efforts in extremely difficult circumstances, and the sad reality is that even with optimum care, Covid-19 can be a deadly virus.
Other Compensation Claims
Perhaps not surprisingly the Courts have been busy with these, because Covid is not only damaging our health – it is also damaging the economy in a very big way. Lots of businesses have something called “business interruption insurance”, but as is often the case when claims are made on a policy, the insurers do not want to pay out. In broad terms the insurers have been saying that the “disease clauses” in the contracts are such that losses arising from the public health emergency caused by Covid are not covered.
A number of businesses have sued their insurers, and a group of test cases were rushed through the courts and “leapfrogged” to the Supreme Court, which recently handed down its Judgment in the lead case – FCA v Arch and Others UK SC 2020/0177. Cutting a long story short, the Court decided that the insurers do have to pay out, and this is very good news indeed for businesses – particularly small and medium sized enterprises that are facing financial ruin. Of course it is less good news for the insurance industry, and there are warnings about increased premiums and so forth.