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Stop the claiming for damages culture against schools, hospitals, …

Comment 1st July 2010

We should by using an NHS hospital for ourself or a state school for our children, for examples, implicitly accept that we cannot sue those organisations.

I think we should accept that things do go wrong. Sometimes by mistake, sometimes by incompetence and sometimes by evil intent.

Evil intent should be the liability of the wrongdoer, even if they have no means to compensate their victims or those affected by their actions. That may be and should be covered by criminal law. We should accept that rare possibility.

Mistakes, even when fatal, do happen and should be identified quickly and apologies issued. If procedures need to be changed that should be for that organisation to consider.

Where incompetence has serious consequences then whether the person or persons found to be incompetent should be allowed to continue working as before should be examined quickly.

In extreme cases, such as death or serious injury, there may be a need for a standard (i.e. irrespective of the deceased's wealth and circumstances) payment. I believe that for all but the most serious injuries an apology at most should be offered.

Why does this matter?

We have lost so many freedoms to perform useful actions in the interest of others due to concerns about liability. Both private and public organisations are increasingly hampered in what they can do by the terms of their insurance policies and by the fear that their actions might lead to liabilities not covered by their policies, i.e. that the employee themselves might be liable.

If we reduce the number of things we have to worry about in our working lives then we can be more productive and happier.

Costs for education and health have been bloated by insurance premiums. We need to reduce these costs, so that more of our money is paying for service delivery and less for insurers' profits. Claims also tie up a lot of professionals' time that could be better spent in service delivery.

I believe hospitals (and others) used to be covered by 'Crown Immunity' and so health professionals generally did not have to keep worrying about whether legal claims against them might arise. They could do their work effectively. A look back to those times would tell us about the impact of insurance and the claims culture.

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