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Engineer wins £400k asbestos compensation claim

A ROCHDALE man who was exposed to asbestos when he was just 15-years-old has won a £400,000 compensation claim after he contracted terminal lung cancer.

David Smith, 56, had been working as an apprentice electrical engineer when he was exposed to the deadly substance while working for Alstom Energy. He worked for the company from 1968 to 1980, using cable ducting that was insulated with asbestos.

He decided to bring a compensation claim after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused by asbestos, which often kills sufferers within months.

Mr Smith, who is married with three sons and has two grandchildren, was forced to close his own street light maintenance business, which employed two people, after he become too ill to work in 2007.

Mr Smith said he brought the compensation claim in order to secure his family's future.

He said that the compensation claim would not make him well again. "I would rather have my health and be working. I had no idea back then that what we were working with could be so dangerous."

Joanne Candlish, from Thompson's Solicitors, who represented Mr Smith, said the compensation claim took into account the losses caused as a result of being forced to close down the business. "It was his wish that the compensation was secured in his lifetime," she added.

Employers failing to protect staff from swine flu could face compensation claims

Legal professionals have warned that swine flu victims could sue their employers for tens of thousands of pounds if they can prove that they contracted the illness at the workplace.

Firms could face costly personal injury claims if they fail to adequately protect their workers from the H1N1 virus. Therefore employers are being urged not to ask staff to stay at work or to come in if they are exhibiting symptoms of the illness, as doing so could be in breach of the Health & Safety Act.

Managers should take necessary precautions as early as possible to ensure their employees are protected. As the Government has predicted that up to 12% of the British workforce could be off with swine flu by September, employers who protect their staff in advance will be protecting themselves from potential employment compensation claims and excessive absences.

"If employers can show they have taken reasonable steps to provide a safe working environment, they will not be liable, either in criminal or civil proceedings," said James Wilders, employment law partner at law firm Dickenson Dees.

"These do not need to be complex and would include ensuring rooms are properly ventilated, having soap and hygiene gel available, communicating company policy on illness and, above all, ensuring people with symptoms are sent home promptly."

Employer fined after worker severed fingers

A worker severed four finger in a guillotine accident at work Centriforce Products has been ordered to pay almost £5,000 following a workplace accident in which a man lost four fingers.

The workplace accident, in May 2008, occurred when machine operator Wesley Dickinson and a colleague had been working on a plastic cutting machine. The plastic had become jammed and Dickinson, thinking that his colleague had turned off the automatic guillotine switch, tried to clear the blockage. As he did so the guillotine cutter came down on his hand, severing four fingers.

Dickinson was in hospital for three weeks with surgeons eventually managing to re-attach two of the fingers, but he will be unable to carry out any manual work in the foreseeable future.

Liverpool Magistrates Court fined Centriforce Products £2,500 with £2,438 in prosecution costs for breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations which state that an employer must stop employees having access to dangerous machine parts.

HSE inspector Martin Paren said: "The company should have had a guard on the guillotine to prevent workers from reaching the blade. An automatic mechanism should also have been in place so that the power was cut if the guard was opened. Instead Mr Dickinson wrongly assumed that a colleague had switched the guillotine off, and he had four fingers cut off as a result."

Company fined for serious work accident

The employers of a man seriously injured in a work accident, have been fined following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The victim, who worked for a cleaning products company in Nottingham, had been operating a semi-electric stacker truck when the vehicle toppled over and landed on him, causing him to suffer serious personal injuries.

As a result of the incident, the employee was forced to spend ten days in hospital and was off work for a further three months. His injuries included a fractured cheek bone, serious head injuries and long term sight problems.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was revealed that the stacker truck was normally used on the factory floor but in this instance was loading a lorry on the outside road.

The terrain of the road proved unsuitable for the vehicle and led to the stacker truck toppling over a kerb.

The company were found guilty of breaching Health and Safety Regulations at Nottingham Magistrates' Court. They were fined £5,000 and ordered to pay a total of £18,000 in court costs.

Speaking after the hearing, a HSE inspector stated that to avoid this type of work accident employers must ensure that work equipment is suitable for the environment and the task they are being used for.

It has not been reported whether the head injury victim will be pursuing a work accident compensation claim through the civil courts.

Asbestos cancer sufferer denied workplace compensation due to loophole

A woman from Warwickshire who is seeking a compensation claim against her late father's workplace has been told that she is not eligible for compensation as a result of a legal loophole.

Judith Tomlinson, 58, from Baginton near Coventry, has mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related cancer.

She strongly believes that her father's work overalls and company van could be responsible for how she contracted the disease.

Roland Adcock, Mrs Tomlinson's father, was a foreman at construction firm Mason McCabe, based in Acocks Green, Birmingham, from 1958 to 1982. It is believed that he was exposed to asbestos when he worked on a contract in Castle Bromwich.

Despite the evidence, Mrs Tomlinson has been denied compensation because the company her father worked for has since closed down.

The current law allows workers suffering from industrial illnesses and injuries to claim compensation from their employers. If their firm has shut down, suffering workers can still file a claim against the firm's insurers. However family and loved ones who have also been affected can only currently claim from a current firm.

Mrs Tomlinson's solicitors have expressed that they are continuing to seek compensation for their client.

"We will continue to fight for compensation for Judith but at the present time the law is different for secondary victims - namely people who were not employees of the company using asbestos," explained Alida Coates at Irwin Mitchell solicitors.

Amputee receives personal injury payout following work accident

A LABOURER who fell at work and had to have a leg amputated received a six-figure sum in compensation from his former employer.

Mr William Edge fell from his wet ladder onto concrete three meters below, breaking his ankle in the fall. After eight separate operations and sixteen months of treatment, his right ankle became infected and the decision was made to amputate his leg below the knee.

Mr Edge said the injury had taken away his career as well as leaving him traumatized, commenting "It's difficult to comprehend how much my life has changed since this accident. It's ruined my life in many ways. The most obvious effect has been on my mobility. I was fit, healthy and fully mobile before my accident."

"I also suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder. I get flashbacks of the accident and the hospital." Mr Edge was keen to stress that the infection was due to the break in his ankle, and not the standard of care at Derriford Hospital where he was taken.

Mr Edge received substantial personal injury compensation in an out-of-court settlement with building firm Ardmore Construction, his former employer.
A spokesperson for Ardmore Construction Limited said the company deeply regrets the accident, and that they "accept that there is always more that can be done to improve safety in the construction industry.we employ eight full-time safety officers who work tirelessly to prevent accidents. Although he was an older worker, Bill was fit, healthy and fully mobile, and considered more than able to climb a ladder."

Woman Awarded £240,000 in Asbestos Claim

The number of compensation claims for asbestos-related diseases could soar following a test case involving incurable lung cancer sufferer Dianne Willmore.

Willmore, 49, has been awarded £240,000 in compensation after a court found Knowsley Council liable for negligence.

Willmore claimed that her asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma, was caused by exposure to asbestos dust from the ceiling tiles of the Merseyside secondary school at which she was a pupil in the 1970s.

The test case could open the doors for other asbestos claims linked to comprehensive schools built in the 1960s, many of which were built using the toxic material.

Teacher makes compensation claim following pupil poisoning

A TEACHER who claims she was poisoned by a pupil is making a £700,000 compensation claim against her former employers.

Shaaira Alexis is suing after she drank blackboard cleaning fluid placed in her water bottle by a schoolgirl, the High Court in London has been told.

Although Miss Alexis, 52, made a full recovery, she filed the compensation claim, saying she had suffered mental scars from the attack, and was once so scared of leaving her classroom that she urinated in a wastepaper bin.

Her poor attendance record at Brampton Manor School in Newham, east London, led to her losing her job in August 2006 and, having been unable to become a head teacher or department head, she set up a string of failed businesses.

Miss Alexis, described by her barrister William McCormick as an "excellent teacher" and a "valuable member of staff", has launched a compensation claim for £700,000 in damages to cover lost earnings and pension entitlements against the London Borough of Newham.

Mr McCormick said other "extremely nasty" incidents at the 1,450-pupil school, in one of Britain's poorest areas, had resulted in "ganging up on staff". The local education authority denies negligence and disputes the value of her compensation claim.

Star stays quiet over compensation claim

THE drum and bass producer star Goldie is staying silent over claims that he has made a compensation claim against a television production company.

The 43-year-old from Hemel Hempstead, who has also starred in a James Bond and recently won the BBC reality series Maestro, is reported to have brought the compensation claim after he broke his leg while practicing waterskiing for the TV show The Games in 2006.

Goldie, whose real name is Clifford Price, is alleged to be making the compensation claim against the British Waterski Federation (BWSF) and programme makers Endemol.

However, his manager Ryan Paul said: "It's a personal matter and at this time he has no comment to make."

Six-figure compensation payout to Birmingham City hospital worker

A retired manager who worked at a hospital in Birmingham has been awarded a £307,550 compensation payout and will receive a further £24,000 every year for the rest of his life because he claims he suffered stress at his job.

The former NHS employee, who retired in 1996 and whose work was mainly office-based, filed a compensation claim through the NHS Injury Benefit Scheme, which provides compensation to staff who have suffered injury or disability as a result of their work.

The Department of Health has now ordered the Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust to make the payment. The trust had previously been fighting the compensation, disputing that they were not responsible for paying the large sum.

A director for the trust expressed that the payout does not relate to physical personal injury or a workplace accident.

Rising costs over NHS negligence

Costs for NHS negligence have increased dramatically by almost a quarter in just one year. The NHS spent around £800 million last year after a sharp rise in those seeking compensation.

The NHS's Litigation Authority shows that maternity services are those most targeted for compensation claims. Poor maternity care in London is costing the NHS £27m a year alone, which amounts to a third of the bill for all compensation claims in the capital.

Claims include a five-day-old baby who died after a number of mistakes at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The fact was the baby was upside-down in the womb, went unnoticed and staff continued to use the wrong forceps for the procedure. Although the baby was put on a life-support machine, she died shortly after. Her parents, Katherine and Ben Harman, from Battersea, were awarded £50,000 in compensation, but regret that their daughter "could still be alive" if it weren't for the errors made by the hospital.

Another payment of £600,000 was made to the widow of Jessica Palmer, 34, who died shortly after giving birth at Kingston Hospital in 2002. The hospital admitted liability for her death after admitting they had failed to notice that she was suffering from blood poisoning.

In the case of higher payouts, for example botched births leaving infants disabled, a more structured payout is awarded, compensating them for the care that they will need to receive through their lives.

Official records show that across the NHS, 3,645 patients died of infections contracted whilst in hospital, mistakes whilst undergoing surgery and other medical errors in 2007/2008. This figure was up 60% from two years previously, but it has been reported that figures could be even higher. However, when it comes to compensation for these mistakes, it seems that claimants may be missing out. Figures show that £143m, nearly a fifth of the overall figure paid out, went to lawyers rather than to the victims' families. It has been claimed that some "no win - no fee" companies are touting for business in A&E waiting rooms across the country.

The Conservative Health spokesman, Mark Simmonds, stated that "we need a robust and fair way for patients who have received negligent treatment in an NHS hospital to get the treatment they deserve. Instead, we have an inefficient system which incurs vast legal costs for NHS trusts."

Rise in Medical Negligence Claims against NHS

The annual NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) report for 2008/09 has revealed an 11% increase in medical negligence claims against the NHS. The report noted: 'We have not been able to identify any single factor that might have precipitated the rise.'

The report showed that the amount paid out by the NHS in legal costs and damages has also increased dramatically, from £661 million in 2007/08 to £807 million in 2008/09.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'The amount spent on clinical negligence in 2008/09 does not necessarily reflect the number of new claims being made in that year, but could indicate that more claims were settled and compensation paid.'

The NHSLA report also showed that maternity cases lead to the highest payouts for legal costs. This is because errors in delivering babies can cause lifelong damage, and personal injury payouts therefore reflect the long-lasting medical attention required.

Police officer fails in disability lump-sum compensation claim

A former police officer has been told that he does not qualify for a lump-sum payment in compensation after an incident which left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

South Wales Police dog handler Mark Pugh, 50, became severely depressed and suicidal after he was attacked by a mob of fans at the trouble-hit FA Cup tie between Cardiff City and Leeds United in 2002.

Mr Pugh has already won his claim for a disability pension, but has been denied a lump-sum compensation claim because although he has been categorized as 100% disabled, the South Wales Police Authority believe that he is not unable to work at all.

"Applications for these payments are very rare because only officers who have suffered 100% disability which is permanent are entitled to them," explained a spokesperson for the authority.

Nigel Daniel, Mr Pugh's solicitor, said his client has been treated "appallingly" and believes that the authority has made an "incorrect decision."

Mr Pugh was in the news recently when it was revealed that South Wales Police spent over £100,000 on Operation Thames, a surveillance operation where almost a dozen officers from South Wales Police and the neighboring Dyfed-Powys force were used to spy on him for months. This was an attempt by the authority to see if he was faking his disability and therefore deny him of his disability pension.

Plumber's Mesothelioma Compensation

A hospital plumber with just months left to live has been awarded £175,000 in an asbestos-related claim. With the help of UNISON, Alan Ward from Weston-super-Mare, won his personal injury claim against Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority. The 61-year-old is suffering from Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining induced by inhaling asbestos.

Ward was exposed to asbestos regularly while working in Wakefield hospitals between 1964 and 1972. He had never been warned about the potential dangers to his health, and had never been provided with any protective clothing.

UNISON's General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said Ward was just one of the many employees whose jobs had cost them their lives. 'Alan is one of a growing number of workers whose health has been fatally damaged just through going to work,' he said.

Prentis also emphasized the need for employers to take health and safety risks seriously, stating: 'Employers have to face up to their responsibilities to make sure they don't put their workers at risk of injury or death.'

Inhalation of asbestos particles can also lead to the lung condition asbestosis. People working in professions such as mining, plumbing and building without adequate health and safety training often show symptoms of serious asbestos-related diseases due to their regular contact with the material.

Mesothelioma and asbestosis compensation claims can be made following such exposure to asbestos. Symptoms of asbestos-related conditions can include shortness of breath, tightness of the chest and chest pain.

Personal injury claimants unsure after GM and Chrysler bankruptcies

PEOPLE bringing personal injury claims against US car giants General Motors and Chrysler have asked Congress to ensure that their cases won't be forgotten and compensation can still be awarded after both companies filed for bankrupcy.

A number of consumer groups who have examined Chrysler's bankrupcy ruling, which took place in New York at the end of May, say it absolves the new company of old responsibilities, including personal injury claims.

Now the Centre for Justice and Democracy has urged Congressional action to prevent any personal injury claims against GM being thrown out in the future.

Its executive director, Joanne Doroshow, has also called upon Chrysler to create a $300 million fund - and for GM to establish an even larger fund, because of its size - to cover an existing or future personal injury claims.

NHS to Embrace No Win No Fee

The National Health Service is to make use of the no win no fee claims system in order to recoup money lost to fraud.

The NHS Counter Fraud Service has reached an agreement with a law firm who will help recoup lost money and provide legal advice and representation to the NHS at a special rate.

According the health service, approximately £6m is returned every year following legal action against fraud, although this is said to be a fraction of the total cost of fraud to the NHS.

The head of operations at the Fraud Service, Allan Carter, said he believed that no win no fee would benefit the NHS in their pursuit of fraudsters. 'We want to help get more funds back into the health service and I think this agreement will help us do that,' he said.

When it comes to tackling fraud, the NHS has two routes to choose from: criminal or civil action.

Either of these routes can present a series of difficulties. Civil action uses up large amounts of time and resources, while in criminal cases a judge may not order the return of funds.

Collaboration with the law firm and use of the no win no fee system is expected to make it easier for the NHS to pursue civil action.

MP and Trade Unions calls for law change to protect workers from dog attacks

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) have called for a change in the Dangerous Dogs Act, in order to protect workers who are vulnerable from attacks by dogs.

The calls from the CWU come after Angela Smith MP advised that the law should be updated so that workers can claim for compensation if they are attacked and injured by dogs on private land. An amendment of the Act could also allow the owner to be prosecuted if a claim is made.

Workers that regularly travel to and enter people's homes, such as nurses, police officers, utilities workers and postal staff, are at a high risk of suffering personal injury as a result of dog attacks.

However, at present the law does not cover incidents that take place on private property. Billy Hayes, the general secretary of the CWU, claims that around 6,000 postal staff are injured in dog attacks every year, but up to 70 per cent of these incidents happen on private land, where the law currently does not apply.

"Angela Smith's Bill comes not a moment too soon," he said. "The Dangerous Dogs laws in the UK currently leave thousands of postal workers at risk from debilitating dog attacks with no legal right to pursue damages or to have action taken against dangerous dogs and their owners."

"If a person wishes to own an animal, particularly a dog, then they have a duty to ensure that it doesn't cause personal injury and damage," he added.

MoD spies on soldiers to check injury claims

The Ministry of Defence has come under fire after admitting to spying on wounded British soldiers claiming for damages for their injuries.

Since 2000, 284 claims have been secretly monitored in an attempt to stop false or exaggerated claims.

The MoD has defended its actions, stating that the surveillance "is used in less than 1% of cases and should be of no concern to individuals with a legitimate claim."

The MoD affirmed that the tactics have already found and stopped a number of fraudulent claims, although the exact number has not been made public.

In the past week, the solicitors representing all of the servicemen and women currently seeking compensation have received letters from the MoD warning that claims may be "investigated thoroughly," with assessment "undertaken covertly by surveillance when necessary."

Diane Dernie, the mother of Ben Parkinson, a paratrooper who was badly injured in Afghanistan, said she can "barely believe it."

"We are talking about young men who are terribly maimed," she said. "I've seen these people make incredible efforts to get well again, yet the MoD is treating them as potential fraudsters - and for what?

To save a few quid on what must be a microscopic number of claims which are exaggerated."

Miners' knee sufferers 'deserve' compensation claims

MINERS who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee - more commonly known as miner's knee - must act now over compensation claims they are entitled to, a Welsh MP has claimed.

Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli, said recent legislation that signaled the government's recognition of Miner's Knee as an industrial disease, had allowed the going-ahead of compensation claims in the form of the new Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

But she warned ex-pit workers against signing up with law firms that take part of the payments, arguing that miners can apply directly for the compensation, without the help of solicitors.

"I want to see every penny of any payment going into the pockets only of those who deserve it - miners - and not the pockets of greedy law firms," said Ms Griffiths. "Some made millions of pounds out of processing claims in the past - providing a quite unnecessary service.

"What I would tell former miners is that claims should be made direct to the government's Department for Work and Pensions at their Castleford IIDB Centre in Leeds."

Ministers agreed with recommendations from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council that coal miners who have worked underground for over 10 years should be entitled to compensation claims in the form of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. The scheme is expected to be up and running at the end of June.


Mesothelioma sufferer wins £110,000 compensation

A man suffering from Mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos has won more than £110,000 in a mesothelioma compensation claim.

Pensioner Bert Scammell, 79, had enjoyed a healthy life until symptoms of the disease began in 2008. He said: 'It was in the summer of 2008 when I began to feel breathless and generally unwell.

'I visited my GP who referred me to the King George Hospital where they arranged an x-ray, and I was admitted for some fluid to be drained from my chest.

'My consultant found a little further fluid on my lung and I was transferred to St Bart's Hospital in London.'

Mr Scammell was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a type of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, in January 2009.

Although initially unsure of how had come into contact with asbestos, Lesley Mynett, an industrial disease specialist, said Mr Scammell's job issuing tools and materials to the workforce at chemical production company Plessey's was to blame.

One of these materials Scammell issued daily to the workforce was an 'asbestos-replacement' product.

'It was introduced as an alternative to using asbestos', said Mynett, 'and Mr Scammell - and many others using it at the time - believed it to be harmless.

'Unfortunately, the product was up to 50 per cent asbestos, and so he was being exposed on a daily basis without any knowledge.'

Mr Scammell was not issued with a safety mask while working with the product and was therefore regularly exposed to asbestos fibres. It wasn't until four decades later that the symptoms of Mesothelioma began to appear.

Injured teachers received £18 million in compensation last year

Last year over £18 million was paid out by schools to teachers that were the victims of injury, discrimination, or bullying.

Payouts for injuries are at record levels, with school staff members being awarded more compensation for accidents and employment disputes than ever before.

Figures from the National Union of Teachers show that 16 teachers received compensation for accidents like tripping over classroom chair legs or slipping on wet floors and food left in corridors.

One such claimant was a teacher in a Kent school who was awarded almost a quarter of a million pounds after a box of paper fell on her head from the stationery cupboard.

Another teacher slipped on ice in the school car park, leading to a fractured wrist. As grit had not been laid down successfully the victim was awarded £8,500.

Claims like these lead to the amount of compensation being paid out to teachers for personal injury to exceed £18million, a figure greater than that of compensation awarded in cases of criminal assault.

The majority of the compensation payments have been made by the schools and local education authorities that employ the teachers.

Schools have fallen under criticism for failing to carry out their responsibilities with regard to the health and welfare of staff. A spokesperson for the NASUWT Teachers Union "Millions of pounds of public money is being paid out to people who quite rightly deserve that compensation, but are for incidents that could have been preventable.


Health and safety hypocrisy

Health and safety needs to be taken more seriously and not ridiculed.

Tom Mullarkey, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has used a report to the organisation's annual meeting to call for a re-examination of what he says is the national hypocrisy on health and safety.

Mullarkey says that while swine flu is being taken seriously, work to reduce the number of people killed in accidents, a figure which is rising, is being hampered because of people generally seeing health and safety issues as examples of the 'nanny state' and media reports making fun of the topic.

He says in the report: "We seem to have developed a national hypocrisy on health and safety which needs to be re-examined. People are not surprised to see earthquakes, helicopter crashes or swine flu make the headlines but would only rarely; if they paused for thought, describe these events as health and safety issues. The use of NHS resources, how well we prepare our children for adulthood through the education system or the proliferation of alcohol abuse are all subjects which raise serious, intense debate but the links are rarely made with the underlying subject, which is only described in derisive terms."

Mullarkey warns that people have to look seriously at health and safety issues and says that the media have to, "stop tilting at the windmills and get down to the serious business of supporting accident prevention".

He is the latest high profile figure in the health and safety profession to call for an end to media distortion. John Holden, president of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, commented recently: "A diet of ridiculing stories in certain quarters of the national media is setting up health and safety as a great British joke."  

Families of dead servicemen to sue Government

FAMILIES of 10 British servicemen who were killed when the RAF Hercules they were travelling in was shot down in Iraq are suing the Ministry of Defence over the crash.

In a move that may result in a landmark ruling, relatives of the nine RAF servicemen and one soldier have launched the action, claiming that even though the plane was downed by hostile forces, the Government failed to protect the dead's human rights by not taking all necessary measures to protect the Hercules.

The C130K was brought down by small arms fire on January 30, 2005, as it flew at around 150 feet between Baghdad and Balad. A fuel tank was ruptured, causing an explosion which then blew the right wing off the plane.

The action follows on from the men's inquest last year, where coroner David Masters concluded that they had been unlawfully killed. Highlighting the absence of explosive suppressant foam, or ESF, around the plane's tanks, which expert witnessed argued could have prevented the crash, Mr Masters said: "The failure to fit ESF was, on the facts found, a serious systemic failure and a contributory factor in the loss of the aircraft. There was a loss of opportunity for the survival of the crew by that failure."

Masters added that he found it "difficult to find logic" in the MoD's decision not to fit ESF to the Hercules, particularly after it emerged that it had been recommended in a 2002 document. The inquest was also told that Iraqi insurgents had shot at two US Black Hawk helicopters on the day of the Hercules crash, but that information had not been passed on to British aircrews.

Smithfield Partners, which began an action against the MoD following the deaths of a number of servicemen killed when their Nimrod spy plane exploded in Afghanistan following refuelling, has issued similar proceedings on behalf of the Hercules families, accusing the ministry of negligence, breach of a duty of care and failing to comply with article 2 of the European convention on human rights - the respect for life.

Many legal experts believe it is the last claim that could result in a landmark ruling, paving the way for copycat legal actions from families that have lost loved ones in combat. John Cooper, the families' barrister, said: "The families are of the view that there had been significant failings on behalf of the MoD. Fitting explosion suppression foam to the Hercules could have bought the crew time to save themselves."

The MoD has already admitted fault. Following the inquest, Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Hillier said: "We were not able to provide the crew with all the up-to-date intelligence and tactical advice concerning potential vulnerabilities. The MoD did not take all available information into account in developing equipment to protect against likely threats. For these shortcomings, I would like to apologise, on behalf of the RAF and the MoD."

Workers' compensation insurance - how it works

THERE has been growing criticism of compensation claims in recent years, and that looks set to continue as businesses find it increasingly hard to trade in the current recession, leaving them with little or no money to pay for unforeseen circumstances.

However, workers' compensation is there for a good reason: to ensure that staff are protected financially when they suffer an accident that is no fault of their own. A claim will cover loss of income, as well as medical and related expenses.

Anyone can claim workers' compensation if an accident happens to them in the course of carrying out their job. This need not be in a normal place of work, but in any location that an employee has been asked to perform work-related tasks.

All employers are required to take out workers' compensation insurance. This means that while a member of staff will sue their employer following a fall, it will be the insurance company that meets the cost. As a consequence, no worker should be made to feel that they could lose their job by claiming. If they do, they should consult a legal representative.

In addition, employers are compelled by health and safety regulations to safeguard their staff. As a result, they should provide proper and regular training and updates, and ensure that any machinery or equipment in use in the workplace complies with Government standards.

When an accident occurs at work, the injured party should report it immediately to their employer and any trade union representative. They should then speak with a solicitor that specialises in personal injury law. They will be able to advise whether there is a case to prosecute, and will guide a client through the claim process.

An employee usually has up to three years to make a claim for workers' compensation.

However, if a member of staff suffers long periods of illness or injury as a consequence of any work-based accident, they may be entitled to take action outside of this time frame. A solicitor specializing in personal injury claims should be able to advise whether any exceptions apply.

Woman wins £105,000 head injury compensation

A former AA call centre handler has won £105,000 compensation in a successful head injury claim after a faulty headset left her with a range of severe hearing problems.

Mother of one Beverly Thomson, 48, from Leyland, Lancashire, started working for the AA in 1978 but was forced out of her job in 2006 when doctors explained that continuing to use the headset could further damage her hearing.

Thomson, who worked as a home-based breakdown call handler, had developed mild frequency hearing loss, severe tinnitus and pain in her ears because of the headset, which had been provided by AA in 2005.

She said: 'In December 2005 I reported the fact that the volume on the phone was too loud.

There were people on motorway calls shouting down the phone and I could not turn it down.

'I had to wear it round my neck with the loudspeaker on. I reported it to the AA and their answer was 'We know about it, there's a solution in place'.

'The equipment was never changed. One day in April 2006 I started feeling quite dizzy and I said to my husband 'I think there's a hissing noise on this'.'

Thomson has now won £105,000 in compensation for her injuries, after claiming head injury compensation from her employers on the basis that the AA failed to provide her with safe equipment, failed to act upon reports made by her of the problems she was experiencing and that the equipment had caused hearing damage.

If you have been injured as a result of your work, and you feel that your employer was at fault and this led to your injury, you may be able to make a successful work accident claim for compensation.


Student succeeds in compensation claim against Abercrombie & Fitch

A disabled student is set to receive £9,000 in compensation from the US fashion chain Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) because of the discrimination she suffered due to her prosthetic arm. Riam Dean, 22, from Greenford in Middlesex, resigned from her job at the Central London store after her prosthesis was deemed unsavory by its "visual team" and was asked to work in the stockroom instead of on the shop floor.

Miss Dean, who is currently studying law at university, was awarded the compensation when she took her case to a UK employment tribunal, who has sited wrongful dismissal by the company.

She was born without a left forearm and told those in the court that "I never let my disability get in the way of living a fulfilled life. I do not want special treatment."

The student has stated that she made the disability known to her employers after accepting the role and was told she would be able to wear a cardigan on the shop floor. However she was later informed that the cardigan breached the "looks policy" of the store and she was instead assigned to the stockroom until the store's winter uniform arrived.

The company has released a statement saying that the tribunals' findings were based "on the events of a single day" and that these "were not at all representative of Dean's overall employment with A&F."

In 2004, A&F spent nearly $50 million to settle claims for discrimination in the US.

Broken down, Miss Dean was awarded £7,800 compensation for injury to her feelings, £1,077 in lost earnings and £138 for wrongful dismissal.


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