Whiplash – It’s time to take it seriously

Let’s be clear from the outset, whiplash is a serious injury and can result in long-term damage and lessen the quality of an individual’s life if left untreated.  It has often had the reputation as the type of personal injury claim unscrupulous people use as a vehicle to defraud insurers. However, according to an independent survey of 4000 respondents conducted by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) in 2012:

• Up to 40% of those who suffer from whiplash never claim for compensation
• In the previous 12 months whiplash claims had fallen by 24,000
• Almost 90% of claimants were diagnosed with whiplash by a medical professional
• Far from being an epidemic, only 1 in 100 individuals suffered from whiplash in the preceding 12 months of the survey being conducted
• 80% of suffers either report their symptoms accurately, or underplay them
• Just under 30% of claims were encouraged by the victim’s insurance company

What is whiplash?

Whiplash, or neck strain, is caused when a sudden, violent movement or impact causes your head to jerk forward, backwards, or sideways, beyond its normal range of movement.  The strain can take several months to heal. The muscles and tendons in the neck stretch and tear causing various symptoms such as:

• Neck pain and stiffness
• Headaches
• Pain when moving the neck
• Back pain
• Pins and needles in your arms and legs
• Dizziness
• Tiredness
• Blurred vision
• Vertigo

Occasionally whiplash can result in a chronic, long-term condition and can lead to anxiety and depression.

Treatment for neck strain includes medication, physiotherapy and keeping your neck mobile.

What causes whiplash?

A common cause of whiplash is being involved in a motor vehicle accident, especially a rear-end collision as the impact throws your head forward with great force and then snaps it backwards.

Whiplash can also be caused by a sudden blow to the head (for example while participating in a contact sport), or by a slip or fall.

Recovery from whiplash

The majority of victims make a full recovery from whiplash within six months. However, around 10% of victims suffer ongoing, chronic pain associated with their injury, and half of those people are unable to work or enjoy a reasonable quality of life.  The reason for this is often as mystifying to the medical professionals as it is to the patients.

Studies have been conducted in Australia which illustrate that in approximately 50% of chronic whiplash cases, the pain originates from specific nerves inside the neck.  By deadening these nerves permanently the pain can be eradicated.

Rehabilitation instead of compensation?

There has been a recent call for a debate about compensating whiplash victims financially.  It has been suggested that claimants should receive rehabilitation instead of cash settlements. However, the idea has received lukewarm response from insurers.  Instead it has been suggested that the rules for compensation claims should be tightened by methods such as restricting the time limit a person has to lodge a claim.

This would discourage the small number of fraudulent claimants and allow solicitors and insurers to concentrate on supporting the people who have genuine cause to seek a financial settlement for their injury.

If you have received a neck strain injury and are unsure as to whether you are entitled to compensation, visit our dedicated page or contact us today on 0333 400 4445 or fill in our contact form.  Our experienced and empathetic team can assist you with advice on the next steps to take.

Police Negligence – The Courage to Complain

Can you imagine life without an entrusted, professional police force? Believe it or not, the police force as we know it today is less than 200 years old.  In 1829 the Metropolitan Police Force was established by Sir Robert Peel and today we rely on the police to keep our persons and property safe.  And most of the time they do an exemplary job.  However, like all professionals, police officers are not immune to making critical errors of judgement that can cause irreparable damage.

Recent cases

Take for example the following recent incidences:

In January 2014 police accepted liability for a serious brain injury which caused irreversible, long-term damage to a young man who was left in a cell for 10 hours with no medical treatment after sustaining a head injury. The custody sergeant was made aware that the youth had suffered a head injury but he failed to make a record of it. The victim was classified as drunk and simply placed on half-hourly checks. The victim’s family were advised that had treatment been sought sooner he would have made a full recovery.

In May 2014a 28 year old man settled his claim for personal injury against the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The victim was joyriding in a stolen car in Belfast seven years ago when he was shot by police and left permanently blinded in one eye. He sued the PSNI on the grounds that, “….the policeman who opened fire acted in complete defiance of the relevant regulations. The officer shot directly at the car, aiming for the upper body or head, using lethal force in a built-up residential area”.

In July 2013a Scotland Yard marksman was found by an official inquiry to have unlawfully killed a man he shot six times. The family are still waiting for criminal charges to be brought against the officer.

Because the police are in an authoritative position, many people have no idea what steps to take if they have suffered harm due to police negligence.  Examples of wrongs endured include:

False imprisonment/Wrongful arrest

You may be entitled to compensation if the police have detained you unlawfully.  The police must have a lawful excuse for detaining you; they cannot restrict your movements for their convenience.


Police have a right to use reasonable force. However, if you are the victim of wrongful arrest, or you feel the force used against you by a police officer was excessive you may be able to claim compensation.

In July 2013, a father of one was thrown into a police cell and suffered broken fingers after being pulled over for driving too slowly.  A jury at Manchester County Court found the Greater Manchester Police guilty of unlawful detention and assault and stated there was no justification for his three hour detention.

Discrimination or harassment

The police are a public body and therefore must fulfil both the general and specific requirements under the Equality Act 2010.  The characteristics protected from discrimination under the Act are:

• Age
• Disability
• Gender reassignment
• Marriage and civil partnership
• Race
• Religion or belief
• Sex
• Sexual orientation

If you believe you have been harassed or discriminated against because of any of these characteristics you may be entitled to compensation.

You may also make a complaint against the police if you have been injured by a police vehicle or you believe a weapon was unlawfully used against you by a police officer.  The harm does not need to be physical, you may be entitled to compensation if you have suffered emotional or physiological trauma due to police negligence.

How to Make a Claim

The first step to making a claim is to seek legal advice.  Your lawyer will advise you on how best to proceed with a case for compensation.

To assist your case it is vital that you write down any details of the incident and ensure you obtain contact details of any witnesses to the wrongdoing.  Make sure you document any medical assistance you have received and take photos of any injuries sustained.

If you believe you have been a victim of wrongful conduct by the police visit our dedicated page, or contact us today and we will guide you through the process in complete confidence.

The State of Britain’s Construction Sites

A bit of history

In January 2011 a 31 year old Romanian man, Silviu Radulescu, suffered fatal head injuries after a 2.5 tonne lift he was standing on plunged five stories.  He had been working at the building site on John Islip Street in London for one week and had not received adequate training for the task he was assigned to.  After a five day inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court, the jury found Mr Radulescu’s death had been unlawful and the family has demanded that his employers be prosecuted.

Jump forward to November 2013 and another labourer, Richard Laco, 31, was killed on site in north London when piles of concrete and steel came crashing down on top of him as a stairwell was being raised.  In March 2014 a 46 year old man was killed on the Docklands Light Railway site in Stratford after being struck by a piece of machinery.

These are just three examples of recent deaths in the construction industry. Although the number of deaths has fallen overall, it still remains one of the most dangerous professions to work in.

Current Health and Safety Standards

As the economy grows ever stronger and the embattled construction industry of the last six years starts to flourish again, are the health and safety standards on British construction sites up to standard?

In 2011 the Health & Safety Executive which monitors standards within all industries had its funding cut by 35%.  This caused concern among health & safety campaigners, with one calling the situation “a ticking time bomb”.  The reason for the concern is that many attribute the relatively low injury figures of 2012 and 2013 (357 and 307 respectively, per 100,000 workers) to the economic slump which had a very negative effect on the construction industry.

However, as the industry comes out of the downturn, Heather Bryant, the Health & Safety Executive’s chief inspector of construction warned that there was “definitely a risk that injuries and fatalities could increase”. A cut to the HSE’s funding now may result in an inability to monitor standards across the industry at a time when it’s most needed.

The future

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has stated that 182,000 new jobs will be created in the industry over the next five years. However, to avoid an increase in injuries and fatalities, it is vital that the people employed are suitably qualified and properly trained. Small to medium size businesses account for around 70% of fatalities in the industry, and around 40% of workers (rising to 90% in the London area) are self-employed and hired on a casual basis.

As the industry grows this can create a potentially dangerous situation as smaller firms are potentially more likely to cut corners with regards to health & safety and a casual worker is less likely to speak up about unsafe practices because he or she knows they can be let go at a moment’s notice.

The casual nature of employment within the industry also makes it difficult and often uneconomical to implement and deliver long-term training programs to ensure every worker is adequately trained and prepared for the work required.  Building a strong, safety-conscious work culture in such a casualised industry is also challenging, as work colleagues and foreman can change from job to job. Therefore solid, best practice knowledge and formal work-safe practices and procedures are very difficult to put in place.

While an increase in construction work is welcome and extremely good for the British economy, companies need to ensure that their health and safety strategies are firmly implemented now in order to prevent a future increase of lives lost or damaged forever due to preventable workplace injuries.

If you have suffered an injury at a construction site and you believe it was someone else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation – for more information see our construction injury claims page. If you wish to talk further about your situation contact us on 0845 345 4444 or fill in our contact form, and our friendly advisers will discuss your situation with you.

Food Poisoning – How to avoid it

In April 2014 a Chinese Takeaway in Leicestershire was fined £4,500 for failing to clean up its “revolting” kitchen. The owner did not clean up the kitchen after previous warnings. He stated, “No-one complained of food poisoning from my shop, so I overlooked it.”

Every year, there are around 1 million cases of food poisoning, according to the Food Standards Agency. In most cases, food-borne illnesses are short, violent and nasty, leaving the victim weak and unwell for around a week.  However, in some cases it can be very serious.  Food poisoning contributes to around 20,000 hospital admissions and 500 deaths per year in the UK.

Of course, food poisoning is not confined to situations where people eat out in cafes or restaurants. It can also occur as a result of food prepared in the home.  To avoid the unpleasantness of a food-borne illness developing from your home-cooked supper always remember:

• Wash your hands before handling food, each time you handle raw meat, fish, poultry or eggs, and after using the toilet. Use hot, soapy water.
• Use separate chopping boards for meat and vegetable preparation (it is a good idea to have different colours for each board so you remember which board is intended for which task).
• Keep raw meat away from ‘ready to eat’ foods. Food poisoning often occurs when raw chicken is placed on a refrigerator shelf above a pre-prepared pudding or salad, resulting in the juices from the chicken dripping onto the prepared food, thereby contaminating it with bacteria. Because the contaminated, pre-prepared food is not heated / cooked before serving, the bacteria are not killed off and food poisoning can result.
• Keep your fridge temperature below 5°C.
• Cook food, especially meat and leftovers, properly, and until piping hot.
• Do not risk eating food, especially animal products (seafood, eggs, meat and dairy) after the labelled ‘used by date’.

Whilst you are in control of hygiene standards in your own home, how can you protect yourself from obtaining a nasty bout of food poisoning when you are eating out? Clearly it is not practical to inspect the kitchen yourself!

The best thing you can do is check the restaurant’s Food Hygiene Rating provided by the Food Standards Agency. Simply type in the name of the establishment you plan to visit and it will return a rating from 0 to 5, based on how closely the business is meeting the requirements of food hygiene law.

You can also read reviews of the restaurant or cafe you plan to dine in before you eat there.  In today’s online world, a case of food poisoning often reaches cyber-space in the form of reviews on sites such as www.tripadvisor.co.uk.

Here are some other steps you can take to protect yourself:

Pay Attention to the Cleanliness of the Bathrooms

Good restaurants and cafes take the cleanliness of their bathroom facilities very seriously.  If the rubbish receptacle in the bathroom is full and it looks like it has not had a decent clean in a while you might wonder how clean the kitchen is.

Avoid Buffets

Think about it, the food at a buffet is very vulnerable to inconsistent temperatures, and some restaurants are quite happy to let food sit out for hours without checking it.  Also, a lot of people touch the food and utensils with their unwashed hands.  If you do eat at a buffet, choose an early sitting.

Smell your food

If you detect a funny or unpleasant odour, inform your waiting staff immediately.  The food should smell fresh.

Speak up

In England we’re notorious for complaining vehemently to one and other about the quality of food in a restaurant, but when the waiting staff ask, “how was your meal?” we say, “fine, thank you”, then carry on grumbling to each other.  However, if your food is undercooked or lukewarm, send it back for your health’s sake.

Eating in an establishment that has one of these shortcomings does not necessarily mean you will contract food poisoning, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Even a mild case of food poisoning can be extremely unpleasant.  If you have contracted it and believe it was someone else’s fault view our dedicated page, or contact us today to discuss your rights to compensation.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – Suffering in Silence

Although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) did not become an official diagnosis until 1980, its symptoms and sufferings have been with us for many centuries. For example, there are the cases of ‘shell shock’ during the Great War which are now known to have been cases of PTSD. Unfortunately for its sufferers, PTSD is still seen as a weakness by some and our society expects people who are involved in or witness traumatic events to just ‘get over it’ within a very short period of time.

One aspect that contributes to society’s lack of understanding is that very few people know what PTSD actually is. There is also the question why some people suffer from it after what seems a relatively mild trauma and others can survive a major event and have no symptoms at all. To address these two questions let’s look at the definition of PTSD.

What is PTSD?

According to the NHS PTSD is “an anxiety disorder caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events”. These can include being involved in or witnessing:

• Road accidents
• Violent physical or sexual assault
• Military combat
• Terrorist attacks
• Someone’s violent death
• Prolonged physical or sexual abuse or neglect
• Natural disasters

PTSD does not necessarily develop straight after the event. There have been many documented cases where a person has been involved in, or witnessed a traumatic event, and for months or sometimes even years, they have no symptoms of PTSD. Then, without warning, they suddenly start experiencing the classic signs of the affliction such as:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks to the event
• Insomnia
• Difficulty concentrating
• Anger and irritability
• Avoidance and becoming ‘numb’ emotionally
• Feeling ‘on edge’ all the time

As scientists begin to understand this disorder, they are discovering that PTSD is nothing new and has been suffered by people throughout history. This goes some way towards dispelling the myth that people who suffer from PTSD are somehow ‘weak minded’ or ‘soft’.

For example, Thomas Heebøll-Holm, a historian at the University of Copenhagen, analysed three 14th century texts written by a French Knight called Geoffroi de Charny, who was also a diplomat and trusted adviser to King John II of France. After studying between the lines, Heebøll-Holm believes he can make a case for medieval knights suffering from some trauma due to their violent and relentlessly harsh lifestyle. Although the author showed no signs of PSTD, in his writing he often expressed concern about the mental wellbeing of other men. You can read more about his fascinating finds here.

Shell-shock is also a well known term, which was applied to soldiers during World War 1 who became hyper-sensitive to noise, dizzy, anxious and began to have tremors. It was initially thought these symptoms were brought on by neurological damage caused by exploding shells and gunfire (hence the term ‘shell-shock’). By 1916 more than 40% of all casualties were attributed to what seemed to be this new phenomenon, and around 350 men who displayed symptoms were executed for cowardice. We now know the horrors of trench warfare had an enormous emotional effect on veterans and 306 of the men who were executed received a group pardon for their alleged offences in 2006.

Why are some people vulnerable to PTSD and not others?

It is estimated around 50% of people will witness or be involved in a traumatic event at some point in their lives and thankfully, most people will cope well, even when confronted with horrendous situations. However, there are a percentage of people who never fully recover after a serious event. Many studies have been done to try and establish why some people, although they initially show some signs of anxiety, do OK in the wake of violence, natural disasters or car accidents and others develop severe, sometimes crippling PTSD.

There are biological differences between those who develop PTSD and those who do not. According to an article in the Nature Journal “functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which tracks blood flow in the brain, has revealed that when people who have PTSD are reminded of the trauma, they tend to have an underactive prefrontal cortex and an overactive amygdala, another limbic brain region, which processes fear and emotion”.

Environmental factors are also thought to play a part in people’s recovery from trauma. Study after study has shown that social and community support acts as a cushion against PTSD. Religious practice and having a strong purpose in life have also been shown to aide recovery from PTSD.

There is much work to be done to ensure people who suffer from PTSD are not dismissed or seen as defective in some way. Some have stated that even using the word ‘disorder’ in the name is offensive, as post-traumatic stress is a natural reaction to terrible events.

If you suffer or have suffered from PTSD we can offer you helpful legal advice which may assist your situation, for more information visit our Post Traumatic Stress Disorder page. If you would rather speak to someone now about your claim, call us in complete confidence on 0845 345 4444, or fill in our contact form and we’ll get straight back to you.