Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Where there's a will, there's a law suit...

I remember going to Thailand a few years ago and noticing the hanging electrical lines, the huge cracks and trip hazards in the streets and the family of five piled onto one small motorbike, and instead of feeling worried for the safety of myself or others, or shocked at the differences to my own country, I absolutely loved the fact that it seemed a little more care free or a little less of a nanny state than where I am from (I am fully aware that of course the differences in economies, population and a myriad of other things contribute and that I often wear rose coloured glasses), I found it refreshing.

It has always gotten my goat a little that we have to cross every t and dot every i here, erring on the side of over-caution in our kids playgrounds, our signing of so many pieces of paper to say "I will not sue, I will not sue". I think of those people who try to open a law suit for every little slip in a shopping centre or sidewalk mishap as lowly opportunists and something that I myself would never do, that it shows poor character. However every now and again you can get thrust into a situation where you may be forced to assess your own judgements or to leave your own comfort zones.

When I was 19 I worked in a beautiful little garden nursery and met the man whom I would end up marrying. It was a dream job way before any romance was to blossom (haha, very pun-ny) and I always worked extremely hard. My husband-to-be (and nursery manager) was working 6 days a week, and when we started seeing each other he spoke to the owner about dropping down to 5 days a week as we wanted to spend more time together out of work. She wasn't at all happy with the idea, told him as much and then told him to fire me as I was a distraction at work and sales were down on the days we worked together. It was a brash and silly move, as he had access to all of the past years records which in fact showed the highest takings on the days we worked together, and when he protested she fired us both. We made the decision to take her to court for unfair dismissal. For my young husband it was to ensure he received the compensation he deserved for having run a successful business for her for 7 years, but for me it was to ensure she wouldn't try and do the same to future employees. It went to a tribunal where the judge took one look and awarded us both a small sum whilst she received a pretty harsh talking to (she had also been under paying staff) and left with a much lighter purse, and so it was a good outcome, but I found the whole process stressful, uncomfortable and a situation I wanted to be over as quickly as possible.

Speaking to somebody the other day, they told me of a friend who had joined a gym in her 60's in order to be proactive and prevent health issues associated with "ageing" as we so commonly advise people to do. The poor woman wasn't shown by the staff how to use any of the equipment properly and ended up quite badly injured after her first visit, with consequential mobility issues that ended up costing her a fair bit in rehabilitation therapies. On the advice of friends, she was seeking legal advice to see whether she could recuperate her losses from the gym, seeing as it should have been in their duty of care to educate her in order to avoid injury.

Now, on the other side, I am setting up a health business where I will be taking out insurance to make sure anyone under my care is covered in case of anything going awry.  I have been taught to always assess every situation to make sure my patients are not at risk and to always, always put safety first. The responsibility, naturally, remains a little scary. What if someone sees an opportunity to take advantage and try to get one up on me or my insurance company? I guess it is always part of the risk and will certainly keep me honest, which is a good thing.

This whole idea of law suits and responsibilities is certainly not as black and white as I once thought it was, nor do I think I would like it be quite as "relaxed" here as in other countries. The insurance companies have their place, the law firms have theirs and we trust in the courts to make the final decisions as to what is right and what is wrong.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation or feel the same conflict of conscience around the matter? A little food for thought :)

Emma xxx

This post has been written in collaboration with Firths - The Compensation Lawyers
Get in touch with them for a free assessment of you individual situation.