Injured in the UK: the possible effects of Brexit on accidents at home
As a nation we are all currently considering the effects that leaving the EU will have on our lives. Whether you are/were a Leaver or a Remainer, Breixt has its consequences for all including injury and medical claims lawyers
Jackie Spinks (link to her blog) has recently written about the potential consequences that leaving the EU may have on claims involving accidents abroad. Note the terms “potential” and “may”. Nobody knows for certain what will happen. Uncertainty makes lawyers uncomfortable and we are of course not alone in this. In some ways it is futile to discuss what may happen, but in other ways we wish to be as prepared as possible for any changes so we are able to act in our clients’ best interests.
So, as well as accidents abroad, what changes could impact on claims involving accidents at home?
Accidents at work
You may not realise it, but EU regulations are to thank for a lot of the improved standards people can expect when at work. The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, which ensures that workplaces in the UK meet minimum health and safety requirements was as a result of such an EU Directive. This was followed by the 6 pack of regulations to further improve health and safety. The effect of these regulations have been watered down somewhat by section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA). It used to be that breach of a duty imposed by these regulations would provide a cause of action against an employer by an employee who had been injured by the breach (strict liability). Now, such breaches can only be used as evidence of negligence to found a claim; there is no longer strict liability. This was seen as a victory for those who see health and safety legislation as fuelling a perceived compensation culture. If this is the stance taken whilst Brexit was just a twinkle in the eye of Michael Gove, practitioners may have to be on their guard against further chipping away of health and safety protection.
I once had a client who suffered a nasty injury to his thumb whist using a Pyrex dish purchased from Argos. Expert evidence proved the dish was faulty. My client could then rely on the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (and its associated regulations) to succeed in a claim against the manufacturers of the dish. This Act was introduced as a result of EU regulations. Will this stay? Or will we see a watering down of such protection now that we do not have the EU requesting that we uphold such standards?
Small claims limit
In her blog, Jackie refers to the anticipated changes in raising the small claims track in road traffic accidents. Again, this is seen as a move to halt a perceived compensation culture. This is not something which comes about as a result of Brexit although it may be seen as a reflection of the mood of a nation which felt over regulated. I have nothing to add substantively to this save to say that I hope that the complications of Brexit keep the government too busy to implement such changes in the short term, changes which will inevitably be detrimental to all claimants (Leavers and Remainers alike).