Inter Law – Dodgy Compensation Claims in Decline

Unreasonable compensation claims are on the decrease.

It’s largely believed that dishonest and exaggerated compensation claims are now on the decline and cases have certainly been out of the news this year but until recently exceptionally strange cases had been reported regularly. One such case from May last year was considered newsworthy by the Daily Mail: “A secretary who claims she suffers from the ‘winter blues’ has demanded over £15million in compensation because she was not given a desk near a window,” the paper reported.
The 35 year old woman had decided to sue her ex-employers after refusing to work at her desk. She cited seasonal affective disorder as the cause of her depression and anxiety. The effects of the controversial disorder can usually be relieved by exposure to bright lights.

Caryl Dontfraid said that her requests to sit in a well-lit area or next to a window were denied by the New York law firm for which she worked. Initially, she asked to work from home and then she asked to be able to work next to a window. She refused to sit at her desk and was fired. The firm claimed that the desk which she had refused to sit at was actually positioned 3 feet away from a window.

A year earlier, payments were awarded to almost 200 prisoners and former inmates at a UK jail because they claimed that forcing prisoners who were addicts to go ‘cold turkey’ amounted to an infringement of their human rights. The claimants were addicted to heroin and other opiates and were considered to have been undergoing treatment before going to jail. The Home Office issued a statement that it had reluctantly awarded out of court settlements to minimise costs to tax payers which would have otherwise been incurred if they had decided on taking action. The Home Office also issued a statement that the cases dated back to the early 1990’s.
It was clearly the prisoner’s responsibility to behave in a law abiding manner and if they had done so they would not have had to suspend their opiate intake so sharply and entirely. They were responsible for the suspension of their drug intake by making the premeditated decision to break the law. This would surely have become apparent in court but it was never addressed. The government regularly finds it more financially suitable to compensate those who make bogus claims than see the situation through to a just conclusion in the courts.

Where the government are failing to win the battle against unreasonable claims local councils are making a concerted effort to have an effect. Rotherham Borough Council runs a 24 hour phone-line that people can call to report suspected bogus claims, which the council says were costing tax payers over £1m a year.
A cabinet minister said in a BBC news interview that Rotherham Council will “…honour all genuine claims, but fraudulent claims undermine the claims of people with deserving cases for compensation.” He added. “Fraudulent claimants are committing a crime against their community, and we want them to be caught and punished.”

Tough approaches like those taken by Rotherham Council seem to be having a positive effect on what was coined by critics in the early 2000’s as ‘Compensation Culture’. Subsequently, fears that the British public would become and remain over-eager to enter into lawsuits for purpose of dishonest personal gain are now finally being laid aside.


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