While genuine victims of injury should continue to have access to legal redress, legislation must ensure common sense prevails

Last week, during a shopping trip to the local branch of a well known DIY store, my wife encountered an obstruction on the floor, tripped and fell face down on a wooden pallet.

The staff quickly arrived at the scene, assisted in lifting her upright again, dusted her down and applied an ice pack to her nose in an attempt to prevent any subsequent appearance of having gone five rounds with John Prescott.

More importantly, they entered the details in the accident book. Although shaken and suffering some abrasions and bruises, Mrs Foulsham was otherwise unharmed.

It subsequently became apparent that one of her rings had been damaged in the fall and the cost of repair quoted by a local jeweller was just £15. So that we were not out of pocket, would it be reasonable to ask the store if they would agree to meet the cost of repair, which they could easily deal with from petty cash?

Think of the implication, however. By offering £15 they would be accepting liability and in so doing would also prejudice their insurer’s position, in the unlikely event that a subsequent personal injury claim was forthcoming.

It wasn’t long before we were tempted by the TV adverts by the claims farming lawyers promising compensation on a ‘no win no fee’ basis if you had recently suffered an injury.

They were seductive, particularly as the likelihood is that we would have received an offer without much in the way of substantive medical evidence, on the basis that the claim was unlikely to be defended in view of the amounts and circumstances involved.

The intention of a public liability policy is to protect the policyholder against third party claims where there has been negligence. Have the store been negligent in this case? Possibly. Has there been an injury for which the victim is entitled to receive compensation? Not really.

Needless to say, we will not be seeking to make a claim. This was an accident, and accidents do happen. As my wife says: “How could I return to the shop?”

Genuine victims of injury should continue to be able to have prompt access to the legal system so that they may receive the compensation to which they are entitled. But compensation culture is still very much alive and adversely affecting claims costs in the liability market. Revised legislation is urgently required to ensure that common sense prevails.

Steve Foulsham is head of technical services at Biba