Covid-related PI claims “gaining momentum”, warns defendant firm

Caswell: EL is main area of claim

Claims for compensation after being infected with Covid-19 “appear to be gathering some momentum” amid a significant increase in claims farming activity, a leading defendant law firm has warned.

BLM acknowledged it was making predictions based on “extremely low” claim numbers – barely 30 cases had been registered with the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) as of 20 November – but partner David Caswell said they offered “potentially interesting insight if the indications it provides were to operate at scale”.

Case numbers picked up from September, with claims split equally between men and women, with 50-59 years old the main age group.

“Unsurprisingly”, 62% of the claims were employer’s liability (EL) cases. Writing on the BLM website, Mr Caswell said: “The predominance of EL claims could, we suggest, be attributed to the health and care settings.

“These account for almost 70% of RIDDOR reports in respect of Covid made to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to date, with 14,428 reported instances since April (189 of which were fatalities).”

Such reports have to be made where a worker has been diagnosed as having Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence to suggest it was caused by occupational exposure.

There has also been an increase in the proportion of reporting from the education and manufacturing sectors (from 2% to 17%), “likely reflecting the return to face-to-face teaching and the opening up of the economy” as well as better supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

Mr Caswell said the HSE also reckoned there was under-reporting in the system. “Nevertheless, the reports show the potential scale of the issue.”

He went on: “By comparison, the numbers of EL claims reported to the CRU to date are almost vanishingly small and the very low claim numbers probably reflect the significant hurdles to be overcome in terms of investigation and evidence, in particular of liability and of causation.

“These are only claims presented to a compensator, who has reported the claim to the CRU and therefore there will no doubt be a volume of claims waiting to be presented.”

Mr Caswell said that, with such small numbers to date, there were no clear trends as to which claimant firms were bringing the claims, “although there is, as might be expected, some weighting towards those firms with union links” – Thompsons is leading the way so far.

“There is however a significant increase in claims farming activity focused upon Covid-19 and we can expect these numbers to start to surge, not least if the earliest cases are successful.”

Earlier this year, fellow defendant firm Kennedys highlighted how claims farmers and law firms were eyeing up the opportunities that the pandemic may offer.

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