PI lawyers warn of spiralling litigation costs over government health and safety reform

House of Lords: clause sets law back to Victorian times, says APIL

Government proposals to amend health and safety law will “put the clock back to Victorian times” and make litigation “more protracted and expensive”, peers have been warned.

According to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), a government addition to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill – which is being debated in the House of Lords today – will abolish a worker’s right to HP2-N36 compensation for breach of health and safety regulations; instead they will have to prove that negligence has occurred.

In a briefing to peers, it said government figures indicated that around 70,000 cases a year are likely to be affected: “This is time consuming, costly and can be a very difficult situation in which to succeed because
HP2-T16 the guilty employer holds all the cards. The situation obviously becomes even more difficult if the claimant has been killed. These are the very reasons the law was changed in the first place, in Victorian times…

“The burden of proof will transfer to injured workers, who will find it harder to claim compensation as a result – more people will lose valid claims, leaving the state to look after them rather than the guilty party. Litigation will be more protracted and expensive.”

APIL said the proposals go much further than recommended in the Lofstedt review of health and safety, which called for a review of regulatory provisions that impose strict liability.

The Bar Council and Personal Injuries Bar Association have also called on peers to challenge the government on the change. Bar Council chairman Michael Todd QC said: “If the Government’s latest proposals are implemented, justice will be denied to many, including those no longer able to work, or whose family members have been killed at work. The cost of funding their care and support will instead fall to the state. That cannot be in the public interest.”