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20 mph residential road limit: hindrance or life saver?

September 12, 2014 at 2:43 PM

August marked the start of Manchester's switch to 20 mph speed limits across many of its residential areas. One third of the city's roads, equalling over 1,100 streets and 111 miles, have been turned into 20 mph zone's, with the possibility that all of Manchester's residential areas will follow suit.

Along with similar actions around the UK, this move has left people wondering if a 20 mph limit should be in place on every residential road in the country.

20 mph speed zone sign

Safety is key

The main argument for the reduced speed limit is that it increases road safety in areas where people live. By reducing vehicle speeds, there should also be a reduction in the number of road traffic collisions involving children and young people. It has long been known that a vehicle's speed is directly related to the severity of injuries in an accident, with evidence showing that:

• At 20 mph, a pedestrian is likely to suffer slight injuries

• At 30 mph, they are likely to be severely hurt

• At 40 mph and above, they are likely to be killed

Driver concerns

Of course, the speed limit reduction is not without its detractors. Motorists are worried that the 20 mph limit will create traffic problems, congestion and further delays to their commute. In most cases though, it is thought that the impact of the lower limits on commuters will be minor, as it is hoped that by restricting the new low limit to just residential areas, there should be no real change to the traffic on major roads.

Speed Humps on the road

Some drivers are also worried that the 20 mph areas will give rise to more of the dreaded speed humps. And while some local authorities are considering road humps as part of their plans, Manchester have actively avoided this route. They are instead opting to ensure the 20 mph speed limit areas are clearly marked by signage, rather than speed humps or other types of disruptive traffic calming measures.

Finally there are obvious concerns around the cost, as the scheme has used over £500,000 of public health funding during the two years it has taken to be rolled out. Nearby Bolton council even delayed their 20 mph speed limit plan due to a shortage of cash, and have now called on the government to intervene and invest more funding.

Enforcement or Education?

For both sides of the debate, the enforcement of this lower speed limit is a concern. In Manchester they have designated community speed watchers, who are also supported by the police force. Motorists are made aware of the new limits through clear road signs, with speed limit signs at both start and end of the areas and repeater signs throughout - with consequences if these are ignored. In other areas where reduced speed limits have been introduced the first stage of the 20 mph shift will be focused on education, mainly building wider awareness and clearly alerting drivers.

But whatever the policy, motorists are expected to follow the new speed limits and they can be legally enforced by the police from the very start.

Is Twenty Plenty?

Nearly 80% of people are in favour of a 20 mph limit around schools and in residential areas, so the scheme is unarguably giving the community what it wants. Despite the critics, the long term goals of any speed limit reduction is to improve the quality of life and safety of neighbourhood residents, and this must be remembered.

But with the Alliance of British Drivers now urging ministers to stop further the roll-out of 20 mph zones amid fears they are actually leading to a rise in casualties, the issue now doesn't seem as clear cut.

While it may take some adjustment on the part of drivers and further analysis into the long term effects, if the ultimate goal is a reduction in the number of injuries and deaths on UK roads, then in my eyes it is most certainly worth it.

 

Should 20 mph be the limit in all UK residential areas? Or should drivers be focussing more on the road than on their speedometer? Let me know your opinion in the comments.

 

About the author

Jessica Eyre  PhotoJessica Eyre is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and has worked as an injury lawyer for over ten years. Jessica manages the team responsible for providing initial legal advice to people injured in road traffic accidents.

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Breaking down the myths of 'Compensation Culture'

September 5, 2014 at 11:55 AM

With sensational headlines such as 'compensation-itis' and 'compensation culture out of control', we are likely to have caught wind of the 'compensation culture' sweeping across Britain. But are these headlines simply fuelling a backlash against a misconception, and is there any hard evidence to back up the existence of a compensation culture?

Fake US style lawyer 1-800-I-SUE-4-YOU

Many believe the tendency to claim compensation stems from the USA where large damages payouts and expensive law suits have made headlines for years. In Britain, a rise in solicitors publicly offering American style 'no win no fee' services have often been blamed for the increase in people enticed to claim for compensation on our side of the Atlantic. This is fuelled by the exposure of claims management companies who purposefully seek out claimants thanks to the regular payments they received for doing so.

It is easy to lambast such practice, but are we looking rationally at the facts and have we considered what would happen if justice wasn't easily accessible for those who need it?

Compensation Culture Facts

Recent research by YouGov revealed that only 25% of Brits who suffer a personal injury are likely to make a claim, which is actually down on 2013's figure of 29%.

Of the 75% questioned who were in a position to make a claim but didn't, the reasons given included the following:

1. Their injury wasn't perceived to be bad enough (35%)

2. Don't believe in claiming compensation (22%)

3. Not thinking their case was strong enough to win (9%)

This therefore explicitly states that 22% - almost a quarter - of those involved in an accident that could give rise to a claim for compensation would not claim simply because it isn't in their nature - this hardly suggests a rampant 'compensation culture' in which any accident is claimed against.

What needs to remain central in examining compensation issues is that the financial cost should never be a bar in restricting access to justice, and is the core principle behind no win no fee funding. The YouGov report showed that only 5% of those eligible to pursue a claim decided not to do so due to the concerns about cost, and this is something that should be celebrated.

Controlling the market

The compensation arena is in no way lightly regulated, and there have been sweeping changes to fee rules in recent years in an effort to control personal injury claims. Some, such as banning solicitors from paying case referral fees from third parties, stem the tide of those who may be unduly encouraged by fee-hungry referrers. However steps such as forbidding the recovery of the success fee from the negligent party has only meant that the injured person has to give up a portion of their compensation award to pay towards solicitors' fees.

Regulation is of course necessary to ensure the system is not abused, but in doing so we must ensure this does not end up harming those who deserve to be compensated for an accident.

Confusion over unsolicited calls

Despite the change in the law, the YouGov report suggests that there is still activity in the market place relating to unsolicited contact to encourage claims. I'm a personal injury solicitor, and even I have received numerous calls and text messages encouraging me to claim for an accident that never happened!

The Trouble with Spam Text Messages infographic

However what should be remembered with these figures is the fact they are in no way instigated by solicitor's practices. A solicitors' practice is forbidden by their code of conduct from making unsolicited contact with potential clients, and so it is a misconception that they are behind such text messages or calls.

The role of compensation - protecting the vulnerable

Interestingly, of those contacted by a 'cold' call, text or email, 13% of those who had decided not to claim, were persuaded to do so. Some may find this shocking but I would argue this is not necessarily a bad thing - if you have been injured through someone else's negligence, why shouldn't you claim?

There are of course instances in which people make fraudulent claims and unfairly claim damages for fictitious illness or injury, and these should be stamped out. However instead of focusing on removing the right to claim compensation altogether, we should focus on ensuring we only take on authentic cases, and that people know the system cannot be taken advantage of. Fraudulent claims are also not a new phenomenon, and we cannot simply blame modern culture for those who wish to bend the law.

To me it seems dubious to suggest that a claim rate of only 25% justifies a label of a British compensation culture. What we should be concentrating on is the 75% of people who could have claimed claim but didn't; it is these people who have not had access to the justice to which they were entitled?

 

About the author

Louisa Chambers PhotoLouisa Chambers is a Chartered Legal Executive and Solicitor within Spencers catastrophic injury team. Louisa has a great deal of experience in acting for clients who have suffered serious and life changing injuries through accidents on the road or at work.

Louisa's previous article was Head Injuries in Sport: who's in charge.

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Spencers Solicitors shortlisted for Law Society Excellence Award

August 28, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Law firm Spencers Solicitors has been shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards, beating competition from across the UK. Spencers, whose offices are located in Chesterfield, Derbyshire were nominated in the category for 'Excellence in Practice Management', and officially confirmed as finalists on 6th August 2014.

The category was open to law firms who have achieved the Law Society's Lexcel Accredited status, their practice management standard only awarded to those firms meeting the highest standard of client care, legal case handling and risk management.

Out of over 10,500 law firms in England and Wales, only 15% have been awarded Lexcel accreditation, and of these only eight have been selected as finalists for the 2014 excellence award.

Spencers Solicitors Chief Information Officer Martyn Gilbert commented:

"Being shortlisted for this prestigious national award is real honour for us, as we pride ourselves on the ability to provide an efficient and quality legal service of the highest standard. Our clients are at the centre of all we do, and we see it as a priority to make sure the compensation process is made as straightforward as possible, and they receive the justice and support deserved in the aftermath of injury."

 

The finalists will be judged by a specialist panel of industry experts alongside the Law Society president, vice president and deputy vice president, with the winners being announced at a ceremony in London in October.


Law Society Excellence Awards logo - focussed on sucess

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