UK Claims Culture: Not Quite What It Seems?

Many consider the USA as the West’s dominating force and think that wherever the US goes, the UK is quick to follow. Forget high school proms to Black Friday, ‘compensation culture’ is now considered one of the most prominent supposed imports from over the pond, with suggestions that the UK’s newfound fixation on compensation claims is driving up insurance premiums and other expenses. However, recent research shows that the idea of a British compensation culture is not quite accurate. Here is a breakdown of some of the most telling figures.

Award Amounts

One of the most noticeable differences between personal injury claims in the UK and the US is the amounts claimants are eventually awarded, and it is so vast as to indicate a void between the two ‘cultures’. Experts have ranked the five largest amounts ever awarded in each country, producing interesting figures: the UK’s highest award sum was of £28 million, where the US’s was of an incredible $150 million. Both claims involved injuries sustained by children, although the UK’s was made shortly after the accident, and the US’s over a decade later, after the victim eventually died of related injuries. But the UK’s largest award equating to approximately just 1% of the US’s largest goes to show there is still a world of difference between the two cultures.

In fact, this is further demonstrated when comparing the lowest of the US’s top five awards with the UK’s largest. Even then, the UK claim equates to less than one-fifth of the US’s fifth largest. A US court awarded $148 million to an unknown individual for an airport accident, while the UK’s largest claim was taking into account the victim’s young age, her need for 24/7 care for life, and the loss of what she had hoped would be a successful veterinary career. Going on amounts alone, the US is far more ‘generous’ with its awards, indicating that personal injury claims are more of a centrepiece to the culture than in the UK.

Other Discrepancies

Even when the statistics of personal injury claims are broken down into categories, there is still a noticeable trend of the UK awarding a fraction of US counterparts. For example, the largest sum awarded for medical malpractice in the UK was of £24 million to a ten-year-old child, whose surgery caused her lifelong brain damage. On the other hand, the largest medical malpractice award given by a US court was of $172 million, to an adult who also ended up brain damaged, but due to an ambulance delay. Despite age and circumstances, the UK claimant was awarded less than a quarter of the amount given to their US counterpart. In the case of road accidents, the largest such award in the UK happens to be the aforementioned one involving a child with lifelong injuries, but at £28 million, this amount is overshadowed by the US’s largest road accident award of $262 million.

The UK is not as well-versed in personal injury claims as the US, and as such, issues like how do I claim compensation for an accident at work are not such common knowledge. These statistics have gone to prove how little similarity there really is between public perceptions of compensation culture on either side of the pond, but also help to explain the steady rise in UK-based claims. The figures indicate that the UK is fostering an increasingly health- and safety-conscious culture, and that the use of personal injury claims is just one cog in the whole machine that works towards more stringent safety practices, and has helped to improve conditions in workplaces and public spaces.