Is there a compensation culture or is it just a myth?

It is ironic (or should that be hypocritical) that the insurance industry promotes the idea that there is a compensation culture and as a result that we are all paying inflated insurance premiums on our car insurance. Why is that ironic? Because it has been common practice for the last 10 years or more for insurance companies to actively encourage victims of road traffic accidents to make a claim for personal injury.

How does it work? Imagine you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident and so you report the matter to your insurer probably so that they will take care of fixing your car. Your insurer then persuades you to make a claim for personal injury and refers your claim to one of its panel solicitors.  The panel solicitor pays anything between £350 – 700 for the referral. So insurers have been making literally millions every year by encouraging people to make personal injury claims.

From our perspective it does not feel as though there is a claims culture because we don’t pay for referrals and only act for local people who have either been referred to us or who have made a decision to find us. They have not been cajoled by their insurance company to make a claim.

The majority of the claims we see are from genuine people who have suffered real injuries. In some cases the injuries are dibilitating and can have a negative impact on people’s lives. Take for example someone who has broke a limb and cannot work for 3 months. They only get statutory sick pay and can’t afford to pay the mortgage. This is not an unusual scenario.

When it comes down to the principles which underlie personal injury claims we doubt whether any truly rational person can dispute the logic of it all. In order to make a personal injury claim in this country you have to prove that someone else was in some way at fault.   Everyone accepts that if you damage someone else’s property that you should pay for it. We can’t imagine that anyone would argue the fact that if you drive your car into the rear of another person’s car, you (or your insurer) should pay for the damage. It is only logical that if you injure the driver you (or your insurer) should also pay for the damage.

Part of the problem arises in that some injuries are not easily detected for example, some whiplash type injuries. There have also been some reports of criminal gangs staging accidents. However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. The fact that some unscrupulous individuals will exploit the system does not alter the logic which underlies personal injury claims.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are based in Chelmsford, Essex and specialise in personal injury claims of all types. For a free assessment without any obligation call 01245 835 305 to speak to an experienced solicitor.

Credit control – assessing the risk

Whenever we are asked by one of our clients to sue either an individual or a business we assess whether that person or business is worth suing. As they say, “there’s no point suing a man of straw”. At the end of the day, the client decides whether to proceed or not with litigation, however, we make sure that the client understands the risks involved.

The assessment which we undertake is the type of assessment which individuals and businesses should undertake when deciding whether to give their customers credit and how much credit to give.

We ask the following questions:-

1. Who exactly are we dealing with? ie are we dealing with an individual or a limited company.

2. Do they own any assets?

3. How long have they been trading?

The following online resources are either free or relatively cheap:-

  • In the case of individuals we check the Individual Insolvency Register to see whether the person has been made bankrupt or some other form of insolvency.
  • In the case of companies we check Companies House as this will tell us the address of their registered office, how long they have traded and whether they have been filing accounts.
  • The Land Register can be checked to find out who owns a particular piece of land.
  • Nethouse Prices will give you an idea how much properties have been selling for in the same area.
  • For a small charge you can find out whether the individual or company already has any County Court Judgments registered against them.

The more you know about your customer the more informed your decision will be.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are a niche solicitors firm in Chelmsford, Essex that specialise in debt collection and litigation. For advice or assistance please call Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305.

What makes us different from Thomas Higgins

We are aware that many businesses throughout Essex and East Anglia use Thomas Higgins solicitors (based in Merseyside) for their debt collection work.

To be fair, Thomas Higgins are cheap, charging only £2 plus VAT for a letter before action or £5 plus VAT for a late payment demand. By comparison we charge £15 plus VAT for a letter before action (although we do automatically include a demand for late payment compensation). Admittedly we are more expensive than Thomas Higgins however we still feel that we are good value for money.

How does it work in practice? Typically, we will get an email from one of our regular clients which says something like: “can you send one of your letters to the to the following company.” They provide us with the name and address of the company that owes them money together with details of the outstanding invoices including dates and amounts. We then send that company a letter warning them that if the debt is not paid within 7 days, legal proceedings will be commenced. In addition we advise the debtor that they owe our client compensation pursuant to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 and we tell them how much they owe. We ask them to send payment directly to our client.

So what happens if the debtor still does not pay? If it becomes necessary to issue legal proceedings Thomas Higgins charge fixed costs for issuing a claim. Our charges are not fixed in the same way however we still offer good value for money and in most cases our charges are less than the compensation and fixed costs that we are able to recover from the debtor. This means that we are often able to recover the full face value of the debt for the client.

However, where we offer real added value is when the debt is disputed and this does make us different from Thomas Higgins. It is our understanding that if the debt is disputed Thomas Higgins then inform the client that they do not handle disputed cases and the client has to find a new solicitor. This can be after legal proceedings have been issued. So legal proceedings have been issued, they are being defended and you now have to find a different solicitor to act for you.

We are happy to deal with disputed cases and have the skill and experience to advise you on the merits of the dispute.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are based in Chelmsford, Essex and specialise in debt collection. For advice or assistance please contact Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305.

Quality Solicitors

Quality Solicitors FJG of Colchester and Chelmsford has announced that it’s leaving the Quality Solicitors network. FJG will revert back to their original name Fisher Jones Greenwood.

Quality Solicitors is a network of independent solicitors. Solicitors that have signed up to the Quality Solicitors network rebrand and usually get called  Quality Solicitors followed by their original name.

Fisher Jones Greenwood’ Managing Partner, Paula Fowler, has said “QualitySolicitors is the fastest growing legal network in the UK and has enjoyed tremendous success and we wish all the firms that remain within QS all the very best for the future.  However, feedback from our clients and professional connections, in this, our 30th year, has given us confidence that the Fisher Jones Greenwood brand is sufficiently strong in our target markets to go it alone.”

Quality Solicitors are being watched by thousands of independent solicitors throughout the country. They were one of the first nationwide marketing collectives for solicitors.

Hastings & Co Solicitors is a niche solicitor’s practice in Chelmsford, Essex specialising in debt collection, litigation, employment law, personal injury, landlord and tenant and commercial law. For independent advice contact us on 01245 835 305.

 

John McCririck Loses Age Discrimination Claim

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex looks at the recent case of John McCririck –v- Channel 4 Television Corporation & IMG Media Limited.

Racing pundit and TV personality John McCririck has lost his claim for age discrimination against Channel 4 and production company IMG Media Limited.

The key issues for the Employment Tribunal to determine were (a) whether John McCririck was not allowed to work because of his age and if so (b) whether the treatment was a proportionate means of a legitimate aim.

In a 44 page judgement theTribunal came to the conclusion that the Respondents had a legitimate aim namely that they wished to bring horse racing to a wider audience. The tribunal also accepted that McCririck was rejected not because of his age but because IMG’s new executive producer found him to be loud mouthed and chauvinistic.

It remains the case that for an employer to defeat a claim for age discrimination it has to show that either the treatment was not age related or alternatively that it was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in employment law. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance.

Disclaimer: this blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.

Late Payment Legislation

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex looks at recent changes to the late payment legislation.

Background

The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 came into force in November 1998. It entitled businesses to charge interest on outstanding commercial debts at a generous rate of 8% above the Bank of England base rate.

In August 2002 the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 was amended by the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2002. It was amended so that businesses could claim compensation on outstanding debts in addition to interest at the following rates:-

(a)    for a debt less than £1,000, the sum of £40;

(b)   for a debt of £1,000 or more, but less than £10,000, the sum of £70;

(c)    for a debt of £10,000 or more, the sum of £100.

The Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013

The Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 has made minor changes to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. The key changes, which came into force on the 16th March 2013,  are as follows:-

(1)    Changes to payment periods – where the purchaser is a public authority and payment terms have been agreed – the payment period cannot exceed 30 days. Where the purchaser is a private sector business and payment terms have been agreed the payment period cannot exceed 60 days unless agreed and provided the payment period is not “grossly unfair” to the supplier.

(2)    Creditors are now entitled to recover any reasonable costs of recovering the debt, over and above the fixed sum compensation.

Comment

We are big fans of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. The compensation, together with the fixed costs that we, as solicitors, are able to recover when commencing legal proceedings, mean that we are often able to recover our charges, in addition to the full face value of the debt, in undisputed cases. If the new right to recover reasonable costs, enables us to recover costs in disputed cases below £10,000 (ie the current small claims track limit) where previously we were not able to recover reasonable costs, this will be great news for creditors who are owed money.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in debt collection and litigation. They offer a low cost debt collection service but have the skill and experience if the debt is disputed. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance.

Disclaimer: this blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.

The Employee Shareholder

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex takes a look at the new class of employee – the “employee shareholder”.

Background

As of 1st September 2013 the government has introduced a new type of employee – the employee shareholder. Section 31 of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2103 makes it possible for employers to offer new recruits or existing employees the chance to become employee shareholders in return for signing away certain employment rights.

How does it work?

To create a valid employee shareholder the employer must give the employee a minimum £2,000 worth of shares (which the employee must not pay for). The employee must also  sign a written agreement and must have independent legal advice on the agreement before it is binding.

The first £50,000 worth of shares will be exempt from Capital Gains Tax. However, this will not apply to anyone who has a “material interest” in the company (defined as anyone with 25% of the voting rights in the employer or parent company).

What rights are signed away?

  • The right to make a claim for “ordinary” unfair dismissal.
  • The right to a redundancy payment.
  • The right to make request study or training.
  • The right to request flexible working.

In addition, the notice requirements for employee shareholders taking maternity leave will be different.

What rights are not taken away?

Aside from the above rights, all other rights remain the same. This includes, for example, discrimination claims and claims for unfair dismissal for reasons where the dismissal is automatically unfair (eg for whistleblowing dismissals).

What other issues are there to consider?

There are a number of issues to consider including:-

  1. Valuing the shares.
  2. Whether the company’s articles of association need changing.
  3. The type of shares to be offered and the rights to be attached to those shares.

Comment

We understand that enthusiasm and take up has been very poor and we are not surprised.

We doubt there will be much take up from small companies on account of the not insignificant set up costs and the need to give away a sizeable chunk of shares. We doubt it will become common practice for small businesses employing non-key staff.

However, the exemption from capital gains tax could be significant and might be attractive to key employees in high growth companies.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in employment law. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance.

Disclaimer: this blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors takes a  look at the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (often referred to as “The Inheritance Act”).

Background

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 makes it possible for certain classes of people to make claims on estates. They are commonly referred to as Inheritance Act claims.

Who can claim?

The following classes of people are eligible to claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975:-

  • the spouse/civil partner of the deceased;
  • the former spouse/civil partner of the deceased who has not remarried or entered into a further civil partnership;
  • anyone living with the deceased for at least two years prior to their death;
  • a child of the deceased (which could include an adult child);
  • anyone treated as the deceased’s ‘child’ (for example, but not necessarily, adopted, fostered or a step-child); or
  • anyone being “maintained” by the deceased.

How are claims decided?

The court takes into consideration a number of factors when dealing with Inheritance Act claims including the needs and resources of all the relevant parties and the size and nature of the estate.

Are there any time limits for making a claim?

Claims must usually be made within 6 months from the grant of probate or letters of administration. It is therefore advisable to seek advice as soon as possible.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are based in Chelmsford and Maldon and specialise in litigation including claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, contentious probate disputes and disputes about wills. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance.

Disclaimer: this blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.

Two Common Mistakes by Landlords

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex looks at 2 common mistakes made by landlords.

Mistake No 1 – defective Section 21 notices. A novice landlord quickly learns that he or she can regain possession of his or property by serving a “Section 21” notice on the tenant and they also learn that a Section 21 notice must give the tenant a minimum two months’ notice. However, it is often missed that the notice must expire “on the last day of a rent period” ie on a specific day of the month. Therefore, the landlord must give a minimum two months’ notice which ends on the last day of a rent period. If the wrong date is put on the notice it will make the notice defective.

The notice must also be in a prescribed form giving the tenant certain information. A letter from the landlord will almost certainly not comply.

Mistake No 2 – failing to protect the tenant’s deposit. Since April 2008 landlords have been required to protect tenant’s deposits in one of the recognised tenancy deposit schemes. They must also serve a notice on the tenant giving the tenant certain information about the deposit. There are 2 potential consequences for failing to protect the deposit. Firstly, the tenant can claim compensation from the landlord up to three times the value of the deposit. Secondly, the landlord is not able to serve a Section 21 notice on the tenant.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in Landlord & Tenant law. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance.

Disclaimer: this blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.

Law of intestacy – what happens if I die without a Will?

What happens if I die without a Will?

Liam Hastings of Hastings & Co Solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex looks at the Law of Intestacy and how this applies to people who die without a will.

When a person dies and they have not made a will, it is said they have died ‘intestate’ and their estate is divided according to ‘the law of intestacy’. In effect the law decides what happens to the deceased person’s estate. This can have some surprising results.

The Law of Intestacy

Let’s look at how the Law of Intestacy applies in different situations.

A married couple or civil partners with surviving children, grandchildren or great children

If the estate held in the deceased’s sole name (or jointly as tenants in common with another) is valued at more than £250,000 the surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit:-

  • All personal effects and belongings of the person who has died; and
  • The first £250,000 of the estate; and
  • A life interest in half of the remaining estate (with the other half being distributed amongst children, grandchildren or great grandchildren as the case may be).

It may surprise some people to learn that their spouse or civil partner may not automatically inherit everything if they die without a will.

A married person or civil partners without surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren

If there are surviving parents, or brothers, or sisters, or nieces, or nephews, the surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit:

  • All personal property and belongings of the person who has died; and
  • The first £450,000 of the estate held in the deceased’s sole name (or jointly as tenants in common with another); and
  • One half of the remaining estate (with the other half being distributed amongst other relatives as the case may be).

Once again, it may be a surprise to learn that their spouse or civil partner does not automatically inherit everything.

If the married couple or civil partners die together, say in an accident, the law deems that the oldest person died first. It follows therefore that the estate of the eldest person will pass to the estate of the youngest person (subject to the rules as stated above). The estate of the youngest person will then be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. This could lead to everything passing to the younger person’s family with the older person’s family missing out.

Unmarried couples

The Intestacy Rules make no provision for unmarried couples, no matter how long they have been in a relationship. Therefore, solely held assets (or those held jointly as tenants in common) will not pass to their partner but will pass to the nearest blood relative(s).

If someone has died without a will can anything be done after the death to change how the estate is distributed?

It is possible for the beneficiaries to agree to vary the will, or intestacy rules, however this does require all the beneficiaries to agree to the variation. Or there may be a claim under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependents) Act 1976. However, these solutions are more expensive than making wills and will involve other people that may wish to dispute the proposed changes.

Conclusions

The Laws of Intestacy will not suit everyone and in some cases will result in unintended consequences. These consequences can be easily avoided by making wills.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in litigation including contentious probate disputes and disputes about wills. Please telephone Liam Hastings on 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance.

Disclaimer: we have not attempted to explain all the rules or all situations. This blog is intended to give a brief overview of the law and does not substitute for independent legal advice.