Author Archives: Ronnie Hutcheon

Jack’s Law and Bereavement Leave

What is Bereavement Leave Under Jack’s Law?

Working parents who lose a child are to be entitled to two weeks’ statutory leave, under the new legal right – referred to as “Jack’s Law” – which is expected to come into force in April.
Jack’s Law is named after 23-month-old Jack Herd, who tragically lost his life in 2010 after drowning in a pond. His father returned to work just a mere three days after Jack’s death, whilst Jack’s mother, Lucy Herd, began a campaign to highlight the problems facing bereaved parents who previously were expected to return to work as quick as possible.

 

On the issue, Lucy Herd said “in the immediate aftermath of a child dying, parents have to cope with their loss, the grief of their wider family, including other children, as well as a vast amount of administrative paperwork and other arrangements”. This new law will allow bereaved parent’s some breathing space to grieve without worrying about returning to work immediately.

As the law currently stands, there is no automatic right to paid time off for the loss of a child, however when the new law comes into force, the UK will be the only country providing the right to paid leave for bereaved parents.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said of the new legislation that “when it takes effect, Jack’s Law will be a fitting testament to the tireless efforts of Lucy Herd, alongside many Charities, to give parents greater support”.

Who Will Be Entitled?

Jack’s Law, or under its formal title, The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations, will implement a statutory right to a minimum of 2 weeks’ leave for all employed parents who lose a child under 18 years of age, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Eligible parents will be able to take their leave as either a consecutive two week leave or two separate blocks of one week taken at different times; this right can be used regardless of how long they have worked for their current employer.

However, only those employed for at least 26 week’s with their employer will be eligible for Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP), which will be paid at the statutory rate of £148.68 per week, or 90% of average weekly earnings where this is lower.

It is estimated that around 7,500 child deaths, and a further 3,000 stillbirths, occur within the UK every year. This new entitlement will help to support at least 10,000 bereaved parents a year.

Bereaved Parents

Dawn Allen lost her son Henry in 2013 when he was four years old, due to childhood cancer known as neuroblastoma. Dawn left her job to help Henry during his illness and eventual death, whilst her husband Mark worked continuously to support his family. Financial burdens and fear of unemployment often pushes parents back to work before they are ready.

Dawn described being a bereaved parent as the “most horrific experience” before stating that “Jack’s Law will really, really help bereaved families. I think it is something that bereaved parents do need and should have had the option a long time ago”.

Dawn also commented that being able to take the two week leave either together or as two separate weeks is massively important, as “you may find later on, as the days and the weeks and the months go on, you realise that your child is not coming back and that’s a massive reality check”.

Some bereaved parents simply have to continue with their employment. When Ian Bainbridge’s son Ellis was stillborn after 34 weeks, he had to take a day’s annual leave just to attend the funeral; there was no respite at all from his job.

Ian, an ex-nurse working in London, was responsible for managing 40 carers and vividly recalls breaking the news of his son’s stillbirth to his boss, “I rang my line manager and said, ‘You won’t believe what’s happened.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry to hear that, but I’ve got no-one to cover for you tomorrow. You’re going to have to come in.

He describes the anguish he was going through, with his son Ellis being stillborn at 10:00pm, yet Ian was back at his job at 8:00am the following day. “I was back answering the telephone, being polite. Inside, I was screaming.” If it weren’t for his two other children, Ian believes he would have contemplated suicide as a result of the pressure he was under after losing Ellis.

During her campaign for Jack’s Law, Lucy Herd describes speaking to other bereaved parents, where there were inaccuracies between what employers were saying and how parents were subsequently treated, as “employers were saying ‘take as much time as you need’, and they were taking six months off, and it was down on their record as being off sick. They’d come back to a P45 on their desk.

Implications for Bereavement Leave

Hopefully through this reform people can deal with the trauma of losing a child better than before feeling the need to return to the workplace.

At the moment, the current bereavement award, in our respectful view, is too low. It does not provide sufficient compensation for suffering from the death of a family member. The government has assessed the award over the years for the loss of a close family member, wife, husband, son, daughter in the current sum of £12,980.

Whilst we appreciate that no amount of money is going to compensate the loss of a loved one, the current government award is unjust. Following Jack’s Law, we hope that there is also room for improvement in terms of the compensation awards given to bereaved families, irrespective of whether the loss is a young child, brother, sister, mother or father.

Contact Us

For any issues arising from this article on Jack’s Law or any other matter concerning a bereavement award, fatal accident compensation, your rights and the law, please contact us.

Frankie Murphy Inquest Liverpool 26.06.19

The Inquest of Frankie Gary Murphy

The Inquest was held following the tragic death of a young boy just 13 years of age who sadly lost his life on Liverpool Road, Page Moss , when his bike was hit by a car shortly after 5pm on October 24, 2016.

Our Principal Solicitor who attended the Inquest, at South Sefton Magistrates Court, Bootle, Liverpool, Ronnie Hutcheon, represented the family.

Whilst the hearing has been reported extensively by the Local Liverpool Paper, The Echo  nevertheless an Inquest can only provide a verdict on certain facts but a robust cross-examination of the witnesses is not permitted.  Thus the verdict at Inquest Hearings may not always get to the detail that is required in criminal or civil proceedings.

A statement on behalf of the family, was read out to the Echo Journalist as hereunder:

A statement from solicitor Ronnie Hutcheon, on behalf of Frankie’s family, said:

“As solicitor for the family of Frankie Murphy I would like to acknowledge the composure and dignity of the family throughout the hearing despite the deep hurt and emotional distress caused by their loss of Frankie.

“The family appreciate the limitations that the coroner can decide, the evidence he can hear and the nature of verdict that can be handed down.

“Frankie Murphy’s family and legal team will take time to reflect upon the evidence and decide if further action will be taken through the civil courts.

“The family would like to express that Frankie was the life and soul of the family and will always be missed and loved by everyone left behind.”

Inquest Hearings Law and Procedure

Attending Inquest Hearings, Liverpool can be a daunting experience on behalf of bereaved families who are already suffering following the death of a loved one.  For further reading on What happens at an Inquest or Coroner’s Court‘ please click on the link.

To deal with the legal complexities that follow, talking to the Coroner, the Police, pathologist, dealing with the paper-work etc and bills are just one of many factors.

We can help all families who suffer from a bereavement due to an accident where someone else may be to blame.  Please contact Ronnie Hutcheon, specialist fatal accident solicitors.

 

Part 36 Offers – FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Part 36 Offers

 What is a “Part 36” Offer?

A          Part 36 offer: this is where your opponent has made you a formal offer on one or more issues that are currently in dispute.  The offer could be in relation to the settlement of your compensation claim or an offer on liability.

  1. What is the significance of the Part 36 offer?

A          The reason why parties made a Part 36 offer is because if you decide to reject their offer and at a later stage (or at a final hearing) you do no better than their offer, you may be responsible for your opponents costs and our costs since the offer was made.  Since those costs could be significant it may leave you with little or no compensation.  On rare occasions, you may even end up owing legal costs even though you have “technically” won your case. A Claimant and Defendant can both make a Part 36 offer.

  1. What happens if I reject the offer and proceed all the way to a final hearing?

A          The Part 36 offer must never be communicated to the Judge by either party.  This will be kept a secret.  The trial Judge will then decide the case in the usual way.  If the Judge determines that you have done no better than the Defendants Part 36 offer then as explained above, you are responsible to pay the costs since that offer was made.  The same applies if you, the Claimant Makes a Part 36 offer.

  1. Is there a time period to accept or reject the offer?

A          This is usually 21 days from the date that the offer was made.  If you accept the offer within this 21 day period then there are no cost penalties.  If you accept at a later time, then you can only do so with either leave of the Court or with the consent of your opponent.  If you do accept out of time, there may be costs penalties you will have to pay since the offer was made.

  1. What is the position if I wish to reject the Part 36 Offer?

A          We shall, of course, advise you as to whether, in all circumstances, the Part 36 offer is reasonable.  If, however, you decide to reject the offer against our advice, we may decide to withdraw from the case and ask you to obtain instructions from another firm of solicitors.

However, in rare circumstances, we may still continue to act for your despite the fact that you have rejected the offer against our advice.  Should this occur, we will advise you of the conditions attached to our continuing to act for you.

  1. Does it make any difference that I have a “No Win No Fee” agreement?

A          In short, the answer is “no.”  You are still subject to the cost risk explained above.  However, if you reject a Part 36 offer we may revise our success fee to reflect the risks of pursuing your case further.  If you have purchased an after the event insurance policy, we are under a duty to notify your insurers and they will ask us for our advice about whether the Part 36 offer is reasonable.  

  1. What is the position if I have Legal Expenses Cover?

A          The position is the same.  You are still subject to the cost risk if you reject the Part 36 offer and we are under a duty to notify your Legal Expense Providers of the Part 36 offer.

  1. Can I make my own Part 36 offer?

A          Yes you can also put pressure on your opponent to settle any issue or offer an amount of compensation to them that you will be happy to settle your claim.  If you make such an offer then should your opponent do no better than the offer you have put forward, they are responsible to pay additional interest on your damages of up to 10% above base rate and it also makes it a lot easier for us to recover all or the vast majority of our costs from the other side.  We would recommend that you make a Part 36 offer when it is possible to do so.

  1. What do I do next?

A          Please read the covering email/letter accompanying this document carefully.   Only contact us if you do not wish to made a Part 36 offer.

 

 

 

Lorry Driver Watching TV Causes Death

A lorry driver has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving when it is alleged that he was watching television at the time of the collision.

The lorry driver drove into the rear of the vehicle the deceased was driving when it is thought he was watching television.

The lorry driver has denied causing death by dangerous driving but has agreed to a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

Compensation Death by Dangerous Driving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Searches Reveal Watching Television while Driving

The prosecution in a trial has informed the court that the lorry driver had made two Google Searches on his phone in his cab revealing the possibility that shortly before the tragic collision that he may have been watching television hence the charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

At the court hearing it was said:

“There was clearly inadequate distance between the car and the lorry and insufficient time to stop.”

The court was told that the lorry driver was looking downwards for an “extended period” and was not paying attention to the road.

“There was no hope at that point to stop in time and avoid a collision,” the lorry driver’s actions were “inevitably dangerous”.

The lorry driver is said to have admitted that he“fell short” of the required standard but added: “The Crown say the driving was much worse than that and fell far below.”

The trial continues, reported in The Times

Compensation for causing death by dangerous driving?

If you or your family have been affected by this article and require legal advice please do not hesitate to contact our legal team who will advise you of your legal rights and help you through the legal paper-work required.

Further reading please click on the following links:

Causing death by dangerous driving

Causing death by careless driving

Fatal Accidents Act 1976

 

 

Gosport Inquiry – Compensation Claims

Hundreds of Deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital

The public enquiry has led to an out cry by the relatives to call for prosecutions concerning the deaths of elderly patients at the hospital between 1988 – 2000 and no doubt in due course there will be questions following the Gosport Inquiry about compensation claims for the loss of a loved one.

The Gosport Enquiry was led by the former Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones.  It may be recalled that the Bishop has had extensive experience in the Inquiry that led to the tragic deaths of the 96 Liverpool supporters who died at  Hillsborough following a football match.

The tragic deaths at Goport, it is reported in The Times,  was initially raised by nurses about the over-use of the powerful painkillers at as far back as the early 1990’s. but those concerns were dismissed.

The practice of over-use opioids (pain killers) appears to have continued unabated.  The Independent Panel, found that 456 patients had died in hospital due to:

‘..an institutionalised practice of the shortening of lives through administering opioids without medical justification”.

The Gosport Independent Panel investigation, began four years ago in 2014, and considered a voluminous about of documentation.  It concluded that:

“there was a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening lives of a large number of patients” at the Hampshire hospital.’

There is also the possibility that up to 200 more patients may also have died but there were gaps in the record keeping that may have provided a more accurate assessment.

The Inquiry was of the view that it was the ‘norm’ that patients were prescribed powerful pain-killers.  A clinical assistant at the hospital informed the Inquiry had said that it was the norm  “for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards.”

The General Medical Council ruled that Dr Barton, who is at the centre of the Inquiry, was guilty of repeated professional misconduct relating to 12 patients who died at the hospital, but she has never faced criminal charges.

Bishop Jones was of the view that the result of the inquiry was a “vindication” of the families’ “tenacious refusal to be dismissed”. It is reported that his words led to “a collective intake of breath from 150 people”, according to those present.

Gosport Inquiry – The Failure by Those Who Are In Charge to Protect The Vulnerable.

Whilst justice will turn it wheels slowly, it has, it appears it has reached the right result.  It is quite right that the families affected ensure that justice prevails.  Not only has the Inquiry led to mistakes being uncovered but those who are at the centre of the storm be punished for what they have done.

But in addition, lessons must be learnt about those who are in charge of the institutions that are there to protect the vulnerable.  The whistle-blowing that sounded the alarm many years ago  where the NHS failed to act is an important point.  It is reported that nurses attempted to raise concerns with management but were ignored, owing to a culture at the hospital that meant doctors’ decisions could not be questioned, the report said, adding: “The opportunity was lost, deaths resulted.”

The Times reported that the NHS was reluctant to press ahead with its own inquiries because it feared compromising police work. Coroners inexplicably waited nearly two years to carry out inquests after the CPS had decided not to prosecute.

There were  multi-party party failures where the Inquiry must lead to ensure that whilsteblowers are legally protected and full an proper investigations are undertaken.

Patients To Dye Prematurely in Hospital

Patients are likely to be dying prematurely in hospitals today, according to Professor Sir Brian Jarman, director of the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College London.

Here there is concerns when health safety data, was analysed.  There was a desire among officials “not to know” when things went wrong.

He warned that whistleblowers had been “fired, gagged and blacklisted”.

The need for legal protection for whistleblowers is paramount especially in the NHS. At school or at home when you are a child you take a dislike to anyone who ‘snitches’ you by a ‘mate’ or a sibling. But when lives are at stake, when procedures go wrong, how do you complain to those who are ‘above you,’ are senior, more qualified and respected.

That is the dilemma facing not just the NHS but other organisations. However the NHS is in a position where life and death are at stake. The former High Court Judge Dame Janet Smith (I had a multi-party 6 week hearing before her back in 1996) was on BBC 2 Newsnight and expressed the view that her Inquiry into the Shipman Inquiry into the murders appears not to have made any impact on protection and listening to whistleblowers within the NHS.

Will the Gosport Inquiry make a difference? Let’s hope so. There are patients out there now, in the NHS where I am sure, decisions taken by senior medical staff are questionable. Again the actions of the minority taint the majority, but such actions have a devastating impact when they go wrong. Who protects the vulnerable? The last resort surely should not be the lawyers.

Gosport Inquiry Compensation Claims

The last thing in families minds is compensation. As experienced fatal accident solicitors dealing with bereaved families justice and the truth of what happened to their loved one is a priority. But when the investigation has been completed (or during) it is possible to claim compensation for the loss of life, grief and dependency when a loved one passes in an untimely and unjust way caused as a result of the negligence of another.  The majority of claims will be brought under The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 .

As solicitors who specialise in fatal accident compensation claims, one other avenue could still be open for families is to make a claim following the Gosport Inquiry.  Proceedings may be required in a short period of time due to the fact usually the law only permits claims to be pursued within three years from the date of death.  However there is a discretion by the Courts to allow for Gosport Inquiry Compensation claim to be pursued if it was unjust not to do so.  One major point in the families favour would be due to the fact that it was only following the result of the Inquiry that they knew the full extent of the harm and possible negligence that resulted in the deaths of their loved ones.  They could not have known earlier, for sure and thus a potential civil claim for damages could be made to over come the limitation period.

This article is written by R James Hutcheon, Solicitor specialising in serious injury and fatal accident compensation claims.