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PI lawyers are alive and well – and in hospital

Your Expert Witness blog logoA lot of words have been written and spoken in the legal press and in Parliament about the plight of a species thought to be in imminent danger of extinction: the personal injury lawyer. Changes to the rules regarding PI claims – particularly with regard to whiplash and legal aid for medical negligence cases – have led to a general feeling of pessimism in the sector.

Now, however, it turns out the PI lawyers are thriving and are to be found in, of all places, hospitals, according to a report in the e-government newsletter Publicservice.co.uk and an investigation by Sky News.

According to the report: “Although they have been told to curtail the use of advertisements for law firms specialising in personal injury compensation, NHS hospitals are continuing to display posters, leaflets and other material from the companies.”

The publication claims to have visited one hospital where the appointment card for a fracture clinic carried just such an advert, and Sky News reported a claim that PI lawyers actually have offices in two NHS hospitals.

The Department of Health is quoted as saying: “We have been clear it is not acceptable for this sort of advertising in NHS hospitals. Any trusts behaving in that way need to immediately review their procedures. Patients should be able to focus on receiving treatment and getting better, without having to be hounded by lawyers or adverts displayed in A&E departments.”

I am reminded of an instance some years ago when my late father was discharged from a stay in hospital while in his late 70s. He reported that someone he thought was from ‘social services’ had visited him and given him some information on help available. It turned out to be a catalogue from a commercial ‘meals-on-wheels’ type service. Ill people, especially the elderly, do not always catch the nuances of what is being said to them and can think an advert or a visit to offer information implies endorsement of the company or product.

While we’re on the subject of being ripped-off in hospitals, I personally was whacked with a bill for £50 for calls to my wife while she was laid up a couple of years ago. That was on top of the daily charge for watching TV!

• That same issue of Publicservice.co.uk also reported a call from the father of cyber-bullying victim Hannah Smith for safeguarding measures on social networking sites used by children. Her father is asking people to sign an online petition asking the Government to intervene. It can be accessed and signed via Facebook.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said in a statement: “The cruel nature of cyber-bullying allows perpetrators to remain anonymous and hide behind their screens.

“This is something that must be tackled before it gets out of hand. We must ensure young people have the confidence to speak out against this abuse, so they don't feel isolated and without anywhere to turn.”

The tragedy of Hannah Smith follows threats of rape and other violence against, among others, Labour MP Stella Creasy and bomb threats against female journalists. The events led to the UK manager of Twitter making a public apology. So far three people have been arrested.

Back in September last year I was moved to denounce the behaviour of such ‘trolls’. Even then, though, the tenor and viciousness of their ravings was as nothing in comparison with this latest batch. Fortunately there are experts in electronic forensics, some in the Expert Witness Directory of this site, who can help root out the perpetrators of such abuse.

Chris Stokes

Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2013 17:17