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UK Claims Culture - Dispelling the Myths

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

In recent years, the stream of radio and television adverts offering legal services to help people lodge compensation claims in the UK has been on the steady rise, lending the impression that a ‘claims culture’ was being heartily adopted by the British public. The United States has had a reputation for a claims culture for some time now, and many are now of the opinion that the UK is not far from rivalling the US’s love for a compensation claim. However, research indicates that this is not necessarily the case.


Biggest Payouts


The monetary amounts awarded to claimants for compensation gives an indication of the gravity with which such situations are treated in both the UK and the US. A look at the five largest awards to have come out of each country is very telling, with the UK’s largest - £28 million to a ten-year-old girl involved in a car accident - being less than a fifth of the USA’s smallest of $148 million for an airport accident. The fact that the UK girl’s payout took account of her young age, loss of a prospective career in veterinary medicine and her need for 24/7 care for life, and was still just a fraction of the US’s fifth-largest, speaks volumes about the difference in claims cultures.


Further indication can be taken from the largest settlement in US history, of a staggering $150 billion, which was awarded to the family of a young man who eventually died from injuries sustained in an attack twelve years earlier. Of course, this sum is so vast it is unlikely to ever be paid in full, and in comparison, the UK’s largest award is only around 1% of its US counterpart.


Other Discrepancies


When it comes to categorising compensation payouts, this pattern of the UK awards being a mere fraction of their US equivalents is consistent. The US’s largest medical malpractice award to date was to a woman who sustained brain damage while waiting for an ambulance, totalling $172 million, whereas the UK’s largest such award was to a ten-year-old child who sustained brain damage during surgery, and she received £24 million: not even a quarter of the US award, allowing for conversion.  

Meanwhile, the UK’s largest payout also happens to be the largest road accident claim payout, the aforementioned £28 million, is eclipsed by the US’s largest such award, which was of $262 million.

While the UK may be finding its feet with regards to claims, such as understanding how to claim compensation for an accident at work for example, these figures illustrate that there is little parallel between claims culture in the UK and in the US. What this growth in UK-based claims seems to really indicate is higher emphasis on people’s health and safety, and in many ways, such claims have been part and parcel of the country’s growing crackdown on unacceptable health and safety practices, and has helped facilitate the general improvements in both working environments and public spaces.