As a member of society, we should always have a thought to those who live around us - unless we choose to live on a deserted island where our nearest neighbour is some miles away.
The legal duty that we all owe each other has been established for some considerable time. It is commonly called public liability and, in general terms, is the duty owed to members of the public.
It is not entirely uncommon for accidents to occur to others as a result of our fault. Depending on the circumstances, the person injured has a right to claim when injured in a public place.
A classic example of this is an injury on the sporting field. Leaving aside any arguments that if I engage in a sport such as football, I accept that injury might occur, if I go in for a tackle knowing that it is very likely that my actions are going to cause the other player an injury, there is absolutely no reason why I should not be held to blame for that accident.
Also leaving aside any argument that my club - if I played for a club, which, given my football skills, is very unlikely indeed - will pick up the tab, should there not be an argument that I personally should be held responsible for the tackle? In which case, is it not right that each of us very seriously consider whether we should have some form of indemnity insurance to cover ourselves in such circumstances?
I raise these questions slightly ‘tongue in cheek.’
If we are very cautious in what we do, there is little point in having to pay out for yet further insurance. If we are not inclined to be cautious, there must be more of an obligation to have insurance, save that of course we would be then considered to be a high risk category and our premiums might be extortionate.
There are many organisations – not least of which the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers – who are looking to see whether there should be more public liability insurance.
The issue is fraught with difficulties. It leaves to one side any arguments that of course the insurance companies are likely to be the overall winners, which is not a situation that I am keen to support.
Lack of public liability insurance is, however, a clear ‘gap in the market.’ It leaves some parties vulnerable to being sued personally, and being at risk of significant financial consequences as a result. It also leaves many people who have been injured in a position where they have little recourse.
Tristan Hallam is a Practice Group Leader at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, specialising in Occupiers and Public Liability.
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