Legal insanity is sweeping the UK and it must be stopped

WE LEARNED this week from a variety of reports, including one from a government committee, that car insurance premiums are on the up. This is not, experts say, due to an increase in accidents (injuries sustained on Britain’s roads have dropped by nearly a quarter since 2005) or because car thieves are multiplying like mosquitoes – but because of the increasing litigation epidemic sweeping the UK.

Last year, there were 554,000 whiplash claims alone in Britain – and overall, motor insurance injury claims have risen by 70 per cent over the past six years.

Those in the know tell me that Scotland is so far fairly immune from the litigation culture – which has, according to figures from the AA, kept premiums comparatively low north of the Border. Idiosyncracies in the Scottish legal system mean that, at the moment, courts discourage personal injury claims – and, looking across the Atlantic to the litigation capital of the world, long may it stay that way.

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A few years ago, in America, one man sued TV channel NBC for $2.5m – claiming that an episode of a programme called Fear Factor, which saw contestants eating rats on screen, had caused him “suffering, injury and great pain”. Apparently, he had been so affected by what he saw that he vomited and felt dizzy and lightheaded.

Thankfully, his case was thrown out of court, but the fact any lawyer had the gall to take it on demonstrates something worrying about the American legal culture.

There are other, just as bizarre, cases, which have been sanctioned by the courts. In Denver, four years ago, two well-meaning teenagers decided to bake cookies for their neighbours and deliver them at night. But one woman was so scared on hearing a noise outside her door at 10:30pm, that she suffered a panic attack and had to be taken to A&E. She successfully sued the two girls for the $900 cost of her hospital visit.

Personally, I blame Ally McBeal for giving greedy TV viewers hope that their minor inconveniences should be compensated with cold, hard cash.

Let’s never let this insanity spread to our shores.