We live in a world where regulations are continually tightened and new ones introduced. As a business, or even as an individual, it is very easy to ignore these changes in the law. However, failure to abide by regulations can and has for many companies led to significant personal injury compensation claims. It is worth remembering that personal injury claims revolve not only around physical injuries but also mental trauma and financial loss.
Here we shall take a look at some of the more recent regulatory introductions and the role they have to play.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
On 25 May 2018 the European Union introduced GDPR which is an all-encompassing regulatory environment surrounding the use and storage of personal data. The idea was to safeguard the personal information and the personal rights of all EU citizens. In many ways this can be seen as the largest regulatory change in recent times. Any business, inside and outside of the EU, dealing with clients within the EU now have very firm and strict obligations regarding client data.
There are seven broad principles which make up GDPR:-
- Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
- Purpose limitation
- Data minimisation
- Storage limitation
- Integrity and confidentiality (security)
During the first eight months of the GDPR coming into force a staggering 59,000 breaches have been reported resulting in 91 fines so far. We have seen Google France fined €50 million for a lack of transparency and consent in relation to personalised adverts. We have seen a Polish data processor scraping 90,000 contacts from the Internet and conducting unauthorised “commercial outreach”. A German social media company was fined €20,000 when it was found to be storing user passwords in plain text with no encryption. This is just the tip of the iceberg but how could this impact an individual pursuing a personal injury claim?
We have seen some huge data thefts in recent years with usernames, passwords and bank details taken. Some companies have delayed announcing data breaches amid calls of a cover-up as they look to maintain their public persona. Some of the more common reasons for personal injury claims regarding GDPR include:-
- Stolen data used to access bank accounts
- Stolen data used to process unauthorised purchases
- Identity theft
It is not difficult to see the potential for enormous financial loss as well as the stress and strains of knowing that somebody has your personal details and is using them for criminal purposes. Article 82 of the GDPR regulations clarifies the right to claim compensation when information has fallen into the wrong hands due to negligence/incompetence. Whether you’re a small business or a large business, if you operate within the EU and/or have EU based customers, you will need to abide by GDPR!
Private Landlords Under Pressure
The buy to let property market has been extremely popular in recent years, often pushing house prices to levels which are unaffordable for first-time buyers. This could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, individuals and couples forced to rent in the private sector, increasing demand for buy to let investment and pushing prices higher. For years this was seen by many as something of a non-stop gravy train but the government has recently introduced an array of new regulations. These regulations have empowered tenants, increased the liability of landlords and could lead to significant personal injury compensation claims in the future.
If we take a look at one recent act, the:-
This new act has been brought in to replicate part of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which effectively places a legal liability on landlords to:-
- Ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the start of a tenancy
- Continually monitor the fitness of the property for the duration of the tenancy
In reality, this is all common sense and the vast majority of landlords already abide by these guidelines. However, the act has gone a step further and detailed specific areas and actions which private landlords are now liable for. These include:-
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Stability of the property
- Free from damp
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences
- Food preparation areas
- Disposal of wastewater
- Internal arrangement of the property
Thankfully, annual checks regarding boiler systems, electrics, gas, etc have been a legal liability of landlords for some time. However, there will still be certain exemptions to prosecution where the tenant has acted negligently and any injuries could not lawfully be deemed the fault of the landlord.
The idea behind the new regulations is simple, as of 20th March 2019 tenants will be able to take landlords to court if they fail to ensure their property is fit for habitation. Tenants will be able to sue for the cost of repairs and any physical/mental personal injuries received.
While many believe that regulators have gone above and beyond with regards to the introduction of strict regulations, there is a need to find a balance between habitable properties and cost effective investment. It could be argued that a minority of rogue landlords have “spoiled the party” for reputable landlords but for some reason private landlords have been deemed public enemy number one. It was not necessarily the case when local councils were short of social housing and buy to let investors stepped forward to invest their own cold hard cash?
The construction industry is in regular receipt of new regulations, new guidelines and the legal responsibilities for an array of different parties. Over the years the regulations have mounted up and many large construction companies will have a legal department which focuses upon their liabilities and legal requirements. It is safe to say that construction sites are much safer and better structured than they ever have been but there are still instances of injuries and fatalities.
Many of the legal requirements relating to safety start at the design level moving up to management of projects and then construction companies. If we take for example the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 this was introduced to improve health and safety right across the industry. The regulations cover areas such as:-
- Risk management of projects from start to finish
- The matching of employee roles with their specific experience
- Co-operation and co-ordination between all parties
- Using the correct information to calculate risks
- Ensuring that relevant parties are aware of the project’s risk profile
- Continually consult and engage with workers and manage new risks
While the regulations define commercial and domestic clients they still offer an enhanced degree of protection and liability on all duty holders. Effectively, parties which are appointed to carry out various tasks are legally obliged to ensure safety and manage all risks. The majority of the general public only see construction sites at the operational end and don’t always appreciate the role of designers and contractors in managing projects. However, this regulation in particular places an array of legal liabilities on these parties.
Over the years we have seen many common injuries across construction sites which have often led to significant personal injury claims. These include:-
- Head injuries
- Trips, slips and falls
- Cuts and abrasions
- Crush injuries
- Puncture wounds
Unfortunately, as we touched on above, there have also been a number of fatalities across construction sites in the UK. It is fair to say that safety has improved of late but regulations such as the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 are a useful means of reminding all parties of their legal obligations.
Attention To Legal Detail
If you have ever sat down and read the documentation accompanying new regulations from start to finish you will realise the attention to detail. Over the years the authorities have built layer upon layer of regulations to clarify legal obligations and liabilities. This has removed the vast majority of “wriggle room” which companies and third parties often used to escape prosecution. As ever, the vast majority of regulations are targeted towards rogue elements of various businesses and areas of society but can have a wider impact.
Whether you are running a multi-million pound business, or a relatively small operation, it is imperative that your employees receive regular training and regulatory updates. Ignorance is not a defence in the court room, legal liabilities are taken very seriously and an inability to invest in employee training can lead to large compensation claims. Even though every business would prefer to have their employees income earning 100% of the time this is not possible. A failure to appreciate and invest time, money and effort in employee training could prove extremely damaging.
Entrepreneurs often take a dim view of the never-ending introduction of new regulations and business guidelines. In the majority of cases these new regulations will simply clarify existing actions by responsible parties but wrap them up in legal speak. If we look at new regulations surrounding GDPR, private landlords and health and safety on construction sites, there are common threads – the management of risk and constant training and education of the workforce. Ignore these at your peril!