Western society may or may not be in the grip of a compensation culture. It makes no odds – it’s perceived to be. And that perception is enough to compel all kinds of organisations to adopt extraordinary examples of risk-averse behaviour.
Schools have stopped children playing conkers, swimming backstroke and conducting scientific experiments. Sports days are being lost, skipping games skipped and lunchtime kick-abouts kicked into touch. Our cotton-wool kids don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of sliding on ice in the playground. Every day brings news of further capitulations to the elf ‘n’ safety brigade. In the broader community, enterprising volunteers are being vetted and regulated to the point of extinction and the survival of sports and social clubs is jeopardised by the unviable costs of liability insurance.
Landmark decisions have given rise to liabilities against all manner of sportspeople, including coaches, referees and professional bodies. It’s not surprising really. It has been estimated that each year there are upward of six million sporting injuries in the UK costing several hundred million pounds in treatment and absence from work. No wonder the lawyers are taking a keen interest. You may or may not consider lawyers as ambulance chasers, but they are perfectly aware that the doctrine of “volenti non fit injuria” (“to a willing person, no injury is done”) is not upheld so often these days. In other words, it used to be the case that a person who knowingly and willingly put himself in a risky situation was not normally compensated for resulting injuries. But nowadays, this doctrine appears to have been superceded by the mantra: “where there’s blame, there’s a claim”. Even claims which have little chance of success can cost individuals and organisations a fortune in legal fees.
We cannot live in a world where all risk is eliminated. Would we really want to? We must accept that sometimes accidents just happen and no one is to blame. But if you’ve read this far expecting me to propose a solution to all this nonsense and unpleasantness, I haven’t got one. Hah!
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