Crazy Insurance Law Claims | BPC Law Blog

You might think that you know a Sydneysider who has crazy ideas of what they deserve because they’re such a great person or because they’ve done something good for someone else, but no matter how mad or silly you think this person is, they won’t be able to compare to some of the things insurance lawyers have had to help clients claim for, particularly under No Win No Pay schemes.

Insurance Law(image source: shutterstock)

Insurance law covers a lot of areas, and with that huge ground comes an enormous amount of claims. Here’s our top 10 most mental claims, successful and unsuccessful, that have come across the desks of insurance lawyers around the world:

1.      Monkey Madness: A couple travelled to Malaysia, looking for a little romantic time alone. It’s not exactly cool in Malaysia, so they left the windows of their chalet open while they spent the day out and about. Big mistake. They came back to find that a group of monkeys had seen the open windows as an open invitation to come in and ransack the place. The couple found their clothes and belongings all around the resort, and the nearby rainforest. Their insurance company covered them so they could have more than one change of clothes.

Insurance Law(image source: http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/c0/77/9c/c0779c7af74806a8d4162f33ded6e982.jpg)

2.      Maybe It’s Best If You Do Nothing: A man had to red-facedly fill out an insurance form after rear-ending the car in front of him (just enough to smash the taillights). He then reversed to get a better view of the damage, and managed to hit the car behind. Finally, he opened the door of his car to get out and knocked down a cyclist. Comedic gold as long as you’re not involved.

3.      A Little More Practice Needed: A woman was visiting a friend at home. As she opened the door of the garage to leave, she was struck in the shoulder with a dart. Her friend’s teenage son was playing darts, and the dartboard happened to be right next to the door. The woman successfully sued for negligence, and the friend’s insurance paid it out.

4.      Maybe Wear Gloves Next Time: A man travelling in Israel lost his wallet down a drain. To avoid having to get his insurance company or the police involved, the man stuck his hand down the drain to fish it out. However, what he ended up with was a sting from a venomous scorpion who lived there. It was his travel insurance that made sure he was treated properly.

Insurance Law(image source: http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/9e/2a/d9/9e2ad9e10e1bca0f02b0b85a23786681.jpg)

5.      Goats Really Will Eat Anything: In the Black Forest, a family were holidaying. Whether they meant to or not, they didn’t properly lock up their cabin. When they got back they found a goat happily munching away at the remains of their sandwiches, wallets, and passports. Unluckily for them, their insurance company found that they’d been negligent and rejected their claim.

6.      Careful Who You Date: In some foreign countries, it’s legal to have a pet monkey, but isn’t always a sensible idea as one poor woman found out. She was on a first date, and after they had dinner they went to her date’s house. Upon opening the door, they were confronted by the man’s pet monkey who then bit her hand and arm. No surprises there that her claim was successful, and there wasn’t a second date.

7.      Guns Don’t Just Hurt People: A man was driving with his shotgun in the passenger seat. When he got out of his ute, the man grabbed the gun. However, he lost his grip and the gun went off. The entire interior of the ute was extensively damaged thanks to the shotgun being loaded with buckshot. Thankfully, the man had very comprehensive car insurance and he was fully covered for shooting his own car.

8.      Maybe You’ve Got a Problem: At a bar in Greece, a woman ignored a loud buzzer and stayed waiting for her drink. That buzzer was actually a fire alarm and the woman managed to escape the blaze, but not before getting third degree burns, costing £300 of medical treatment. Lucky for her, she was covered.

Insurance Law(image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/US_Navy_030604-M-3856H-032_Firefighters_in_full_gear_fight_a_simulated_aircraft_fire_during_a_fire_fighting_training_exercise.jpg)

9.      Label It Next Time: In the States, a woman attended a children’s birthday party with her own child. At the party, everybody was served cordial. However, many of the children became quite ill from the drink, yet none of the adults had any reaction to the sugary drink. After a little bit of an investigation, it was discovered that the kids had been served the cordial intended for the adults – it had vodka in it. The children’s medical bills were covered by insurance luckily.

10.  That’s One Way to Wake Up: It’s not unusual for pet cats to take to sleeping on people, including people’s faces. A claimant was renting a room in a house with four cats. The cats weren’t allowed in the rented room, but obviously no one told one of the cats that. The claimant had a habit of sleeping with both their mouth open and their tongue sticking out. One morning they woke up to find a cat with its paw in their mouth. Understandably, the person was quite surprised and their sudden movement made the cat scratch their tongue. Strange as the incident was, the insurance claim for medical costs was paid out.

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Personal Injury: Facebook, Google, Defamation and You | BPC Law Blog

Very little of the average Sydneysider’s life isn’t on Facebook or Google. Most of the time, there’s no problem with this, but there are crucial times when you need to be extremely careful what people can find on the internet about you, including what you put out there. You’ve probably heard that when you’re applying for jobs you need to be careful about what’s on your Facebook page, but you might not know that what you post on Facebook can land you in deep water. Any lawyer will tell you that Facebook and Google can be your worst enemies as they can lead you to be sued for defamation and personal injury.

Personal Injury (image source: shutterstock)

You might remember late last year a case where an Australian man sued Google for defamation. The details of the case that were released to press revealed that the unnamed man had been shunned and treated differently as a result of his photo appearing alongside gangland figures like Toby Mokbel, as well as a Google search for his name bringing up results relating to an unsolved shooting in 2004.

Google argued hard that they had not published the photos, they were merely the conduit for those photos to be published. They claimed that because their search engine is based off algorithms that trawl the Internet, there’s no way that they could control what content appeared or where.

However, the court found themselves in favour of the unnamed man whose reputation had been ruined as a result of the Google search results, and he’d even been made to feel unwanted in his migrant community. Google was made to pay damages of $200,000 to the man. This compensation came after the same man won a similar case against Yahoo!, who had to pay the man $225,000 in damages. Despite the large sums of cash awarded to the man, he claims that the cases weren’t about money, but instead protecting his family, particularly his children, and his reputation.

Of course, if you do become involved in a defamation case, it’s highly unlikely that it will be on such a large scale. Every day there are smaller, but no less important, cases regarding defamation moving through courts around Australia. The average Australian is more likely to become involved in a defamation case related to content posted to Facebook or Twitter.

It can feel really good to send out a tweet or post on Facebook ripping into someone as an act of revenge. Maybe they broke up with you, insulted your mother, or trashed your car. Your anger then becomes the latest viral fad on the Internet. Posts like that can severely damage a person’s reputation, the people who know the subject of your tweet may begin to treat them differently, even teasing or bullying them. They might miss out on a promotion because it’s not the image the company wants associated with them. And with that a simple Facebook post, written in a moment of rage, can land you in court being sued for defamation.

personal injury(image source: shutterstock)

When you log back into Facebook or Twitter after a few days and you start to worry that maybe what you wrote really could be defamatory, there are a few things you can do to set the record straight. Firstly, remove the material, so delete the posts or tweets. Next, if the person you attacked claims they’ve been defamed you can, within 28 days, write a written letter of apology that includes an offer to publish a reasonable correction (i.e. “What I said was wrong”), and an offer to pay any expenses that person has encountered as a result of the material at the time of your offer (so they can’t keep asking you for money after the offer has been given). If you’re lucky, your offers will be accepted and the matter will end there. Otherwise you’ll be in court, but having apologised and attempted to make amends, you at least have some good standing.

Defamation is a serious matter as it can have serious consequences to the people involved, not just the victim, but also the defamer. Being found guilty of defamation can suggest to those around you that you lack emotional maturity, or you’re unable to solve a conflict in an adult manner.

Personal Injury: How Important is CCTV Footage When it Comes to Claims of Police Brutality? | BPC Law Blog

It can be hard to believe that claims of police brutality aren’t just works of fiction created by drunk young men stumbling about Sydney’s Kings Cross at night. But, from time to time, these allegations turn out to be true. It’s an awful feeling to discover that the hands of the people we place our safety, and ultimately our lives, could be so cruel, but it does happen. At times like these, it’s important to remember that CCTV cameras are everywhere these days, and any personal injury lawyer will tell you that CCTV footage is very hard evidence to discredit. So how does CCTV footage come into play in cases of police brutality?

Pesonal Injury

In March this year, questions of police brutality in Sydney emerged after footage of Jamie Jackson being arrested at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras worked its way around the media. These questions were discussed on the ABC’s Radio National Law Report program.

The footage shows a young man who is handcuffed being roughly forced to the ground. In the footage a police officer can be heard telling the filmer that they can’t film as it’s not allowed. For a start, that’s completely untrue. Secondly, it suggests that either the police officer is unsure of what he’s doing himself, or that he’s aware that he’s overstepped the mark in terms of just measures of restraint. But the Mardi Gras incident is not a stand-alone occurrence.

It’s a common thing around the world for people to use video evidence as a means of proving police brutality. If the footage is clear enough, and the context is right, it can be almost impossible to say that the incident didn’t happen the way it appeared to on film. And the police force is aware of it, some members of the police will even go so far as to distract members of the public who are filming incidents and turn their attention away from the potentially illegal misuse of force.

One disturbing case of this distraction technique to the extreme was that of Corey Barker. Barker spent a over year being wrongly accused of assaulting a police officer. The truth of the matter was that Barker had seen some police officers arresting someone, so he took out a mobile phone and began to film it. A police officer came from another direction and tackled Barker to the ground. He was taken to a police station where he was asked to unlock the phone so the police could find out if there was any footage of what had gone on. Barker refused to do so, and he was abused, punched and kicked.

In normal circumstances, Barker wouldn’t have had to front to court on charges of assault as the CCTV cameras in the police station would have clearly shown that he was the victim of assault, not the other way around. However, disturbingly, the footage from those CCTV cameras was tampered with, and it was a huge effort for both the defence team and the court to have the footage repaired. Of course, Barker was found to be telling the truth.

Worryingly, when in court, the police officers questioned all told the same story of Barker punching a member of the police force. They were very neat in the way that they all described the punch in the same way. When combined with the fact that someone or some people had removed the CCTV footage, there was a very obvious case of the police trying to cover up their wrongs.

 

In the end, the case against Barker was dismissed and the whole affair was referred to the Police Integrity Commission, thanks to the lengths these officers went to hide their guilt. Two officers narrowly avoided also being found in contempt of court.

It’s interesting to note that it was the CCTV footage that saved Barker from a charge of assaulting police, as the CCTV camera provides a very neutral context. It wasn’t being directed by anybody, so it wasn’t only capturing the images and sounds a particular person wanted to be seen. Perhaps if a person had filmed it, for instance a friend of Barker, they would have focused on the wounds they the police officers inflicted, or the pain coming across Barker’s face. Or if it’d been another officer filming, they would have only filmed Barker’s refusal to show the footage he’d recorded on his phone, and tried to suggest that Barker was the one refusing to cooperate and therefore the ‘bad guy’.

If you can take anything away from these two incidents and the questions they bring up, it’s that video evidence, particularly CCTV footage, is extremely hard to not only discredit but to remove from the court entirely. No matter what is argued, there’s still a video saying what really went on.

Medical Negligence: When It’s Worse Than It Seems | BPC Law Blog

Everybody has a different threshold for pain, and sometimes even when there’s something wrong with you, you won’t feel it until someone points it out. Unfortunately, there have been cases of medical negligence like this where patients have either been unaware that the doctor has been negligent or they don’t realise the severity of the negligence and how it can be threatening their lives. If you were to speak to any medical negligence lawyer in Sydney, they’d all tell you the same thing: it can be extremely difficult to tell a client that things are worse than they thought.

Sometimes psychological trauma can be more damaging than a physical injury. In cases of medical negligence, lawyers have to balance their duty of giving their clients all the facts without telling them in a way that could upset them and hurt their health. There have been numerous cases where lawyers in all fields have had to carefully reveal details in their discussions with clients so as not to cause them further distress. If you think that there’s no need for this tip-toeing around certain information, you need to realise just how shocking some news can be. For instance one lawyer was dealing with a husband and wife who had no previous marriages and no children. The husband had died and as the lawyer went through the paperwork he found the husband had been married as a teenager and had had three children. When he told the unknowing wife, she had a massive cardiac episode.

To keep everyone safe, medical negligence lawyers in these situations will try to build a strong working-relationship with their client, as well as practising emphasising for their specific situation. They may also encourage the client to visit their GP or talk to a psychiatrist, as well as to attend legal meetings with a close friend or relative to help soften the blow. Even taking breaks during meetings can allow the person to take in distressing information in a more relaxed and safe manner.

Simple measures that can make the client both understand the information and realise that no one is trying to make them upset can really be lifesavers in such awful and painful situations.

How Facebook Can Kill Your Worker’s Compensation Claim | BPC Law Blog

Everything good or bad that happens in our lives goes straight onto our Facebook wall: buying that new place in Sydney, that awful break-up, or just that hour of boredom at work. But is it really a good idea to broadcast every aspect of your life on the internet if you’re working with a lawyer to claim for worker’s compensation?

Social networking

There isn’t a person on Facebook who doesn’t have at least a few photos of them and their mates having a good time at a party. Maybe you’re just all sitting around drinking, or you might be getting up to a bit more. Regardless of what’s happening in the photos, they can be used as evidence against you and your worker’s compensation claim.

One real-life example of this sort of thing happening in a worker’s compensation case occurred in Arkansas in America. Zackery Clement was injured at work when a fridge fell on him. As a result of the accident, Clement found himself with a hernia. His initial claim for worker’s compensation went through, and he spent over a year receiving compensation for medical expenses and total-disability benefits. However, when Clement returned to court to extend the period of his compensation things went south.

Zackery Clement felt that he still needed to be on worker’s compensation for his accident as he was in “excruciating pain”. His first attempt at extending his benefits failed when medical tests on Clement found that he had no hernia anymore and didn’t need any further surgery. It was when Clement returned to court to appeal this decision that the Facebook photos appeared.

In a series of pictures shown to the court, Zackery Clement can be seen drinking with his buddies at a party, and generally having a good time – somewhat unbelievable behaviour for a man who claimed to be in excruciating pain. Initially, Clement tried to have the photos disregarded as evidence in the claim, but the court ruled that the photos could be used as proof against him. And with that Zackery Clement’s claim was denied.

Workers Compensation

Pictures of parties could cost you your worker’s compensation claim

The lesson here is obvious: if you’re going to claim for worker’s compensation, don’t be silly and have photographic proof of you doing things you claim you can’t, especially on your personal Facebook page.

Personal Injury: How Safe are E-Cigarettes | BPC Law Blog

We’ve known for decades that cigarettes are deadly and can cause so much damage to your body. In a move to help smokers quit, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular. However, many Sydney lawyers are wondering if they’ll be approached by smokers who want to sue the manufacturers of e-cigarettes for personal injury. So how safe are e-cigarettes, and are they just as bad as the real thing?

personal injury

An e-cigarette

E-cigarettes are a relatively new invention, and like all new things, we don’t know an awful lot about the long-term effects of replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes, or personal vapourisers as they’re also known. What we do know is some of the short-term benefits for smokers switching to e-cigarettes.

One of the main selling points of the e-cigarette is that it’s got a high success rate in getting long-time smokers to quit smoking cigarettes. The traditional e-cigarette works by evaporating a special liquid so that it becomes a nicotine vapour. When you smoke an e-cigarette, you inhale the nicotine vapour and receive the same effect that you would from a normal cigarette without the bad side-effects like lung damage and cancer. But it can’t all be good, can it?

Unfortunately, in terms of using the e-cigarette as a part of an arsenal to help smokers quit, Australia is very far behind other countries like the UK. In Australia, e-cigarette or personal vapouriser devices are sold freely, but they aren’t classed as a therapeutic good. More worryingly is the fact that the devices have no real benefit for smokers without the nicotine solution, and as nicotine is classed as a poison in Australia, there’s nowhere to buy it except overseas from less than reputable sources.

This means that the real danger of the e-cigarette is not the device itself or it’s intended use but the nicotine solution inside. If the solution is created and handled properly there’s no concern, but without regulations and legislation to allow it to be created in Australia, e-cigarette smokers are having to put themselves at risk to quit traditional tobacco smoking by using an e-cigarette with a nicotine solution that’s not up to code.

Being Honest to Get the Best Results: What You Need to Know About Workers Compensation | BPC Law Blog

There’s an unfortunate stereotype that anyone who claims for workers compensation is just trying to get money and get out of having to do their job. It’s the job of many Sydney compensation lawyers to make sure that their client isn’t viewed that way by encouraging them to be as honest as possible. But how does honesty work in your favour when claiming for workers compensation?

Workers Compensation

Your claim for workers compensation is only going to be successful if you’re truly deserving of compensation. The way to prove this is to be as honest, open, and detailed about what your situation is or was, e.g. if you had a bad back for three months, keep a three-month-long record of it, and see doctors for their opinions. If you aren’t honest in your case, or you have very little material supporting your claim, it can all go quite badly.

Recently in the case between Topaltsis and Crane Distribution Ltd, Ms Topaltsis claimed for workers compensation saying that she had suffered a lower back injury because of her work. In affidavits presented to the court, she explained in detail the extent of her injury and how it had affected her daily life, but when she was cross-examined she was found to be avoiding questions and was deemed a ‘poor historian’ when it came to describing her life while injured. It’s possible that Ms Topaltsis has poor memory issues, or in a court situation became nervous and confused, however, the defense delved deeper into Ms Topaltsis’ actions and found that she hadn’t been honest about the extent of her injuries.

Workers Compensation

On Ms Topaltsis’ Facebook page she described going rock climbing at Kakadu, sleeping in a boat while out fishing, and walking long distances frequently all during the time period of her injury. If her back injury was as severe as she claimed she wouldn’t have been able to do those things. The defence also referred to notes taken by both her chiropractor and GP who stated that she didn’t have back pain, and they even showed video footage of Ms Topaltsis at the time doing actions like bending over that she had said she couldn’t do.

The case between Topaltsis and Crane Distribution Ltd is a perfect example of why being honest, as well as keeping records (and being able to remember them), will stand you in good stead when it comes to a workers compensation claim. Ms Topaltsis didn’t win her claim, but you can.