Compensation Culture: Fact or Fantasy?

3 April 2013

In the annual lecture to Birmingham University’s student law society, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson blamed inaccurate media reporting for creating ‘a false perception’ of a compensation culture. Lord Dyson defined compensation culture as “The idea that for every accident, for every injury or loss suffered someone other than the individual who suffers the loss is to blame”, and “Where there’s a blame there is a claim – and there’s always a blame”.

Lord Dyson explained that the perception is that, as a society, we are no longer characterised by an ‘accepting approach to life’ as people are ‘suing at the drop of a hat for any injury’. However, Lord Dyson acknowledged a problem with this perception as studies have concluded that there has been no real increase in personal injury claims since 2000.

Lord Dyson went on to compare the McDonald’s hot coffee case from the USA, while also explaining that the facts were quite different from what was reported in the media at the time, and a similar case which was brought here in the UK which failed. Lord Dyson said “If, as was suggested in the media a year after this case (the McDonalds case in the UK) was decided, we were in the grips of a compensation culture, the claim would surely have succeeded”.

Lord Dyson added, “In the US there is a rampant litigation culture (although as we have seen the reports are not always accurate). Here there is no such culture.” He suggested that ‘a more balanced, fair and accurate account’ of cases would have “stated that the true position is that we are not in the grip of a compensation culture’ but that ‘stories written in this way would not have been as newsworthy.”

Lord Dyson went on to say that that, “For a compensation culture to take hold there would have to be a major shift in our substantive law”. Our law requires fault and “the judges apply the law rigorously”. 

However, Lord Dyson said that with no let-up in media stories about the compensation culture likely, there may need to be “A substantive educative effort on the part of government, the courts and the legal profession to counter-act the media created perception that we are in the grips of a compensation culture.”

To read Lord Dyson’s full speech, please click here.

Irrespective of whether or not it can truly be said that a ‘compensation culture’ exists, the fact is that victims of accidents are entitled to claim compensation where they have suffered injury and loss due to someone else’s negligence or breach of duty.

If you have suffered an accident then get in touch and we will be pleased to advise you. Advance Legal is a strong, experienced personal injury department and we are able to offer ‘no win, no fee’ agreements to our clients.


Bronwen Roberts is a Trainee Solicitor at Advance Legal.  Please contact Bronwen or another member of the Personal Injury team on 01332 614 511 and they will be happy to discuss your compensation claim with you.