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LEGAL

Think Bike Think Biker Think You

As a lawyer dealing with the aftermath of serious motorcycle accidents and being an avid biker Mark Lampkin our resident legal guru highlights the common and easily avoidable ways lives of bikers and those that don’t see them can be changed catastrophically and urges us all to think of the person beyond the leathers and helmet.

My first ride on a motorbike was on a Mobylette rev and go moped we literally found dumped on an abandoned railway line and in a scene reminiscent of the famous five it became our summer project. I remember when this was all fields and we used jumpers for goalposts; ok so I’m showing my age but times were different then. Once I had a fix of the wind in my hair with the smell of two stroke in my nostrils I was hooked.

Most bikers of a similar age will have a similar story as to how they fell in love with the thrill of riding and now with the average age of bikers constantly rising it is these born again bikers that you will see on the roads of North Wales as soon as this relentless rain stops and the floods subside. I accept that they look intimidating and with aftermarket exhausts so loud they loosen your fillings they can be annoying but look beyond and you will see a whole family.

In my career I have seen the smallest mistake, a mere nanosecond’s inattention by a car driver destroy the lives of many related to the rider but it wasn’t until recently when I had the opportunity to talk to a driver involved in a fatal accident, in which she was to blame, that the impact of all involved was brought home to me. I’m no psychiatrist but her trauma was as severe and life changing as many victims I have dealt with. In these accidents the mental anguish is shared and just imagine how this woman, a mother herself, felt knowing that her tiny failure to look again left two daughters fatherless.

I make no apology for being dramatic. This is important and I implore all drivers to take a moment to have bikers in their thoughts as the season starts but I can offer some tips on how we can all help. Here are my top five bike accident scenarios for you to start with.

When emerging from a junction onto a major road, remember the old advert. Think once, think twice, think bike. The human brain can play tricks and scientific tests have proved how easy it is for the brain to “ignore” the bike that is approaching when instantly scanning a scene. It’s called inattention blindness and could happen to anyone. Force yourself to look again.

When turning right through stationary traffic, often having been flashed out, just assume that a bike will be overtaking the line of traffic. I accept that he perhaps shouldn’t but it happens as regularly as Ant and Dec appear on telly.

If you ever miss your turn or realise your sat nav is taking you to Shrewsbury Massachusetts rather than the one on the Severn and you want to perform a U-turn……just don’t. I lost a dear and lovely biking friend through a u-turn by a travelling salesman looking for his next appointment. U-turns are, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous things you can ever do on the road.

Turning right is probably the second most dangerous. Twenty twenty vision does not extend to that blind spot just over your shoulder so again just presume there will be a bike overtaking and look again.

Changing lanes is again another where your two blind spots can fully hide the biggest motorcycle. When learning to ride you are taught to turn your head to the left or right to look back in a manoeuvre known as a ‘life saver’. It has always troubled me that car drivers don’t have this built in to their training as it would surely “save” even more lives.

Please have a lovely spring and a delightful summer travelling around our beautiful region but remember that beauty attracts a lot of bikers. Let’s look after each other.

Mark Lampkin

Originally from Liverpool, Mark grew up in Preston where he later qualified as a solicitor in 1990. Initially working for a number of large law firms he began to specialise in personal injury law and founded his own firm, Lampkin & Co in 1999. He is the Principal Solicitor at the firm and features on a weekly legal advice show called Ask Lampkin which is broadcast on Chester’s Dee 106.3.

Mark regularly writes articles on the ever changing area of personal injury law, claimant rights and features in editorials giving advice on a range of legal issues. He is an experienced motorcyclist and also an accomplished musician, playing tenor saxophone and has a passion for jazz.

 

Blood on the Courtroom Carpet

Local legal expert Mark Lampkin, of Lampkin and Co Solicitors based in Ewloe, examines how changes to the rules of court procedure has led to a massive disruption in how justice is dispensed in England and Wales, how more Solicitors will go out of business this year and why you should think carefully if you take a case to court yourself.

When people fall out and resort to the courts, they have always had a rocky road to justice. The civil courts have rules on what you have to do to prepare your case correctly before it eventually comes before a judge. Documents, expert’s reports, witness statements and a whole plethora of other matters have to be timetabled and controlled so that a full ‘cards on the table’ approach can be achieved. Orders and timetables set out by Judges were meant to control the litigation so that deserving cases could be heard swiftly and at less cost but institutional non-compliance meant that costs spiralled, dates were missed and the public perception of the legal system being massively expensive and long winded remained. The law fell into disrepute and the great British tradition of respecting the rule of law and justice was in danger of crumbling. Something had to be done so Judge Jackson was appointed to sort it out.

Ask any litigation lawyer today what do they think of Jackson and they will start shivering, foaming at the mouth and reaching for that bottle of single malt in the top draw of the filing cabinet. Believe me he has changed everything and you will be affected if you ever have to enforce your rights by going to court. The rules are now sacrosanct and must be obeyed at all times. Comply or die! That means that any breach of any requirement needed to send a certain document to the court or your opponent can lead to a perfectly valid and potentially huge case being thrown out or some other draconian penalty imposed. In the past lawyers and litigants had an unwritten agreement that if the court gave a certain date for witness statements to be exchanged, or similar, then a few days slippage would be ‘ignored’. Not now. If you delay a day a judge can pick up the file and strike out the case, pronto, and leave the poor client having to start again and sue his solicitor.

A stark example of how this ‘blood on the carpet’ approach is exactly what was intended was reinforced in the first case on the new rules to come before the Court of Appeal, literally the big-wigs (because they do actually wear big wigs!). The case may surprise you because you know it already. The case came out of the famous ‘Plebgate’ affair where the MP Andrew Mitchell had a run in with the Downing Street police officers. He sued for libel against the publishers of what has turned out to be incorrect allegations. His lawyers faced a requirement in the rules to lodge in court an estimate of their predicted costs seven days prior to an interim hearing designed to bring the matter before a Judge who would set out a timetable to manage the case to trial. They sent it the day before the hearing so the Judge at that hearing slaughtered them by striking out their right to claim any costs at all. By the way the costs were, at that stage an eye watering half a million pounds! Ouch!

So why am I telling you all this about how unshakeably tough the courts will be if you want to litigate? Surely this only affects sloppy lawyers? Well there is some truth in that but with the rise in the small claims limit to ten thousand pounds and the virtual removal of legal aid a lot of people will rightly be taking cases to court on their own. The rule books stand at about ten inches thick and if they make a mistake on any of them they could have their case thrown out before even throwing a six to start!

You have been warned it could be your blood on the carpet next time.

Mark Lampkin

Originally from Liverpool, Mark grew up in Preston where he later qualified as a solicitor in 1990. Initially working for a number of large law firms he began to specialise in personal injury law and founded his own firm, Lampkin & Co in 1999. He is the Principal Solicitor at the firm and features on a weekly legal advice show called Ask Lampkin which is broadcast on Chester’s Dee 106.3.

Mark regularly writes articles on the ever changing area of personal injury law, claimant rights and features in editorials giving advice on a range of legal issues. He is an experienced motorcyclist and also an accomplished musician, playing tenor saxophone and has a passion for jazz.

 

Consumer Law at Christmas

The season of goodwill has undoubtedly now become the season of good retail with a yearly increase in sales across all markets. Legal expert solicitor Mark Lampkin has a timely reminder of how consumers can protect themselves when their gifts turn out to be not all they seem.

Consumers have had a rough ride through the developing legal system of these fair isles harshly encapsulated in the phrase 'caveat emptor' Latin for 'let the buyer beware'. Amazingly this still remains the overarching position of all sales unless changed by case law or statute and thankfully successive governments have recognised that the power of the retailers needs to be kept in check and have done so with strong laws.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979, still good law today, for the first time made it a condition of every sale in the course of business that the goods sold would be of ‘merchantable’ or recently updated to ‘satisfactory’ quality. The Act goes on to set out how to judge what is satisfactory so if your new-fangled gadget breaks down on the 366th day you can still use this to claim a repair, replacement or money back even if the jobs-worth shop manager tries to play the warranty expired card.

Remember though this only applies to commercial sales so when the £300 rust bucket you won on eBay breaks down when you are driving it home you will still be caught by caveat emptor unless the seller described it as mechanically sound or in another over exuberant and false way. Indeed when anything is sold to you and you are drawn in like a moth to a flame by words like mint, perfect and as new only to be burnt to cinders when it turns out to be anything but, the seller will be caught and you can claim breach of contract.

Given the inexorable rise in internet sales further consumer protection has been brought in by the Distance Selling Regulations. When a purchase is made on line you have the right to cancel which starts right away and ends seven days after receipt of most goods save for CD’s or software where the seal is broken, perishable or tailor made goods and in the interests of hygiene, underwear and earrings.

The rights to reject goods and claim money back can be lost if you do an act or omission inconsistent with rejection. So if you do wear that little black dress even though it’s a tighter squeeze probably caused by too many mince pies you can’t then go on to get your money back. But don’t be scared to send or take things back. You’ve worked hard for your money and most savvy retailers will realise it’s better to keep your custom and take a return no questions asked.

And here’s a way to double your protection when buying anything over the value of £100 and you may not like it. Use your credit card. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act effectively means that your credit card provider insures these purchases even if the seller company goes bust between purchase and delivery.

Don’t be scared of taking action even if the seller is a huge company. You can issue proceedings in the small claims track of the county court and go all the way to a full hearing at little cost and a District Judge will give you a fair hearing however small your gripe is.

 
 

Lawyers - we might miss them when they're gone

 

At a time when lawyers have an all-time low public image, Mark Lampkin, a leading North Wales lawyer, examines how the dedication and bravery of a few has exposed how society failed to protect the most vulnerable on an almost inconceivable and industrial scale.

The Jennings report into the abuse in care scandal in the area covered almost exactly by the circulation of Yattar Yattar concluded that there was ‘extensive and widespread abuse within Clwyd residential care’ and included a suggestion that even ‘public figures’ were involved. The report compiled by John Jennings is thorough and brilliantly written, if one of the most shocking ever produced. The effect of the regime suffered by those vulnerable boys is still being suffered by this region today. Just ask any Wrexham police officer how many times they have seen the names of care homes in antecedent details of those who have fallen into a life of crime and drugs. These lives have been destroyed by the abuse they suffered at the hands of those that should have cared for them and we are all suffering the consequences.

Lawyers acting for the young victims who are now adults, pressed and pressed for action to be taken. They and some equally brave and ethical journalists were the voice of those abused and as a result, 13 prosecutions followed from 1974 to date and compensation has rightly been fought for and won to try and give some recompense for the evil these people suffered.

But abuse or at least failure in care seems to be happening everywhere. We should remember of course that it was only an historical accident that so many residential care and approved homes previously administered by the Home Office were sited in this area.

Look for example at the scandalous failures at the Mid Staffordshire hospital that in a similarly brilliant enquiry report showed that many deaths could have been avoided simply by the provision of basic care. Again, lawyer’s efforts lead directly to the exposure of this cruel regime. Legal Action is also being taken on behalf of those that have died as a result of the national, or some would say industrial, misuse of the Liverpool Care Pathway that was designed to provide the dying with compassionate palliative care but has led to horror stories of dehydrated patients sucking the fluid out of cleaning swabs in desperation. Threat and pressure from legal action has achieved the political will to look again at this controversial system and changes will now be made.

As a civilised society we tend to trust the authorities. The soldiers going over the top in the First World War to their inevitable and obvious death did so generally without question. It is the British way. Does this not seem similar to us placing our children in the care of paedophiles, taking our families to obviously failing hospitals and trusting those in power? Why are we not revolting as we have example after example of how we as a people are being failed, mistreated and lied to by those in authority?

Hillsborough is a particularly stark example. We now all know this was a deliberate cover up, there is no question about that and following the lifelong dedication of Anne Williams and yet another brilliant enquiry team, the lawyers will now be able to make sure that those to blame will be made to pay.

 

Small towns face legal desert

By Mark Lampkin In my twenty five years of being a solicitor, culminating in owning my own successful firm for the last fourteen, never have I felt so worried about the future of my beloved profession. We all know the jokes playing on comparisons between lawyers and sharks, terminal diseases and serial killers but just think for a moment how you will feel when you actually need one and there are none to be seen. Believe me - this is coming to a town near you. Firstly the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act came into force on 1st April 2013, a date I am convinced was selected on purpose. This act slashed the availability of legal aid to help those that qualify financially to get assistance in sorting out mainly family and children affairs. The local lawyer loses the work and the family now either have to go to court on their own or engage social services to help them sort the problems that still need sorting. This does not really save tax payers money and just shifts the problem to a different department. A recent article in the Law Society Gazette headed ‘Legal Aid Deserts Warning’ highlights that high street legal help will simply not be available. In the world of personal injury I would be the first to accept that many lawyers have been to a degree, the authors of their own misfortune by paying vast referral fees to jump on the gravy train of huge volumes of injury claims. The money-go-round of a minor car accident leading to thousands of pounds in backhanders being paid to insurers, garages and even unions needed to be derailed. But in the greatest act of hoodwinking since The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and in just as sinister way, the insurers have bamboozled the Government into giving them the whole industry lock, stock and barrel. Let me explain how this is important to you. The ban on solicitors paying a fee to receive work was done as a way of quelling the flames of excess. The insurers asked for it and promised to reduce insurance premiums if this cash was effectively removed from the system and hence from the amount they have to pay out. They must have had their fingers crossed behind their backs because they then revealed that actually they had been making millions from this seedy little business. As an example, Admiral Insurance made £18.6 million last year and have revealed only four days into the new regime that they have acquired two large legal firms to become a massive in-house legal department. All the major insurers look likely to follow suit so they can capture almost the entire personal injury claim market and control it from within. Again, the local expert lawyer loses the work and if, god forbid, you or a loved one has the misfortune of having a serious accident in years to come you will have no choice but to throw yourself on the mercy of a corporate entity owned and controlled by an insurance company. How long will it be before their success in capturing a share of the market will lead to ventures into conveyancing, probate and commercial law to completely remove the last dregs of legal work from your high street? On my drive to work the radio news revealed that blanket legal aid for criminal matters is to be removed. So the basic foundation of our supposedly civilised justice system that everyone is entitled to a defence will no longer apply unless you can afford it. Again the local lawyer…you get the point! So as I contemplate the future for me and my colleagues I would urge you to support your local lawyer. The family firm that has been a feature of your town is under threat and when it is gone it is gone forever. If you don’t believe me just consider why every town now just has one ‘big four’ supermarket instead of twenty family firm greengrocers. If you need a lawyer think local as your local lawyer needs YOU!
 
 

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