The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, is a government bill focused on protecting employers acting responsibly and emergency response services from litigation.
The ‘Heroism Bill’ as it has been dubbed has been met with strong reactions from the legislative and legal community.
Do We Need Laws to Protect Our Heroes?
The Heroism Bill is meant to challenge “a culture of ambulance-chasing that all too often is about generating opportunities to earn fees, rather than doing the right thing”, stated Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
Claims for personal injury compensation have increased by 30 percent in the last three years, and while Justice Secretary Grayling agrees that many of these claims may be based on actual injury, he cites an increasingly litigious society that is, in fact, safer than ever before.
He added to his support for this legislation by explaining that the bill is meant to deter unscrupulous claimants and opportunistic law firms exploiting the legal system for financial gain rather than just compensation.
Guidance for the Courts
The Heroism Bill provides guidance for courts regarding factors for consideration when determining liability for personal injury claims.
1) Whether a defendant was acting ‘for the benefit of society’;
2) Whether the defendant had acted in a generally responsible fashion in regard to protecting safety; and
3) Whether the defendant was ‘acting heroically by intervening in an emergency’.
Political Opposition to the Heroism Bill
The opposition derided the Heroism Bill as based on ‘myth’ and further as the ‘most pathetic and embarrassing’ legislation since the formation of the Ministry of Justice. However, the Labour Party still did not officially oppose the Heroism Bill.
Tory MP Sir Edward Garnier commented that such a bill is simply unnecessary as these protections are already in place under common law and are implemented subject to judicial discretion already. This is something with which many legal practitioners are inclined to agree.
Sir Edward Garnier further noted that while he agrees with Justice Secretary Grayling on health and safety issues, he does not believe that the Heroism Bill will properly achieve the goals of combatting fraudulent personal injury claims.
Is Anyone in Favour of the Heroism Bill?
Despite political chastising and general indifference, insurance companies may well welcome the Heroism Bill as it could provide greater legal insulation for insureds acting in an emergency or otherwise responsibly.
The aim would be that employers who have taken all reasonable means to protect health and safety would be considered responsible. In addition, volunteers working in communities would be considered working for the public benefit and would not have to fear aggressive litigation should unintentional injury occur. Broadly, it should deter highly fraudulent or baseless claims against otherwise responsible actors within the community.
The Heroism Bill is slated to reach the House of Lords in autumn of 2014 and, if passed, could be enacted by Parliament before the end of 2015.