By Matthew Best, Senior Underwriting Manager
(Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 27 seconds)
Previously it was reported that we may see a ‘tidal wave’ of litigation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst that may well be the case in the months or perhaps years to come, to date we have only started to see a few matters trickling in. In this update we bring you a consensus from numerous calls and conversations we have had.
In recent months, Temple has been actively collaborating with our partner law firms about this. We believe they should be involved in the process of how to tackle the claim issues the pandemic created. To that end, we believe the sharing of facts and knowledge is critical.
In addition, for many years now, Temple has offered an unrivalled range of delegated authority ATE insurance. We work with the best law firms in the country, whilst aiming to forge new relationships with others.
Why am I saying this?
Well, offering full delegation comes down to trust; a key factor when offering such wide-ranging delegation. Our view is that if we have offered an ATE scheme to a law firm, we trust them completely. The coronavirus pandemic, however, will undoubtedly see many cases being brought against the NHS.
The unprecedented nature of such litigation requires a unique bond and understanding between the law firm and the insurer. By having our partner law firms involved in processes, we believe we stand the best chance of securing access to justice.
Our conversations have led us to conclude that personal injury and clinical negligence litigators remain very cautious. Some report absolutely no interest in such cases; whilst many others wish to wait until the outcome of the spring 2022 inquiry. It is widely recognised that breach of duty and causation are as difficult as each other in this type of litigation. To draw an analogy, the landscape hasn’t been painted yet and I, for one, will remain very careful as we seek to move forward on this together.
The sharing of information under the correct protocols is also key and I would like to share with you an example of a case we have been asked to consider covering; this is for a claimant looking to recover damages in connection with their contraction of coronavirus (Covid-19) as a result of their exposure to the virus, a biological agent, whilst working for the defendant as a paramedic.
At all material times the claimant was employed as a paramedic. It is alleged that the ambulance trust allowed employees to work as paramedics collecting and transporting contagious Covid-19 positive patients to hospital with insufficient PPE. This resulted in not taking any or adequate precautions against infection and a lack of any system of health surveillance. The claimant’s exposure prior to infection was over a four-day shift pattern.
The claimant asserts that they were only provided with a supply of thin paper masks whilst getting fit tested for FFP3 (a fitted mask used to protect against respiratory borne pathogens). To use these masks, relevant staff must be ‘face fit tested’ to ensure they achieve a suitable face fit and that it operates at the required efficiency. The claimant also asserted they would attend work and go into the office; when there it was like a ‘lucky dip’ to see which PPE was available. The claimant was not able to use FFP3 masks for all attendances (owing to a short supply) with Covid-19 patients. As the FFP3 mask that the claimant had to carry on the ambulance in any event could only be worn once, it would be discarded in clinical waste afterwards.
At the very start of the pandemic, the claimant and their colleagues were instructed to take the ambulances back to station for decontamination by the ‘Affers’. This procedure was stopped before the claimant fell sick – due to the amount of downtime of the ambulances. The claimant would be in the same uniform all day, eating lunch and drinking through the day, despite the uniform becoming contaminated on each patient attendance.
The claimant would then have to take it home to wash. The claimant asserted they were given a little red ‘dissolvable’ bag for the uniform, but the red bag could not go in a domestic washing machine as it would not dissolve. The claimant would have to extract the uniform and then dispose of the red bag. No facilities to wash the uniform were provided on station.
As to other forms of PPE, the claimant asserts they were only provided small plastic aprons that would blow around in the wind with contamination on, hitting them in the face. No face shields were provided. Additionally, the claimant was informed that they would have to take off all PPE to avoid cross contamination when attending hospital, leaving them totally exposed when in hospital with the patients.
In this particular matter, the HSE was obliged to issue two Notices of Contravention against the defendant Trust for non-compliance with its duty to keep paramedic staff safe from Covid-19 at work. It also appears that the ambulance trust had no plans in place for any such crisis.
Finally, I am keen to share knowledge on this hot topic in general in order to provide even greater value to our customers; so do get in touch if you want to canvass opinion or discuss any matters. Please call me on 01483 514804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your observations or to discuss your ATE insurance requirements.
Matt has an insurance background and joined Temple in July 2011 having worked for 4 years in a leading insurance company where he was dealing with personal injury work.
Matt’s experience allows him to undertake a key role in Temple’s ATE insurance personal injury and clinical negligence teams. He also participates in the assessments of delegated schemes that Temple provide with the objective of helping our customers make the most beneficial and appropriate use of ATE insurance.
He has started studying for this CII exams which he will sit in the near future, which he will then use to develop himself, further into the company in order to provide Temple’s customers with the excellent service they expect.
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