Archive for the ‘News & Views’ category

How accessible is Manchester city centre to people with disabilities?

June 19th, 2017
Do you know how accessible Manchester city centre is for people with disabilities? We spent the afternoon with one of our clients, who is a wheelchair user, to expose just how inaccessible our city really is…

Manchester is a modern, vibrant city that is constantly evolving. Areas such as the Northern Quarter, attract trendy young professionals with their quirky art galleries, and exciting food, music and cultural events. There is no denying it is an attractive place to live or visit. But swept under its slick, urban appeal lurks an age-old problem that excludes a considerable percentage of the population; large parts of the city are still inaccessible for disabled people.

When we invited our client, Sara, a wheelchair user, to come and join us for an afternoon of filming around the city centre to raise awareness of accessibility barriers for disabled people, she was initially apprehensive.

She explained to us that to travel from her local train station in a Greater Manchester suburb, she would have to contact the train company at least 24 hours in advance to arrange assistance because it is not readily provided at the station. Last minute trips are simply not an option for her on public transport.

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She also expressed anxiety at the thought of being in a busy city centre. Sara has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a condition that affects the body’s connective tissue and causes her joints to dislocate from simple actions such as picking up her handbag. She explained that she typically avoids city centres because she does not feel entirely safe.

Despite this, she bravely agreed to drive into the city centre in her specially adapted car to meet us for an afternoon of filming. This is what we uncovered…

Problematic public transport

We decided to pay a visit to one of the city centre train stations. Upon arrival we were greeted by a set of stairs, at the top of which was a sign pointing to an accessible entrance. This wasn’t very helpful, as there was no lift nearby.

Eventually, we went outside and navigated to a different entrance of the same train station – the accessible one. However, the poor signage in and around the station made it difficult to find. Sara doesn’t visit the city centre often, so we had to show her where the accessible entrance was (using prior knowledge), she said she would have been very confused and anxious if the same scenario had unfolded if she was alone.

We then ventured to another popular city centre train station to see if it was more accessible. While a step-free exit was much easier to find, it still posed a challenge. The station is located at the top of a steep hill and Sara did not feel comfortable navigating down the slope safely. She pointed out that her wheelchair is a high quality powered chair (which she only acquired after joining a long waiting list), and that other people using manual, less sturdy chairs would really struggle navigating down the hill. Loose flags and cobblestones further added to her distress. With EDS, going over a cobblestone too quickly can result in her dislocating a joint.

It’s understandable that some older buildings are harder to modify and make accessible, but broken flags on a steep hill leading to one of the city’s most popular public transport stations is simply unacceptable.

Inaccessible ‘disabled’ toilets

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Inside one of the city’s train stations, we investigated a public access toilet marked with a wheelchair sign, indicating that it is disabled-access friendly. Sara unlocked the door using her universal disabled access key fob.What was inside shocked all of us.

The door opened to reveal that the allegedly disabled-friendly toilet was being used as a storage facility… for a motorbike! The bike made it much more difficult for Sara to navigate in her wheelchair. The floor inside the tiny toilet cubicle was also wet and slippy, and Sara mentioned that if she were to attempt to use the toilet and fall, it is highly likely that she would suffer a serious injury.

Disabled toilets are supposed to be a safe place for people with disabilities to use the toilet – a basic human right. Employees who abuse their purpose and use them as a storage (or parking!) facility should be disciplined.

Regular checks of disabled toilets should be enforced, to make sure that they are safe and usable. What we witnessed could not even be classed as meeting basic safety levels. Are we going to accept this treatment of disabled people in our society?

Small obstacles add to larger frustrations

We even encountered obstacles while navigating pavements on main and side streets that an able-bodied person wouldn’t even consider to be a problem.

A lamppost erected in the middle of the footpath, and a traffic cone that had been moved from the road to the footpath, both presented challenges as Sara’s only real option was to venture out into the road in her wheelchair to get round the obstacle.

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Getting onto the road from the footpath presented a challenge itself, as Sara would have to go back on herself to access the road safely over a dropped curb.

Understandably, this left her feeling frustrated. She mentioned to us that it made her feel like disabled people are treated as an ‘afterthought’, as all the small frustrations add up to make her feel like she doesn’t belong in the city centre.

If there was just a moment that people took to think “would a wheelchair fit through this space?” the city centre would be a much safer and more accessible place. Disabled people are not invisible, they should not be an afterthought.

What message does this send?

Although attitudes towards disability have definitely improved in the 21st century, there are still serious issues in our modern city centres that present huge physical and mental barriers for disabled people. With the construction of more modern infrastructures and buildings comes better accessibility, yet all this hard work is being undone by forgetting the little things like dropped curbs and keeping the pavements clear of obstacles that could prevent a wheelchair user from accessing them.

Disabled people are a huge and important part of our society, and we need and want them in our city centres. To encourage a more accessible and inclusive city, please share our video to raise awareness and put pressure on local councils and businesses to make the city centre a safe and welcome place for people with disabilities.

Should you have any queries about making a clinical negligence or personal injury claim and wish to speak with a member of the team, please contact us on 0161 237 5888.

‘Do not disturb while driving’ on iPhones thanks to new update

June 14th, 2017

iphone.jpgNew ‘do not disturb while driving’ feature is to be included in the next iPhone update software, the iOS 11.

Due later this year, the function is designed to prevent distractions when driving after the new higher penalties for mobile phone use were introduced.

When activated, the software blocks calls, texts and social media notifications when it senses the user is driving.

An automated text response can be sent by the user to notify the person trying to contact them that they are currently driving and unable to talk.

Nicola Mepstead, personal injury solicitor at Potter Rees Dolan, said:

Despite higher penalties for those who are caught using their phone while driving, there still seems to be far too many people who do just that.

We often see the tragic results of drivers being distracted, even if only for a moment, so hopefully upgrades such as this will help it become more difficult and socially unacceptable for people to be distracted by their phones while they should be paying attention to what is going on around them while they are driving.

The new software will also make it impossible for the user to access the phone homescreen when driving to open apps.

If the user is connected to their car via Bluetooth, the new feature will assume the user is driving and will use the car’s WiFi antenna to sense when the car is moving at speed.

There is also a feature for the user to disable the feature by overriding the software marking themselves as ‘not driving’ through the power button.

The announcement from Apple was welcomed by Brake and the RAC who is encouraging motorists to take a personal pledge not to use their mobile phones when driving with their #BePhoneSmart campaign.

Nicola Mepstead specialises in serious personal injury claims with Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about the issues raised in this article and wish to speak with Nicola or any other member of the team, please contact 0800 027 2557.

Many seriously injured clients unhappy with legal system

June 7th, 2017

A recent article in the Law Gazette highlighted the results from a survey which found the legal system is failing them.

The article notes how the legal system should be more compassionate to the individual’s situation and focus on the vulnerable people.

The clients who were happy with their legal representatives felt their team was knowledgeable, experienced and communicative.

As an SIA Accredited firm, the specialist solicitors at Potter Rees Dolan have vast experience and knowledge in such serious injuries and we have commented recently on the issue.

Helen Shaw has specialised in dealing with cases involving spinal cord injury for in excess of 25 years and is Senior Litigation Manager at Potter Rees Dolan.

She said:

I share the concerns expressed by the Spinal Injuries Association which highlight the importance of individuals having access to experienced specialist lawyers who have been accredited by the SIA, with the result that their claims are dealt with more efficiently, expeditiously and with appropriate interim funding being secured throughout the life of the case, to meet their ongoing needs e.g. for appropriate accommodation, care, equipment and relevant therapies

Helen Shaw specialises in serious personal injury claims with Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about the issues raised in this article and wish to speak with Helen or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.

Inquiry finds dangerous drivers not being prosecuted properly

May 4th, 2017

More dangerous drivers are avoiding driving bans by the court according to a new report from an all-party parliamentary group.

The group of MPs found police and justice systems are not properly prosecuting or banning motorist who have committed an offense.

Penalties given for mobile phone use had halved in the last five years and just 33 of the 15,000 taken to court were banned from driving, the inquiry found.

Jerry Smith, personal injury solicitor at PotterReesDolan, said:

This shocking report shows how just how badly the police and justice system are falling to protect cyclists. As a regular cyclist, I see examples of dangerous driving almost every day and sadly we all too often have to act for badly injured victims or their families. Let’s hope that whatever government we have after June actually takes these recommendations seriously.

We have written in the past about police targeting cars who are driving too close to cyclists whilst overtaking.

The group calls for the police to appreciate video evidence from cyclists’ bike cameras and to be more receptive of such evidence.

Hugh Potter filmed this video a few days ago on his bike camera which shows a car cutting him up whilst on his ride into the office.

Hugh Potter, head of personal injury at PotterReesDolan, said:

Police evidence is that 98% collisions involving cyclists are down to the driver of the vehicle. Too often it’s a case of “sorry mate I didn’t see you.”

Police in Manchester going undercover to catch drivers overtaking cyclists

March 21st, 2017

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Undercover police are posing as cyclists to try and catch drivers who overtake dangerously close in Manchester.

The traffic unit will wear body cameras to capture any offences and record the evidence to then alert the nearest police on patrol.

The move comes after police in the West Midlands took on a similar scheme where offenders were either prosecuted or educated on the proper conduct.

Manchester council and local cycling bodies have welcomed the crackdown by plain-clothed officers of Greater Manchester Police which has already begun in Tameside, Bolton and central Manchester.

Motorists should give cyclists a distance of 1.5 metres or the same distance as other vehicles when overtaking.

The police are warning motorists that the next cyclist could be a police officer and so they should be respectful of each other’s space.

Offenders who refuse to engage with the police will be charged and fines or penalty points will be issued.

Report into Cycle Superhighways impacting collision rates

March 14th, 2017

Cycle Superhighway Cyclist Collision report has questioned the Cycle Superhighways in London are really protecting cyclists from collisions.

Statistics were gathered over eights years by the Centre for Transport Studies who found that routes with large proportion of segregated lanes were more effective at protecting cyclists.

The report recommends that consistent safety designs should be applied to all Cycle Superhighways.

Hugh Potter, personal injury partner at PotterReesDolan, said:

The report underlines that segregated cycle lanes are safer for cyclists….More please!

Although the report stated a lot of segregated lanes are protecting cyclists, it also found the Cycle Superhighways have had no significant impact on collision rates concluding they are ‘no more dangerous or safer’ than other roads.

We previously wrote how a video showing a crash between two cyclists on the cycle-superhighway in London was posted online.

This showed the potential dangers of cycle-to-cycle crashes such superhighways with a problem of people not being prepared to slow down.

However, on the whole, the new report found this particular segregated lane (CS3 in London) was more effective at protecting cyclists from other vehicle collisions.

As the head of personal injury at PotterReesDolan, should you have any queries about making a claim or personal injury issues or indeed any other aspect of this article and wish to speak to Hugh or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.

Discount rate is reduced for personal injury damages

March 8th, 2017

Gary Herbert, senior personal injury solicitor at PotterReesDolan has welcomed the news that the Lord Chancellor Liz Truss has reduced the discount rate for personal injury damages, although stresses that this is not a ‘windfall’ for Claimants with brain and spinal injuries.

The discount rate is often misunderstood by members of the public. The simple principle is that if a Claimant receives damages at the present time that they don’t need to spend until later, he or she will have the additional opportunity to invest it and secure more money. If unchecked this could leave Claimants over compensated for their injuries. The Court therefore reduces the damages paid to Claimants in the expectation of the returns that they can receive in safe investments.

However the rate also needs to take account of the effect of inflation, so that Claimants are still able to afford the care they need as the cost of providing that care rises in the future.

The rate prior to today’s announcement was 2.5%. This meant that a Claimant needed to be able to secure a rate of interest of 2.5% after tax and above the rate of inflation. Given the current RPI rate of inflation of 2.6% and tax rates of 20%, this has left Claimants needing to secure interest rates of over 6% per year, which has not been possible in the recent economic climate.

This has meant that for many years vulnerable Claimants have been left with the unpleasant choice of either having to cope without the care and support that they need, or gambling with their investments in the hope of bridging the gap.

Today’s announcement recognises the reality that current interest rates are less than the RPI rate of inflation. The new rate means that the most vulnerable Claimants can now afford the care that the Courts assess they require. It does not provide them with a ‘windfall’ or a ‘win’ but instead recognises the reality of the current economy and puts them in the position they should always have been in.

Gary Herbert is a personal injury solicitor with PotterReesDolan. Should you have any queries about personal injury issues or indeed any other aspect of this article and wish to speak to Gary or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888 or email Gary through his profile page.

Amputees call for more accessible sport and activities

March 8th, 2017

limbpower.jpgA new survey shows there is clear demand for more physical activities to be accessible for people with a limb impairment.

LimbPower, which encourages amputees to engage in physical activity and sport, published their findings yesterday.

The report aims to give more information and support on this specific target audience in the hope to deliver more suitable activities for people with limb impairments.

The charity conducted the survey amongst amputees and found 83% of them would like to take part in more sport and physical activity in the future.

Richard Edwards, Senior Solicitor in personal injury at PotterReesDolan, said:

This is a very encouraging and welcome report. The loss of a limb brings with it a great many challenges but it should never be regarded as marking the end of an amputees’ ability to fully engage in sporting activities.

As this report shows, the health and wellbeing benefits of doing so are huge. Indeed one of my own amputee clients has been making his mark on the five-a-side pitch recently!

LimbPower welcomed these findings as their main priority is to support people with an amputation to take part in sport and be more active regularly.

The report also showed the two most common barriers to taking part in sport were limitations with their prosthetics and poor socket fit or comfort.

Richard is Group Secretary of ACSIL the Amputation Charity and has dealt with many clients who have had a limb amputated.

Amateur mountain biker makes claim against instructor

January 17th, 2017

Jeremy Smith, solicitor at Potter Rees Dolan Serious Injury Solicitors discusses this case:

Mr Ahmed was a 47 year old lawyer who very sadly was rendered paraplegic after a mountain bike accident. He’d cycled for many years but had never ridden on mountain bike trails and signed up for a beginner’s course. Whilst on the course his front wheel jammed into a grassy mound as he rode down a steep slope and he went over the handlebars.

After hearing evidence from other course participants and two mountain bike experts, the judge found that the instructor had failed to make a proper assessment of Mr Ahmed’s abilities at the start of the course (in mountain bike terms he was a novice), failed to demonstrate to him the skills he needed to ride safely and should have picked a less challenging slope for Mr Ahmed to practice on.

However the judge also decided that Mr Ahmed should have realised he was out of his depth and told the instructor the slope was beyond his capabilities, so he will lose 20% of his compensation when that comes to be assessed.

For more information on personal injury claims, please visit a dedication page on the Potter Rees Dolan website.

Cyclists not classed as road users according to transport secretary

January 17th, 2017

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The transport secretary has claimed cyclists don’t count as road users after he was questioned in the House of Commons.

Chris Grayling has been accused of showing ‘an astonishing lack of knowledge’ after he argued that cycle lanes cause too much of a problem for road users, implying that cyclists are not classed as road users.

He argued that cyclists are the users of cycle lanes and motorists are the road users claiming the comment was very straightforward.

But how do cyclists themselves feel about being classed as non-road users?

Jeremy Smith, personal injury solicitor and keen cyclist at PotterReesDolan, said:

I find it really shocking that our Transport Secretary apparently thinks that cyclists aren’t road users. I suspect his comment betrays the truth about the Government’s attitude, which is so short sighted, when the benefits of getting more people cycling (better health, cleaner air, less traffic congestion etc.) are there for all to see.

The explanation from Grayling caused uproar among the 7 million people who regularly use the roads to cycle.

Questions were put to the transport secretary after he was filmed knocking a cyclist from his bike when opening his car door last month.