Time to value common sense
Liberal Democrat Norman Baker MP sets out the case for his Personal Responsibility Bill, which is being introduced in the Commons on Wednesday.
I am introducing the Personal Responsibility Bill. The aim of this Bill is simple: it is to place upon all of us as individuals a greater responsibility for the consequences of our actions.
The value placed by society on someone having common sense and being accountable for their actions is, in my view, too small. Taking responsibility for our own actions is of the utmost importance, and this should be reflected in legislation and then applied by the courts. The aim of this Bill is to recognise this specifically in the area of recovering compensation for personal injuries.
My Bill would do this by making two reforms. In the workplace, employers are legally obliged to provide a safe working environment for their workers. This is quite correct and prevents workers being exposed to dangerous situations and working practices.
However, this legislation should not exist to compensate people in situations where they could have avoided harm simply by exercising some common sense. My Bill proposes to amend the law to prevent the imposition of liability on an employer where harm to a person could have been averted by the exercise of common sense by that person.
Moreover, in personal injury cases, where the claimant is deemed to have contributed to the harm suffered, the amount of damages recoverable by the claimant is reduced proportionately by the amount of the harm for which they were responsible. So if a person is judged to be 40 per cent responsible for an incident which causes harm to them, they will only receive 60 per cent of the compensation that they would normally receive.
However, in a situation where an incident could have been avoided by the claimant exercising their common sense then there should be no compensation awarded to that claimant. My Bill proposes an amendment to the law to this effect.
This Bill is not designed to prevent people claiming compensation who have been injured through no fault of their own, but will aim to prevent ridiculous claims such as people suing for falling out of a window when under the influence of alcohol or for injuries suffered when attempting to board a moving bus.
We must all be responsible for our own actions. I believe that these proposals, if enacted, would reduce the numbers of unmeritorious personal injury claims by encouraging people to take greater responsibility for their actions. This is an important step to increasing civic responsibilities more widely, and is a vital part of a much-needed progression towards valuing civil liberties, rights and responsibilities more throughout society.