Thursday, August 23, 2007

Land Like No Other?

I was involved in some genial conversation with a friend when I was in Sri Lanka and we chewed a bit of fat over the whole ambulance chasing phenomenon. We talked about the differences between the US, the UK and Sri Lanka.

Now I suppose the whole nature of Sri Lankan roads and driving dictates that the term "ambulance chasing" conjures up a very different image to many Sri Lankans compared to the pictures that an American or a Brit would have. The Brits and Yanks can easily think of a pack of solicitors, although I'm unsure of the collective term for solicitors, running after an ambulance as it cuts its way through a throng of vehicles, all of which are deftly moving out of the way to let the ambulance pass.

But for a Sri Lankan the image is vastly different. I guess it must be a dreamy sequence involving an ambulance with a siren that used to work sometime back in the 1970s, a flashing light that is now just a light and other road users who don't even hear the non existent horn because they have become immune to the sound of a horn anyway. The result is a throng of chaps in suits walking slowly behind an old ambulance that is stuck in traffic.

Damn, I've gone off on one, sorry about that.

The thing is we talked about the diferences between the three countries. I said that I hate the whole ambulance chasing, that whole "let's sue someone" attitude. I absolutely can't stand it. I know that it's far worse, far more prevalent in the US than it is here in the UK, but I also know that it's becoming quite extreme here. I have had to pay out quite a lot of money to ex employees over the years who have threatened legal action over things that I know I was right about. Yet, I am proud that I have maintained my own principles over the issue, even when I could have earned myself a few quid quite easily.

A few years' ago I had rather a bad head on collision, wholly not my fault. I was shaken up, there was about £12k of damage to my car, but most importantly I was uninjured. I had a very slight pain in my neck for a couple of days but it was nothing really. I was inundated by people tellling me to go to my Doctor's and claim compensation for my "injuries". I didn't. I'm happy that I didn't, even though I probably could have got myself some easy money.

These days, and these ambulance chasing companies even advertise along these lines, if there's an accident someone is responsible. Well I don't subscribe to that, I'm all for people being careful and safeguarding others but I don't beleive that every little accident has to be caused by someone else's negligence.

Then we have the beauty that is Sri Lanka, as usual it falls at the other end of the scale, if indeed it does fall on the scale at all. The Sri Lankan newspapers regularly feature stories about people who are killed by "acts of God", only by many other people's definitions they're not actually acts of God.

Innocent passers by are maimed by debris from a building site that happens to have fallen in their direction; an unfortunate accident. A poor woman is killed after falling into a hole in the road that has opened up after rain; verdict: death by falling into hole in road. A chap dies from electrocution after touching live cables that have been left open and unguarded by workmen; verdict: accidental death.

It usually makes me smile and I often read these things and wish we were a bit more acceptng of "accidents" here in the UK. But I also think that Sri Lanka is at the opposite end of the spectrum, it's a land like no other, a land in which no one is responsible, apart from the person who has the accident.

We've got the US, where any accident can be blamed on someone and that someone can be sued. We've also got the UK, which is rapidly heading in that direction, hopefully it will turn left instead of right at the crossroads though. Then we've got countries like Sri Lanka, where there's hardly ever an accident for which someone is held responsible, unless it's the victim.

Somewhere between the extremes is the right way forward. That perfect world.


drac said...

In SL, people chase behind ambulances because they can speed. The siren clears the road of traffic so anyone driving in the slipstream of an ambulance gets a clear stretch of road during rush hours.


poojitha said...

This is absolutely true

Sajad Ghaffoor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.