Written by B. Alex
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Sunday, 6 March 2005

“Have you had an accident?” When we hear these words emanating from our televisions, we know what’s about to follow. “If you’ve had an accident or fall either at home of at work you could be entitled to compensation. Just call Injury Lawyers Direct and we’ll see if you’re entitled to a no win no fee claim.” These adverts are everywhere. These days it seems as if there are only two types of advertisement on television; ones for litigious accident firms, and those for crippling mortgages or loan companies that “take all your existing debt, and combine it in to one large monthly payment” – which happens to be double what you were paying anyway. However, the convenience of one large monthly sum, well, it’s irresistible to the thick and economically challenged. It seems as if adverts are only worth watching, or at least are of any vague interest, if you’ve “got more going out that you’ve got coming in” (hint, if that’s the case, don’t borrow any more money – you’re clearly no good at it) or if you’ve got your leg in a cast after tripping on a bit of loose paving at work – I suppose either way you’re desperate.
It’s not so much the advertisements for debt consolidation that cause so much anger. Largely because people should be able to work out that the debt company’s offer is either costing you more in the long run than your bills cost now, or they’re asking you to secure a massive loan against your property for the convenience of “one singular monthly payment”. This may not be the greatest of ideas in many circumstances, and anyone worth feeling sorry for should at least try to realize this. These companies are doing what most companies do and always have done to make profit – seize upon the fragile, and for that you can’t blame them. We’ve come to accept it. But accident lawyers, this is something new. These adverts invaded our televisions a few years ago on mass, persuading us to sue our employers, trip up at work and feign whiplash and mental trauma after minor car accidents in order to become rich. Where did this sudden influx of adverts and attitudes come from? The land of freedom of course, the aptly named United States. These days only united in their communal quest for a get rich quick law-suit. Should we be surprised though? Surprised that the land of the American Dream pumped such ideas into our heads? Of course not. The American Dream is one in which anyone can succeed and become powerful, and one has to believe, most importantly, rich. This now has never been easier, slip on a wet floor at work, claim lasting psychological damage and then you’re there – you’ve achieved the dream, and all because someone didn’t leave out a ‘Caution – Wet floor’ sign. Unfortunately, this ‘dream’ is now turning into the reality, much to every single lawyer’s benefit. Ironically, these often condemned lawyers are the ones achieving the real American Dream of ‘work hard and you’ll succeed’, but in doing so, they’re bringing along millions from the ‘fall over and you’ll get rich’ school of dreaming.
These adverts arrived over here, bringing with them the new-found American mentality; “Totally bogus”, is what I nearly found myself saying. They invaded our screens with typical American subtlety; “Get rich, get rich, get rich – here’s the best part, without working”. And did we go for it? Of course we did. Lazy, unemployed people across the country watching these adverts for the first time during the break of ‘Corry’ thought; ‘Jackpot. Now all I need is an accident. I suppose there was that time two years ago when a storage box fell on my foot. There’s no lasting physical damage. Shit. Ah! I know. Mental trauma’ And from there it began. This attitude has become embedded in the British psyche. The once great-stiff-upper-lip-win-a-war-and-be-back-before-tea psyche, turned into a wobbling-bottom-lip-crying-to-the-lawyers-after-I-fell-over psyche. Now we might go to war, but we’ll definitely sue for lasting mental damage when we’re back.
I realized that this attitude had become embedded in each of us when I tripped up on the pavement last year, and broke my arm. I had to fill out an accident report form. I say ‘fill out’, I had to dictate given my situation. The paramedic asked me ‘How did it happen?” I informed him that I tripped up on the curb after jogging down the road, and now I’m here in casualty. Simple. He then tuned to me and said “Are you sure it was the curb? It, definitely wasn’t a loose bit of paving, because, well, you can make a bit of money for that these days”. I informed him that a plaster of Paris cast would be enough for my misdoings for today, thank you. Now, I’m not trying to take any kind of moral high-ground here. I think compensation is a great thing, it’s brilliantly democratic and helps out the ‘little guy’, the underdog – but it’s only great when it’s deserved. I tripped up, my own fault, my own arm, but I could claim and get someone else’s money – it doesn’t follow.
We here in Britain have got into this suing mentality, but we’ve still got a long way to go to catch the Americans. I recall the story of a man in America who wanted a sex change operation, had it done, and then realized he didn’t want it. So he/she sued the surgeon. His/her argument was based on the fact that the surgeon had carried out the (former) man’s wish without thoroughly checking through his mental state. So he/she sued someone else because he/she was a bit indecisive. The funniest thing about this story is that during the court case the man/woman decided that he/she wanted to stay as a she, and dropped the case completely. Whilst we aren’t quite at such desperate depths yet, we are becoming more Americanised by the second. As I wrote this I realized that I can’t even write the word ‘realised’ without the ‘s’ automatically being turned into a ‘z’ – and there was me thinking that we invented the language.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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