What are your Rights if Injured While Working Abroad?

Those who receive an injury in the course of their work as a result of somebody else’s negligence are entitled to make a compensation claim. However, this situation can become complex and unclear when the accident happens while working overseas. While your rights may or may not be changed by the fact the accident happened overseas, you will likely still have a right to claim.

Employers Based in England, Scotland, or Wales

If you were working overseas for an employer which is, nonetheless, based within the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), then the fact the accident happened abroad makes relatively little difference. Your employer still owes a duty of care to you under UK law, and if your injury was caused by a failure in that duty of care then you can bring a workplace injury compensation claim against them. This can most likely be done through the UK courts with help from a UK-based lawyer, just as if the accident had taken place within the UK instead of overseas.

The situation is somewhat more complicated if you were employed by a multinational company overseas, but that company also has a registered office within the UK. If this is the case, then it may still be possible to begin proceedings through the UK courts against their UK office. This is something you may wish to speak to your solicitor about.

In some cases, if you are working internationally for a company with a presence in both the place you are working and the UK, your contract may define whether UK or local liability will apply.

Employers Based Elsewhere

If you were injured while working for an employer based outside of the UK or in Northern Ireland, then things get more complex. Your employer will almost certainly still have a duty of care over you and be liable for any injury that occurs as a result of their negligence, but this will be according to the laws of the jurisdiction in which you were working.

It is important to be aware of what those laws are, and what your rights as an employee were under that jurisdiction. It is also important to be aware of any potential complications in establishing what laws you were subject to. For example, in the USA both state-level and national law may play a role in dictating your rights, and in some countries international workers may have different rights from local workers.

One particularly vital aspect of the law to be aware of is the window of time in which you have to make a claim. In some jurisdictions, this can be much more limited than it is under the UK’s claims time limits, sometimes as short as one year, making it vital to get things moving at the first opportunity. While international claims can be more complicated than claims against employers within the UK, your first step should still be to seek the help of a professional legal advisor.

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Greece Could Take Legal Action to Remain in Eurozone

As the problems in Greece continue to deepen, the possibility has emerged that the country could be forced out of the Eurozone if it should fail to secure a deal for the repayment of its debts. A prominent Greek politician has suggested that if events reach a stage where this looks likely, the country could seek legal action to prevent such a forced exit.

Since the creation of the euro, no country has yet left the common currency either voluntarily or otherwise. However, in recent months Greece has been having problems with repaying the debts it was left with after high-profile bailouts. This, combined with the anti-austerity stance of the country’s current government, is leading to significant and sometimes heated talks between the Greek government and its creditors in an attempt to renegotiate the terms of the debt and secure a more manageable deal. Most recently, Greece has made it clear that it will not be able to meet its latest repayment to the International Monetary Fund – 1.5 billion euros or over £1.06 billion – by today’s deadline. As well as requiring the country to default on its payment, this puts future instalments of bailout funds at risk.

Over the weekend, talks neared the point of collapse when the Greek government rejected a potential deal. The deal in question would have seen Greece receive much-needed money, but would have required the country to introduce austerity measures. Rather than rejecting the terms of the potential deal outright, the government agreed to hold a referendum on Sunday.

A number of European leaders urged Greek voters to accept the terms, saying that voting against the deal would amount to voting against Greece retaining its place in the Eurozone. However, the situation did not look promising. The Greek public voted the current government into power on the back of its anti-austerity platform just a few months ago, and after the referendum was announced protesters took to the streets with banners urging people to reject the deal.

Regarding the prospect of a forced exit from the eurozone if it cannot meet its repayment obligations, the Greek government has said threatened a legal battle to try and hold onto its membership of the common currency. According to Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister, “the Greek government will make use of all our legal rights.”

Varoufakis continued: “We are taking advice and will certainly consider an injunction at the European Court of Justice,” and pointed out there are no provisions made in EU treaties for a situation where a country refuses to exit the eurozone.

“Our membership is not negotiable,” he said.

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Amazon Surrenders in Long-running Tax Battle

AmazonAmazon has long been one of the more prominent companies to face accusations of illegal tax avoidance practices on an international scale. Now, the company has seemingly surrendered in one of its most long-running battles and agreed to cease using one of its most lucrative tax avoidance practices.

Amazon has faced both criticism and investigations by authorities as a result of its practices of moving earnings around internationally in order to reduce the amount of tax it pays on profits made in certain jurisdictions. Large amounts of Amazon’s profits made in the UK and other European companies are redirected to Luxembourg without tax first being paid. As Luxembourg is a very low-tax jurisdiction, funnelling profits from other countries there before paying tax in the country of origin results in a much smaller tax bill – but the legality of this approach has frequently been called into question.

Now, Amazon is to start calculating profits on all sales in the country in which those sales took place. In other words, UK sales will no longer be reported in Luxembourg instead of the UK to avoid paying UK tax.

Amazon’s apparent surrender comes soon after Chancellor George Osborne announced further measures to crack down on tax avoidance and the redirection of profits made in the UK. Since April, Osborne has introduced a new class of tax known as diverted profits tax, specifically designed to catch out corporate tax structures like Amazon’s. Indeed Amazon, a company which has long denied claims that this structure is an artificial one designed to avoid tax, would certainly have been caught by the new tax had it not announced this change of heart. Under the diverted profits tax, the company would have had to pay tax on the profits diverted to Luxembourg at a punitive rate of 25%.

A spokesman speaking on behalf of Amazon said simply that the company would begin “recording retail sales made to customers in the UK through the UK branch. Previously, these sales were recorded in Luxembourg.”

Of the new diverted profits tax, Osborne said that “while we offer some of the lowest business taxes in the world, we expect those taxes to be paid.” He went on to add: “If you abuse our tax system, you abuse the trust of the British people.”

The new tax has been nicknamed the Google Tax, as prominent search and technology giant Google is another company often accused of this kind of tax avoidance practice. It is reported that a number of other countries are considering similar steps to tackle diverted profits.

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International Bar Association Defends Trade Treaty

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership came under fire from various sides including a number of political parties recently through election amnifestors. David W Rivkin, president of the International Bar Association (IBA), has now come to the defence of the proposed treaty in a statement in which he aimed to rectify misconceptions about the nature of the agreement.

Among the parties who hit out at the treaty in their manifestos are the Green Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and UKIP. Rivkin, who is also a partner at prominent New York legal firm Debevoise & Plimpton, said that critics of the potential trade agreement were “subverting debate” through the use of inaccurate information. In particular, he said, incorrect claims were being made about matters of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) contained within the treaty’s terms.

As a result of such erroneous claims about the agreement, Rivkin said in his statement: The IBA Arbitration Committee and I are concerned that the discussions about ISDS in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are being compromised.”

ISDS is the process through which businesses can make complaints against nation states. Through ISDS, the businesses in question can undergo a process of arbitration through which they can have their complaints examined and the dispute settled.

The arbitration committee of the IBA, Rivkin said, is now going to analyse the matter of ISDS in depth. The committee will look at the full range of criticisms and concerns being raised about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’s treatment of the matter, as well as the proposed benefits of ISDS. The aim will be to identify which criticisms of ISDS are substantiated in fact, and which are untrue or based on misconceptions.

Among the complaints being made about ISDS in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which Rivkin claims to be misconceptions are:

  • Investors Win Every Time: In fact, Rivkin says, a greater proportion of cases have been won by states than by investors. Around a third of all cases have come to an end with investors and states reached a settlement.
  • ISDS is Guarded From the Public Eye: Another prominent complaint being made against ISDS is that proceedings rarely come under scrutiny from the public. The IBA, however, says that the majority of awards are published and that some proceedings are even streamed live online. Furthermore, a number of recent investment treaties allow for public attendance at proceedings.
  • States are Forced to Change Laws Through ISDS: It has been claimed that ISDS can force states to change laws and policies against their will. However, the truth is that “States subject to investment treaty arbitration cannot be ordered to amend their laws or change their policies, and awards issued by investment tribunals do not order states to change their policies or laws.”

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E-Trial Experiment Hailed as Success

Electronic TrialAn experimental mock e-trial has been conducted by a collection of judges from three different continents in order to assess whether digital courts might have a future. The concept is considered to have particularly strong potential in the arena of international dispute resolution, but is not being ruled out for criminal and civil cases either.

The experiment, which has been hailed as a success, saw participants viewing the trial on two screens. One was used to display live video of the trial, while the other displayed documents relevant to the case. The trial was hosted by CaseLines, a UK-based company specialising in electronic court bundling.

The mock trial that was conducted in order to test the e-trial setup was chaired by a British judge from the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre, His Honour Simon Brown. South Eastern Circuit Judge John Tanzer also participated in the role of the apellant’s counsel.  The appellant was played by Herbert Dixon, a Superior Court judge from Washington, USA. The role of the counsel for the defendant, meanwhile, was filled by New Zealand judge David Harvey.

According to Brown, both time and money could be saved if the digital system is adopted in some cases to replace the “inordinately” long paper process that is currently used. He also pointed to the Mitchell regime and its tightened interpretation of issues related to cost budgeting, suggesting that this made the need for such cost-saving measures particularly strong. Brown also added that, in monetary terms, the system would be within the reach of small businesses.

Harvey expressed similar opinions on the e-trial concept and the results of the mock e-trial itself. He stressed the potential for cost-saving in the resolution of international disputes, as well as the potential for “considerable advantages” in some domestic cases.

Tanzer was also positive about the system, suggesting that it could result in “better use of judicial and practitioner time” when compared to the current system. He also said that many already recognise that such remote access systems could make justice more accessible in criminal cases.

Tanzer went on to point out that a large part of the necessary hardware is already in place or accessible. He added that “This is something you can use through a mobile phone. The video technology might even be better than using some computers.”

Brown, meanwhile, suggested that early adoption of such systems “could put Birmingham [Civil Justice Centre] on the map,” and all that would be needed is for the necessary Wi-Fi  connection to be provided by HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

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Cash-strapped law centres turn clients away as legal aid cuts bite

Law centres are introducing fees and ever more frequently turning down clients in an aim to secure their survival without funding provided by the government for a wide range of legal services. Islington Law Centre located in north London has been forced to introduce fees for its services as well as turn away clients in need of legal aid due to successive cuts to the government budget. The north London centre is an example of the market strategy which will need to be adapted by law clinics across the country in order to secure their survival under the new market conditions.

1The month of June saw the closure of Birmingham Law Centre which blamed a shortage in income from clients as well as the well expected decrease in income provided by the government in the form of legal aid. The result of such a crisis ultimately leads to more unemployment with 20 layers being made redundant in Birmingham and a further four being let go by the Surrey Law Centre.

Earlier in the year Law for All which has advice centres located in west London and across East Anglia was forced into administration alongside the Immigration Advisory Service which also had to shut its doors.

An estimated £320m has been cut from the annual budget financing legal aid which has been brought into force by the current government under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. Plans made by the coalition government further worsen the situation as they are expected to take away some £220m every year up until 2018. The expected cuts provide the obvious problem for those charitable organisations that now need to figure out a way to provide advice and representation against no cost for those less fortunate in society.

The Ministry of Justice has put forward the argument that the United Kingdom has a legal aid system which is ranked as one of the costliest in the world with the bill for its provision costing the tax payer £2bn every year. In a statement the MoJ stated that it is their duty to ensure better value for each and every pound of taxpayers’ money which is spent.

In order to ease the cuts the Big Lottery working with the Cabinet Office have provided £67m which is to be handed out to advice centres in order to aid them with the transition. However, out of the sums received only a 25% chunk may be spent on face-to-face legal advice with the rest being allocated for innovation and other related duties.

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The PPI Mis-Selling Scandal in Short

Payment protection insurance (PPI) is also commonly referred to as loan repayment insurance, credit protection insurance, and credit insurance. A PPI will basically insure the borrower that should he or she loses their job, becomes disabled, dies, or experiences any circumstance that makes them incapable of paying their debt, they will still be able to pay off their loan thanks to the payment protection insurance that they’ve availed.

The Purchase of PPI

Previously, many people purchased their PPI from a number of banks and credit lenders when they took out loans, credit cards and mortgages. Some wanted to purchase it despite the additional cost on their monthly repayments as they believed it was a good insurance.  For some it was, but for many, such as the retired, self-employed and those who were already suffering from illness, it was useless. They would never have been eligible to make a claim based on those reasons yet the banks still sold it to them knowingly.

The Issue with PPI

The real issue here is that PPIs have been frequently mis-sold over the years. This lead to a lot of problems for policyholders since they were incapable of making a claim on the insurance they thought they were protected for and had been paying for.

Furthermore, the mis-selling was so widespread and systematic, that banking staff untruthfully told customers that the insurance was mandatory.  In some cases, the lender automatically added the PPI to accounts, with the customer not even knowing what they were paying for.

The Consequences and Action

When the mis-selling scandal came to light, the laws of the land meant consumers had enough rights to be able to get their money back from the banks. People can file a claim for a PPI refund.

There is no guarantee that all PPI claims will be successful, but if the PPI claim does win, then the claimant or the policyholder will still be able to reclaim on average the sum of £3,000 from the payment protection insurance policy they have been paying a long time for.  For more information, go to http://www.oraclelegal.co.uk/ppi-claims.

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Dolce and Gabbana Sentenced to Jail Time Over Tax Evasion

The Italian government sentenced a one year and eight month imprisonment term for renowned Italian fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana for tax evasion. The government accuses them of hiding millions of euros from Italian tax authorities. The two designers have not left a public statement about their case. However, they have denied the charges and are still suspended until their appeal.

1The Italian government had worked on the Dolce and Gabbana case in the last six years as part of their plan to crack down on tax evaders. Investigators discovered Dolce and Gabbana had moved their brand to a holding company named Gado in Luxembourg in 2004. Gado was clearly a play in the two designers’ surnames.

The judge said he believes the pair did this to avoid declaring royalty taxes of around 1 billion euros (£833 million) and the pair actually sold the business below its actual market value. Even if they were cleared of the charges in April 2011, the highest court of Italy overturned the ruling.

The Dolce and Gabbana brand is a highly-celebrated company that have Maddona, Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss as customers. Observers estimate that their tax evasion row may have minimal effect on their brand.

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