In our culture, the common reaction to legal trouble is to turn to what we’ve seen on TV and in films. There are enough movies out there that imply every case goes to court and the shouting, drama and action in the room itself are totally normal for the legal profession. The reality is, as you might have guessed, a little different.
In the UK, there are plenty of different legal systems and mechanisms in place to protect and represent people, but we often won’t ever have to make use of them. After all, legal cases are nothing to take lightly for the average person. So, given their rarity, what are the most common legal rights you need to be aware of? Just having the insight into them, how they might work and when you might need to seek further help with a legal claim or dispute can be invaluable knowledge when unfortunate or unjust events fall on you unexpectedly.
Copyright Law, and Creative Licence
The laws around copyright and major statutes like the Digital Millenium Copyright Act are actually pretty regularly broken but rarely acted upon. Every time a person creates a GIF or copies an image to repurpose, they may be breaking those laws. Much of it is tolerated, and the laws themselves are pretty complex. A rule of thumb is to step back from an action in which you’re using someone else’s content and decide whether you’re adding to it, or reinventing in some way – and also whether what you’re doing feels fair.
Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury can happen anytime, anywhere, but the circumstances under which someone’s negligence or action causes you to suffer injury is not to be overlooked. Compensation for personal injury claims, regardless of severity, rarely has to go to court, and as long as you’re insured, you’re unlikely to need to be heavily involved in arbitration processes. However, you should be rigorous in recording any ailments you’re suffering and reach out to anyone who can support you as a witness. While mostly done through negotiations, it does also mean they can drag on for longer, which recovering victims may prefer not to have to wait for.
Highway Codes and Driving Laws
The outcome of breaking laws on the road can be far worse as it involves the safety of other people, so they are unsurprisingly quite severe. While some are very obvious – don’t drive without a licence – some might seem benign or only minor and turn out to be illegal. Texting, taking certain medications, and even wearing headphones, is illegal to do while driving in some regions around the world. At best, you might get fined or a stern talking to, but at worst – well, that’s why the laws exist.
The police aren’t trained lawyers, and many of us tend to immediately trust that they know what they’re doing all of the time, and never put a foot wrong. However, in most countries, you’re protected by rights that, unless you’re aware of them, a police officer can skirt or forget to recognise, and you’ll be none the wiser. Miranda rights in the US, refusing unnecessary searches or requesting certain amenities are protected by law. If you know you can call upon those laws, that’s usually the only way they’re enforced in your favour.
Many of us rent homes and the relationships with our landlords tend to be contentious at times, and often sources of frustration. As renters, while small disputes can easily be dealt with, it’s important to know when your rights are being breached, or a landlord isn’t providing a standard of living that they should. Rent isn’t cheap, and if you’re being taken advantage of, a legal claim can result in full refunds of rental payments in many cases where a landlord simply isn’t upholding their end of the contract.
These are just some scenarios where the law is more relevant to you than you’d think. When you fly, when you take a photo of someone, in your job, when a family member dies and when someone tries to sue you. There are many more pretty typical everyday events that can occur to anyone, and being prepared for them makes a massive difference. Sometimes, it’s simply as much as just knowing you can ask the question of checking your rights before they’re flaunted. We’re lucky to live in societies with laws to protect us, but it’s our duty as citizens to have our best interests at heart – and have some understanding of when the law applies to our everyday lives and how.
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