|Andrew Lilley, Partner - JMW Solicitors|
Despite the ubiquity of property shows on TV, Estate agents often vie for position with lawyers at the bottom of popularity polls. However the fact that (as with lawyers) we all eventually need to use their services was brought home to me recently when I successfully settled a case on behalf of a child who was rendered paraplegic as the result of a devastating accident which occurred when she was a passenger in the family car.
The family had to deal with the fallout of the accident, which tragically included the death of one child and very serious injuries to two other children. Given the colossal impact the accident had on every area of their lives, the family had little choice but to make a personal injury claim on behalf of their injured children so that they could get some of the support they needed during this very difficult time. They instructed a local firm of solicitors and unfortunately there were a number of problems with the initial stages of the case. This ultimately led them to express dissatisfaction at how their previous solicitor was dealing with the case, and I took the case on at the suggestion of the child’s trustee.
A legal case involving a spinal injury should be viewed holistically, with a view to assessing the support that is likely to be required by both the injured claimant and their family throughout the course of the claim and beyond. This particular case is a good example of the need to ensure that these requirements are recognised early, and appropriate measures are then taken to meet them. For our client, chief amongst those issues was the matter of location, and understanding the ways in which a rural location, versus an urban location, can impact upon SCI individuals both in terms of obtaining treatment in the short to medium term, and with regard to lifelong care.
My client’s family lived in a fairly remote part of Britain. Their ‘local’ spinal cord injuries specialist unit was theoretically in Oswestry, roughly a five hour round trip. This meant that just the process of making these visits could be taxing, quite aside from the required treatment that was awaiting my client at the end. As my client was a young girl, it was vital that she had access to a centre that was geared to provide appropriate medical support and advice as she grew older and faced new challenges on her road to adulthood. Obviously Oswestry is just such a centre, however the difficulties in travelling were such that she was not able to get anything like the access to this support and advice that we would have liked. We were fortunate in this case to have a very experienced case manager who was able to supplement the support from the centre and liaise with them if any additional support was required.
As an SCI individual, if you are living in a remote location then consideration needs to be given as to whether or not you may need to move closer to a specialist spinal cord injuries unit. In my client’s case, and in that of many others, living in a remote location also affected the decisions surrounding a care regime. Despite working with the case manager to craft a care regime that would provide the highest possible level of independence, our client still required a sleep-in carer, and this was in part due to the issues caused with reaching our client’s location should an emergency occur during the night.
When considering a compensation settlement on behalf of an SCI individual, thought also needs to be given to whether the client may choose to move. In this case the family understandably did not feel able to leave the local area where the children had been brought up. However in the longer term, we needed to consider the likelihood that our client would want to gain some independence and leave the family home. So the claim that was made on behalf of our client included provision for this, and therefore funds to adapt not only the existing family home, but also a second home in a more urban area and nearer to a spinal centre that she was likely to want to move towards as she reached adulthood.
Location will play a part in an SCI individual’s other needs too; part of my time on this client’s case was spent ensuring that her school was fully compliant with her needs, again working with the school, case manager and defendant insurer in order to make that happen. A remote location also made socialising more of a challenge for my client, and it was important that transport was made as easy for her as possible. This included ensuring that there was provision for her to learn how to drive an automatic car, so that she could reach friends and undertake social activities.
If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury and are embarking on litigation, it is vital to ensure that you have full confidence in your legal advisers. If anyone requires assistance or advice, I am always happy to have an informal chat to provide guidance or any other assistance that may be required. You can reach me on 0161 828 1958 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .