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Do the media have any real understanding of the importance to injured accident victims of access to justice? The government wants to make it more difficult for many of them to claim and then to reduce amounts they actually receive. Some of the most vulnerable and most deserving people are at risk.
The purpose of damages is to put people back in the position they would have been had they not been injured by negligence. My impression is that many in the media think of it as some windfall lottery win. That could not be more wrong.
I recovered a substantial award for a 39 year old man who suffered a brain injury after negligent medical care in hospital. He was left unable to walk and with no left-sided movement. He depends on care 24 hours per day. Because of brain damage, his personality has changed and his relationship with his wife and 3 children is now very different.
Before his award he had spent the best part of a year in hospital (at the taxpayers’ expense) because he could not physically get into his home. He had carers for half an hour in the morning and again in the evening, although they arrived at unpredictable times, which made planning ahead difficult. He relied on what care his wife could give before and after school runs, help with homework, preparing meals etc. He was virtually a prisoner in his home. He could hardly participate in family life at all. He could not read his girls a bedtime story: the stairs were a barrier he could not cross.
Since the award he has been able to buy a house with space to manoeuvre his wheelchair. A lift takes him to his bedroom upstairs, where he can visit his girls in their rooms. A live-in 24 hour carer takes the burden of care off his wife and enables him to go out and pursue his own interests. He has physiotherapy equipment to stop his muscles seizing up and can pay for private therapy of various sorts.
Was his award some sort of lottery windfall? All it did was go some way to restore something of the independence he had before medical negligence wrecked his life.
I hope the government is listening to stories like this and rethinks its desire to make it harder for people like him to find justice. He was up at the House of Commons this week petitioning MPs and Lords along with the Consumer Justice Alliance. For people like him I can only hope so.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.