Serious Spinal Injury - Information for Families

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Guidance and support for complex claims

When a spinal cord injury (SCI) changes the life of someone close to you it can be difficult to know what to do to help them. As a family member or dependant you can provide all sorts of assistance and we have put together some information which might help you and your loved one understand a bit more about making a compensation claim.

Serious spinal injuries can occur in a number of situations, such as a fall from height, or in a car or motorbike accident. Leading spinal injury charities in the UK suggest that around 2,500 people in the UK are injured or diagnosed with a spinal cord injury every year.

In the past, the stereotypical view of a spinal injury patient has been a young man who has been involved in a motorbike crash or a construction accident, but this has changed and more diverse groups of people are being diagnosed with life-changing spinal injuries through less traumatic incidences, such as slips and trips which cause conditions such as Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Who can make a spinal injury claim?

If the incident which caused the SCI occurred as a result of negligence or failings on the part of another party, the injured person is likely to be able to claim compensation for expenses, lost earnings, care costs, rehabilitation, home adaptations and more.

The person who has suffered the injury will need to make the claim, but in certain circumstances an executor or litigation friend will be able to make the claim on their behalf, such as when the claimant has lost mental capacity or if they are a child.

A claim can still be made even if the incident was partly the claimant's own fault. For example, if the SCI occurred in a workplace accident that was caused by a combination of unsafe working practices on the part of an employer as well as failure of the claimant to use protective equipment, the sum awarded will be reduced to reflect the claimant's partial liability. The reduction will be worked out as a percentage of the total amount that would have been awarded had the fault been totally that of the employer.

Time Limits

Typically, there is a strict three year time limit on making a spinal injury claim. This begins on the date of the accident or three years from the date of spinal injury diagnosis.

Different rules apply for children (i.e. under 16 years old); because a child is unable to claim compensation for themselves the three-year time limit will not begin until they turn 16. However, a litigation friend can commence a claim on their behalf before they turn 16.

Who is the defender?

There could be various types of defender (the liable party) in a spinal cord injury claim.

If the injury occurred in a road traffic accident, the defender is likely to be the insurance company of the driver. If the driver was uninsured or it was a 'hit and run' incident' the compensation claim application will be handled by the Motor Insurers Bureau.

If the accident occurred in the workplace it will be the employer's insurer who pays the compensation and generally they will act on behalf of the employer.

Other parties who may be the defender in a spinal injury claim are local authorities (if the accident occurred in a public place), private hospitals and NHS Trusts (if a medical error has occurred) or the manufacturer of faulty equipment.

Sometimes there may be more than one defender in a spinal injury claim. For example, if an accident occurs in the workplace involving faulty equipment, the employer and the manufacturer of the equipment may be found jointly liable.

Medical evidence

Spinal injuries are complex and it is likely that your family member's injury and ongoing needs will need to be verified by several medical experts including:

  • neurologists
  • orthopaedic surgeons
  • neurosurgeons
  • pain management specialists
  • physical therapists
  • occupational therapists
  • rehabilitation psychologists

Counting the cost of your help

Claimants will have different levels of dependency depending on the severity of the SCI, but, in almost all cases of spinal injury which cause disability, the claimant will need assistance with many tasks around the home.

If family members have to give up their jobs and hobbies in order to provide assistance, Thompsons Solicitors can factor this into the claim. We may gather witness statements from professional carers, occupational therapists, GPs, family members and other involved parties to detail the extent of this help and to calculate the costs.

Thompsons – Helping you to help your loved one

While a compensation claim can't turn the clock back and restore your loved-one's pre-accident health, a compensation claim aims to provide financial support for the claimant and the family.

Initially, and if appropriate, Thompsons' solicitors will seek interim damages so that the claimant can access all necessary treatment and care as soon as possible. An interim payout will also seek to provide financial security for your family so that you don't have to worry about bills being paid.

In the long-term, a spinal cord injury compensation claim will seek to ensure that the claimant and their family does not lose out financially as a result of the accident and this could mean that compensation will cover the costs of mobility aids such as wheelchairs, adaptations to your home and car, and when necessary the costs of ongoing care, as well as covering pain and suffering and loss of income.

If you have further questions about making a spinal injury claim following a serious accident, our FAQs page may help.

Talk to Thompsons today to see if our spinal injury claim solicitors can help you make a claim. Call 0800 0891 331 or Text CLAIM to 78866.

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