Many people who have suffered serious, life-changing, injury in an accident may have required help with their personal care due to a pre-existing condition before the accident. After the event their care needs obviously may well increase.
A concern for many people in those circumstances is how their post-accident increased care needs are valued and funded. If as a result of your accident-related injuries, you require the support of carers now and into the future, those costs can of course be covered as part of your compensation claim.
But what if you already had carers looking after you before your accident and injuries?
We have acted for many clients whose pre-existing need for carers has increased due to their accident-related serious and life-changing injuries, meaning they have often experienced considerable changes to the nature or amount of care they need.
A key question in valuing these changing care needs is whether the accident has made a quantitative or qualitative difference to care received before the accident.
- If the care required post-accident is broadly of the same nature and involves support with the same kinds of activities of daily living, but there is a greater need (more of the same) it is a quantitative difference. Carers or support workers will provide additional hours of support but the care they give is broadly the same as before. In this case the defendant will be responsible for paying for the additional care costs required as a result of the accident. A claim will be made for these additional hours only.
- If, however, the injuries have changed the nature of the individual’s care needs such that they are no longer the same type as before the accident, it will be a qualitative difference. This will depend on the personal circumstances of the client and the nature of their injuries.
Case study example
An example of someone who already had significant care needs before suffering an accident that was not their fault was an elderly female client of ours who, before being injured, already had restricted mobility. This meant her using walking aids indoors and a manual wheelchair or electric mobility scooter outdoors, and requiring the services of carers, funded by social services, who attended three times a day.
After the accident she required a left leg trans-femoral amputation which together with her other injuries meant she was unsuitable for a prosthetic. She therefore became permanently dependent on an electric wheelchair and had to use slide boards (it was anticipated that a hoist would eventually be required in future). Were it not for the accident, she would not have needed this extended degree of care until much later in life.
In this case, because she required more of the same kind of care she already received, it was considered a quantitative difference. The substantial settlement we achieved covered only the additional care costs required as a result of the accident. Had it been considered to be a qualitative difference she could have claimed for all the care – pre and post-accident - she now required.
However, in this case because her award was put in a Personal Injury Trust, there was more than enough to cover her existing previous care needs as our client retained entitlement to all her previous benefits (which had funded that existing care) without any deductions.