The vast majority of claims for personal injury compensation relate to injuries from which the victim manages to make a full or at least substantial recovery. Even injuries which might, at first, seem ‘minor’ can have a major impact upon the victim’s life, limiting mobility and reducing the power to earn a living, and this is why it’s so important that the no win no fee system allows all victims to access the means to seek justice.
Underlying this basic principle are the cases at the other end of the spectrum, those in which the victims of accidents suffer serious injuries, up to and including paralysis. In cases such as these, the person paralysed, and their family, are clearly going to be severely affected for the rest of their life, with everything from their living space and capacity to work to their social life and state of mind being impacted upon.
According to the Spinal Injury Network, the majority of cases in which injuries lead to a degree of paralysis are caused by road traffic accidents, work related accidents and sports-related injuries. The severity of the injuries caused varies, running from paraplegia (the partial or full loss of use of the legs) to quadriplegia (the partial or full loss of the use of all four limbs), and in all cases the impact will be huge.
If the accident which caused your injury was the result of somebody else being negligent, then it’s only right that this other party should have to pay the compensation which will help the victim begin the slow, painful task of rebuilding their life.
The scale of the problem caused by paralysis is about more than just the number of people affected every year. The fact that such injuries are often prevalent amongst younger people means that the impact, in terms of the cost of care going forward, the inability to earn the income which was available before the accident occurred, and the life options which are immediately closed down, is more severe than with virtually any other type of injury. The following statistics, related to the kind of spinal cord injury which often results in paralysis, capture some of the scale of the problem:
— Approximately 1,000 people per year suffer a spinal cord injury in the UK and Ireland.
— Most of those affected are young adults.
— Around 80% of those affected are male.
— In the region of 50,000 people in UK and Ireland are living with the effects of paralysis.
— The economic cost of paralysis is estimated to be £1 billion per annum.
— Currently, a spinal cord injury which causes paralysis cannot be cured.
The most serious forms of paralysis are those which affect all of the patients’ limbs, but even the more ‘minor’ forms of paralysis are capable of wreaking havoc upon a person’s quality of life. Classifications of paralysis include the following:
More specific medical terms include:
The three most common causes of paralysis are strokes, head injuries and spinal cord injuries. If you’ve suffered an injury to the head or spinal cord which has resulted in paralysis, and the accident which caused the injury was brought about by the negligence of another party then, no matter what the precise circumstances, you have a right to pursue the compensation required to allow you to maximise your quality of life now and in the future.
The precise details of your claim for compensation, such as who the claim will be launched against, will vary depending upon the exact circumstances of the accident in question. If you were injured in an accident at work then your employer may be liable under the Health and Safety at Work 1974 Act. This legislation sets out the basic requirements which your employer should follow to ensure that the environment within which you work will be safe. Specific rules apply to areas such as working at height, working with equipment and operating a forklift truck, and your employer should carry out regular and detailed risk assessments designed to keep you safe.
If you’re injured in a road traffic accident and left paralysed, then the claim will be launched against any negligent party, whether its the driver of another car or the driver of a car in which you are the passenger. Demonstrating negligence will involve gathering evidence detailing the precise circumstances of the accident, including police reports, CCTV footage, eyewitness accounts and, if possible, photographic records of the scene of the accident.
If you’re injured during a sporting event and negligence was involved, then the responsibility might lie with either the venue, the body responsible for organising the event, or an individual participant whose reckless behaviour led to your injury. Sports clubs are covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act, unless run by volunteers, although even volunteers have responsibility for the safety of any premises or equipment over which they have control.
In terms of accidents which happen due to the actions of other competitors, health and safety legislation does not apply, although a duty of care under civil law may. Most sports are also governed by codes of conduct set down by national governing bodies, which may include topics such as supervision, emergency procedures and medical provision. A failure to meet these conditions may constitute the basis for a claim for negligence.
A successful claim for compensation in a case such as this will have the same basic components as any other personal injury claim. You will have to demonstrate, via medical opinion, the fact that you have suffered an injury, and will have to show that the accident in question wouldn’t have happened without the negligent behaviour of a third party. This second part will be the more complex part of the claim, and will involve gathering as much information as possible.
The details will vary depending upon the specifics of the accident – whether it was a mishap on the rugby field, a high speed car collision or a problem caused by dangerous equipment at work – but it is vital to provide your own detailed account, as well as evidence from any witnesses and any written evidence such as accident reports, police statements, doctors notes etc. If you’re paralysed it’s likely that you’re going to require on-going care, and a compensation claim will furnish the money required to pay for this care, as well as covering any other expenses.
Becoming paralysed is a hugely traumatic event, but the no win no fee system of personal injury claims at least means that anyone stricken in this manner will be able to seek the money required to make the rest of their life as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
When you submit your details, you'll be in safe hands. Our partners are National Accident Helpline (a brand of National Accident Law, a firm of personal injury solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority). They are the UK's leading personal injury service. Their friendly legal services advisers will call you to talk about your claim and give you free, no-obligation advice. National Accident Law may pay us a marketing fee for our services.
By submitting your personal data, you agree for your details to be sent to National Accident Law so they can contact you to discuss your claim.
If you win your case, your solicitor's success fee will be taken from the compensation you are awarded - up to a maximum of 25%. Your solicitor will discuss any fees before starting your case.