Compensation is often not the primary goal of personal injury lawyers. While justice lies at the heart of claims, there’s another oft-overlooked element of equal import: rehabilitation.
In the cases of serious injury, all the compensation in the world won’t matter if it doesn’t have the desired effect. Namely, enabling the victim to live as close to a normal life as possible post-injury.
Simon Weston rouses the troops with heartfelt keynote
At the recent APIL conference, rehab was a recurring theme. The tone was set by Falklands vet Simon Weston’s keynote. His life-threatening injuries have become a symbolic icon of what can be achieved if the right treatment is applied.
The crux of Simon’s speech was a rousing call to provide more rehabilitation for injury victims. Access is critical and he’s on a crusade to get rehab units in every hospital.
Towards the end of April, the armed forces once again brought the importance of aftercare to the fore.
5 years for compensation for Soldier shot in training
Stewarts Law were instructed to act on behalf Dale Messenger, who’d suffered a catastrophic personal injury at work.
Much like Simon’s, the impact dealt a life-changing blow. His regiment were training on the Falklands with live ammo. During the course of the exercise, another soldier shot Dale in the hip.
So forceful was the round, it entered his his body at the right hip and exited through the left. Dale eventually won his case against the MoD, who no doubt did everything they could to assist with Messenger’s recuperation.
His award was over half a million pounds, which included the costs of a new Ekso exoskeleton. The payout also covered rehab kit, during rehab and to cover his impacted lifetime.
Rehab for all, sooner rather than later
But this is where Simon’s call for more rehab centres in more hospitals really hits home. Dale’s training accident in the Falklands happened in October 2009. The amount of compensation wasn’t agreed until September 2014, almost five years after the event.
Whilst both Simon and Dale’s life-shattering injuries happened in the South Atlantic, there is a key difference. Simon received his injuries in the heat of combat when the Sir Galahad was destroyed in Port Pleasant in 1982 towards the end of the Falklands War.
Dale Messenger’s spinal cord injury, which has rendered him paralysed, occurred in peace time.
Besides Simon’s speech at the APIL conference, two other key elements in revised rehab guidelines surfaced. Or rather, resurfaced.
New guidelines lay the foundation for swifter action
A new code of conduct for serious injury cases will soon be a signed, sealed document. The pilot of these guidelines ran for five years between 2008-2102.
The revised guidelines will encourage insurance companies to fund rehab much earlier than they currently do. It also addresses claimants’ concerns about open lines of communication. With the process taking so long, the trail can go cold. Once the new code is operative, they’ll have access to more information and earlier in the process.
The other major news is concerns the voluntary rehab code, with its guidelines getting a makeover, too. This document still needs work, with both injury lawyers and insurers finding contendable points.
Those privvy to the work in progress code believe it to be too insurer centric. For their part, insurers are concerned about the relationship between law firms and those who ultimately carry out the rehabilitation work itself.
As it will be the insurance company picking up the bill, they’re worried about the level of rehab practitioners administer to victims. Like whiplash, they don’t want the new code to be a license to print money.
When all’s said and done, compensation is about getting injury victims back on track. It’s not all about “how much will I get?”, it’s about “how effective is it at getting me my life back?”
Simon Weston is as good an example as you’ll find. What you see on the surface may be evidence enough of catastrophic injury. But it’s beneath the surface where the real damage needs addressing. That’s one problem money can’t solve, but specialist rehab can.