The catastrophic effects of a spinal or head injury are immeasurable. Whether you were the victim of a violent assault, involved in a car crash, or simply stumbled down the stairs, people who suffer this kind of trauma will never be the same again.
After the obvious medical crisis is over, people begin to think about piecing their lives together again. A major factor in that rehabilitation is making sure their home is adapted to their specific needs, enabling them to live independently or for relatives to look after them.
Few homes can accommodate a wheelchair, for example, but as well as widening doorways and installing ramps, it may be necessary to plumb in a downstairs bathroom, fit a stair lift or adapt the kitchen. But it may be that the home that was perfectly adequate before the injury just does not have the space to extend or adapt, particularly if there needs to be room to create a living area for carers or support workers.
The cost of adapting your house or buying a larger one can be included as part of any claim you may be making to compensate you for the additional costs you’ll incur as a result of your injury.
You can claim for estate agents’ fees, architects’ fees, costs associated with planning permission, special equipment like hoists or floor lifts and the cost of fitting things like electric doors and windows to allow you free access around your new home. You can even claim for the annual costs of running a larger property as long as they are greater than those you were paying previously.
But you can’t claim the additional capital you may need to buy a bigger home.
Instead and in theory, the system covers the cost of borrowing the extra money you’ll need to buy a bigger place. But in practice, the 2.5 per cent interest rate on offer is not enough to meet the additional outlay.
There are legal principles behind this anomaly in the compensation process and that is that the injured person’s family should not benefit from a capital “windfall” should they die.
But the complex calculations used to work out these kinds of claims often result in a shortfall that forces injured people to bridge the gap using funds from damages intended to cover different costs. In some cases, this isn’t possible and although there are other solutions that may overcome the problem, many feel the process is too restrictive for people whose lives have been devastated through no fault of their own. The financial ability to buy a home that goes some way towards giving them and their family a better quality of life should be made easier, they argue.
There are major advantages of having the security of going ahead with a house purchase and the necessary adaptations while a compensation case is ongoing. From the patient’s perspective, they (and their family) can settle in and begin the care and therapy regime recommended by their rehabilitation team to speed recovery and independence. From a legal point of view, the compensation claim can be based on actual rather than estimated costs.
For more advice and information, consult your solicitor and look online at sites such as brainandspinalinjuries.co.uk