The law is there when you need it

Mike Benner, APIL chief executive:

What would victims of negligence do without the law which provides them with redress for their injuries?

A child suffers a catastrophic brain injury because of poor care he received during his birth. The family home needs to be adapted to allow for mobility equipment such as hoists and stair lifts. Because of his injuries, the child will never be able to work to support himself. For the rest of his life, he will need therapies and specialist treatment. Because he is a victim of negligence, the law helps to provide for this.

We have an established justice system with lawyers and courts so that people who are injured through the negligence of others can pursue justice and the funding needed to put their lives back on track. It is not possible to turn back time of course, but a fair civil legal system will get them as close as possible to what life was like, or would have been like, without the injury.

Victoria Lebrec had to have her leg amputated after she was run over by a skip lorry while cycling to work. In the Rebuilding Shattered Lives film she says that her life would be “much much much worse” if she had not had a route to redress. She needs a new prosthetic leg every few years, and physical therapies, to keep her mobile and without pain.

The law ensures that those responsible for causing injuries like Victoria’s provide the financial support she needs to try to put her life back together. But that law often comes under attack from those who aren’t willing to pay for their negligence.

We must all be vigilant to ensure that the civil justice system is not eroded and that the injured person is always at its heart. Without it, injured people would be left to rely on whatever the State is able to provide to help them. In Victoria’s case, that initially meant a prosthetic leg provided by the NHS which left her prone to falling over.

With the justice system and the right to seek fair redress, every detail of an injured person’s needs is examined and the necessary funds are fought for. The need could be a decent wheelchair, hands-on therapy, or living expenses because the injured person cannot work. Getting the right things in place is critical. As one injured patient said in The Value of Compensation research report, “it is your health, your life”.

I know it can be difficult to care about personal injury law when you feel like it does not apply to you. But any of us can be a victim of negligence without warning. Victoria certainly never believed it would happen to her.

When the worst does happen, it is essential that injured people can always turn to the law to seek the help they need.