Gratuitous care in compensation claims

Gratuitous care

If you have cared for the victim of accident or injury and the victim is entitled to recover compensation then a claim may be made for gratuitous care.

Gratuitous care means care and attention above and beyond what might usually be expected within your existing arrangement. Gratuitous care does not mean nursing, it means looking after someone, being there to fetch and carry, visiting at hospital, and driving or travelling with the accident victim to medical appointments. These are examples of things you might reasonably do for someone else. If that someone else has a claim for compensation then the gratuitous care you provided can be added to that claim. You cannot make a claim in your own right, so the care has to be compensated through the claim of the injured person. Any compensation recovered is held for you by the injured person after their claim for compensation is successful.

How is gratuitous care calculated?

The calculation of gratuitous care is based on the amount of time spent providing that care. Over a relatively short period the actual hours are calculated, but over a longer period by which I mean a month or more, it might be best to look at an average day or week to use as the basis for calculation.

The hourly rate used to calculate gratuitous care is the cost of professional care in your part of the country, less than about one-third. The idea is you are claiming the cost price of the care rather than the profit element which is charged by a professional carer or care agency. It is not possible to set out rates for the country as a whole, but do be aware that at the time of writing hourly care costs outside London are pushing £10 per hour. If £10 per hour is the rate for hiring a carer then your gratuitous care will be added to the compensation case at £6.50 per hour.

Should a claim be made for gratuitous care?

Injured clients and their friends and family members often feel awkward if they seek payment for the care and attention they have freely provided. That is perfectly natural and I understand the sentiment. However the law has done the thinking for you from a society conscious point of view. The law does not throw money at compensation victims, and is usually restrictive as to the extent of the loss which can be recovered, and if gratuitous care is allowed then it should be included in a case. If you do not claim for gratuitous care who gets the benefit of the discount? The answer is not you, and not the victim of the accident or injury. The benefit is gained by the person or organisation that has caused the injury, or more likely the insurance company which sits behind them.

In my experience I find people do not readily tell me about the care they have provided, I have to ask, and often the answer is mixed with embarrassment. Solicitors must be aware of the ability to claim for gratuitous care, and as I often have to do, should drag the information from the injured client and friends and family members, even if the information is given reluctantly.

It might surprise you that a couple of hours of care for a month or two can add up to a surprising amount. For example two hours per day x 30 days x £6.50 = £390.

Can I also claim for expenses caused by an accident or injury?

Expenses incurred by people other than the injured person are not strictly part of gratuitous care, but this is a convenient place to explain how expenses can be claimed as part of someone else’s compensation case. An injured person can recover the expenses they have incurred as a result of an accident or injury. The same goes for any expenses incurred by other people, and the test is reasonableness. Just like gratuitous care the person who incurs the expense cannot claim in their own right, the expense has to be included in the compensation case of the injured person. Any compensation gained in this way is payable to you by the injured person if the expense is recovered as part of the compensation.

Examples of expenses incurred by people other than the accident victim are:

  • Collecting an accident victim from their workplace, doctor or hospital.
  • Car parking.
  • Lifts or bus and taxi fares to medical appointments.
  • Purchase of medical equipment or medication.
  • Purchase of clothing items – your plastered leg will not fit your skinny jeans.

For car travel make sure the full expense, and not just the fuel cost, is included. There are cost per mile tables available through the major motoring organisations. It might surprise you but there are not many cars with a cost per mile cost of less that £0.45 pence.

You might be happy to help a family member or friend after an accident, and you might be embarrassed to claim back the expense. The same answer applies as it does to claiming for gratuitous care. The law has carefully thought through the issue and concluded you have spent money and incurred expense because of the fault of a person or organisation. A compensation claim has been made by the person injured so your expense ought to be included too. If no claim is made for the expense you have incurred to help out someone injured in an accident then who makes the saving, who gets the benefit?

We have a very British attitude to compensation. Our law is based on fault. You spent money as a result of that fault. The person or organisation at fault has to pay compensation for the damage they have done and that includes your expense. You are not taking money from the injured person, as your expense is added to the value of their case.

You might be interested to know that our Government recovers its expenses incurred for the victims of accident and injury. It recovers the benefits paid to those who are injured, and it recovers the cost to the NHS. You can read about this in more detail by clicking here.

For some reason we are told that claiming compensation for injury after an accident is not something we should be doing. If there was a viable financial alternative to seeking compensation then fair enough. The reality is that accidents and injury have wide reaching consequences. In my experience nobody wants or asks to be injured. Wages and salary are lost, expenses are incurred, and many people are affected. The law tries to put this right so far as money is able. This can be seen as social engineering where the person causing injury or loss must pay, it is a system designed for the position you find you find yourself in. Do not be put off by the constant complaints of the insurance industry about claimants. The insurance companies charge premiums for the risk they are insuring, so why complain when the policy is called on.

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