In simple terms paraplegia means below waist level paralysis. In life terms every thing is different.
I handled a case for a young soldier, who I will call John. He was off for the weekend and got a lift in the back of a friend’s car. The driver had to take evasive action to avoid another car changing lanes. The car rolled over several times and John, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown out of the back window. His spinal cord was damaged which left him paralysed below the waist.
He had great treatment and rehabilitation at the Army’s specialist facilities at Headly Court, but there came a point when he was medically discharged and had to make his own way in the world. The case was defended by blaming the driver of the other car who made the evasive action necessary and criticising the failure to wear a seat belt. The first argument was defeated, but the second is set in stone. Not wearing a seat belt means an automatic reduction of compensation by 25 per cent if wearing a seat belt would have prevented all but minor injury and 15 per cent if wearing the seat belt would have substantially reduced the injury. Once more, I get the opportunity to point out the very real effect of reducing the total compensation if there is a finding of contributory negligence. The decision which sets out the law for failing to wear a seat belt predates the law on compulsory seat belt use.
Perhaps as a result of his military training, or just his own determination and courage, John found himself a home, an adapted car, kept fit and positive. This was necessary as the defence of the case meant it was not possible to quickly obtain an interim payment to ease John’s passage into his new life. He struggled for a time in a ground floor council flat until able to buy his own house and adapt it for wheelchair use, when the case was complete.
Cases involving serious injury are very expensive for insurance companies. They cannot be blamed for trying to defend an expensive case, or reduc ethe cost through contributory negligence, but there are differences in the approach of insurance companies. Some have to be forced into submission and some will work with you. Such cases are best resolved with experienced people on both sides.
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