Lockdown denies victims support and justice

Lockdown denies crash victims access to rehabilitation and justice

  • Victims and personal injury solicitors report how lockdown has negatively impacted crash victims

  • Court closures, over-stretched police, and social-distancing measures have contributed to cases being delayed and difficulties in accessing rehabilitation and support

  • RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, stresses need for specialist, local, personal injury solicitors in this time with launch of regional Legal Panel 

Whilst lockdown reduced the number of vehicles on Britain’s roads, people continued to get killed and injured. And personal injury solicitors have noted that there remained a high number of serious injury collisions, as empty roads saw speeds escalate. 

 

Those that became victims of crashes during or just before the pandemic were faced with a set of challenges that could not have been foreseen and have had serious consequences for their recovery. RoadPeace’s survey of its legal panel members, has uncovered some serious challenges brought about by the pandemic. 

 

Experience in hospital has been more traumatic 

 

For seriously injured victims who have had to be in hospital during the pandemic, their experience is reported to have been much more frightening and alienating than it would otherwise have been. Full PPE had to be worn by NHS staff, which has removed some of the human element of care. Equally many further surgeries that crash victims needed had been delayed; causing longer stays in hospital and longer recovery times. 

 

What has also been very distressing for crash victims is the ban on visitors. The psychological impact of months in hospital without seeing friends and family is reported to be significant.

 

Ann Allister, Technical Director – Serious Injury, at Carpenters, said

 

“The NHS Covid 19 discharge policy leaves seriously injured claimants’ discharged with little support, discharges happened within a short time scale which makes planning support very difficult. Patients have had very little follow up and limited rehabilitation.  Rehabilitation that has happened has been remote rehabilitation via telephone or video calls. Only when it is wholly essential has there been face to face meetings.  Claimants who need further surgeries are not having those surgeries in a timely manner as keeping vulnerable patients safe from Covid 19 has to be the first consideration.  For those in hospital it has been awful – they have not seen family or human faces for many months which has been very difficult.  There has never been a more important time to work consensually with insurers to get private rehabilitation and support in place.”

 

And victims who were bereaved long before the pandemic have been re-traumatised by lockdown.

 

RoadPeace members have said

 

“Normally I would’ve gone to see my friends when I was feeling particularly lonely after my husband died. Not having anywhere to go to and fill my day has been very difficult”

 

“I feel completely alone. My daughter would usually help me with all the paperwork and legal issues around my husband’s death but she has health issues & is self-isolating.  Now without any IT skills I’m having to do this on my own and I can’t cope”

 

Criminal justice has been delayed.

 

Due to social distancing measures, criminal courts and the Coroners Courts have not been open. This has led to cases being delayed for months on end. It has been estimated that trial backlogs in the magistrates’ courts increased by 41% between the beginning of March and the end of May; in the crown court, the estimated increase was 53%.

 

The impact on crash victims has been significant. 

 

David Preston of Leigh Day, said

 

“One of the biggest impacts that lockdown has had is in the delays in criminal trials of Defendant drivers. No jury trials took place for circa three and a half months, which has resulted in a huge backlog in an already overloaded criminal justice system. And it’s likely there will be huge future delays which will continue to impact cases moving forwards. This inhibits criminal justice, but in some cases Defendants won’t consider rehabilitation for the injured party, until they have investigated liability and considered police reports. This has caused huge delays to some of my clients’ treatment and rehabilitation .”

 

Accessing rehabilitation has been denied.

 

Not only are some injured crash victims not receiving rehabilitation because civil claims are being pushed back due to the court backlog, those that do have the funds available are not getting the same treatment that they otherwise would have done. 

 

And rehabilitation covers a lot of different therapies. Psychologists, councillors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists have all been unable to see victims. Whilst adaptations have been made to hold therapies over video conferencing, there have been a number of types of rehabilitation which have not been possible to continue. NHS COVID-19 policies rendered it difficult to obtain hospital appointments, and private rehabilitation centres stopped accepting new clients. This meant that the most seriously injured crash victims – those with severe brain injuries – were unable to access the rehabilitation they vitally need.

Will Cornwell, a serious injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon, said: 

“Lockdown has had a devastating impact on road collision survivors and their loved ones. Crucial medical treatment and rehabilitation services have been delayed or indefinitely postponed, which risks having severe consequences for people’s long-term recovery. Tight restrictions on visitors in hospitals and rehabilitation centres are also making what is already a difficult situation all the more trying for injured people and their families. And on top of their bereavement, those who have lost loved ones have been forced to endure the constraints imposed over funeral arrangements and attendance.

 Unfortunately, society’s most vulnerable are being hit hard by restrictions. It is vital services are reinstated in Covid-safe ways as soon as possible and the growing backlog of treatment is dealt with, otherwise there will be long lasting damage.”

 

And whilst personal injury solicitors have adapted best they can to moving their work online, social distancing measures and a lack of human contact have proved how important it is to have a specialist, local solicitor. 

 

Ciaran McCabe, Partner at Hugh James, said

 

“Hugh James act successfully for seriously injured clients across England and Wales, however we pride ourselves on providing the highest level of customer care and expertise to our clients wherever they are based. The pandemic has shown how we can continue to progress claims via the use of technology but there will always be a place for human contact. It’s important that your solicitor is local or prepared to visit you regularly, however equally it is important that your solicitor has the ability and experience to progress a seriously injured individual’s claim to a swift conclusion, while maximising damages and ensuring early access to rehabilitation.”

 

RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, has today launched its regional legal panel. Made up of vetted specialist personal injury solicitors, eligibility for a place on the panel has always been based on the strictest criteria. And as of today the panel has moved from a national structure, to a regional one. 

 

The benefit of this has become all the more stark as crash victims feel the effects of COVID-19 and lockdown. Victims referred by RoadPeace to solicitors will be offered a regional firm, allowing for a more localised relationship with their lawyer.

 

Nick Simmons, RoadPeace CEO said

 

“COVID-19 has affected us all, but it has hit crash victims particularly hard. Delays in justice and accessing rehabilitation has been tough on crash victims. It has always been vital for victims to have a specialist personal injury firm representing them, and the RoadPeace legal panel is made up of such firms. What COVID-19 has shown us though is how human contact and a close relationship with your solicitor is vital, on top of expertise. We have this month changed our legal panel structure, so that victims who get sign-posted to our solicitors through RoadPeace, will be offered a local firm in the first instance.”

 

Matthew Claxson, Partner at Moore Barlow LLP

“Covid-19 created a set of social economic challenges that affected everyone in society. This was unfortunately much harder for crash victims. If you were bereaved you were limited on how you could bid farewell to your loved ones with restrictions imposed on funerals and gatherings. If you had suffered serious injury then in the early days of lockdown frequently you were not permitted visitors and even now full PPE is recommended. 

 The Covid-19 introduced an unwelcome additional stress and anxiety for victims of road crash whereby it became the role of the legal/rehabilitation team to do their best to support the victim to alleviate some of the stress. Having a good client relationship helps because you can provide a more bespoke service and together work through issues.”

 

ENDS

 

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Contact Victoria Lebrec Head of Policy, Campaigns and Communications on victoria.lebrec@roadpeace.org or 07807198361 for more information. 

 

RoadPeace Legal Panel

The RoadPeace Legal Panel aims to help and support people bereaved or seriously injured in a road collision by enabling them access high quality legal advice and justice, including fair compensation. The Legal Panel is made up of leading specialist personal injury law firms who work with RoadPeace nationally and locally to support our work and help crash victims. Panel members’ sign up to an agreed set of qualifying criteria as a quality standard and sign of their commitment to road crash victims. You can find out more about the panel by visiting our website: https://www.roadpeace.org/support/navigating-the-criminal-justice-system/

 

The Panel members and regions are as follows:

 

Region Panel member Contact details
London & South East Leigh Day For more information, visit their website: www.leighday.co.uk

Contact David Preston:

Telephone: 020 7650 1325

Email: DPreston@leighday.co.uk

 

  Moore Barlow For more information, visit their website: www.moorebarlow.com

Contact Matthew Claxson:

Telephone: 07715 700 901 

Email: matthew.claxson@moorebarlow.com

 

  Osbornes For more information, visit their website: www.osborneslaw.com

Contact: Rob Aylott, Partner

Telephone: 0207 485 8811 or 07514 055053

Email: robert.aylott@osborneslaw.com

 

  Slater and Gordon For more information, visit their website: www.slatergordon.co.uk

Contact Will Cornwell:

Email: will.cornwell@slatergordon.co.uk

Telephone: 07780 580 921

 

     
West Midlands CFG Law For more information, visit their website: www.cfglaw.co.uk

Contact Sarah Ouko:

Email: sarah.ouko@cfglaw.co.uk

Telephone: 0800 612 9277 (open 24 hours a day)

 

 

  Slater and Gordon For more information, visit their website: www.slatergordon.co.uk

Contact: Ken Brough or Jayne Campbell

Email: ken.brough@slatergordon.uk or jayne.campbell@slatergordon.uk

 

 

     
North West Birchall Blackburn For more information, visit their website: https://www.birchallblackburn.co.uk

Contact Quentin Underhill

Telephone: 0161 2384373

Email: qnunderhill@birchallblackburn.co.uk

 

  Carpenters For more information, visit their website: https://www.carpentersgroup.co.uk/

Contact Ann Allister

Email: aa@carpentersgroup.co.uk

  Oliver & Co For more information, visit their website: https://www.oliverandco.co.uk/

Contact Allison Pepper

Telephone: 01244 354673 / 01244 312306

Email: Allison.Pepper@oliverandco.co.uk

 North East  Thompsons For more information, visit their website: www.thompsons.law

Or contact Samantha Hemsley

Tel: 0808 164 2025

Email: SamanthaHemsley@thompsons.law.co.uk

South West Ince Metcalfes For more information, visit their website: www.incemetcalfes.com

Or contact Leigh Woodham

Telephone: 0117 929 0451

Email: leighwoodham@incemetcalfes.com

     
Wales Hugh James For more information, visit their website: www.hughjames.com/service/catastrophic-injury-claims

Or contact Ciaran McCabe:

Telephone: 02920 391060

Email: ciaran.mccabe@hughjames.com

 

     
North Wales Birchall Blackburn For more information, visit their website: https://www.birchallblackburn.co.uk

Contact Quentin Underhill

Telephone: 0161 2384373

Email: qnunderhill@birchallblackburn.co.uk

 

     
Scotland Watermans For more information, visit their website: www.watermans.co.uk

Or contact Scott Whyte

Tel: 0131 555 7055   or   0141 430 7055

Email: scott@watermans.co.uk