A landmark personal injury case could result in more people receiving compensation to cover the cost of accommodation following life changing injuries. Julie Hatton, Partner and Law Society accredited clinical negligence specialist at Coodes Solicitors, comments on the case of Swift v Carpenter.
On Friday 9 October, the Court of Appeal handed down their judgement on a landmark case that could pave the way for more people receiving compensation to fund accommodation needs in future.
The issue on the appeal in the case of Swift v Carpenter EWCA Civ1295 was whether an award should be made to fund the additional capital costs the claimant required to buy suitable accommodation to meet her needs after she was left with life changing injuries following an accident.
Ms Swift suffered serious leg injuries following a road accident, which resulted in her having a below-knee amputation.
In 2018, she was awarded more than £4m compensation by the High Court but did not receive any compensation to purchase special accommodation, which she now needed as a result of her disability. She attempted to claim for £900,000 to cover the cost of new accommodation, but the Judge awarded nil.
A historic case that failed claimants
The aim of personal injury compensation is, as far as possible, to help the claimant get back to the same financial position they would have been had it not been for the accident. However, this has not been the case when it comes to the cost of accommodation for those with life changing injuries. People in this position have been previously left with a shortfall.
Ms Swift was not awarded anything for accommodation in 2018 because of a previous case. In 1989, the Court of Appeal issued guidance on a case called Roberts v Johnstone, stating that a negative personal injury discount rate should be applied to future losses.
From that case, the method of calculating accommodation claims has meant that there was usually a shortfall in the amount required to purchase the special accommodation. Compensation awards did not provide claimants with any funds to purchase special accommodation – a potentially significant cost, for life.
In addition, the personal injury discount rate was reduced in 2017 to apply to the calculation of future financial losses including special accommodation. This meant that claimants were receiving nothing at all.
Fair and reasonable compensation for accommodation claims
In Swift v Carpenter the Court of Appeal stated that the approach laid down in Roberts v Johnstone was no longer capable of delivering fair and reasonable compensation. As a result of the appeal, Ms Swift will now receive £800,000 of the £900,000 claimed so that she can purchase special accommodation.
However, although the judgement is great news for claimants who have reasonably long life expectancy, it did not provide a solution for Claimants who have a short life expectancy.
Further, it was acknowledged by the Court of Appeal that the method they adopted in this latest case would not be suitable for all situations. They stated that it should not be regarded as “a straightjacket to be applied universally and rigidly”.
While every case is different, the result of this case is welcome news and could help other claimants in the future.
For more information and advice on a personal injury claim, contact Julie Hatton in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team on 01326 214 036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.