Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries

Insurance and compensation when injured in an accident

People had different financial experiences after life-changing injuries. Some people who were unable to return to work, lived on benefits, payments from insurance companies or compensation claims. Sometimes people had health or life insurance policies, either independently or through work, which became their source of income and paid for medical treatments after injury. Nonetheless, it was important for people to get back to doing something that gave their lives “a purpose” (Adrian). Having this financial security meant they could focus on their rehabilitation and getting on with their lives.
Having insurance made a difference to those who were injured abroad because it covered the costs of flying them home. However, this was not the case with all policies and some families had to step in and pay the expense.
Some people with brain injury found that their insurance didn't cover anything other than their physical rehabilitation and care. They fought with their insurers to change this and were successful.
After a life-changing injury, people may be entitled to make a compensation claim against other parties (e.g. car insurance companies) or, where there is no one else to blame, against the government. Some people were unaware that they may be able to claim for compensation.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a government organisation that provides compensation for people who have sustained physical or mental injuries as the result of violent crime. Compensation claims can take a long time to process, and can be time consuming, stressful and frustrating for people with life-changing injuries, especially as they worry whether the claim will be successful. One couple described the compensation case as worse than the accident.
Lawyers can present a case for the injured person’s initial treatment and rehabilitation to be paid for by activating the Rehabilitation Code. Under the Rehabilitation Code insurance companies are obliged to pay for early rehabilitation and treatment if it will improve the injured person’s present or future wellbeing, and early intervention usually leads to better recovery for people with life-changing injuries. Insurance companies do not have to admit liability and cases do not have to be completed for the Rehabilitation Code to take effect.
Some people were better placed than others to make compensation claims because of the type or extent of injury, or their background. One man was a trained accountant and became very interested in the area of compensation and injury. Another man talked about taking control of his life and making sure fees and costs were fair. Sometimes parents made the claim on behalf of their children.
In order to claim compensation, people needed the help of lawyers. People felt that there were good and bad lawyers. They said the good ones will be experienced, able to guide you through the process, and will fight to ensure your compensation reflects your injury and the implications it will have on your future health and wellbeing.
Claims usually involve being assessed by health and rehabilitation professionals appointed by the insurance company. This can involve extensive tests; Bryan had a day of neuropsychology tests arranged by his insurance company. These assessments can continue over time as it is not always apparent how extensive injuries are, or will continue to be, particularly in the case of brain injury. People recognised a tension between the insurance companies wanting to limit payments and being awarded sufficient money to live on. Recovery was also hindered by the claims process when health professionals did not want to treat people because they felt they had a “vested interest” (Bill) in not getting better. As well as these assessments, people were sometimes put under surveillance by insurance companies. This was a very stressful experience for Bill and Catherine.
During the claims process, people were able to get interim payments. This meant they got part of their compensation payment in advance. Usually people are assessed to see if they are capable of understanding the process and handling their compensation. If not, someone else can be appointed to take help with their finances. This is usually someone who is not related to them.
People who received compensation and who were seen as capable of managing their finances were not given any advice about how to handle the sometimes large amounts of money they received. They felt there were people who would try to take advantage of them. However, for others a guaranteed income meant they could be more generous with their money.

Whilst the sums of money involved could appear large, people talked about having to be careful as the money needed to last. There could also be further health complications from the injury as people got older. 

Last reviewed May 2019.


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