Bereavement damages: an award or an insult?
On 16 April 2017, Billy Monger, a promising 17 year old racing car driver, hit the back of a stationary car whilst competing in the Formula 4 Championship at Donington Park. He sustained severe leg injuries requiring both of his lower legs to be amputated. Despite these devastating injuries, Billy was clear from the early days of the aftermath of his injuries that he not only wanted to get back behind the wheel of a car but that he wanted to race again.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Billy announced his comeback, revealing that he would be part of a stunt car team performing at Birmingham’s NEC area. He described his intention to put on a good show for those watching.
As well as being trained by an experienced stunt driver, Billy has been assisted in his return to driving by Mission Motorsport, which is an organisation that helps injured servicemen and women to drive again. Billy is driving a specially adapted car which has a hand lever to control the brake.
Billy isn’t the only injured driver looking to race; Invictus Games Racing, a collaboration between James Holder of Superdry and the Invictus Games Foundation, has recently been set up and an Invictus team will compete at the British GT Championships in specially adapted GT4 specification Jaguar supercars. The Invictus games established by Prince Harry are now well known as an event allowing wounded, injured and sick service men and women to compete in sport.
Disability comes in many forms but some of the most devastating are brain injuries, such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, resulting in paralysis, and amputations, such as those suffered by Billy. Living with disability, whether as a result of a congenital condition, a road traffic accident, an accident at work, being wounded in combat or medical negligence, is life altering and in many cases, the basic activities of daily living are severely affected. The simple things that most of us take for granted, such as being able to bathe and dress ourselves and to transport ourselves about the daily business of our lives can be curtailed.
James Cameron of Mission Motorsport, interviewed for the BBC, says “The freedom of mobility is a phenomenal thing. If that is taken away from you as an adult, it has a dramatic effect on your life, on your own personal freedoms and also, I think, a lot about your sense of self and your independence.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.
As a solicitor acting for clients who have sustained severe injuries as a result of medical negligence, my aim is to enable my clients to regain as many of their lost personal freedoms as possible through compensation. Part of the compensation is typically used to purchase aids, equipment, adaptations and care support. Whilst that compensation cannot remedy the disabilities caused to my clients, the equipment, adaptations and services it funds, can and do make a significant difference to their comfort, independence and dignity going forward, by allowing them to take back control of many aspects of their lives.
Billy is clearly a courageous and determined young man who despite severe injuries refuses to allow his ambition to be hampered. Equally laudable is the fiercely competitive spirit of the Invictus racers. Whilst the majority of my clients do not have ambitions to become F1 drivers, many have equal determination to carry on with their jobs, to care for their families and to continue with their leisure activities. Increasingly, there is equipment, therapies and support available to facilitate a return to former activities including adapted cars to allow personal mobility, adapted kitchens for keen cooks and all sorts of equipment and prosthetics to enable the sportsman or woman with disabling injuries to continue with their sport. As technology develops and awareness of disability grows, I look forward to seeing more opportunities for those affected by life altering injuries to participate in activities that many of us take for granted and also some that few of us even dream of!
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