Does having a disability make it more difficult to have a relationship?

28 May 2012

I was interested to read comments on the BBC website from readers about the Channel 4 television series “The Undateables” which examines the relationship between disability and dating and the BBC’s magazine article also commenting on the show.  I found the comments about it very interesting, particularly the divergence of views, both from people with disabilities and their partners.

At least some of the readers who commented felt at a disadvantage in the dating world as a result of their disabilities; although it is fair to say that some of those who commented did not see their or their partner’s disability as a disadvantage. 

My own experience from working with clients who have been rendered disabled as a result of accidents and medical negligence is that a significant number have experienced difficulties in forming or maintaining relationships post injury. Indeed, case law in personal injury claims has long recognised loss of marriage prospects arising from injuries as a potential area of compensation, both where a marriage or engagement ends as a result of injuries sustained and also where the injuries make it harder to find a partner. These losses form part of the general damages that can be claimed for pain, suffering and what is known in law as “loss of amenity”.

In terms of financial losses arising from relationship difficulties occasioned by injuries, I will commonly claim the cost of obtaining pre-nuptial legal advice for vulnerable Claimants with serious injuries, such as Cerebral Palsy, who are expected to obtain large awards of damages, so as to attempt to ensure that in the event of relationship breakdown, their compensation is retained in order to provide for their needs.

Caring for a disabled child can place enormous strain on the relationship between the child’s parents and where relationship breakdown occurs, additional damages could be claimed to provide for the disabled child’s needs where the parents live apart but share custody.  For example for a wheelchair bound Claimant, additional damages would commonly be claimed to duplicate items such as hoists, ramps and other aids and equipment which are necessary to care for the child within each of the parents’ homes.

But what of the disabled Claimant who is single and looking for love?  Clearly this needs to be considered on a case by case basis but in today’s busy world, where internet dating sites and dating agencies are tools which are readily available to those seeking a partner, it seems appropriate to consider claiming damages for the extra costs incurred in meeting a partner where there is a greater need to rely on such services as a result of a Claimant’s injuries.  Many specialist agencies and internet dating sites exist exclusively for the use of disabled people; whilst these may be appropriate for some injured people, other Claimants will inevitably prefer a mainstream service. 

There are also those Claimants whose injuries are such that, albeit that they would like to have a partner, they have physiological or psychological barriers to being in an intimate relationship.  A claim for the costs of counselling or other therapeutic measures may well be appropriate for such Claimants.

I think what is clear is that although such claims are not applicable to every disabled Claimant, in today’s world, where love is big business, claims may need to keep pace with the rising costs of finding it and such items of loss do need to be considered.

If you have been injured in an accident or as a result of medical treatment and you would like advice about bringing a claim, please contact the Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury team on 020 7814 1200

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