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'Novel and Inventive' Settlement of Road Accident Claim

When negotiating settlements of personal injury claims, lawyers aim to meet all their clients' future care costs, however long they may live. In the case of a young man who was catastrophically injured in a road accident as a teenager, the High Court paid tribute to the novel and inventive means by which that objective was achieved.

The man was 15 when a car hit him as he crossed the road, throwing him more than 20 metres. He had been out with friends and was in a hurry to get home after his parents set him a 10:30pm curfew. The brain injury he suffered left him profoundly disabled and in need of 24-hour care and support.

Following a trial, the motorist who hit him was ruled 70 per cent responsible for the accident. That created a difficulty in that he was only entitled to recover 70 per cent of the full value of his claim. That in turn raised the prospect that his compensation would be insufficient to meet all of his 24-hour care needs. A further problem arose from a dispute in respect of his life expectancy.

Following negotiations, the motorist's insurers agreed to settle the man's claim for a lump sum of £4.5 million, together with index-linked annual payments of £430,000 that would continue for the rest of his life. The annual payments represented 100 per cent, rather than 70 per cent, of the projected costs of his care.

That outcome was achieved by entering into a reverse indemnity with the insurers whereby they would receive credit for any state benefits the man received. In approving the settlement, the Court praised both sides for reaching an inventive and apparently unprecedented compromise that would come as a wonderful comfort to the man and his family.

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