27 August 2020 | Firm news | Article by Ciaran McCabe
RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, has today launched its regional legal panel and Hugh James joins the panel as the sole Welsh based law firm.
Comprising vetted specialist personal injury solicitors, eligibility for a place on the panel has always been based on the strictest criteria.
As of today, the RoadPeace panel has moved from a national structure, to a regional one. The benefit of this has become much more apparent as crash victims feel the effects of COVID-19 and lockdown. Victims referred by RoadPeace to solicitors will be offered a regional firm, allowing for a more localised relationship with their lawyer.
Whilst lockdown reduced the number of vehicles on Britain’s roads, people continued to get killed and injured. And personal injury solicitors have noted that there remained a high number of serious injury collisions, as empty roads saw speeds escalate.
Those that became victims of crashes during or just before the pandemic were faced with a set of challenges that could not have been foreseen and have had serious consequences for their recovery. RoadPeace’s survey of its legal panel members, has uncovered some serious challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Experience in hospital has been more traumatic
For seriously injured victims who have had to be in hospital during the pandemic, their experience is reported to have been much more frightening and alienating than it would otherwise have been. Full PPE had to be worn by NHS staff, which has removed some of the human element of care. Equally many further surgeries that crash victims needed had been delayed; causing longer stays in hospital and longer recovery times.
What has also been very distressing for crash victims is the ban on visitors. The psychological impact of months in hospital without seeing friends and family is reported to be significant.
Criminal justice has been delayed
Due to social distancing measures, criminal courts and the Coroners Courts have not been open. This has led to cases being delayed for months on end. It has been estimated that trial backlogs in the magistrates’ courts increased by 41% between the beginning of March and the end of May; in the crown court, the estimated increase was 53%.
Accessing rehabilitation has been denied
Not only are some injured crash victims not receiving rehabilitation because civil claims are being pushed back due to the court backlog, those that do have the funds available are not getting the same treatment that they otherwise would have done.
And rehabilitation covers a lot of different therapies. Psychologists, counsellors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists have all been unable to see victims. Whilst adaptations have been made to hold therapies over video conferencing, there have been a number of types of rehabilitation which have not been possible to continue. NHS COVID-19 policies rendered it difficult to obtain hospital appointments, and private rehabilitation centres stopped accepting new clients. This meant that the most seriously injured crash victims - those with severe brain injuries - were unable to access the rehabilitation they vitally need.
And whilst personal injury solicitors have adapted as best they can to moving their work online, social distancing measures and a lack of human contact have proved how important it is to have a specialist, local solicitor.
Nick Simmons, RoadPeace CEO, said:
“COVID-19 has affected us all, but it has hit crash victims particularly hard. Delays in justice and accessing rehabilitation has been tough on crash victims. It has always been vital for victims to have a specialist personal injury firm representing them, and the RoadPeace legal panel is made up of such firms. What COVID-19 has shown us though is how human contact and a close relationship with your solicitor is vital, on top of expertise. We have this month changed our legal panel structure, so that victims who get referred to our solicitors through RoadPeace, will be offered a local firm in the first instance.”
Ciaran McCabe, Partner at Hugh James, said:
“We’re delighted to be appointed to the RoadPeace panel in Wales. We pride ourselves on providing the highest level of customer care and expertise to our clients wherever they are based. The pandemic has shown how we can continue to progress claims via the use of technology. But there will always be a place for human contact. It’s important that your solicitor is local or prepared to visit you regularly, however equally it is important that your solicitor has the ability and experience to progress a seriously injured individual’s claim to a swift conclusion, while maximising damages and ensuring early access to rehabilitation.
We are already working closely with RoadPeace to raise awareness of their key campaigns and we will also be coordinating the first Welsh support group to deliver the befriender and resilience programmes offered."