A story that appeared in the media yesterday has served as a reminder of the role of compensation and the ways in which it can help accident victims to rebuild their lives after a car accident has charged their outlook for ever.
Yesterday the Express reported on the biggest personal injury compensation payout the UK has ever seen, awarded to 39 year old Manny Helmot, a former Commonwealth cycling champion from Guernsey.
Mr Helmot was on a training ride in November 1998, the same year as he competed in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, when he was knocked off his bike by a car and suffered catastrophic injuries. He sustained such severe brain damage that to this day, twelve years later, his cognitive abilities are severely affected, his memory and judgement are impaired, and he cannot use his right arm, drive a car, or ride a bike. He is also registered blind due to the double vision from which he has suffered since the accident.
Yesterday it was revealed that he had been awarded £13.7 million, dwarfing the previous record of £11 million, which was awarded earlier this year to Wasim Mohammed, from Walsall in the West Midlands, after he was paralysed in a car accident that was attributed to his friend. Part of the reason for the award’s size is that Guernsey does not have the same legal provision to pay compensation in instalments as the rest of the UK. The main motivation behind it, however, is the extent of Mr Helmot’s injuries.
As well as the physical problems mentioned, he also suffers from an undisclosed psychotic illness as a result of drugs he was given in the aftermath of the accident and other psychological problems.
The payout equates to roughly £350,000 per year for the rest of Mr Helmot’s foreseeable life, the expectancy of which has been reduced due to his injuries. An initial figure of around £9 million was decided, but upon appeal by Mr Helmot’s carers, his mother and her partner, it was increased to just shy of £14 million.
This figure will be met by the driver of the car that struck Mr Helmot, Dylan Simon, who was speeding when he hit the 28-year old’s bike. He was convicted of dangerous driving and both he and his insurers must pay the compensation between them.
Mrs Helmot’s mother spoke of her delight at the award.
“All of the money will go into a trust to support Manny for the rest of his life,” she said.
“The size of the award is very large but it must last for Manny’s estimated lifetime, which is another 40 years or more, hopefully.”
“Manny needs 24-hour care from a team of carers and the only way we could have afforded that with confidence was to win this appeal.”
She added: “We are really thrilled. The extra money will make all the difference. His life was ruined but at least we can now afford to give him the care he needs for the rest of his days.
The message boards under this online article contained the usual polar opinions, from people saying the award was ‘obscene’ to readers who thought it wasn’t enough.
One commentator, in response to the article, which contained a photograph of a fit and healthy Mr Helmot on his bike, and a more recent picture depicting the same man with his arm in a sling and his right eye permanently shut, said, “The difference in the two photographs without meeting this young man say it all. Judges do not award on a whim. If the young man on the bike was asked which he would rather be? We all know the answer.”
This is a most valuable point. Compensation is often seen in a negative light by those who don’t actually seem to understand its purpose. This award has not been made to enable Mr Helmot to buy a Porsche or to send him on holiday. The man needs 24 hour care from his devoted mother and stepfather, and without the NHS, from which Guernsey does not benefit, to fund his care, this award suddenly seems more reasonable. The article merely touches on what exactly ’24 hour care’ might entail: specialised care equipment is expensive to buy and maintain, as are nurses and respite workers, therapists, and so on.
The naysayers also ask why the amounts awarded to Mr Helmot is so vast compared to servicemen and members of the security forces if they are injured? The answer is brutally simple, as clinical as it may seem to state the obvious: those men and women implicitly acknowledge the dangers of their vocation when they join the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the police. They are different from a man who was a civilian training to represent his country doing something he loved, and whose life-changing injuries were not of his own making.
Source: BBC News
Date Published: September 17, 2010
Author: David Brown