What happens when a severely injured person needs a larger property
to cater for their carers and their aids and equipment? The basis of an
accommodation claim is set out in the case of Roberts – v – Johnson,
the principles of which remain good law. The Judgment has been
criticised by some of the judiciary however, for example the Law
Commission and the Civil Justice Council have commented on the
unfair results it can lead to for claimants.
As an example, on a Roberts – v – Johnson calculation, an injured
individual whose property before an accident was valued at £250,000
but who now needs a property valued at £350,000 can seek to recover
2.5% per year of the additional equity (£100,000) invested in the
property for the remainder of his or her life if they have life-long needs
from the defendant insurer. This means that the injured individual
has to borrow money from other heads of loss, such as loss of
earnings, to fund the purchase of a suitable property. This can lead to
significant unfairness on claimants, particularly where there is a short
life expectancy. Further, if the adaptations result in any significant
betterment to the property (i.e. if the property is made more valuable),
the amount received is reduced to reflect this.
Irwin Mitchell’s Serious Injury Teams have been advising our clients
and their families to settle the accommodation aspect of their cases
in innovative ways and on suitable cases, to ensure that the injured
person’s needs are met in full in so far as possible. For example, in one
of our recent cases, our Serious Injury Team in Sheffield negotiated a
settlement for a severely injured client on the basis that the defendant
insurer purchased a property for our client to live in for the duration
of his lifetime. The defendant insurer then rented the property to our
client for a notional sum of £1 per year for the remainder of his life.
After our client has died, the tenancy will end and the property will
be returned to the defendant insurer. This has avoided the need for
our client to borrow money from other heads of loss to purchase a
suitable property. It has also meant that he is able to live in a property
that is completely suitable for his needs with additional space for
aids and equipment and his care team. He will be comfortable for the
remainder of his life.
Until the legal principles in the case of Roberts – v – Johnson have
changed, our national Serious Injury Teams shall continue to develop
innovative ways to fully protect our clients and to ensure that their
needs are fully met which includes suitable accommodation.