Lawyer Monthly - February 2023

instructed on cases of medical or clinical negligence either through birth or an operation that has gone wrong, as well as road traffic accidents, acts of terrorism and anything that has resulted in a lifechanging catastrophic injury for the client and has placed them in a position where they can no longer drive or access a vehicle in the conventional manner. Whilst transport may form the smallest and least important part of a client’s claim, it can often make the biggest difference. Having access to suitable transport can give someone back their independence and enhance their quality of life and wellbeing. It is important to point out that it does not matter about the individual’s disability or whether they are cognitively aware; their rights to be able to travel in safety and comfort are just the same as any able-bodied person. All that changes are their vehicle requirements. For example, I met a client who, preincident, had a high-flying career. They were the main driver for the family days out and they helped with the school runs – they were the one to depend on. Postincident, they find themselves confined to a wheelchair for all their mobility needs. They are fortunate enough to still have upper dexterity and they can transfer independently, but they are unable to help with the family chores as they did before. They could still drive, but the family vehicle was unsuitable, due to having the wrong transmission, no driving controls and being difficult to access when transferring. They just wanted to be able to do something to help with family life, but they did not have the right equipment to do so. So, we investigated the option of a vehicle that offered a good access height that the client could transfer into from their wheelchair, with enough space to then dismantle their wheelchair and stow it in the footwell next to them, and with the correct driving controls to enable them to drive without having to use the primary pedals of the brake and accelerator. I suggested a small number of vehicles that I felt would fit the client’s criteria and they were able to find a vehicle that they could transfer in and out of whilst managing their own equipment. They are now able to help with the school runs, and they can take a trip to the shops without requiring assistance. They now have some level of independence back again. Do you have a typical process that you follow with each of your cases? When I meet with the client for their transport assessment, I treat it as though we were having a general conversation and not a tick box exercise. It is important that they feel comfortable and we can build a good rapport. Where possible, I always try to meet with the client in person. From experience I have found that so much detail is lost when carrying out an assessment through a media platform. Meeting face to face enables me to get a better understanding of day-today life for the client. I can see how the family dynamics work, everyday struggles with equipment, etc. It is through this process that I can obtain the information I require to build a picture of what the clients vehicle needs are. By asking open questions I can establish what their vehicle requirements were preincident and how they may have changed post-incident. I ask questions such as how they wish to travel, how they are going to access a vehicle, are they going to be a driver or a passenger. There are many factors that will have an impact on my vehicle recommendation, and everything must be taken into consideration to get the right outcome and ensure that the correct transport is provided. So many times, I have met with a client who has the wrong vehicle sat on their driveway. It has been provided without knowing all the facts or the specific needs of that client. The provider has not taken into consideration the dimensions of the wheelchair, the headroom required, how many passengers it will need to seat or how the vehicle will be driven and by who! It has been provided because it was available and it will probably be okay. I have been told by clients that when they raised the issue about how unsuitable 64 LAWYERMONTHLY FEBRUARY 2023 Whilst transport may form the smallest and least important part of a client’s claim, it can often make the biggest difference.

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