How does Boyes Turner protect vulnerable clients and their compensation?

How does Boyes Turner protect vulnerable clients and their compensation?

As high value medical negligence claims specialists helping severely disabled children and adults achieve compensation to meet their lifelong needs, clients often ask us: What happens after the settlement? Won’t I be vulnerable with so much money? How can I protect my family’s privacy and my injured family member’s compensation money?

We understand that once a large claim has concluded, clients can be concerned about their privacy. There are various mechanisms which Boyes Turner regularly puts in place to safeguard our clients’ privacy and protect their compensation.  

Anonymity Orders

What is anonymity?

Court hearings are open to the public which means they can be reported by the press. If a case goes to trial, it is likely that personal and sensitive information about our clients will be discussed during the hearing. An application for an anonymity order can protect the identity of our client, their families and litigation friend in relation to any reporting of the court proceedings during and after the conclusion of their clinical negligence claim. This means that across all court documents, the client and their family’s names and addresses will be omitted and substituted for initials, ensuring that their identity does not become public knowledge. 

Why might I need anonymity?

  • to protect personal and sensitive medical information;
  • to avoid friends and neighbours becoming aware of the claim;
  • to prevent unsolicited approaches for money;
  • to ease any fears that having money might jeopardise your support network;
  • to avoid harassment from the press or the general public.

How soon can anonymity be ordered?

An application for anonymity is usually considered when we apply for judgment (because the defendant has accepted responsibility for the injury) or once the claim has been settled, so that court documents are drafted in a way to protect the client’s identity. We always discuss the issue of anonymity with you at the appropriate stage so that we can take steps to protect you.

Is it difficult to obtain anonymity?

In the case, JX MX v Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust, the court changed the way anonymity is handled so that, in dealing with approval hearings where the court is required to check and authorise any settlement agreed for a child or vulnerable (protected) person, the court will now normally make an anonymity order unless the Judge is satisfied by the evidence that it is unnecessary or inappropriate to do so. It is no longer necessary for the person being compensated to provide good reasons why they should not be named.

Approval Hearings

What is an approval hearing? Why does a child or protected party’s settlement need to be approved by the court?

The Civil Procedure Rules, which govern how non-criminal court proceedings must be handled, say that where a claim is settled for a child or protected party, the settlement cannot be accepted without the approval of the court.

An approval hearing is usually a short court hearing at which the judge hears about the circumstances of the case and the settlement to ensure that the settlement has been made in the child or protected party’s best interests.

Do I need to attend the hearing?

It is not mandatory for the client and/or their family to attend this hearing. However, in our experience, client families often find it helpful to attend this short hearing which brings their case to a formal close. The Judge overseeing the hearing will often acknowledge the difficulties the injured party and their family have endured, and this is appreciated by families as they prepare move on after the litigation process is concluded, helped now by their compensation.

Deputyships and Trusts

Where a client is mentally incapable of making their own decisions because of their disability, a deputyship can be set up to support their decision making.

Where a client suffers a physical disability but maintains mental capacity, funds can be managed and protected through a personal injury trust.

What is a deputy?

A deputy is an individual appointed by the Court of Protection to manage the affairs of vulnerable clients who are mentally incapable of making their own financial decisions.

What does a deputy do?

The deputy works closely with families in making best interest decisions for their injured family member. The deputy also protects and invests the client’s compensation fund, while ensuring that money remains easily accessible to provide for a child or protected party’s needs.

We understand that receiving a large sum of compensation can be overwhelming, especially as it is intended to cover the lifelong costs of such needs as: private care, medical treatment, therapies and adapted accommodation for the injured individual. 

A deputy can, therefore, provide peace of mind by:

  • managing a client’s finances in a professional way;
  • supporting families in the buying, selling or adaptation of properties for the disabled person;
  • recruiting and working closely with case managers [link to case manager article or where we’ve mentioned setting up case management] and carers;
  • working with financial advisers so that funds are safely and securely invested;
  • managing the routine day to day administration of the injured individual’s finances, such as paying the bills for utilities, carer’s invoices and other expenses associated with the client’s disability;
  • relieving the family of the worry that is sometimes associated with being responsible for a large sum of money. Our clients tell us that knowing that their child’s money is professionally protected brings a sense of security and peace of mind.

Are deputies supervised?

Yes. Professional deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection and must comply with standards set by the Office of the Public Guardian. They are required by law to act in the best interests of the person who lacks mental capacity. In doing so they must also consider the views of anyone else who is involved in the person’s welfare. In practise, this means that we discuss decisions with the child’s parents or other key family members.

What is a personal injury trust?

A personal injury trust is a legally binding arrangement which holds the funds from a personal injury award for a beneficiary (the client). It allows the beneficiary to keep their entitlement to means-tested state benefits, as personal injury compensation held in a personal injury trust is not taken into account when assessing finances for state benefits.

Unlike deputyship, personal injury trusts are suitable for clients who have mental capacity but may be vulnerable to outside influences owing to their disability, young age or simply because they now have a large sum of money from their compensation.

What does a trustee do?

When a vulnerable person receives compensation from their claim, the money may be intended for a specific purpose, such as to compensate for future lost income or to cover the costs of therapies or home adaptations. The money can be protected against inappropriate use by placing it under the control of trustees who will manage the way the money from the trust is spent to ensure that it is spent in the best interests of the beneficiary.

These trusts are managed by two or more trustees, for example, a professional trustee and, in the case of an injured child, their parents. The child’s personal involvement will then increase as they get older and start attending trustee meetings. Once they reach 18, the child may become a trustee.

What are the advantages of deputyship or a personal injury trust?

  • Funds held in a deputyship account or personal injury trust are disregarded during means testing for some state benefits.
  • Compensation money, intended to provide for the disabled person’s specific needs, are ‘ring- fenced’ (protected) to be used for those purposes.  
  • The trustees of a personal injury trust must authorise all transactions in relation to the money that is held by the trust. This protects vulnerable individuals from inappropriate use of their money or the influence of relatives and friends.
  • Professional deputies and trustees have a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as connections to experts in a variety of fields. This means they can provide invaluable support when making financial decisions.
  • Where a client is under 18, the award must be paid into the court funds office, where interest paid is nominal. By investing the funds in a deputyship or personal injury trust, full investment options can be explored and the funds can be accessed without having to apply for approval from the court.
  • A deputyship or personal injury trust can provide peace of mind that the vulnerable individual is provided for throughout their entire life through professional management of their compensation.

At Boyes Turner, we take a holistic approach in the service we provide for our clients, so when the claim is settled, our help does not necessarily have to stop there. A large interim payment, final settlement or court award of compensation enables our clients to begin to rebuild their lives, but the adjustment and change that comes at this time, together with the new responsibility of managing a lifetime of provision for a disabled child or other family member, can sometimes seem overwhelming. We take time to get to know our clients and understand their needs, their priorities and their concerns. Our integrated multidisciplinary expert team provide continued support for our clients throughout the claims process and onwards into post-settlement life.  

If you are caring for a child or young adult with cerebral palsy or serious disability and would like to find out more about making a claim, contact us by email at cerebralpalsy@boyesturner.com.

Knowledgeable, organised, responsive, diligent, empathetic and human. I deal with many legal firms during the course of my work and have found the Court of Protection team at Boyes Turner to be, 'Simply the best'.

INDEPENDENT CASE MANAGER

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