Injured woman receives £800,000 compensation to buy suitable home

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A woman awarded £4 million damages after losing part of her leg following a motorway crash has had her compensation increased by about £800,000 to buy a suitable home.

In a landmark judgment that lawyers said could benefit others requiring special accommodation after suffering serious injuries, the Court of Appeal ruled that Charlotte Swift was entitled to the compensation.

Ms Swift, 46, was awarded £4 million by a High Court judge in August 2018, after suing the insurers of her husband, Malcolm Carpenter, who was driving at the time of the October 2013 accident on the M5.

But Mrs Justice Lambert ruled Ms Swift should not receive the £900,000 required to fund the cost of larger accommodation needed due to her injuries.

In a judgment on Friday, Lord Justice Irwin, sitting with Lord Justice Underhill and Lady Justice Nicola Davies, found in her favour, awarding her just over £800,000.

In the ruling, Lord Justice Irwin said: “I would quash the decision of the judge declining to make any award in respect of an identified need for £900,000 to purchase a more expensive house.”

He said it was his view that Ms Swift should receive damages of £801,913.

In a statement, Ms Swift said: “I’m absolutely delighted with today’s result and so relieved and thankful that the judicial system has come to the right conclusion.

“Thanks to this decision, thousands of people will benefit in the future: children who suffer brain injuries at birth, cyclists who lose limbs due to a road collision and many others who sustain life-changing injuries through no fault of their own.”

In her judgment in 2018, Mrs Justice Lambert said that under a formula set out in a previous court ruling in 1989, Ms Swift would “recover a nil award”  in respect of the £900,000 additional capital cost of special accommodation.

She found that she was bound by this ruling, and said in these circumstances she would make no award for additional costs associated with buying suitable property.

But in Friday’s ruling, Lord Justice Irwin said it was his view that “in the context of modern property prices and a negative discount rate” the formula set out in the 1989 ruling “no longer achieves fair and reasonable compensation for an injured claimant”.

After suffering crushing injuries to both feet and lower legs, Ms Swift underwent a left leg below-knee amputation and has had continuing difficulties, including phantom limb pain in the amputated foot, the Court of Appeal ruling says.

Ms Swift’s right foot, although salvaged, was also badly damaged.

The judgment adds that Ms Swift was “a very active and sports-oriented individual and has made sustained efforts at rehabilitation”.

Law firm Leigh Day, which represented Ms Swift, said the decision was a victory not just for Ms Swift but for “countless” future claimants who require special accommodation following a serious injury.

Grant Incles, personal injury partner at Leigh Day, said: “This was an overwhelming triumph for somebody who deserved nothing less after everything she has been through.

“Charlotte’s tenacity and ability to trust her legal team in the face of overbearing pressure from a truly David v Goliath situation, and the threat of crushing legal costs consequences, was astonishing.

He added that the decision “is the best and most thorough examination of a problem that has vexed legal practitioners for decades”.

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