Ince Metcalfes appointed as member of RoadPeace's South West regional panel to support local crash victims

Insights / / Bristol

Today, RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims has launched its regional legal panel, and Ince Metcalfes have been selected as the sole member of the South West regional panel. 

Made up of vetted specialist personal injury solicitors, eligibility for a place on the panel has always been based on the strictest criteria. The benefit of this has become all the more stark as crash victims feel the effects of COVID-19 and lockdown. Victims signposted by RoadPeace to solicitors will be offered a regional firm, allowing for a more localised relationship with their lawyer.

Whilst lockdown reduced the number of vehicles on Britain’s roads, people continued to get killed and injured. Personal injury solicitors in the South West have also noted that there remained a high number of serious injury collisions, as empty roads saw speeds escalate- as Avon and Somerset police saw the number of speeding drivers double in one month.

Those that became victims of crashes during or just before the pandemic were faced with a set of challenges that could not have been foreseen and have had serious consequences for their recovery. RoadPeace’s survey of its legal panel members has uncovered some serious challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Experience in hospital has been more traumatic 

For seriously injured victims who have had to be in hospital during the pandemic, their experience is reported to have been much more frightening and alienating than it would otherwise have been. Full PPE had to be worn by NHS staff, which has removed some of the human element of care. Equally, many further surgeries that crash victims needed had been delayed; causing longer stays in hospital and longer recovery times.

What has also been very distressing for crash victims is the ban on visitors. The psychological impact of months in hospital without seeing friends and family is reported to be significant.

And victims who were bereaved long before the pandemic have been re-traumatised by lockdown.

Criminal justice has been delayed

Due to social distancing measures, criminal courts and the Coroners Courts have not been open. This has led to cases being delayed for months on end. It has been estimated that trial backlogs in the magistrates’ courts increased by 41% between the beginning of March and the end of May; in the crown court, the estimated increase was 53%.[1]

The impact on crash victims has been significant.

Leigh Woodham of Ince Metcalfes, said

“In May / June 2020, it was estimated that approximately 484,000 cases were waiting to be heard in the magistrates’ courts, and around 41,000 cases in the crown courts. With fewer court hearings taking place due to COVID-19, victims of crime are having to wait much longer to see justice being done. 
We have noticed that some police forces also seem to be taking longer to release copies of their police reports, and some inquest-related work is not being turned around as quickly due to the extra COVID-19 investigations that coroners are having to undertake. This has a knock-on effect on the speed with which the victim’s civil claim can be pursued.”

Accessing rehabilitation has been denied.

Not only are some injured crash victims not receiving rehabilitation because civil claims are being pushed back due to the court backlog, those that do have the funds available are not getting the same treatment that they otherwise would have done. 

And rehabilitation covers a lot of different therapies; psychologists, councillors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists have all been unable to see victims. Whilst adaptations have been made to hold therapies over video conferencing, there have been a number of types of rehabilitation which have not been possible to continue. NHS COVID-19 policies rendered it difficult to obtain hospital appointments, and private rehabilitation centres stopped accepting new clients. This meant that the most seriously injured crash victims - those with severe brain injuries - were unable to access the rehabilitation they vitally need.

Leigh Woodham of Ince Metcalfes, said

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began we have had at least one client decide to go abroad for medical investigations (including an MRI scan), due to the changed priorities of the NHS and its increased waiting lists. The waiting times for treatment in certain European countries during the COVID-19 crisis have been much shorter, and the restrictions on the medical treatment available are less stringent.
For some clients, online rehabilitation has been unproblematic, especially where the exercises being undertaken are more general in their nature (for example, muscle strengthening), or where our client would have otherwise had a long distance to travel to their therapy session via public transport. On the other hand, some clients have found online rehabilitation too impersonal and unproductive, preferring to put their rehabilitation ‘on hold’ until face to-face sessions become viable again”.

And whilst personal injury solicitors have adapted best they can to moving their work online, social distancing measures and a lack of human contact have proved how important it is to have a specialist, local solicitor.

Nick Simmons, RoadPeace CEO said

“COVID-19 has affected us all, but it has hit crash victims particularly hard. Delays in justice and accessing rehabilitation has been tough on crash victims. It has always been vital for victims to have a specialist personal injury firm representing them, and the RoadPeace legal panel is made up of such firms. What COVID-19 has shown us though is how human contact and a close relationship with your solicitor is vital, on top of expertise. We have this month changed our legal panel structure, so that victims who get signposted to our solicitors through RoadPeace, will be offered a local firm in the first instance.”

Leigh Woodham of Ince Metcalfes, said

“Technology allows us to video conference with our clients wherever they may be, and we have strong working relationships with some of the best experts, both regional and national, when it comes to asking for help with accident investigations, injury reports and needs assessments - wherever our clients are based. However, when a person has suffered a catastrophic injury, or a family has lost a loved one, there is a lot to be said about using a local solicitor for personal contact. 
Local solicitors bring with them specialist local knowledge and expertise, including additional familiarity with both local medical and rehabilitation services, and local social care provision. Some clients simply prefer to have the option of a home (or hospital) visit or to be able to drop into our office. Whilst face-to-face meetings have been difficult in recent months, they are now possible with the correct precautions - and this gives us the opportunity to provide a more personalised service.” 
Leigh Woodham

Leigh Woodham Managing Associate

Related services: