I was travelling down to the West Country with my family on the M5 on the evening of 4th November and we count ourselves extremely lucky to have missed one of the worst crashes in UK motorway history by about 30 minutes. If we had been half an hour earlier setting off or had not stopped at the motorway services for a coffee it could have been me and my family in that accident.
I have been a personal injury lawyer for many years but it is experiences like this which really bring home the impact of accidents on people’s lives. There will have been many families, like mine, on the motorway that night who were just going about their normal business, visiting relatives, trips away, seeing friends etc whose lives will now never be the same.
Through no fault of their own, in seconds, they will have suffered bereavement, life changing injury and serious loss. It will take many years to pick up the pieces and some people’s lives will never be restored to what they were. They may have to cope with the loss of loved ones who were the breadwinners for the family, or injury which requires a lifetime of care and, for example, may prevent them from working or following a vocation that they were committed to.
Personal injury lawyers get a bad press, sometimes deservedly so, and it is easy to bandy around clichés like “compensation culture” and “ambulance chasers”. However the law is there to help people like those who were injured or the families of those killed on the M5 that night. They will need money to replace the earnings that they cannot now make or provide long-term care.
The NHS is marvellous in providing emergency and acute treatment but many NHS staff would concede that budgets do not always allow for the ideal levels of long-term care that many of us would want for our own families. It is important that when someone suffers serious injury through no fault of their own that the law steps in to help out and require insurers to assist. Otherwise people are thrown back to reliance on poverty level state benefits and state provision, which most of us would see very much as a port of last resort.
I would hope and expect that there will be competent personal injury lawyers advising the M5 accident victims to ensure that, at least financially, they get some help with getting their lives back together after this tragedy. If you doubt whether it is right to be able to claim compensation for accidents in this country you need to ask yourself, as I have, what would I need if it had been me or members of my family killed or injured on the motorway that night.
By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Andrew Welch