Gratuitous care

When a person is injured through any type of accident it may lead to the individual being incapacitated for an extended period of time and needing full- or part-time care. This care is often given by friends and family.

A claimant making a whiplash injury claim may need help with heavier household chores for a few hours over the course of a couple of weeks, whereas someone claiming for a serious spinal injury may need daily care indefinitely.

What is gratuitous care?

'Gratuitous care' is defined as care and attention often provided by the injured person's friends and family, and is above what may usually be expected from a person employed to perform household tasks. The care provided by friends and family is known as gratuitous care because no money is exchanged.

The tasks may include running errands, daily care, driving or accompanying a person to medical appointments - anything that may be necessary where the injuries sustained prevent the claimant doing these tasks for himself.

Should a claim be made for gratuitous care?

If someone who has sustained an injury has needed care from another person, then that person (the carer) may be entitled to some compensation as part of the overall claim.

Although this may seem awkward, especially when the care and attention has been freely provided for a loved one, costs (which would have constituted part of a claim) would have been incurred had the claimant needed to pay for care instead.

How is a claim for gratuitous care made?

Only the claimant may claim compensation on the carer's behalf, as part of special damages through his or her personal injury claim. The calculation is based on the amount of time spent providing that care.

If this is a short period of time, then it is straightforward to calculate the actual hours, but when care is for a month or more, then calculations may be based on an average day or week.

The hourly rate used to calculate the compensation is usually two thirds of the cost of professional care locally. This represents the cost price of care, i.e. it does not cover the profit element charged by an agency.

Can a claim for expenses caused by an accident or injury be made by a carer?

Although they do not fall under the definition of gratuitous care, expenses incurred by a carer in the course of caring for the injured person should also be claimed as part of the compensation case - just as a claimant would be entitled to claim their own expenses.

Examples of expenses that may be incurred include car parking, use of car for taking the claimant to appointments or for errands. The carer may also have had to purchase medical equipment or pay for prescriptions on behalf of the claimant, or take buses or taxis to accompany him to appointments.

Expenses for car travel include general running costs as well as fuel, so claims should be based on cost per mile. The major motoring organisations issue cost per mile tables to enable calculation.

How is the compensation paid to the carer?

As a claim for gratuitous care cannot be made in the carer's own right, any compensation recovered is held for him by the claimant after his claim for compensation is successful. The same applies to any expenses claimed.

Therefore the claimant should pay his carer amounts claimed for gratuitous care once the compensation award or settlement is received.

For more assistance making an injury claim including gratuitous care costs, call Quittance on 0800 376 1001 to speak to a specialist.