Friday, 28 November 2014

Hodge Jones & Allen: Motor Biking for the Disabled

Nick Mclean suffered undiagnosed cord compression for over 2 years before he was operated upon to relieve the situation.  Having run his own successful business for many years as well as living an active sporting life enjoying diving, swimming and motor bike riding, it seemed during the initial years after his operation any active life would not be possible.  Despite severe disabilities Nick has had a new lease of life through Ride’til We Rot Society.  For any motorbike enthusiast this is a must – do check this out.  The charity is based nationally and internationally promoting biking for anyone with any type of disability whether physical or mental health to get back into the saddle and onto the road.  Like Nick, those with disabilities, use adapted bikes and join in rides when they can in addition to social events.

Julie Say of Hodge Jones & Allen says “This is a an amazing charity that enables people to continue doing what they love despite extreme adversity”

Nick McLean says “Ride’til We Rot has given me a new lease of life enabling me to participate in a pass time that I thought would never be possible.  I have made many friends and the organisation has helped to infuse fun into my life which now feels more worthwhile.”

For more details there is a Facebook page

Julie Say is a Partner and Head of Clinical Negligence at Hodge Jones & Allen

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Hodge Jones & Allen: Claiming VAT Relief for Disability Adaptations

Clients often describe the stress and anxiety that is involved when a property is being adapted for wheelchair use.  Hodge Jones & Allen work with professional architects who keep us updated with developments and this blog below by Steve Woodley at Wyvern Architects discusses one very important (and costly) point that can be overlooked when a property is being adapted.
Carrying out works to make a property suitable for a disabled person can be a costly experience.
Building costs, Architects/Surveyors fees and VAT all need to be carefully considered prior to work beginning on site.
It is important that you discuss the cost of the adaptation works with your chosen builder as soon as possible, as you may be able to claim VAT relief on part, if not all, of the proposed alterations.
HM Customs & Excise has produced a very helpful booklet entitled "VAT Reliefs for disabled people - notice 701/7 August 2002". Within this booklet the works which can be zero rated for VAT purposes are identified.
Although not exhaustive these works include the following:-
  • Constructing ramps.
  • Widening doorways or hallway/passage and the restoration of the immediate decor.
  • Constructing, extending or adapting a bathroom, washroom or lavatory provided the work is   necessary to suit the condition of a disabled person.
Where economy and feasibility dictate resulting in occupying the space which was previously part of another room then you may also claim VAT relief for restoring that room elsewhere in the building to its original size. For example, if you convert a bedroom into an especially adapted/equipped bathroom then you may also zero rate the supply of constructing a replacement bedroom as long as it is the same size as it was previously.
It must be appreciated that the VAT assessment is ultimately the responsibility of the building contractor and therefore discussions ought to be held before commencement of any works to agree the likely VAT liability. A VAT Eligibility Declaration will need to be signed and handed to the building contractor who will need to attach this with his VAT return. 

Steven Woodley
Wyvern Architects - Devizes Ltd

Simon O’Loughlin is a Partner and Solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Hodge Jones & Allen: 'Batting About'

Clients often describe the huge difference that new technology can make to their lives, especially when that technology improves mobility and can increase independence.  Hodge Jones & Allen work with Occupational Therapists who keep us updated with developments and the blog below by Bush & Company discusses the Batec - a powered attachment for wheelchairs.

Working as an OT in the field of posture and seating, I consider myself fortunate to meet individuals with SCI, who pretty much defy what the textbooks says about their level of injury or (dis)ability.

This refreshing way of looking at function and functional ability, echoes Davis’ sentiments regarding The International Classification of Function, Disability and Health (ICF). ‘ICF as a framework for rehabilitation ensures that the focus of rehabilitation is not only on the level of impairment and disability. It needs to focus on the individual’s participation in the environment and in society’. Davis 2006.

We all have goals we would like to achieve, and for individuals with SCI this is no different; to regaining function, to be independent, to return to work or to do an activity which you are passionate about and just get on with living life. It’s exciting when you come across people and equipment that can actually focus on making this happen.
Insert: Dave Hawkins (T11), Cyclone Mobility, BATEC user. 
Picture taken at Silverstone Race Track.
Ok, so what is this new craze which seems to be sweeping the nation…?
‘Batting’ as it’s become known on the street. Hearing terms used like ‘Batting up and down the road’ can only create interest and intrigue, right?

So what is this ‘Batting’ all about? Well we have Pau Bach, a C5 quadriplegic from Barcelona to thank for this.  Pau following his injury was forced into career changing decisions.

Pau retrained in computing from his former career plan of industrial design, due to limited vocational options available at the time for a spinally injured person. 

As an independent young man Pau did not wish to use a powered wheelchair so he set about re-inventing the world of mobility from a lightweight wheelchair. In 2001 Pau created a manually powered handcycle that attached to his everyday wheelchair and with this increased his mobility. In 2003 Pau improved the design by adding a battery and motor…. and the Batec was born.

The range includes an electric, manual, and hybrid versions. The Batec can be fitted to a rigid-frame or a folding-frame manual wheelchair in only 3 seconds! And Yes – it comes in many colour options and you guessed it – it even has a dock for your iPhone.

So from a getting out and about point of view it ticks all my OT boxes in promoting individuals with SCI (and other mobility related issues) to be able to achieve Independence, Function and Participation…now to sort the rainy weather.

Lee Ann Hoffman Occupational Therapist at Bush & Co
Julie Say Partner and Head of Hodge Jones & Allen’s Clinical Negligence Team

Hodge Jones & Allen: Whizzy Bug Loan Scheme

Obtaining funding for a powered wheelchair can be difficult at any age, but even more difficult for pre-school age children who can grow out of a wheelchair by the time funding has been provided and a wheelchair delivered.  Hodge Jones & Allen are aware of a valuable scheme that has addressed this issue with their Wizzybug Loan Scheme.  Occupational Therapists at Bush & Co direct clients to Wizzybug Loan Scheme when they can. 

Wizzybug Loan Scheme

The Wizzybug is a fun first experience of powered mobility for children aged 18 months to five years
to learn to move independently. It is well researched that at this young age, self-produced mobility impacts on all aspects of development.  To ensure that this window of opportunity is not missed, the national charity, Designability is loaning out Wizzybugs free of charge to children in mainland UK who could benefit from them.

Wizzybug can be easily adjusted to meet a child’s individual postural needs and can be driven using a joystick or switches.  It can be used indoors at home and in nursery and outdoors in accessible areas such as level gardens, playgrounds and parks.  It also dismantles so that it can be transported in a small family car to take to the park, nursery, shops or grandparents’ home.

Through the loan scheme, families receive a Wizzybug to use for as long as the child can benefit.  Parents are asked to pay a security deposit of £200.00, which is refunded when their Wizzybug is returned in an acceptable condition at the end of the loan period.

Application forms need to be completed by the child’s therapist and are available from Designability on 01225 824103 or from

For more information please visit
Julie Say is a Partner and Head of Clinical Negligence at Hodge Jones & Allen

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hodge Jones & Allen: Why is it important to make a living will?

Living Wills, also known as Advance Directives, are a written record of your wishes about the medical treatment and care you would want to receive if you were incapacitated and were unable to make decisions or communicate your wishes.

In September 2011, the Court of Protection ruled in the case of 'M' that withdrawing life support treatment from a person in a minimally conscious state was not in that person's best interests.

'M' had sustained brain damage in early 2003 following an illness and had been entirely dependent on others for her care since then. There was no prospect of any recovery. She appeared to be unconscious.  It was thought that she was in a persistent vegetative state but doctors later concluded that she was in a minimally conscious state.  

After all attempts to bring about a recovery had failed over a period of 8 years, her family had applied for life sustaining treatment to be withdrawn on the grounds that 'M' had no quality of life.

The Judge indicated that if 'M' had left a Living Will or Advance Directive stating that she did not wish to receive life sustaining treatment then the Court would have agreed to the request from 'M's family for treatment to be withdrawn.  However, as there was no written record of 'M's wishes, the treatment must continue.

Such tragic cases serve as a reminder of the need to draw up Living Wills.  An alternative procedure is to appoint a friend or relative to act as your Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney for health and welfare.

Philippa Barton
Hodge Jones & Allen
020 7874 8300

Hodge Jones & Allen: Reasons why it is important to make a will

Two out of three people die without making a Will.  When this happens, the estate is distributed in accordance with a rigid set of rules known as the intestacy rules.  Spouses and children receive a set sum.  If you do not have a spouse or children, then relatives take in order of priority. This can have disastrous consequences.

Disadvantages of Dying Without a Will:

  1. If you are elderly with no immediate family this could mean that your estate passes to distant relatives that you have not seen in years.  Friends, charities and relatives by marriage get nothing. Genealogists have to be employed at great expense to trace all the members of your family.
  2. If you and your partner are not married, your partner will receive nothing on your death.
  3. If you and your spouse do not own assets jointly, then your spouse may be forced to sell the house to pay the share of your estate due to your children.

Advantages of Making a Will:

  1. If you have children from a previous relationship, you may wish to make provision for your spouse during his/her lifetime and then ensure that your estate passes to your children after the death of your spouse. Otherwise, if your die first, it is possible that your spouse could remarry or change their Will, cutting out your children.
  2. You can choose guardians to look after your children if they are orphaned under the age of 18.
  3. If you care for a disabled person who receives means tested benefits or local authority funding, we can draw up a Will which sets up a trust fund for the disabled person without effecting their entitlement to benefits or funding.
  4. If you own a property abroad, it is important to make a Will both here and in the country where you own the property.  We can advise on foreign property issues.
  5. Setting out your instructions in a Will prevents future arguments among family members.
  6. If you make a Will you decide who gets what and when.  You decide who will carry out your instructions.  You can take account of individual circumstances so as to ensure that your estate is distributed exactly as you wish.

Home made wills

You can buy a Will from a stationers and complete it yourself. However unless this is checked by a solicitor you will not know whether you might have made a mistake. This could make it invalid or if what you have said is not clear enough the gifts fail because no-one can be sure what you meant. Also home made wills can be challenged on the grounds that you lacked sufficient capacity to make a will or that you were coerced into making the will. When a will is drafted by a solicitor who specialises in will drafting, the solicitor will check the issues of capacity and coercion and make a written record confirming this. This makes any challenge to the will much harder to prove.

Philippa Barton
Hodge Jones & Allen
020 7874 8300

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Hodge Jones & Allen: The Rehabilitation Code

Early rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury is very important.  This will initially be provided by the NHS but sadly funding and staffing issues mean that a comprehensive rehabilitation programme is not always possible.  However if the injured person is bringing a claim for compensation, rehabilitation can often be provided through something called The Rehabilitation Code. 

The Code was introduced in 1999 to promote the use of early rehabilitation and intervention when someone has been injured in an accident, that was not their fault, and they are making a claim for compensation.  The Code was developed by both insurance companies and solicitors to try and encourage early co-operation by all parties when arranging rehabilitation. 

The Code is not compulsory but all parties are encouraged to use it where appropriate.  If liability is admitted the majority of insurance companies will co-operate, comply with the Code and fund rehabilitation.  Most insurance companies will have their own preferred rehabilitation providers but they will be independent.  However where liability is denied in full the defendant insurance company will not comply with the Code.

If the Code is used then the first thing that is needed is something called an Initial Needs Assessment. An Initial Needs Assessment enables everyone to work together with the injured person, and their families, to identify the individual rehabilitation needs of the injured person.  The Assessment is done by a qualified independent party and a copy of the Assessment will be sent to both the insurance company and solicitors at the same time. The Assessment will consider both the short term aims and the long term goals so that a programme can be put in place as soon as possible.  Each Assessment is different because it deals with individual needs.  However a typical Assessment could include things such as:-

  1. Treatment and care needs.
  2. Driving/transport needs. 
  3. Personal activities on a day to day basis, which can include household chores and the impact on hobbies.
  4. The impact the injury has on the injured person’s ability to work and how if possible to get back into working if possible. 
  5. Lifting/carrying and mobility needs.
  6. Social circumstances including how this impacts on family relationships and housing needs and situations. 

Identifying these immediate (and long term) needs at an early stage can make a significant difference to an injured person’s life and future recovery.  Therefore it is not rocket science to see that the Code works to everyone’s advantage and should be used wherever it is appropriate.

Simon O’Loughlin and Karen Mann are both solicitors in the Personal Injury Department at Hodge Jones and Allen Solicitors

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hodge Jones & Allen: Compensation for Spinal Injury Victims of Violence

Most people are aware that, if they have been involved in an accident that was not their fault, they are entitled to bring a claim for compensation.

But what if it wasn’t an accident?  What if the injuries have been caused by an act of violence?

Statistics show that every year in the UK around 3% of spinal chord injuries are caused by a violent encounter, including shootings, stabbings and domestic violence.

In the UK there is a government Scheme in place to compensate the victims of violent crime. This Scheme is managed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).  If you have or you know someone who has suffered an injury as a result of a crime of violence, it is important that they are aware that they may well be entitled to compensation under this Scheme.

The CICA can award anything from £1,000 to £500,000 to victims even if the offender is not identified, caught or convicted.

 Compensation can be claimed under the Scheme for:
  • The injuries themselves – both physical and psychological (between 20-30% of people with permanent paralysis are affected by depression).
  • Loss of earnings (past and future).
  • Special expenses (past and future including the cost of treatments, aids and care).

There are a number of grounds (some of which are challengeable) on which the CICA can refuse to make an award, or make a reduced award. These include where: 
  • The victim has a criminal record.
  • The incident was not reported to the police or the victim failed to cooperate with police investigations.
  • The victim still lives with the person who injured them.

The Scheme also entitles the CICA to reduce the award for special expenses such as treatment and care by taking into account what might already be available through other public agencies such as the NHS or local authority. In reality, the care that such agencies can provide is often inadequate.  Any attempt by the CICA to make deductions from the award is something that the applicant would normally be advised to challenge.

Save for in exceptional circumstances, applications to the CICA must be made within two years of the incident in question.  Since the process can be a lengthy one, even with skilled representation, applications should be made at the earliest opportunity. 

Hannah Sellars 
Partner, Personal Injury Solicitor and Head of Hodge Jones & Allen’s CICA Team