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Live in Carers: Always Explore the Alternatives - Bill Braithwaite QC, Head of Exchange Chambers

11/10/14. Several years ago, there was a trend for insurers to suggest that people who had been catastrophically injured could be looked after by “live-in carers”. It became a term with a specific meaning, namely the equivalent of a housekeeper. The carer would work 24 hours a day, sleeping normally at night in the patient’s home, and would do that for up to a month, when another carer would take over. It was usually half the price of employing carers on an hourly rate, either directly or through an agency. Defendants ran that argument for some years, with comparatively little success, and gradually the idea vanished.

It is reappearing now, though, and most people involved in catastrophic brain or spine injury don’t remember the concept from its previous life. There are some circumstances where it can be a good system, but they are limited. As a rule of thumb, though, it only works if the patient is easy to manage. That is rarely the case following catastrophic injury.

One of the tricks that some insurers use is to give the appearance of helping, by sending in an immediate needs assessor, theoretically to see what the injured person needs, and then to arrange whatever is necessary. Sometimes, though, what they arrange is live-in care. As it is so much better than what is provided by the State, many people are grateful to have someone to help, not realising that what the insurer is doing is setting the scene for negotiations in which they point to the existing system of care, and argue that it is working well. Many people (and this includes some lawyers and experts, sadly) don’t know how limiting live-in care can be in the wrong circumstances, and so don’t know that they should explore the alternatives.

Bill Braithwaite QC
Head of Exchange Chambers
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