If your husband, wife, partner, best friend, child, mum, dad or anyone else you love is critically injured - what do you do? In times of crisis, the strain can be overwhelming. When someone is incapacitated, perhaps in a coma, you might be worried about how your children are coping, or how the bills are going to be paid.
APIL has worked on behalf of injured people for 30 years, and we know that when someone is injured the effect does not stop with that individual. Our concern is with getting injured people’s lives back on track and getting families through the tough times. The following information and links will help to steer you in the right direction.
I have no access to my partner’s bank account
Most banks have devoted teams in place to assist customers with unexpected events, such as bereavement, illness and incapacitating injuries.
Handling financial matters for someone is much easier if they have already established a lasting power of attorney (LPA) for such an event, or an (‘enduring power of attorney’ before 2007). Check whether this is the case. If you or other family members do not know, you can check with the official body:
England or Wales: The Office of the Public Guardian
Scotland: The Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland)
Northern Ireland: The Office of Care and Protection
How do we pay the mortgage or rent while my husband/wife/partner is not earning?
First, take a look through your paperwork. You may have mortgage payment protection insurance (MPPI) which covers your monthly repayments if you can no longer make them. You need to check that the policy covers injuries and illness, as some only offer redundancy cover. Typical policies will cover mortgage payments for up to two years and will pay up to £2,000 a month or around 65 per cent of your monthly income (whichever is lower). Find out more about MPPI from Money Saving Expert here: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/mortgages/payment-protection-insurance/
Speak to your mortgage lender as soon as possible. Most mortgage providers have dedicated members of staff who help people in these circumstances. You might be able to arrange a payment holiday, or switch to interest only repayments so you can have a break from paying off the loan itself, which can reduce the amount to pay each month drastically.
My friend has no family. How do I go about making medical or financial decisions for my injured friend?
First of all, you should apply to search the Office of the Public Guardian registers to check if your friend has an appointed person for such an event. If not, you can apply to a court to help someone without mental capacity with one-off or long-term decisions. The Court of Protection can help and can appoint decision-makers on an urgent basis if required. The contact details for each of the regions in England and Wales are here: https://www.gov.uk/courts-tribunals/court-of-protection
In Scotland you can apply for an intervention order. If you think you might need powers on an on-going basis then a guardianship order could be more appropriate. The information about the differences and how to apply, visit: https://www.publicguardian-scotland.gov.uk/intervention-orders
In Northern Ireland, you will need to contact The Office of Care and Protection.
In any event, you should seek proper legal advice about gaining power to make decisions on someone else’s behalf.
My husband, wife, or partner has passed away - what are my financial rights?
Partners who live together with separate bank accounts do not have the right to gain access to each other’s money in those accounts. In the event that one partner passes away, the money will be given to whoever is named in the deceased person’s will, or the closest relative if they have not made one. For unmarried people, this is often their parents.
If you have a joint account in both names, the surviving partner becomes entitled to the balance and can have access to the account. But, a proportion of the balance will be calculated into the value of the estate of the partner who has died.
Regardless of who paid into the account, married couples share ownership of their joint bank accounts. If one of them passes away, the whole account immediately becomes the property of the survivor. If each spouse in a married couple has an individual bank account and one of them dies, the bank may allow the surviving partner to withdraw the balance.
BRAIN INJURY AND SPINAL INJURY
My partner has severe brain damage
Once someone has lost mental capability because they are unconsciousness or have severe brain damage, for example, it is not possible to make a lasting power of attorney (LPA). It is possible, however, to apply to the Court of Protection for a decision on a specific matter, such as one relating to what type of treatment to choose. But if there is an ongoing need to make decisions on someone’s behalf, you need to ask the Court of Protection to assign you as the injured person’s ‘deputy’. Deputies can make decisions about someone’s property, finances, and personal welfare. The process of becoming a deputy can take months, because the judge needs to be satisfied that a deputy is needed and that you are suitable for the role. You will be given a court order outlining what you can and cannot do. If the need for decisions is more urgent, there is a
special application route you can take.
It is important to note that husbands and wives do not have automatic legal power for medical decisions, and neither does another next of kin, unless it relates to a child under the age of 18.
For more information, see Managing affairs for someone else from Citizens Advice, here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/looking-after-people/managing-affairs-for-someone-else/
My loved one has a brain/spinal injury and I don’t understand the medical language
George’s Healthcare NHS Trust has a helpful document with a guide to the terminology and details of what can happen to someone with a brain injury. Read it here: https://www.stgeorges.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/94_Physiotherapy_Traumatic+brain+injury+-+an+information+manual.pdf
Headway is a charity which supports people with acquired brain injuries (sometimes abbreviated to “ABI”). It offers, free, confidential, immediate support through their helpline on 0808 800 2244. Headway’s website also has a very useful section on the effects of a brain injury, including for those in a coma and those who are technically conscious but whose awareness is reduced. It also explains the emotional impact – which is usually profound for the whole family - and the effect on the injured person’s behaviour, ability to speak and understand, memory recall, and the physical effects of brain injury. Find out more here: https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/effects-of-brain-injury/
The Child Brain Injury Trust can help you with emotional and practical support, and information, specifically for families with children with acquired brain injuries. CBIT has broken down its available services are broken down by region, to help you find support local to you. https://childbraininjurytrust.org.uk/
If you are dealing with a spinal injury, you might hear all sorts of terminology about the severity. A guide to explain the different severities of spinal injury and what the terminology means is available from the Spinal Injuries Association.
Hands-on help with day-to-day life after a spinal cord injury is available from Aspire. The Aspire website has stories from real people who have are paralysed, have lost use of their arms or their legs, or both. Visit: https://www.aspire.org.uk/Blogs/living-with-sci
Back Up Trust’s telephone support service is a valuable point of contact for anyone with a spinal cord injury and their loved ones. The team members all have spinal cord injuries themselves and understand the challenges faced. There is also a specific support service for people’s loved ones and also for under 18s. The charity inspires and supports people affected by spinal cord injury to get the most out of life. Through it Back Up to Work courses and online resources it aims to increase the numbers of people returning to work after a spinal cord injury. Find contact details and a video about the services Back Up offers here.
Do I need legal advice about what happened?
Taking legal action for what has happened will be the last thing on your mind. But if it is clear that the injury could and should have been avoided then a lawyer may be able to secure an early payment of compensation from those responsible. This is to help with money worries immediately after the injury as some claims, particularly those relating to severe injuries, can take years to settle.
You might be entitled to benefits to help you pay rent, such as housing benefit or universal credit. The cost of this will be taken into consideration if you make a legal claim for the injuries, and the Government will claim it back from those who are responsible for the injury. It is usually an insurance company who will pay. But in the meantime, you need to talk to your lawyer about whether an interim payment could be paid to you to help. Also see Turn2Us, a national anti-poverty charity which can help decipher the benefits, grants or other financial support available for people who are ill or injured.
I’m struggling to cope as a carer
You can get help and support from the Government if you're responsible for looking after someone who has a disability or has become injured or ill. This can range from practical help to make day-to-day life easier to benefits like carer's allowance. Carers don’t have to live under the same roof to be eligible. And there is no legal definition of the time spent caring in order to qualify as a carer. You will need what is called a carer’s assessment which can be arranged through the local council’s social services department. Find the relevant local council here: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council
All this and further information is details on the Citizens Advice website here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/looking-after-people/carers-help-and-support/
How can I support an injured friend or relative emotionally?
It’s likely that relationships will change after a brain injury, which can be very upsetting. Headway has information on how to cope with these changes and still support your loved one.
Headway also has guides for parents, partners, siblings, grandparents, friends, and colleagues, which also has guidance on how to take care of yourself during a traumatic time for a loved one.
Any injury can be challenging for any family.
For children with brain injuries, the Children’s Trust provides information and support for families. In particular, it provides support for siblings. Visit https://www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk/.
Our baby may have cerebral palsy
It can be very difficult for a parent to process a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
There are many organisations and charities which support people with cerebral palsy and other brain injuries which happen at birth. Scope has further information and can guide you to various services. It also has a helpline: 0808 800 3333.
Sometimes cerebral palsy is caused because of a failure during the birth which restricted oxygen to the baby’s brain. You can seek an accredited clinical negligence lawyer to help you investigate this if you have no answers, or think you may need financial support for your child.
There is some advice from Baby Centre on how to recover from a traumatic birth.
I’m worried about how my children are coping with a sudden death
No-one is prepared for the impact of grief, and there is no prescription for it. But kids might have a harder time than adults accepting that someone has gone, or communicating how they feel.
“It is often better to tell children things through honest discussion and involve them in decision making rather than keep them in the dark and leave them excluded in an effort to protect them from the truth,” says Brake, the road safety charity. Sudden, an initiative by Brake, offers help for children specifically. It would also be helpful for anyone suffering a loss which happened somewhere other than on the road. Visit www.suddendeath.org.
My partner has died and I don’t know what to do
Cruse Bereavement Care offers a range of free confidential support for adults and children. It includes support for bereaved people, military families, and also those bereaved in particularly traumatic circumstances such as natural disaster, terrorists attack, or suicide. There is also advice on how to support someone else who is suffering a bereavement. Visit https://www.cruse.org.uk/
A little-known service, which can be of great help with the administrative tasks required of families when someone dies is the Death Notification Service. It notifies of a person's death to a number of banks, building societies and other institutions at the same time. Find it here: https://www.deathnotificationservice.co.uk/
Being widowed at any time is tough, but being widowed when still youthful brings its own set of strains. Widowed and Young is a national charity for widowed people under 50. It’s a peer-to-peer support group operating with a network of volunteers who have been bereaved at a young age themselves, so they understand exactly what other members are going through.
RoadPeace helps families bereaved through road collisions to cope and build resilience through peer support, local group networks, befriending services, and trauma support programmes. Also, the charity believes that all those bereaved through road crashes have the right to place a roadside memorial at the crash site or near to the crash site in remembrance of their loved one. See more about RoadPeace’s Remember Me scheme here.
Other charities who can offer information and support for specific injuries and needs include:
RNIB - practical and emotional support to help people who have lost their sight and their families.
The Limbless Association – for amputees and people born with limb difference. The website has a directory of local support groups.
Combat Stress - helps former servicemen and women deal with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) anxiety and depression.
RFEA - is a forces employment charity and helps get ex-military personnel back into work after injury.
Veterans With Dogs - trains and provides assistance dogs exclusively for current and former members of the British Armed Forces with service-related mental health conditions.