Vulnerable negligence victims are sometimes very poor at managing money and that can leave them open to exploitation by others. The High Court made that point in granting a novel order that a road accident victim must not be told the amount of compensation that motor insurers had agreed to pay him.
The man, aged in his 30s, suffered grave brain and orthopaedic injuries when a car in which he was a back-seat passenger collided with a tree. Solicitors on his behalf had succeeded in negotiating a substantial settlement of his claim against the driver’s insurers. The settlement was approved by a judge.
His lawyers had, however, raised concerns about the potential consequences of him being aware of the amount of the settlement. Although he had made a better than expected recovery from the brain injury, difficulties in his executive functioning and aspects of his behaviour were expected to be permanent.
The man himself said that he did not wish to know the amount of the settlement. If given access to funds, he said that he would view the money as similar to a lottery win and would end up spending it. He tended to get into debt to others and, on one occasion, had spent £2,000 in benefits within four days. He was known to have purchased three or four pairs of identical trainers at the same time.
In ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the issue raised was apparently novel. It granted a declaration that it was in the man’s best interests that he remain in ignorance as to the amount of the settlement. The Court’s order stated that it would be unlawful for anyone to convey that information to him, save for a general assertion that the money would be sufficient to meet his reasonable needs for life.
The Court also declared that the man currently lacked the required mental capacity to decide for himself whether he should be told the amount of the settlement. It directed, however, that the capacity issue should be reviewed at least every six months.