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Minster Law’s approach to air ambulance gratuitous Care claims

With recent news Law Firms will be attempting to recuperate the Air Ambulance’s mission costs, Minster’s Jamie Bindley takes a look at the changes and how Minster will be responding.

Here at Minster Law, we deal with a lot of Clients who unfortunately sustain catastrophic injuries while driving or riding on the roads. These catastrophic injuries require specialist medical treatment, which is usually provided for, in the first instance, by the keyworkers of the NHS.

When attending an accident scene, an NHS employed paramedic must assess the situation and, in some cases, make the crucial decision whether an injured person would benefit from the treatment and service of the Air Ambulance. There are multiple factors that go into making this decision and this is generally orientated around the time-critical nature that someone requires treatment, the severity of their injuries and the specialisms that may be required that only certain hospitals can provide.

The ‘road ambulances’ are a branch of the NHS, whereas, the independent Air Ambulance Services are recognised as charitable organisations. Given then, these charitable organisations do not have the same funding reserve as the Road ambulances, the independent Air Ambulance charities must rely, almost solely, on donations.

A recent article in the Law Gazette has highlighted that Law Firms will now be attempting to recuperate the Air Ambulance’s mission costs, on a subrogated ‘gratuitous care’ claim basis (which I will shortly elaborate on) from Defendants. Essentially, this allows Claimant’s to financially repay these charities for the required medical assistance they received, in their hour of need. While the Claimant may have only had to use the Air Ambulance Service once, this cost is not insignificant and should not be dismissed.

In as many words, The Law Gazette recent article highlights that an Air Ambulance mission can cost approximately £4,000.00. Furthermore, ‘Air Ambulances UK’ publish on their website that the Air Ambulances across the UK are a party to over 70+ missions, daily. Therefore, based upon this evidence, their quotidian expenditure is upwards of £280,000.00. To consider this in even simpler terms; a Claimant repaying the cost of the mission that assisted them, will provide the Air Ambulance with the amount of funding to undertake a further mission and save another life.

‘Gratuitous Care’ is a rather simple concept. Essentially, the Claimant receives ‘care and/or assistance’ that was ‘above and beyond’ what could reasonably be expected but nonetheless invaluable towards their treatment/rehabilitation. It is often the case whereby an injured individual’s next of kin or a family member will provide ‘gratuitous care’ by picking up extra household chores or driving them to and from appointments. Their time and expenditure is recoverable under a subrogated ‘Gratuitous Care’ claim. Therefore, when the Air Ambulance staff provide treatment, care, and assistance to a Claimant, this too is lawfully recoverable under a ‘gratuitous care’ claim.

The bottom line of this means that the Air Ambulance organisations will be able to claim back their costs (regarding both time and expenditure) from the mission that assisted the injured Claimant. Greater financial income would likely mean that the Air Ambulance organisations are able to maintain their crew and helicopters, subsequently carrying on their undeniably necessary service for longer and perhaps with greater capacity.

Additionally, for the Claimant, this means that they will be able to thank the Air Ambulance, for providing the life-saving medical treatment, by ensuring that the charitable organisation responsible is financially compensated for the cost of the treatment/assistance provided. Crucially, it should be noted that this will be at no extra cost to those injured Claimants who were assisted. * Upon resolution of a Claimant’s case, the funds will be held ‘on trust’ and disbursed to the charitable organisation accordingly.

With these types of Claims, Minster appreciate it is highly likely challenges will arise, from Defendants. Nonetheless, the anticipation of Defendant’s arguments has already commenced.

Minster will be actively supporting these claims by working closely in conjunction with the Claimant’s that we represent and the Air Ambulance organisations. Concerning the latter, Minster do so with a view to compensate and contribute toward the sustainment of these charities who have provided our Client’s with lifesaving medical care, not only at the drop of a hat, but at their own expense. An expense that ultimately would not have occurred, at least in some cases, in the absence of the Defendant’s negligence.