Pro Bono Story
*Liam, a young man in his early 20s, was the driver of a car involved in a fatal accident. When he turned up at Coroner’s Court to give evidence about the death of the other driver, his behaviour was erratic and he had trouble recalling the accident.
Liam was facing possible charges over the incident and was very agitated, believing his life was effectively over and that he would go to prison. Liam had a bit of a temper and a minor criminal record, with many post-accident outbursts. When he arrived to give evidence, he was not represented by a lawyer and had argued bitterly with his family.
Simon Michael, the duty lawyer at the court, who had previously set up the Pro Bono Coroner’s Court Representation Scheme, took on his case, representing him for free at the inquest.
Liam not only had no memory of the road traffic accident, but as Simon worked on the case it became apparent that he was not responsible for it. He had also suffered a severe head injury that had never been diagnosed, which had a negative effect on his behaviour after the accident.
The evidence heard at the inquest made it clear that Liam was not responsible for the accident and he escaped criminal charges. Simon subsequently advised a civil claim against the insurers of the deceased driver in respect of that driver’s negligence to put care in place for Liam that he needed as a result of his head injury.
“The situation was so complex,” says Simon, that it was “like an exam question – but we eventually found the means to disentangle it.”
Simon continued to represent Liam even after all these events as his mother, who was his principal carer, began to misspend her son’s compensation. After another legal battle, a replacement litigation friend and deputy for Liam was appointed by the Court of Protection.
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity