Last week I was in court in the UK about the fall that left me paralysed in 2010.
For legal reasons I could not talk about the case and in that vacuum there have been unbalanced accounts of the court proceedings in the media.
Whatever the court’s judgment I wanted to explain to you why I took this case. To talk as directly as possible with all of you who’ve supported me to build a life after paralysis; those who contribute to the Mark Pollock Trust and who are involved in Run in the Dark.
Public Liability Insurance Policy
The headlines that said that I was suing my friends were misleading and provocative. My claim was made where there was a public liability insurance policy in place to meet the cost of accidents like mine. Most house insurance policies contain such cover for this exact purpose. Therefore the insurance company’s solicitors defended the case. My friends did not have to hire their own solicitors. They did not have any legal costs. They were never at risk of having to compensate me from their own pockets for the costs I bear as a result of my injury.
Limiting the Claim
It is important to me that you know that I expressly limited my claim for damages to the cap on my friends’ insurance policy. This is a fraction of the financial cost I bear as a result of the fall. But I did not think it fair that my friends would have even one moment of worry that they would have to personally pay me a penny.
Why I Took this Case
This was the culmination of a process that took almost 5 years. During my initial 7 month stay in the National Spinal Injuries Centre in the UK the other paralysed patients and I were advised by healthcare professionals, social workers and legal experts. They told me that life after spinal cord injury is incredibly tough and in their experience it is especially so for those who do not receive a payment of damages for their injury.
Spinal cord injury is described as a ‘catastrophic injury’ because not only is it horrific for its physical and life-altering aspects, it is also prohibitively expensive. As the press reported, the costs when anyone is paralysed run to the millions.
I was told to check all possible sources of insurance and home insurance policies. So, as part of the process, I established that my friends had home insurance to meet my claim.
The Mark Pollock Trust
While I was still in hospital some friends at home set up the Mark Pollock Trust and its independent board of Trustees. Supporters began donating, volunteering their time and expertise and, eventually, taking part in Run in the Dark. The Mark Pollock Trust’s mission soon became to find and connect people worldwide to fast track a cure for paralysis. Most recently we employed a research scientist to help build a spinal cord injury research program in Dublin.
Those involved with the Trust also felt it was not right to ask individuals for financial support if I did not pursue this insurance policy in place for the very purpose of covering some of the costs associated with my injury. The only reason not to continue with the case was that it would be tough on everyone concerned. Of course, no one wants to have to involve their friends, or family for that matter, in litigation.
But the insurer would not discuss settlement of my claim and it became clear they would only pay if a judge sitting in court after a full hearing established legal liability. My solicitor issued proceedings and I instructed him to write to the insurance company’s solicitors to tell them that I was limiting my claim to the value of the policy and that they must tell my friends this, which they did.
To be absolutely clear I confirm that no money at all from either the Mark Pollock Trust, Run in the Dark or any other fundraising done in my name has been used to finance this case in any way, ever.
I hope you understand that I took this case because it was not right to carry out public fundraising without also making a claim on a public liability policy in place for the purpose of covering some of my care and rehabilitation costs. I took both expert advice and advice from my friends and many of you who have supported me through some really tough decisions, but ultimately I took this case because I believed that it was the right thing to do in the circumstances.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.