N.S. father worried court case could claw back funds from brain injury victims
The father of a Nova Scotia woman with a severe brain injury is closely watching a court case this week, in which the province is trying to claw back the settlement awarded to a car crash victim in a similar position.
Richard Young travelled to Halifax from his Cape Breton home to sit in on a case that goes to court on Wednesday.
It involves Joellan Huntley, who suffered a severe brain injury in a 1996 car crash in the Annapolis Valley.
For the last 17 years, Huntley has been a patient at a provincial rehabilitation centre, with the province paying for her daily care.
Now the Nova Scotia government is going after what’s left of her nearly $1 million settlement to cover that cost, something legislation passed in 2003 allows it to do.
Young, whose daughter Lindsay suffered a brain injury in a 2004 car crash, is worried about the outcome of the case, that it could mean whatever money she’s awarded in the future could be taken from her instead of used for the rehab she needs.
After four years in a hospital, Lindsay has been moved to a nursing home.
“The whole goal here is to improve her quality of life,” Young said.
The money she receives through insurance goes toward her long-term care, but there isn’t enough to pay for speech therapy or rehab, he said.
Young has been working with lawyer Ray Wagner in hopes of a settlement.
“We've taken action against the driver of the car Lindsay was in, as well as the other vehicle, for failing to avoid that collision,” Wagner said.
But Young is worried that even if his daughter is awarded a settlement, it will go to the government and not toward rehab.
Wagner said one option is for the province to change the rules to come in line with other provinces.
“We as a people in this province are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable people in our society, and you cannot find more vulnerable people than severely brain injured people,” Wagner said.
The province’s position is that insurance settlements received as the result of accidents are typically intended to cover the cost of care, and so are considered assets that can be used to cover those costs.
Once it has been fully used up, the cost is covered by the province.
This is consistent with government policies for continuing care, like nursing homes, according to the Nova Scotia department of community services.
Young said he just wants his daughter, and others like her, treated fairly.
“Not put them in a home and warehouse them away and forget about them and that's what they're doing,” he said.
The Youngs are scheduled to go to court in September 2015.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster