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Clutha victims face waiting a year or more for compensation

COMPENSATION claims for those injured in the Clutha helicopter crash could take more than a year to settle, it has emerged.

No-one injured or bereaved in the crash has yet received compensation, as legal wrangles continue ahead of the six-month anniversary of the crash on Thursday.

Although lawyers acting for the families and victims of the tragedy stress that lengthy delays are not unusual in such complex cases, it could mean those with the most severe injuries and psychological traumas could be waiting more than a year for payouts.

Negotiations are being led by Glasgow-based Thompsons ­Solicitors, which is handling more than 30 cases, and aviation specialists Irwin Mitchell, with 17 clients.

Due to the strict liability ­principle underpinning the Civil Aviation Act, operator Bond - which provided the aircraft to Police Scotland - is automatically held responsible, regardless of the outcome of an ongoing investigation.

To date Bond's insurers have covered interim payments for families and victims in financial hardship, as well as physiotherapy and counselling. Money has also been paid out from the Clutha charity fund, which raised more than £450,000 to help those affected. However, final lump sums are still outstanding.

Andrew Henderson, a partner at Thompsons, said: "There will be some cases that are likely to be settled completely in the course of the next six months. But there are other cases which, by their nature, where the client's injuries are ­serious and their circumstances are such that it may take longer."

The Clutha tragedy highlights the obstacles facing personal injury claimants.

Mr Henderson, whose previous cases include the sinking of the Flying Phantom tug boat on the River Clyde in 2007, said: "If someone is not yet back at work, but there is a possibility that they will return to work, until that becomes clearer you don't know what their loss of earnings for the future is going to be - and you need to be clear on that. Because if you settle a claim for a client, that is a once-and-for-all payment."

Thompsons also represent a handful of bereaved families, who may include various separate claimants. Their payouts take into account both the financial impact - for example the loss of a spouse's income - and "grief and distress", which Scottish courts are increasingly levying on the basis of how close a person was to the deceased.

"If there are three children, you can no longer assume that they will all get the same amount," said Mr Henderson. "The court might look into what sort of relationship they had, how often they saw the parents, whether they lived hundreds of miles away or close by and saw them on a regular basis. It's a complicated area."

Elaine Russell, a partner at Irwin Mitchell Scotland, said: "While we secured interim payments several months ago for some of our clients, we are presently in the process of notifying some of our clients of significant developments in terms of gaining a resolution to the legal cases."

A spokesman for Bond Air Services, said: "We continue to work with Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland and others.

"We have also been working with the legal representatives of the families and dependents of those affected to process the many compensation claims as swiftly as possible."

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