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Research Report: The legal needs of people with chronic illness or disability, Justice issues paper 11
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The legal needs of people with chronic illness or disability, Justice issues paper 11  ( 2009 )  Cite this report



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Experience of different types of legal events


Participants with a disability

Based on regression analyses controlling for relevant demographic factors, Coumarelos et al. (2006) reported that, compared with other participants, those with a disability had increased odds of reporting nine of the 10 most frequent types of legal events. They had increased odds of reporting:

  • accident/injury events (1.4 times higher)
  • consumer events (2.1 times higher)
  • credit/debt events (1.7 times higher)
  • education events (1.8 times higher)
  • employment events (1.5 times higher)
  • government events (2.0 times higher)
  • housing events (1.6 times higher)
  • general crime events (1.7 times higher)
  • family events (1.7 times higher).19

Table 6 presents the percentage of participants who reported experiencing one or more legal events broken down by disability status and type of legal event.

Table 6: Incidence of legal events by disability status and type of legal event
Participants with and participants without a disability, 2003
Area of lawLegal event group
Disability status
Disability
(n=508) a
No disability
(n=1917) a
% of participants reporting 1+ events
CivilAccident/injury b
18.9
19.2
Business
5.7
4.9
Consumer
26.6
20.8
Credit/debt
14.4
11.4
Education
8.3
7.1
Employment
11.0
12.3
Government
24.8
18.2
Health c
10.4
1.3
Housing
24.2
22.2
Human rights
10.2
4.6
Wills/estates d
19.3
13.5
Total civil
66.7
61.3
CriminalDomestic violence
5.1
3.6
General crime
30.5
25.6
Traffic offences e
3.6
3.1
Total crime
34.3
29.1
FamilyFamily
10.0
8.0
Unclassified f
1.2
0.3
All event types
72.8
68.1
a n=508 participants with a disability and 1917 participants without a disability. Given their life circumstances, some participants did not have the potential to experience some types of legal events. Specifically, only participants who:
  • owned a small business could potentially experience business events (disability n=93, no disability n=469)
  • were full- or part-time students, or were responsible for a student, could potentially experience education events (disability n=168, no disability n=904)
  • were employed full- or part-time could potentially experience employment events (disability n=212, no disability n=1201)
  • had a disability, had been institutionalised in a psychiatric ward or had cared for an elderly or disabled person could potentially experience health legal events (disability=508, no disability=256).
b The raw percentages of accident/injury events were virtually identical for the group of participants with a disability and the group without a disability. However, this finding is largely due to accident/injury events being less prevalent amongst older participants (see Coumarelos et al. 2006, p. 83). The participants with a disability were significantly older than the other participants. When appropriate adjustments are made for this age difference (e.g. in the regression analysis) between the two groups, it is clear that disability increases the likelihood of experiencing accident/injury events.
c Information on health legal events was missing for two participants with a disability.
d Information on wills/estates events was missing for one participant without a disability.
e Information on traffic offence events was missing for one participant with disability.
f ‘Unclassified’ legal events consist of events that were unclearly described by participants.
Note: Participants sometimes reported multiple legal events (within or across legal event groups).

Disability type sub-groups

The present study examined whether the incidence of different types of legal events among participants with a disability depended on disability type. According to the chi-square results, there were no significant differences among the disability type sub-groups in their reported incidence for 14 of the 15 legal event groups.20

The chi-square result for health legal events was significant, and suggested that the sub-group with a mental health problem had a significantly higher incidence of health legal events compared with the other disability type sub-groups.21 Whereas 23.3 per cent of participants with a mental health problem reported experiencing health legal events, under 10 per cent of participants with a sensory disability, physical disability or chronic condition reported experiencing health legal events (see Table 7).

Table 7: Incidence of legal events by disability type and type of legal event
Participants with a disability, 2003
Area of lawLegal event group
Disability type
Mental health problem
(n=43) a
Sensory disability
(n=28) a
Physical disability
(n=235) a
Chronic condition
(n=167) a
Multiple types

(n=30) a
% of participants reporting 1+ events
CivilAccident/injury
16.3
10.7
22.1
16.8
16.7
Business
7
3.6
7.2
4.8
0
Consumer
34.9
14.3
25.1
25.1
40
Credit/debt
16.3
7.1
14.5
12.6
26.7
Education
11.6
3.6
7.2
9
6.7
Employment
2.3
7.1
12.3
12.6
6.7
Government
30.2
14.3
21.3
27.5
33.3
Health b
23.3
3.7
8.5
9
20
Housing
23.3
32.1
18.7
28.1
33.3
Human rights
9.3
14.3
9.4
7.8
23.3
Wills/estates
27.9
10.7
17.9
21
13.3
Total civil
72.1
42.9
64.7
71.3
70
CriminalDomestic violence
9.3
0
4.7
4.8
10
General crime
34.9
10.7
29.4
32.9
36.7
Traffic offences c
2.3
0
3
5.4
3.3
Total crime
44.2
10.7
31.9
37.7
40
FamilyFamily
11.6
3.6
10.2
9.6
13.3
Unclassified d
0
3.6
0.9
1.2
3.3
All event types
79.1
46.4
70.6
78.4
73.3
a N=503 participants with a disability. Disability type was missing for four participants and the participant with an intellectual disability was excluded from the disability type categorisation. Given their life circumstances, some participants did not have the potential to experience some types of legal events. Specifically, only participants who:
  • owned a small business could potentially experience business events (mental health problem n=7, sensory disability n=8, physical disability n=81, chronic condition n=3, multiple types n=5)
  • were full- or part-time students, or were responsible for a student, could potentially experience education events (mental health problem n=15, sensory disability n=5, physical disability n=41, chronic condition n=59, multiple types n=6)
  • were employed full- or part-time at some time during the reference period could potentially experience employment events (mental health problem n=15, sensory disability n=9, physical disability n=98, chronic condition n=77, multiple types n=10).
b Information on health legal events was missing for one participant with a sensory disability and one participant with a physical disability.
c Information on traffic offence events was missing for one participant with a physical disability.
d ‘Unclassified’ legal events consist of events that were unclearly described by participants.
Note: Participants sometimes reported multiple legal events (within or across legal event groups).

However, further analysis suggested that the significant result for health legal events was driven by the health legal events that are specific to mental health problems. Two of the health legal events — involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation (Question 42A) and other mental health care issue (Question 42B) — were only asked of participants with a mental health problem. Furthermore, a number of other health legal events (Question 53) were only relevant to those who had been detained in a psychiatric ward. When these events were excluded from the health legal event group and the chi-square was recalculated, it was no longer significant.22 Thus, the results suggest that the sub-group with a mental health problem did not differ from the other disability type sub-groups in their incidence of health legal events that are not related to mental health.

  


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Coumarelos, C & Wei, Z 2009, The legal needs of people with different types of chronic illness or disability, Justice issues paper 11, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney