My client, now 23, was involved in a serious road traffic accident on 12 April 2015, when she was 17 years old. She was the front seat passenger in a car being driven by her boyfriend. This car collided with the car in front before leaving the carriageway and hitting a tree. The driver was killed.
Approaching her 18th birthday, my client suffered serious and lifelong injury as a result of the collision, including brain damage with resultant permanent cognitive damage and personality change, as well as an L4 spinal fracture requiring fusion at L3-5, bony chest injuries, injuries to her internal organs including spleen and kidneys, and consequent psychiatric injuries.
As a result of her brain damage, my client lacked capacity both in relation to her litigation claim and her financial affairs.
Liability was never an issue in her case. The only issues were in relation to quantification. To establish the value of the claim a collaborative approach was needed between her case manager and various rehabilitation providers, to monitor and maximise my client's recovery and establish what the ongoing problems would be long term. These included:-
Problems with her memory and multi-tasking, feelings of disassociation with her body, severe frontal headache and difficulties with her vision. She developed marked noise intolerance and anxiety in social situations.
My client suffered spinal fractures requiring fusion, fractures of left scapula and clavicle together and several ribs with in associated lung contusions. As a result she suffers widespread pain and fatigue which failed to resolve and was expected to be permanent.
My client suffered splenic and renal lacerations resulting in daily abdominal pain, urinary urgency and bloating. She was diagnosed with IBS and persistent hunger secondary to a thalamic hemorrhage which was attributed to the accident.
My client still suffered with flashbacks and situational anxiety especially when driving. She has persistent low mood and no longer socialises with her friends as she once did.
The experts were agreed that my client needed ongoing input from specialists across a range of disciplines. Importantly it was said that professionals rather than her family should provide support, in order to avoid the risk of overreliance, to ensure goal setting, to monitor recovery and maximise independence.
To achieve this my client commenced a trial of independent living away from the family home and lasting a continued period of over 12 months. This was supported by all parties and funded in the claim. Ultimately the trial of independent living did go well, which was good news, but it also revealed a range of issues indicating what my client's ongoing, likely lifelong, issues would be.
In the 5 years that the claim continued, it was obvious that my client had made a recovery of sorts. She is physically mobile, although she has difficulties with walking and in particular with steps. She presents as an engaging and vivacious young woman, with great charm. She comes across for the most part very sympathetically, and her presentation is that of a typical young woman of her age. Certainly she was vastly improved in many areas, but it is important to stress that some of her limitations, though serious, are not self-evident to those who meet her.
For example, my client had developed an obsessive personality which makes her a difficult person to deal with. She would often make inappropriate comments about others in public putting her at risk and she demonstrated little interest in the needs of others. She was, until the trial of independent living, wholly reliant on her immediate family for all her help; and the attempts to ensure that she had proper professional support were only partly successful, and hard-won.
As a result of her physical limitations my client was prone to falling at home and required level accommodation. Emotionally, she can be extremely volatile often becoming quickly fatigued and suddenly and without warning will lose her temper completely with all around her. Frequent episodes of this were utterly typical demonstrating the need for ongoing professional support by way of case management and therapies.
While the litigation was largely amicable, the other side contested large parts of the claim. It was accepted by them that my client appeared to be very significantly injured but that it was plain from the events of the last 18 months – and in particular the trial of independent living – that she has indeed made a very significant if not complete recovery from all her injuries. As such, the insurers maintained that my client's future needs were minimal and would be provided by her family; and her claim for professional support worker assistance for the future was denied in its entirety (save for a small amount for assistance with childcare). There were minimal amounts offered for future care, case management, and rehabilitation, and nothing at all for accommodation.
The above contentions were not accepted by us as being realistic if the case proceeded to trial. It was obvious my client had not made a full recovery and any judge would accept that she had a reasonable need for some significant future care and case management – and indeed that it was that which had kept her on an even keel over the last 18 months or so. I also believed that the judge would accept that she needed level accommodation, as recommended by our experts.
The risk was that my client may simply have been unable to tolerate long term professional support and if so that would make very significant inroads into the claims for future care and case management, and for rehabilitation. If the judge ultimately concluded that she simply would not in the future be likely to tolerate the recommended assistance from anyone, whether professionally or her own family, then these claims for future care, case management and rehabilitation would be vulnerable.
Given the stark differences between us, it was necessary to narrow the issues between the parties by way of alternative dispute resolution. A joint settlement meeting was arranged after the witness evidence and expert evidence had been finalised. Eventually the claim was compromised for a further net payment of £3,250,000 which after including the interim payments of £525,000 to date, resulted in a lump sum settlement of about £3,770,000 in full and final settlement.
Shortly after the joint settlement meeting, the agreed settlement terms were approved by the court. The outcome was noted to be fair and reasonable. The settlement itself represented a very good outcome for my client and who now has the funds she needs to meet her ongoing needs.
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Originally published July 15, 2020.
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