Focus on serious and complicated personal injury
Thank you very much for all your hard work, especially as the outcome is better than expected. Can't thank you enough.
Serious personal injury cases are unfortunately all too common. Often they have hidden complications where specialist expert understanding is paramount in achieving a successful result.
"PI Lawyers at Alexander Harris have developed particular expertise in cases which are complicated, especially the areas of catastrophic, brain, head and spinal injuries. We have become concerned by the apparent increasing trend in many firms that specialise in personal injury to employ paralegals to conduct the work. We believe that it is vital that only qualified solicitors should be used where such specialist expertise is needed."
The following cases highlight some of the complex issues and complications that can arise from serious personal injury cases and provide an insight as to why a specialist lawyer is needed in these circumstances.
"It is important to ensure that all avenues are investigated fully and that cases are not settled prematurely. What may initially appear as a straightforward claim, may develop complex issues which require investigation, - as in this case."
A road traffic accident in October 1992 left Mr. M, a Managing Director aged 44, with what initially appeared to be a minor head injury, together with a laceration over the right eye, a broken nose, a fracture to the sternum, a laceration of the right knee, a fracture of the right tibia involving the ankle joint, injury to his lower back aggravating pre-existing lumbar spondylosis and various bruising.
Mrs M witnessed the aftermath of the accident and suffered psychological damage. Her claim was settled for £3,250. Mr M's claim however took on a more complex nature when a couple of years following the accident he developed a change in his personality.
A Consultant Neuro Psychiatrist confirmed that although Mr M had suffered a mild head injury, he had, as a consequence, suffered severe dysfunction. He commented that it is well recognised that the severity of dysfunction, especially in relation to behavioural changes and neuro psychiatric problems, does not always correlate with the severity of the injury. A Consultant Neuro Psychologist also confirmed that despite the mild nature of Mr. M's head injury, he was of the opinion that the personality changes were a direct result of the injury to the brain resulting in an organic personality disorder.
The Defendants' medical evidence alleged that Mr M had not in fact suffered brain damage, but rather a psychological reaction, which was being exacerbated by the litigation process.
Several months after the accident Mr M was made redundant. Expert evidence confirmed that after the accident he had been unable to cope with the pressures of his job. The Defendants alleged that Mr M would have been made redundant in any event and also that the company have been less profitable over recent years, and therefore the future loss of earnings claim projected, was unsustainable.
Although Mr M has now set up business on his own, we obtained evidence to show that his earnings were less than that which he would have earned had he stayed at his previous company.
After an initial offer of £50,000 was made, a joint conference was held at which a settlement figure of £112,894.80 was agreed, inclusive of CRU of £394.80. Both Mr and Mrs M's claims were funded by way of Conditional Fee Agreements.
Counsel - Tim Horlock QC
"Road traffic accidents can present some of the most complex and difficult cases such as when a car has run down a pedestrian. Liability and quantum become important issues. Cases of this type cannot be left to stagnate. When liability is contested, a trial date should speedily be obtained so that eyewitnesses can adequately recall their evidence. If the Plaintiff is seriously injured either with head or spinally injuries, liability has to be resolved, as the Plaintiffs will require interim payments simply to sustain a standard of living. The following case highlights the more complex issues which need to be dealt with."
Mary aged 11, was crossing a major road on her way to catch the school bus when she was knocked down by a car travelling at 30-35mph. A lot of school children were walking along the road which had a speed limit of 30mph. The streetlights were lit and the weather condition was fine but the road surface was wet. Mary stepped in front of the vehicle and the Defendant could not have avoided the collision. As a result of the impact Mary suffered a severe concussive head injury involving a fractured skull, blood clot and swelling of the brain. In addition she sustained orthopaedic injuries fracturing her left hip, shoulder and arm. She has been left with a profound weakness of the left arm and leg, with loss of balance, from which there will be no recovery and she has undergone a mental change resulting in poor powers of concentration and memory and a reduction of her general intelligence. There is a chance of her developing posttraumatic epilepsy. The neurological evidence suggests that she will always require assistance in daily living and supervision of the conduct of her personal and social affairs.
The difficulties of complex litigation
Mary will have a lifetime of dependency upon her parents who have provided all the care since the accident 3½ years ago. It is not only Mary who suffers but also her family, as the strain will inevitably take its toll.
The first issue which needs looking at is liability. Mary stepped out in front of the vehicle, so how can the Defendant be liable?
Regardless of Mary stepping out in front of the car, the Defendant will probably be held primarily liable for the accident because the burden is upon him to take into account his speed, knowledge of the area, the driving conditions and the environment he was in. If the accident could not have been avoided, it has to be shown that the speed the car was travelling at was in excess and therefore the injuries caused would have been less had he been driving at an appropriate speed.
How liability is determined is very important. If liability is established against the Defendant, Mary will be awarded all of her damages. If primary liability is established against the Defendant but Mary is held to have contributed to her accident, the percentage of her contribution will reduce her damages. If it is established that the Defendant did nothing wrong, was driving at a reasonable speed, could not have avoided the accident, Mary will lose.
Taking into account future loss of earnings, future care, and past losses, a case of this type could possibly be valued in the region of £1million. In order to calculate damages, reports from Care Specialists and Occupational Therapists have to be obtained. With regard to the future loss of earnings Employment Consultants need to be instructed.
Considerations also have to be given as to whether the case should proceed to a split trial. The argument for a split trial is that it is quicker, and if liability is found against the Defendant a quantum trial could be avoided. However, a split trial from a Claimant's point is not necessarily advantageous as the Trial Judge would not have available the account of the injuries the Claimant had sustained and the subsequent difficulties facing the family. The Claimant and Defendant's solicitors will consider tactics at all times. It is true a split trial may save costs but it is also true that two trials may have to be heard which will escalate the costs.
It is not the intention for these cases to show a comprehensive list of the difficulties of road traffic accidents, rather a guideline for the difficulties and complexities of personal injury litigation.
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