Compensation for career changing injuries
I recently settled a claim for a lady who was injured in a very frightening accident. She is a European national who was in the UK studying cordon bleu cookery (she worked as a chef at high profile events during the London Olympics).
She was crossing in front of a stationary car that was about to pull out onto the main road. She had made it about halfway across the front of his bonnet when she slipped on something on the ground. As she fell she remembers trying to catch the driver’s eye.
Witness evidence later showed that the driver had looked to his right before pulling out but had not looked right-left-right. He drove over her body where she had slipped to the ground. Presumably, not knowing what he had driven over, the driver put his car in reverse and drove backward over her. After a few seconds, he put his car in drive again and drove forwards and over her body for the third time.
A passer-by screamed at the driver and made him stop and get out of his car. He left her trapped underneath the car as he got out. Fortunately, she did not suffer a head injury but perhaps unfortunately for her she was not knocked unconscious during the whole ordeal.
At the hospital, she was told that she had suffered multiple and severe injuries. She fractured almost all of her ribs and punctured a lung. She had severe pelvic fractures for which she needed emergency surgical stabilisation and a pelvic fixator was applied. She injured her bladder, lacerated her liver and suffered a psychiatric injury.
Because she was an EU citizen she was given lifesaving treatment by the hospital but after about 7 weeks was told that she had to make arrangements to get herself back to her home country for the rest of her treatment and rehabilitation. Her mother found an orthopaedic surgeon and nurse who were willing to fly to London to accompany her on the flight back home. She was eventually flown back on a medical bed in a specialist plane with her external pelvic fixator still in place. At this time she could not weight bear and was entirely dependent on others.
Being a very determined and driven person who cared deeply about her future career – she did all she could to get back on her feet and to return to work as quickly as possible. Despite her extensive injuries, she went through the intensive rehabilitation process and remarkably, she returned to London 9 months later to continue her studies and to return to work as a chef.
Unfortunately, she has been left with a permanent disability in that she has suffered a nerve injury that affects her right leg. She has one leg shorter than the other and is unable to lift her right foot because of that nerve damage. She was given a splint to wear on her right foot and ankle to keep it held in the upright position. She had had to modify the way that she walks because of this.
Despite her best efforts within a few months, it became clear to her that she will not be able to realise her dreams of becoming a chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant. She is unable to work long shifts in a kitchen standing on her feet.
The academy she trained at were so impressed with her achievements (she was the top of her class by a very long way), that they offered her a job as a tutor teaching other students. As well as doing this she decided to obtain further qualifications and enrolled with the Institute of Optimum Nutrition to work towards a Diploma qualification. Had she not been injured my client would not have altered her career path in this way.
Due to the unusual nature of the accident it took the Defendant’s insurers about a year to admit liability. They would not do so until they had seen the outcome of the police investigations and had access to the full police file and witness statements that the police were prepared to release. Despite this delay, once the admission was made by the insurers they were keen to help my client with her rehabilitation and change of career. The insurers made generous interim payments to allow her to purchase much better walking splints than she had been given previously, the insurers paid for her to have a course of CBT therapy to deal with the psychological consequences of the accident and they paid for her to enrol with the Institute of Nutrition and for her first year’s course fees.
It took some time for these things to be put in place and for my client to benefit from her new splints and to settle into her new role at work. The insurers made it clear from the admission of liability that they would be open to a round table meeting or another form of mediation or negotiation to bring the claim to a conclusion. Ultimately, we were able to put to them a fully particularised schedule of financial loss setting out her financial losses, her loss of earnings, both past, and future as well as for the ongoing cost of replacement orthotics.
The insurer made an initial offer to settle that really wasn’t too far away from the amount that Counsel had told my client her claim was probably worth. After a series of very quick negotiation telephone calls the claim was brought to a conclusion for a six-figure sum. My client is very pleased that she can now move on with her life and get on with her new career. It is a shame that the Defendant’s insurers initial investigations into liability took so long to complete and that they would not pay for rehabilitation until they had admitted breach of duty. Having said that once the admission was forthcoming the benefits of sensible interim payments were clear to see. Without those, her claim may well have taken considerably longer to reach a conclusion.