Injury compensation including costs of business class flights
I acted for Mr S in a claim for damages following a road traffic accident in April 2012. He was riding his motorcycle home after a business meeting in London. As he was riding along the main road, a car pulled out of a side road to his right and collided with him. He lost control of his motorcycle and slid some 20 to 30 metres before ending up in a ditch by the side of the road.
Mr S was taken by emergency services to a major trauma centre. He suffered a significant fracture to his left hip, left shoulder fracture and fractured left hand. He was admitted and underwent surgery to fix the fracture with metalwork. He was eventually discharged some 3 weeks later.
Initially, Mr S made an impressive physical recovery. He was able to walk without crutches within 3 months and was back at work within the same time frame. He instructed me in 2012 and I quickly obtained a full admission of liability from the car driver’s insurers.
Psychologically he struggled. He suffered from nightmares and flashbacks. I arranged for him to be examined by a consultant psychiatrist and then put in place cognitive behavioural therapy and EMDR. The treatment was successful.
Whilst Mr S made impressive progress initially, after a few months his symptoms plateaued. He continued to suffer from pain and stiffness from his left hip, especially in cold weather. He had suffered a significant and complex fracture and was told by his treating surgeon there was a high chance of needing further surgery in the future.
I arranged for him to be examined by a leading orthopaedic consultant who confirmed that he was already developing arthritis in his hip and within 5 years he was likely to require a total hip replacement.
This was a great concern to Mr S, as he was only in mid-forties. Hip replacements have a limited life expectancy and on average need to be revised within 15 to 20 years. With a large expectancy of another 40 years this meant that Mr S may require 2 revision surgeries following the total hip replacement.
Whilst the symptoms troubled Mr S, he wanted to delay the primary hip replacement for as long as possible in the hope of at least avoiding one of the likely revision surgeries. Therefore he decided to settle his claim before undergoing the replacement surgery. I included a significant claim for the cost of the surgeries on a private basis.
The insurers were generally reasonable throughout the case but there was one major sticking point between the parties over a claim for business class travel. Such claims are common in catastrophic brain or spinal injury cases and in my experience are rarely challenged by insurers. Mr S regularly went on holiday to America. He had flown following the accident and found sitting economy extremely uncomfortable. The flight lasted around 9 hours and during that time his hip would become incredibly stiff and painful. He had to arrange stopovers to break up the flight’s time. I saw no reason why he should not be able to claim for the additional cost of flying business class. On this basis, the claim was included for the difference between an economy and business class seat on annual flights to America. My view was that this claim would be accepted by a court.
The orthopaedic consultant instructed by me confirmed that in the circumstances it would be reasonable for Mr S to fly business class so that he had extra legroom and space to move around. The insurers instructed their own orthopaedic consultant, who conceded that it was reasonable for Mr S to have extra legroom on flights but stated that it was not necessary for him to fly business class and that a seat in a premium economy would be sufficient.
The insurers strongly resisted this aspect of the claim in principle and offered a small amount for the additional cost of premium economy seats. They indicated that they did not want to be paying for Mr S to have a pleasure of a nicer meal and free champagne during his travels.
I felt the claim for business class travel was a reasonable one and was clearly supported by expert medical evidence. Eventually, the insurers relented and Mr S recovered a figure which represented the cost of upgrading his seat to business class once a year for the rest of his life. The case settled very close to trial and Mr S received a significant six-figure sum.