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Brain injury claim – Case study Mrs C S

The circumstances

The Claimant, who had lived and worked in England as an artist for several years, was visiting the property of a friend when she fell from a balcony some 15 to 20 feet to the ground below. Contributory negligence was an issue throughout the case. Arguments continued around the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.

Mrs C S sustained a serious brain injury including a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage, multiple orthopaedic injuries including several fractures of the vertebrae, injuries to her lungs, hypoxia and internal hypercarbia. She was, initially, gravely ill and was treated at the Neurological Unit at Southampton General Hospital, and then at the Rehabilitation Unit at Donald Wilson House, St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester with whom we have strong links.

The Claimant, ultimately, made a miraculous recovery, but the main persisting problems came from the brain injury including impairments of working memory and concentration; rambling speech / difficulty keeping to one subject, altered personality and social withdrawal to name a few.

The Case

Claire Watson took over the case from another fee earner in the firm due to the complexities of the issues in 2009, when the case had been ongoing for three years. The Claimant had been concerned about advice regarding quantum which essentially came about because of the difficulty in proving her loss of earnings claim. This was ultimately dealt with as a “Blamire” lump sum award which was a good outcome in the circumstances as there was initially doubt as to whether any real loss was provable despite the injuries sustained. Claire Watson undertook the questioning of numerous witnesses, with input from her assistant solicitors.

A great deal of work was put into supporting the Claimant throughout her rehabilitation and encouraging her to work with a case manager. Once strategies for coping were put in place, and the right level of domestic support purchased, she functioned well, with little case management input.

The loss of earnings claim was extremely challenging as there was no provable past history strongly supporting a loss and little tangible evidence of the likelihood of future loss as she completed a post graduate diploma in visual arts post-accident and was painting at the same level as pre-accident. Close liaison with family members was key including with her son and daughter who lived abroad. Lay witness evidence was key in the claim.

Interim payments were achieved following filing of an application. The Claimant came from a wealthy family and the Defendants were initially reluctance to assist.

The matter settled at a joint settlement meeting in October 2010. The initial offer was £70,000. However, the Defendants were ultimately pushed to £165,000 which took into account a deduction for contributory negligence.

Post Settlement

George Ide’s investment department have advised Mrs C S since the settlement of her claim, which has proved a complex situation in view of her affairs and assets in her country of origin.

The Claimant’s team

The team was Claire Watson and two of the firm’s assistant solicitors who worked under her close direction in interviewing witnesses and sorting voluminous amounts of documents relating to the Claimant’s financial affairs. Counsel was Tom Coleman who retained Mrs C S’s confidence and respect throughout, despite the fact that, at times, hard advice had to be given about prospects of success. The medical experts were Mr A Osbourne Orthopaedic surgeon, Mr David Price Neurosurgeon, Dr R McCarter Neuropsychologist, Mike Startup Accountant and Jane Hogg Aids, Equipment and Care. Case Managers were Ainscough Associates.

Important points

This is a case where the fee earner developed a strong relationship of trust and support with the client so that when disappointing news had to be given, the client trusted and accepted the advice. Serious injuries do not always result in life-changing sums of money. The facts in this case were particularly complex.