Our client in this case, Mr X, was a member of a Rambling Association and was among other members on a four-day holiday to Scotland at the time of his accident.
The Association had hired a single deck, 49 seat coach and driver for the trip and our client, along with two others, occupied seats at the rear of the coach during the journey.
The coach travelled over a level crossing, severely jolting and causing all three passengers at the rear of the coach to be thrown upwards from their seats, sustaining injury.
Although our client’s companions suffered injuries in the accident, they were relatively minor in comparison to those suffered by our client who was aged 61 at the time. Mr X suffered a spinal cord severance at cervical spine level, leaving him tetraplegic, together with associated problems including spasticity and obstructive sleep apnoea. It was apparent that there would be little or no prospect of any significant improvement in his condition, and constant care would be required.
Investigations/ substantiating the claim
Mr X was interviewed in the Intensive Care Unit at Newcastle hospital to establish the circumstances of the accident. This allowed our team to commence preliminary investigations including enquiries with the Highway Authority and detailed questionnaires to those who were passengers on the coach at the time of the accident, to establish the seating pattern and the events leading up to the accident.
There was a delay in receiving the Police Accident Report and when it was made available, it was inconclusive. The driver’s statement estimated a speed of 20-25 mph; there was to be no prosecution of the coach driver for his part in the accident.
At this stage in our investigations, Solicitors were instructed by the defendants who unfortunately appeared to hold little to no regard for the critical circumstances of our client and the obvious need for urgent progress, delaying matters unnecessarily at every stage.
Following receipt of the inconclusive Police Report, it was important to our client’s claim to determine the precise speed the coach was travelling at and so disclosure of the vehicles Tachograph was requested and instructions were promptly sent to a Tachograph Expert. Following receipt of the Expert’s report, it was concluded that the coach went over the level crossing at a speed ‘not less than 34 miles per hour’.
In addition to the findings of the Tachograph specialist, a reconstruction expert was instructed to prepare a report and detailed plans in relation to the layout of the level crossing and the road around it. Reconstructions were carried out by the expert to replicate the speed registered in the tachograph and identify the impact such a speed would have on the coach in question. The report supported the claim that the coach was travelling too fast given the nature and visibility of the level crossing hump and the driving characteristics of a long–wheel-based coach.
Mr X was cared for at a specialist spinal unit in the period following the accident. During this time, Smith Jones instructed medical experts to advise on the future levels of care required, accommodation and specialist equipment. The reports that followed indicated that the accident had caused Mr X’s life expectancy to be reduced by a period of ‘at least ten years’.
Preparing for the future
Following discharge from the specialist spinal unit, Mr X had been residing in a private care home. In addition to a series of conferences with various medical and rehabilitation experts, evidence was sought from a Nursing Expert, Occupational therapist and Chartered Surveyors to assess the needs and likely cost of modifying Mr X’s property to allow him to return home as he wished.
Reports prepared by two of the individual specialists recommended that Mr X should now be accommodated in his own adapted bungalow with one-to-one nursing support.
The surveyors report suggested a number of extensive modifications to the property to allow him to return to home. Recommendations also included the provision for an electric wheelchair, specialised physiotherapy and an assessment by an environmental control and computer specialist which were all accounted for in the settlement of Mr X’s compensation.
Settling the claim
Following negotiations with the defendants, we were able to secure an interim payment in the sum of £250,000.00 and in the months to follow, a full settlement was reached.
Mr X’s Damages figure was made up of Lump sums totalling £960,000.00, along with annually indexed periodical payments commencing at the figure of £180,000.00 to be paid in December each year.
This was a complex case with multiple potential Defendants and a client that had suffered devastating and lifechanging injuries that required round the clock care.
A swift and just outcome to the proceedings was vital to give the Claimant a chance to establish himself in his own property. It was crucial that we acted quickly to establish liability and that we continued to progress the case when faced with seemingly impossible obstructions.
Our team worked alongside numerous experts in their field, drawing upon their specialist knowledge to ensure Mr X’s settlement would comfortably accommodate his future needs in addition to those which were already known to us. This was a particularly arduous task as the future needs in any serious injury claim can change unexpectedly