Child Brain Injury- Jamie Pinkerton
Jamie was hit by a car as he rode his bicycle home from school back in 2006. He suffered a badly broken leg in the accident and his head hit the windscreen fracturing his nasal bones. He said afterwards that he remembered the accident though this was probably bravado and unlikely save that he may have had what are known as “islands of memory” as he was taken firstly to his local hospital in the ambulance in Durham and then to the main Neurological hospital in Newcastle.
Whilst he was there he suffered an epileptic seizure and had to be sedated and was unconscious whilst they sorted the fractures out only regaining consciousness some 12 hours later the next day on the ward.
Jamie goes home
Jamie made a remarkable recovery he was soon released from hospital although he was still on crutches and in plaster but the hospital did nothing to assist him in relation to his head injury and the family were not told about the extent of the head injury save that he was ok now and had suffered a couple of fractures to his face. They were given no advice about the fact that he may have also suffered brain damage in the accident and this may have a lifelong effect on him. Some years later when we investigated this , expert Neurosurgeons in the case were of the view that the CT Scan of the head taken at the hospital did show evidence of brain damage.
The accident had occurred in the November of his last year at big school and in the run up to his GCSE’s such that he had a long period off school recovering and only went back for a period of 2 weeks from then until the exams which took place in the June and he left the school. Jamie was not a gifted student but had a very good talent for anything mechanical and loved and had a gift for working with engines or cars. His Uncle had taken him under his wing when Jamie’s parents had divorced when he was 11 and he had taken Jamie out every weekend and helped develop these interests such that he believed Jamie would one day be a car mechanic or work in Industry with engines etc . Jamie had also been keen on possibly joining the Navy where his best friend ended up.
Problems start to surface
After Jamie made a full recovery from the broken leg his mother took him to see a local solicitor and a claim was brought on his behalf for compensation against the driver who had hit him that day. At this time his mother noticed Jamie had “changed” since the accident in that he was no longer helpful around the home, or polite and kind as he had been but was argumentative and seemed to lose motivation for anything even the engines and cars he had been so keen on before.The arguments got so bad that his mother couldn’t cope and Jamie moved out of the home to live with his Grandmother who lived in the same village. He also found it impossible to concentrate at college having enrolled on a course after his GCSE’s . From having predicted grades of B’s in those GCSE’s before his accident he left big school with a couple of C’s and a D but the fact that he had managed to pass any exam at all given the time he had off and his injuries was testament to the fact that his intellect had not been affected by the accident and the head injury but also confirmed that a combination of the time he missed in the run up to the exam and his brain injury which had caused subtle difficulties , had a massive effect on his ability in the exams.
Trying to find work
Jamie struggled to find any work and was told to leave college as he was disruptive in the class and simply lost all motivation and focus despite his pre-accident interests and hopes for the future. The lecturers at the college had not known Jamie before the accident so they assumed his behaviour was typical and he had no support from anywhere .His family and his mother just assumed it was part of his going through adolescence and the college just thought he was a problem teenager and were glad to have him leave the course he had enrolled for. His Uncle had no idea that the changes in his behaviour were anything to do with the accident when he was 15 but he continued to look out for him and was able to secure a job for Jamie on a production line doing repetitive and mundane work at a local factory. Jamie was regularly in trouble there with his time keeping as he struggled with fatigue and concentration issues. He was often inappropriate with other workers and fell out with some of the migrant staff employed often from Eastern Europe who ,like Jamie, were on very low wages. Despite being disciplined about his behaviour on numerous occasions he was able to just about retain this job mainly due to his own determination not to let his Uncle down but also as he was desperate for money to pay his bills and the employer overlooked his behaviour as it was had to find staff for their factory on such low wages.
Dawning of a realisation
The family had arranged for Jamie’s Legal case to be transferred to me in 2009 as they were unhappy at the delays in the case . At that stage ,the previous solicitor had only obtained a report from a surgeon dealing with the leg fracture but nothing else. I instructed a Neurosurgeon to review the hospital records and as soon as I was told the history of his problems which seemed to stem from the accident it seemed to me that the various difficulties he had had which had lead to him leaving home to live with his Gran, leaving college and his general change in personality and behaviour were very similar to other people I had acted for before who had suffered a brain injury in an accident. The reports came back from experts in brain injury confirming the fears I had but at least giving the family and his Mother some understanding of why her son was so different and why she had found him so hard to live with after the accident.
The claim itself
Not only did the family find the new information about their son having suffered brain damage in the accident difficult to hear but the insurer of the driver of the car that had hit him also did not accept this or agree to this be as a result of the accident even though they saw the records for themselves from the hospital that showed he had suffered a seizure, was unconscious for some time and had suffered the facial fractures to his head and face. For them they saw a young lad who had left school without any real qualifications from a working class family who was able to hold down a job and therefore they wanted to only compensate him for the injury to his leg and did not think he needed any help in the future. The Insurer’s position, in my view, is ALWAYS to save money just as everyone finds out when any claim is made against your insurance even for the smallest item they don’t want to have to pay out unless they absolutely have to. The cause of the accident had been settled they accepted their driver was to blame but Jamie had to also accept 50% of the blame for crossing the roundabout at a time when he should have waited for the car to pass so any compensation he s to receive would be only half of the value.
I was aware that the medical experts all were of the view Jamie had suffered brain damage and that this would have a profound effect on his future. At this point , the problems Jamie had at work had got so bad he was told to leave so he was made unemployed. His Gran suffered a stroke and he was unable to care for her and when she subsequently died soon after he was made homeless and had no other choice but to return to his mother’s home. His Mother had by now seen the medical reports and the records and was aware that Jamie couldn’t help his problems and so she wanted to try to help him and agreed to him moving back into her home.
It soon became clear that without prompting guidance and help he would spend all day in bed. He was by this time in his 20’s but still acting as very much a perpetual teenager trapped forever mentally in the age group of a 13-14-year-old.The expert evidence from the Doctors recommended that he needed a full case management package to help motivate and bring some quality back into his life together with more structured routines and possibly voluntary work that was of the kind he could cope with and get some sense of achievement and purpose.
The Insurers position
The Insurer of the motor vehicle that hit Jamie tried to blame the hospital who treated him after the collision, then they argued that his problems were related to a developing mental health problem of a possible schizophrenia which they argued was in place before the accident and as such his problems were nothing to do with his head injury. They demanded disclosure of historical school and GP records which were sent to them and after such a massive search they were only able to point to a few problem months Jamie had had when he was only 11 which was clearly related to his parents separating and his dad moving away to live with a new partner who had another family to look after. Then the Insurer’s solicitors tried to argue his problems were due to a pre-existing malformation which had shown up on a MR scan of the brain taken in 2012 only for all of the experts to discount this as totally unconnected with his problems. They valued the claim to be worth no more than 10,000 pounds for the injury to the leg and made a derisory offer on that basis. They put all of these all of these very different arguments before the District Judge, some of which were supported by their experts, and as such they successfully resisted my attempts to seek an interim payment to help pay for what Jamie needed and the case after 6 years of battles went to a full trial before the Judge in Newcastle in February 2016.
The Trial and conclusion
In February 2016 the trial commenced of this case heard by HHJ Freedman in the High Court in Newcastle. The family all gave evidence under oath as did experts for both sides in the various medical disciplines of Neurology, Neurosurgery, Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Neuroradiology. Then experts in Neurorehabilitation and Care were called as well as Jamie’s Financial deputy. I can say without hesitation that each day of the ten-day trial Jamie’s team won hands down. The experts won their personal battles such that the Judge indicated before he was to hear final submissions from the barristers and give his Judgement that he was satisfied that –
a. Jamie had suffered a brain injury in the accident
b. Jamie’s problems were all caused by this injury
This left only a consideration of what his needs were and how much those needs would cost for the duration of Jami’s lifetime to calculate the claim and for the Judge to set the award of compensation. The defence, running scared of the final Judgement, then came to me to offer to settle the claim before Judgement and put forward an amount of 1.5 million pounds,
As much as it would have been wonderful to see in writing what the Judge’s views were as he had expressed clearly throughout the trial what a marvellous job I had done with my counsel Winston Hunter QC in preparing and presenting the case, the offer was too good to refuse and amounted to our calculation of the maximum, the Judge would have awarded when he had put the calculations together.
In the end the proposed settlement was placed before HHJ Freedman and he both approved the settlement and again expressed his praise at the way the case had been handled and remarked the settlement represented approximately what he would have awarded had he gone through the process of making the calculations and was thankful he didn’t need to listen to the full submissions after hearing the evidence at the trial.