The accident and first instructions
Chris was catastrophically injured in a road traffic accident whilst riding his motorbike back in 2012. The injuries were such that he lost his job as a manager at Center Parcs, he suffered a serious brain injury as well as orthopaedic and internal injuries, his financial situation was such that he had to file for bankruptcy and his long-standing partner left him.
His mother who was in her 60’s had to travel from Exeter regularly to help him and he was moved to warden control ground floor flat in an old age complex from his own home where he couldn’t manage the stairs and struggled to cope.
The accident was devastating for a 40 year old man in his prime and at the time I met him he was as down as anyone could get. Hi situation was particularly bad as his solicitors who he had instructed through his Mum felt there was no prospects of him recovering any compensation as they were of the view that Chris was at fault for the accident himself as he had ridden his motorbike into the rear of a stationary car that had pulled up suddenly in front of Chris as he approached.
The motorist in front of Chris had already brought a claim against his insurers for her whiplash injury in the collision and received a pay out.
His barrister Michael Jones of Cobden House chambers in manchester recommended that he transfer the case to me as his current solicitors refused to incur the expense of instructing an engineer to reconstruct the accident to help support the claim.
I took over the case and investigated the accident circumstances and what was apparent was that the accident had in fact been caused by a driver pulling out of a side road suddenly in front of a line of 4 cars directly in front of Chris as he approached and he had adjusted his speed as he saw the cars stopping in front of him but as this driver set off he had a road rage altercation with the car directly behind him and as a result he suddenly again slammed his brakes on which caused all the cars to stop suddenly again in front of Chris but by this time he had no time to readjust and collided with the car in front as he tried desperately to manoeuvre away from the rear of the car.
The driver who pulled out suddenly was prosecuted and found guilty of careless driving so this was very helpful to me and the only issue to be resolved was whether we could establish this act of the first driver had been the primary cause of Chris not being able to avoid his collision with the car in front of him.
I believed in Chris and was determined to try to make a difference in his life and took this case on I took the risk of taking on this case and instructed the to Road Traffic expert Peter Sorton to reconstruct this accident his expertise was able to show that the time between the first driver’s negligence and the accident was less than 5 seconds and as such show there was a link between the two incidents.
There was still a lot of work to do before we could start to consider the effect the accident had had on Chris and look at how we could help to get his life back together and ensure the insurer of the first driver took responsibility for this and compensate Chris. One of the first issues was to ensure that the Trustee in Bankruptcy would give Chris permission to pursue this claim and convince them there was good prospects of succeeding whilst also getting insurance for Chris to ensure if he were to lose the case he would not have to face any financial losses himself. Both myself and my legal team including Michael Jones agreed to run the case of a “no win -no fee” basis.
The Insurers of the first driver would not simply accept it was his fault so we had to issue proceedings in the High Court and then seek a Judge to consider the issue of who was at fault first and foremost before we hopefully pressed on to look at the way the accident had destroyed Chris’s like and whether we could make a difference and get the Insurer to fund what was needed.
It was some 12 months after I had taken on this case and a few weeks from the date of the trial before the Judge that the Insurers made a number of offers to Chris firstly to settle the case entirely with a money offer which was not enough and ultimately they conceded it was the first driver’s fault and we were able to agree on this issue.
Making a difference
Once we had been able to sort out that the Insurer of the first driver would compensate Chris we had to set about and try to put him back into the position he was in before the accident as best and as reasonably possible.
The focus was to firstly ensure that any of his financial worries were resolved, his debts paid off including what was owed on the bankruptcy and to stabilise his weekly outgoings and ensure he was not anxious anymore about his finances.
Then we needed to start to put some purpose and routine back into his life to ensure he had his time filled with meaningful pursuits and if possible voluntary work that he could do whilst also trying to improve the quality of his life.
He had attempted to go back to his job at Center Parcs before I got involved but this had proved too difficult for him even when his employer made every possible adjustments to his role so that he was doing more menial tasks that when he was in charge as a manager but due to his brain injury he couldn’t cope, he struggled to come to terms with the menial nature of the job and found he had little patience for other staff members or guests of the Parc. He has to concentrate so much harder than other people to be able to focus and do what was asked such that he was exhausted by midday which is typical of those with a brain injury.
He would sometimes act inappropriately without realising and in the end he had to leave.
Chris was so desperate for money to be able to survive before I had sorted out the liability issues that he even worked as a shelf stacker at a local supermarket but was overwhelmed b y the physical exertions this demanded of his given his other injuries that just before the run up to Christmas he had to also give up this job.
I brought in Rhiannon Stokes of Stokes case management a wonderfully skilled and hard working passionate case manager who began the task of setting up a team of support workers, what is known as a “buddy” who worked with Chris to develop his interests and put together a weekly and monthly plan to help bring back some sense of purpose and self-esteem back to his life.
The team also included specialist medical expert help from a Neuropsychologist, Neuropsychiatrist, Physiotherapist, Occupational therapist and other privately recruited Doctors to help with his other injuries both orthopaedic and internal.
All of this was considered very carefully by his legal team and numerous medical experts I instructed in similar disciplines and only once they had approved what Rhiannon was proposing and supported that this was something Chris needed did i seek full funding of this from the Insurers.
They refused to pay what was needed so I had to apply for an order from the High Court for Interim payments to help fund this. I had to pursue a contested application at a full hearing but when the Judge was aware of what was needed and the costs once we had dealt with various legal arguments we successfully recovered what we needed to help fund everything until we could get the High Court Judge to make a decision on what were Chris’s reasonable needs for the future.
Funds were also received to help pay for Chris to move to a new rented home in Bath which was still ground floor but close to all of the amenities and helped bring back some independence and dignity to him removing him from the warden controlled OAP flat in Bristol.
One of the complex issues that I had to grapple with for Chris was the issue of whether due to his brain injury Chris could cope with his finances. I knew that before the accident he had always wanted the finer things in life and had taken out loans for his car and motor bike which were such that once he lost his job left him in dire financial straits and ultimately his bankruptcy.
There was a fine line with Chris as his intelligence had not been affected by the brain injury but his ability to plan and consider the future had been impaired as he now lives solely for the moment in hand and has no desire or ability to consider what he needs for the future this coupled with his loss of short-term memory was such that he was very vulnerable and would have little regard for what his needs would be or were at any given moment. This was made all the worse by his lack of insight into his condition such that he genuinely did and still does have little understanding of what his difficulties are and only once he is aware of the mistakes he makes did he start to accept he needed help with his money.
The medical experts in the case wanted evidence of his problems before they would commit their own views on the issue so some of the interim funds were provided to him to see how he got on with them and it soon became apparent that due to the reasons I have set out above he would spend his money on expensive items in particular watches and clothes etc without any thought to what his financial needs were for more mundane matters such as his bills and monthly over heads.
After the experts agreed he lacked capacity a Financial Deputy was appointed who both took over sorting out a budget for him but also took over the stress and anxiety of ensuring the case management program was properly paid for and the case manager support and those clinicians who were helping Chris were paid what they were due each month.
Conclusion to the litigation
I brought together the legal team, the various medical experts and the witnesses and family who were helping Chris and we had regular meetings both in person and over the telephone. The defendant insurer had Chris assessed by their experts and typically the experts from both sides agreed with the extent of the injuries and the likely future symptoms and the divide was in relation to what he reasonably needed for the future and the costs.
The insurer argued he only needed someone to make sure he was safe and looked after despite the fact that legally he was entitled to also some quality of life. They argued also the help would only be needed for a limited period of a couple of years whereas it was obvious that Chris’s problems would never just go away he would never “recover” from his brain injury and the effects of this however what was clear was that Rhiannon and her team had made a huge difference to him. He was happier than he had been for many years , he had a routine, new interests and had been supported and helped to get a job at a local shoe shop in Bath.
He was helped to become involved in a local Bristol Charity of the Silver Lining charity and had given presentations to show how he had been helped to give advice and encouragement to others injured like him.
The evidence was clear that if the package of help he had in place was removed as argued by the insurer he would deteriorate and he would simply revert back to what his life we as like before , no structure, little purpose or direction and struggling to cope with money and all the everyday matters we all take for granted – matters such as future planning , problem-solving and organising of daily and weekly issues are typically those very difficulties that a person with a brain injury like Chris struggles to deal with.
A seven-figure sum without a trial
Matters progressed with our experts discussing their views on this case with the defendant’s experts – their views remained the same though I was careful to ensure we discussed the issues and the defendant expert opinions well before they had their meetings and joint reports were prepared. The case was fixed for a trial and at that point the insurers again requested a meeting to discuss a possible settlement as they had on the issue of liability. We met them in Bristol Chris was in attendance in a separate room with his mother and our legal team and a lengthy day of negotiation and offer and counter offer proceeded with eventually a substantial seven figure sum being offered and accepted by Chris after advice from his legal team brought the case to a conclusion .
As Chris didn’t have the capacity to make the final decision on his own the final offer made by the insurer was considered very carefully and was put before the High Court Judge to consider and after hearing from our counsel the settlement was approved and this brought the conclusion to the case.
Chris quite rightly didn’t want any formal publicity to his case but has agreed to my placing his case study on my website in the hope it will help others who have faced such terrible injuries and life-shattering moment as he had in an accident to read of his plight and see what I was able to do for him with the right team of experts and clinicians so that they won’t despair but may also seek out the help advice and professional guidance that I was able to provide him and help to make that difference to his life.
I have aksed Chris to receive this precis of his case and he has approved the content to be an accurate account of what happened and what help I was able to provide. He has also asked that he say a few words himself direct about me and the team that I put together for him as a brief testimonial below