Many claimants are often hesitant about pursuing a personal injury claim despite the perception given by the media of the current compensation culture. Often claimants are worried about whether their cases will go to trial and they do not relish the additional stress and anxiety that litigation can involve. In reality, the vast majority of personal injury cases are settled amicably between the parties without the need for a court hearing.
However, last week one of my cases was listed for a 2 day trial at court, as no settlement could be agreed. My client, Mrs Y had suffered a twisting injury to her knee on the uneven pavement outside her home, at a time when developers were carrying out construction work. As a result of her injury, she suffered considerable pain and limitations with her mobility requiring her to have several arthroscopy procedures. She was also unable to work for a considerable period of time.
Mrs Y instructed me to make a claim against her local council. I wrote to the council claiming they had breached their statutory duty under the Highways Authority Act 1980 in that they had failed to carry out reasonable inspections and adequately maintain the pavement. This was strongly disputed by the council, despite me providing them with photographic evidence. After a long period of making further enquiries and requesting documentation, it was apparent that the council was not prepared to budge on their position.
Nevertheless, I obtained positive advice from a highly experienced barrister, who believed that the claim had good prospects of success, so I continued to prepare the case for court proceedings. My client was examined by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who specialised in knee injuries, who was of the opinion that her accident had caused the acceleration of previously asymptomatic degenerative knee symptoms by up to 5 years.
I issued court proceedings and served these on the council but they continued to firmly deny liability. Both parties complied with the court directions to prepare the case for trial and permission was given for medical experts from both sides to give oral evidence at trial. Although I was hopeful that a settlement might still be achieved before the trial, this was not the case so the matter proceeded.
At the trial, the judge heard all the evidence from the lay witnesses and expert witnesses and was satisfied that the council had breached their statutory duty to adequately maintain the highway and as a result this caused Mrs Y to suffer injury. In addition, the judge preferred and readily accepted the medical evidence provided by our expert over the evidence given by the council’s expert. The judge therefore found in Mrs Y’s favour and awarded her damages of over £20,000, plus legal costs.
Although Mrs Y had to endure the long process of litigation in taking her case to a trial, it proved to be a worthwhile wait. It is important for claimants to instruct experienced and specialist personal injury solicitors to pursue their claims to ensure that they have the best legal team on board to achieve a successful outcome in or out of court.