The Lawas family has instructed the travel team at Penningtons Manches to claim damages for catastrophic injuries sustained in a road traffic accident in northern France in October 2015.
The French police report confirms that the driver of the lorry which struck their car from behind was not only driving at an excessive speed but was also sending messages via Facebook at the time of the accident. The accident involved several vehicles and injured 18 people including Mr Ritzmen Lawas, his wife Helen, and their two sons, 15 year old Sylvester and two year old Nino.
Sylvester (known as John) suffered a life threatening traumatic brain injury in the accident and remained in a critical condition for several months. After his repatriation to the neurological ward at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, where he remained in a coma for several weeks, John was transferred to The Children’s Trust specialist centre for brain injury in Tadworth, where he continues to receive therapy. Although he has made good progress, he is likely to require long term 24 hour support from professional carers.
Mrs Helen Lawas also suffered serious injuries including a bilateral pelvis fracture, a ruptured spleen and a ruptured bladder. She remained in a wheelchair for several months and has only recently begun a staged return to work. Nino suffered a right tibia fracture and each of the family members also suffered significant psychological injuries as a consequence of the experience.
Commenting on the impact of the accident on her family, Helen Lawas said: "It has changed everything and turned everything around 360 degrees. It has been a most devastating time for our family. Our son John was a normal teenager with his life ahead of him until that day of the car crash when a crazy decision to use the mobile phone while driving robbed our son of his future.
“Being with The Children's Trust in Tadworth has been an important part in our family's journey. They have become our family and we could never have done it without them. John has learned to love them and his progress can be largely attributed to what all the staff have done for him and each of us individually. They have given us the hope, taught us to smile again and, slowly, to stand up again, stronger each day."
Mark Lee, head of the travel law team at Penningtons Manches, is pursuing a claim for damages against Axa France, the insurers of the lorry and has secured a six figure interim payment on behalf of the family.
Commenting on the case, Mark Lee said: “This is a truly tragic case with lifelong consequences for every member of the Lawas family. It is all the more shocking that the crash was caused by a driver who was messaging on Facebook immediately before the collision.
“Since his accident, John has received first class care from the multidisciplinary teams at the St George's Hospital and The Children’s Trust. We have instructed a team of builders to adapt a local rental property and it is hoped that John will move into the property with his family next month. Unfortunately, the family home is completely unsuitable for John’s needs and it will therefore be necessary to purchase a new property which is appropriately equipped for John and his care team for the long term.
“We intend to initiate the various claims in this jurisdiction though damages will be determined by French law. In my experience, foreign insurers are often reluctant to co-operate so it is pleasing to note the collaborative approach adopted by the defendant’s insurers to date. Both parties recognise that it is in everyone’s best interests to ensure that John receives the best possible medical treatment so that he continues to improve as much as possible."