MB, a milkman, was severely injured in a road traffic collision in mid-June 2018 when the milk float he was driving on a motorway was struck from behind by a vehicle whose driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. MB’s vehicle, which was struck at around 70 miles per hour, was turned onto its side by the collision, and the emergency services took more than an hour to extricate him.

MB sustained an incomplete spinal cord injury (ASIA D) at T10 with several fractured vertebrae (necessitating surgery), two fractured ribs and large lacerations to both arms (which were stapled). The injuries left him with life-changing physical disabilities, including restricted mobility, high pain levels and a generalised anxiety disorder.

Around two weeks after the accident, MB was transferred to a specialist hospital for spinal rehabilitation, where he remained for a month before being discharged home. This ensured he received intense treatment tailored to his injuries.

Around two weeks after the accident, MB was transferred to a specialist hospital for spinal rehabilitation, where he remained for a month before being discharged home. This ensured he received intense treatment tailored to his injuries.

The case

MB instructed Stewarts in July 2018. Initially, the claim was handled by Partner Peregrine Redgrave before Senior Associate Kimberley Owen took over the claim from January 2019.

While the defendant insurer did not formally admit liability, the defendant’s solicitor indicated at a relatively early stage that their client’s liability would not be disputed. They were also willing to adopt a collaborative approach to the running of the claim.

The parties agreed that MB would benefit from a case manager instructed on a unilateral basis, with their input and recommendations being funded by regular interim payments made by the defendant insurer on account of the claim. The unilateral instruction provided MB with a degree of input into the case management process, which is not provided under a joint instruction.

MB was initially resistant to the treatment recommendations offered to him, instead preferring to organise his own treatment. However, with time and gentle encouragement, he started to appreciate the benefits of a proactive, supportive case manager and a comprehensive, tailored rehabilitation programme.

Rehabilitation

Through interim payments totalling £180,000, MB benefitted from a rehabilitation programme that included:

  • Moving to rented single level accommodation, his pre-accident home no longer being suitable for his needs
  • Monthly physiotherapy sessions
  • Weekly personal training sessions
  • Vestibular physiotherapy sessions circa every three weeks
  • Regular psychology sessions
  • The purchase of relevant aids and equipment, including hearing aids, a functional electrical stimulation (FES) device and other specialist items to enhance his independence and quality of life and mitigate the effect of his injuries
  • The employment of a domestic cleaner

Stewarts arranged numerous expert reports for litigation purposes to assess and evaluate MB’s long-term needs. These included experts in the following fields:

  1. Spinal surgery – to address MB’s likely long-term prognosis and needs.
  2. Spinal rehabilitation – to address his long-term rehabilitation needs.
  3. Urology – to address his urological symptoms and consequent treatment needs arising from the spinal injury.
  4. Audio-vestibular – to address his balance issues arising from the brain injury.
  5. Psychiatry – to address his mental health needs post-accident.
  6. Accommodation – to consider how his accommodation needs had changed as a consequence of the accident
  7. Care – to address his care and equipment needs arising from the accident.

Reaching a settlement

A virtual settlement meeting attended by the parties’ legal representatives and conducted by their clients’ barristers took place at the end of March 2021, during which negotiations began.

However, no settlement was reached as the defendant was initially unwilling to offer more than £850,000 (gross of interim payments and net of recoverable social security benefits).

Settlement negotiations continued thereafter between the solicitors for both parties, culminating in a settlement of £1.5m (gross of interim payments and net of recoverable social security benefits) a few weeks later. This £650,000 increase in the settlement sum made a significant difference to MB, particularly given that he intended to purchase a property in London.

MB also received assistance in establishing a personal injury trust with professional trustees to assist him in managing his award.

Conclusion

While most cases settle at settlement meetings, this case shows this is not always possible and that a good, collaborative working relationship between the parties’ solicitors can provide an excellent result for the claimant.

MB is now in the fortunate position of being able to afford to purchase a property in his chosen area in London that meets his post-accident needs. He also has sufficient money to ensure that his therapeutic, equipment and care needs are met for life.

Testimonial

MB says: “The settlement has made a massive difference to my life and enabled me to attempt to have a semblance of a normal life once more. Being able to purchase my own home has been incredible.

“I was very impressed with and thankful for the input provided by Kimberley and her Senior Paralegal, Eric Ekanem, throughout my claim. They were extremely professional at all times, and I felt supported and fully informed every step of the way. I couldn’t be more grateful for what they did, and the outcome achieved.”