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Serious injury experts
Case handler: Gillian Lakes (Senior Solicitor)
In this case, our client (a minor at the time) was playing with friends at a skateboard park situated near his home. After playing the group sat on a nearby embankment talking before our client made the decision to leave and return home.
Close to the embankment an area was being maintained by the local authority where a number of steel pegs had been inserted into the ground. As our client walked from the area, one of the pegs was thrown at him, coming into contact with his head and impaling in the back of his skull. The Emergency Services attended the scene and our client was taken to the A&E Department at a regional trauma centre. The notes record how a curved rusty metal rod had been thrown at him impaling the back of the head in the L occiput. His condition was stabilised, and he was transferred to a regional children’s hospital with a temporary method to maintain an open airway.
Our client underwent surgery to remove the metal rod. A post-surgical CT scan revealed air or gas within the cranial cavity in the brain area with bleeding.
Our client remained under the care of the Paediatric Neurologists at the Children’s Hospital. It was soon noted that as well as suffering a head injury he had developed visual field loss. A sight test confirmed right visual field loss.
Features of our client's case
As a result of his injuries, our client experienced significant symptoms including issues with memory, concentration and behavioural change. He experienced low mood and anxiety. He remained absent from school for a prolonged period and following his return experienced considerable difficulty engaging with pre-accident education. Concern was raised as to whether our client may have sustained an organic brain injury and a referral was made a Consultant Neuropsychologist.
Neuropsychometric testing was performed which did reveal weaknesses in particular verbal memory and learning. The Consultant Neuropsychologist commented:
“…..an indication that XXXX does have weak, particularly verbal, intellectual ability and learning such that I think parental concerns that he is struggling to cope with his demands of high school education are realistic. It is difficult at this stage to judge to what extent there may be a psychological component to these difficulties.”
It was then (incorrectly) assumed by those treating our client, in the period immediately following injury that any ongoing symptoms were mainly due to a psychiatric reaction rather than organic injury. Notwithstanding the assumptions for this view, there was clear evidence on neuropsychometric testing of cognitive deficit consistent with traumatic brain injury. Further, post-accident radiology clearly demonstrated organic injury. The presence of such radiological changes would, on a normal classification score, place this injury within at least the ‘moderate’ category potentially giving rise to ongoing cognitive deficit. Despite this, it has been assumed to fall within the ‘mild’ category, particularly by a Consultant Neuropsychiatrist.
Unfortunately, since the preparation of the Consultant Neuropsychiatrist's report our client's symptoms considerably deteriorated. He attempted to apply for employment but was unsuccessful in doing so and a recommended apprenticeship was been closed to him due to difficulties with sight. This has had a significant impact upon him emotionally; he struggled to sleep, self-harmed and has developed suicidal ideation. He attended upon his GP and was prescribed anti-depressant medication and sleeping tablets. He was referred for further therapy. The deterioration in his condition arose as a result of our client's appreciation/insight that his future employment prospects would be limited, as would his ability to engage/cope in day to day activities. He continued to rely heavily upon his mother and would struggle to cope without her support.
In addition to the above, our client also suffered a considerable ophthalmic injury. The neurological injury left him with visual field loss on the left. The effect of this condition meant that our client lost peripheral visual field to the right resulting in him having difficulty judging objects from the right, regularly bumping into things and often experiencing danger when performing physical activity. He was consequently registered as partially sighted (sight impaired). He was unable to drive on a permanent basis. Despite the attempted use of glasses/prisms to extend visual field, it was unsuccessful. The visual injury considerably contributed to our client’s emotional response and had a considerable effect on his ability to pursue his chosen career.
Where our specialist serious injury experience really added value to our client's situation
An application was submitted to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and an award was subsequently refused on the basis that "no criminal act had taken place". The decision was appealed on the basis that there were basic errors in the police evidence deeming it unreliable such as the location of the incident was incorrect, along with the account of the events leading up to the incident. There was no evidence to support the suggestion that the children were "messing around and throwing pegs before the incident". Further there was no Statement of Evidence taken from our client and the Police were therefore unaware of his account of events before the incident occurred. Interestingly, in Form 42B the police clearly state that the actions of the Applicant's friend, XXXX, were reckless.
Why Serious Law was one of a select handful of firms uniquely able to handle the matter
There are many law firms who suggest that they have extensive experience handling serious injury cases through the Criminal Injuries Compensation process but very few who will represent their client's with as much conviction as demonstrated in this case. As detailed above, the CICA initially refused to make an award and when we demonstrated that the evidence they made an award which was not commensurate with the injuries our client had sustained. It was this persistence, on behalf of our client, which enabled them to trust our experienced opinion to persist with their case until an award was made which reflected their situation.
As a result of the initial appeal, a five figure award significantly lower than the final award was made. This was appealed on the basis that the wrong tariffs had been selected when considering the two most serious injuries sustained by our client. It was also contended that there had been no consideration made in relation to our client's potential future loss of earnings and future expenses. It was submitted that the assault had had a very substantial impact upon our client and his education and at age 14 (at the time of the appeal), it was too early to assess the long term impact of the brain injury.
The Appeal was allowed and our client was directed to obtain and disclose further medical in due course. An interim payment was also requested and granted to enable our client to undergo psychological therapy to assist and support him.
Further medical evidence was obtained and submitted to the Tribunal. Both parties were directed to file a Schedule of Loss and Counter-Schedule and thereafter the matter listed for an Oral Hearing.
After that hearing, a final six figure award was made and accepted by our client.