21 Jul 2020

Industry Discussion: Careful Instruction Essential When Assessing Injuries

One of our Serious Injury Specialist solicitors, David Burn, recently spoke to MASS Insight magazine to discuss the need for careful instruction from the outset of a claim so all parties are aware of the implications of an RTA:

The Claimant, a male in his early 30’s, was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a collision when the third party failed to give way and pulled out of a side road directly into the passenger side of the claimant’s vehicle.

The collision was at relatively low speed and it was initially believed the claimant sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulder and lower back with associated headaches, typical of whiplash. Liability was admitted within a week.

The claimant continued going about his normal life for several months until early December. It was then we received a phone call from the claimant’s family, advising that his injuries and circumstances had dramatically changed.

The claimant had been hospitalised following three strokes in the night, and he had lost the sight in one eye. It was suggested by his doctors that in the September road traffic accident, the seat belt had damaged the artery in his neck thus reducing blood flow to his brain.

The claimant was an inpatient for a week in hospital. It was identified that he had sustained an internal carotid artery occlusion which reduced the blood flow to his brain.

He was diagnosed with carotid artery occlusion, multiple embolic infarcts, brain injury and irregular heartbeat. He had difficulty mobilising and required assistance when moving due to impaired balance and vision.

He also experienced difficulties with coordination and sequencing. Visual impairment became a significant barrier for the claimant’s recovery. He suffered from fatigue, photophobia and phonophobia.

Assisted by a multi-disciplinary team, the claimant underwent significant rehabilitation not only in relation to the physical injuries, but also assisting him psychologically and reintegrating into a degree of normal life. He was able to have a phased return to work but at reduced capacity.

The claimant’s case settled for a six-figure sum, including a sizeable element for future treatment. Reflecting on the case, it demonstrates that relatively straightforward low-speed collisions can cause significant injuries; these are often not immediately apparent.

The timescales are of particular interest here, the accident being September and the significance of the injuries not being known until December.

It is worrying that some claims of this nature can be done and dusted by that point, liability admitted, a pre-medical offer made and the claim has gone before the true nature of the injury can be identified. It further demonstrates the impact of seatbelt injuries and how they can cause long-lasting damage.

Careful instructions should always be taken, particularly around issues such as vision/headaches and other problems that can be indicative of a brain injury.

Thankfully this claimant had a settlement that he was content with, but I have no doubt that many cases like this can be ‘missed’ and great care should always be taken to avoid this.

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