MC sustained serious injuries in a road traffic accident in England while visiting from the USA and travelling as a passenger in a hire car driven by her husband. As a result of the accident, she sustained multiple life-changing injuries, resulting in permanent disability.
MC had to undergo spinal fixation surgery, a cervical spinal cord neurostimulator implant and extensive physical therapy. Stewarts supported her during her recovery process and secured an admission of liability from the insurer and a “life-changing” financial settlement.
The incident and hospitalisation
MC was accompanying her husband on a business trip to England in early 2018. The evening before the accident, they had enjoyed the charming surrounds of Salisbury, dining in a traditional English restaurant and enjoying the luxury of a four-poster bed in a historic hotel. The following morning, MC and her husband had to set off early to make an appointment. At approximately 6.30am on 12 March 2018, while travelling on the A360 near Shrewton, Wiltshire, MC’s husband drove onto the opposite carriageway and into a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle.
MC sustained the following injuries in the accident:
- Spinal fractures
- A traumatic brain injury resulting in a constellation of symptoms and difficulties, including headaches, vertigo, loss of memory and concentration and impaired information processing
- Laceration to the liver and internal bleeding
- Trauma to the bowels, which required emergency surgical intervention
- Soft tissue injury to the breast tissue causing significant compression and resulting in fat necrosis
- Significant scarring to the abdomen and breasts due to trauma and surgery
- Significant psychological trauma with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Immediately after the accident, MC was taken to hospital in Salisbury, where she remained an in-patient until 31 March 2018. She was then repatriated to the USA with a nurse escort.
During her hospitalisation, MC received multi-disciplinary input from the NHS to assist her recovery, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Initially, her fractures were conservatively managed, and MC was required to wear an orthotic spinal brace at all times to maintain stability.
Return to USA
On return to the USA, MC required further extensive medical treatment and therapies, including physical therapy sessions to improve and strengthen her spine. However, MC continued to experience difficulties with her daily activities. She had impaired function, mobility and activity tolerance.
MC required ongoing care and assistance as she could not dress or bath herself. She was unable to move due to the spinal brace and experienced blurred vision, fatigue, nausea and anxiety.
MC was admitted to hospital in December 2018 for spinal fixation surgery, which it was hoped would improve her ongoing pain and muscle weakness. MC initially found this treatment to be helpful. However, the pain and discomfort in her neck and shoulders and regular headaches soon returned and continued to impact MC’s daily activities.
Due to the ongoing and debilitating pain from her spinal fractures, MC was admitted to hospital for implant of a cervical spinal cord neurostimulator (“SCS”) on 7 October 2020, following a successful trial in February 2020. Unfortunately, MC found that the SCS did not provide the significant relief she hoped. While it did take the edge off sharp pains and associated upper limb pain and discomfort, it did not provide a miracle cure to her continued pain and daily restrictions as she had hoped. This led MC to make the difficult decision for the SCS to be removed. She is now embarking on an alternative treatment path for her ongoing symptoms.
Impact on MC’s career
At the time of the accident, MC worked as a special educational needs teaching assistant. Her role was all-encompassing, working with age groups from three to 21 with various responsibilities, including assisting with care, communication, social skills and teaching academics. MC loved her job despite the physical and psychological challenges of the role, and she wanted to continue working with her students until her retirement. MC commented: “Knowing you made a difference, no matter how small, in a child’s life is something I have always held close to my heart.”
Unfortunately, MC’s injuries meant that she could not return to her previous role. The nature of her job was too physically and psychologically demanding, which meant that MC could not support her students physically, psychologically or academically. She felt unable to commit to her job fully.
MC made an enormous impact on her students’ lives and, after the accident, her students in the fifth grade made her handmade letters that expressed their well wishes and referred to the enduring impact MC had on them. One student commented:
“You burst my heart [open] when you came in to teach us. Thank you for making the room be a fun place to come think. You inspired me to come to school. I have been good in the classroom, and you helped me do that. You helped me be good because you were so nice to me. I love you so much and I will pray for you and your husband.”
MC instructed lawyers in the USA, Mark Tanenbaum of Tanenbaum Law and Nathan Crystal, to pursue her claim against the insurer of the hire car she was travelling in at the time of the incident. The UK-based insurers were unresponsive, so MC’s US lawyers put her in touch with Chris Deacon, a partner in Stewarts’ International Injury department. Together, MC’s legal team agreed a strategy to work towards settlement of her claim and ensure her position was fully protected in both the USA and England if a pre-trial settlement could not be achieved.
The team at Stewarts supported MC while she concentrated on her recovery and successfully secured an admission of liability from the UK-based motor insurer. This enabled the focus to shift swiftly to assessing MC’s claim for damages.
Pursuant to Article 4(2) of Regulation (EU) 864/2007 (‘Rome II’), the law of South Carolina governed MC’s claim, as both she and her husband had their habitual residence in South Carolina at the time of the accident. Chris worked closely with MC’s US lawyers, notably Mark Tanenbaum, to determine how the various provisions of South Carolina law would affect MC’s claim and how to maximise her recovery of damages and legal costs.
Stewarts secured an interim payment from the defendant, ensuring that MC had the short-term financial support needed to alleviate the immediate financial hardship caused by the accident.
In July 2021, Stewarts finalised MC’s settlement. The settlement will enable MC to live a more comfortable life and manage the impact of her injuries and ongoing symptoms (notably chronic pain) on her day-to-day activities and lifelong passions and pursuits. It will also allow her to access further medical treatment and therapies, which was a vital aspect of the settlement given the decision to remove the SCS.
Life beyond injury
Before the accident, MC enjoyed many outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and kayaking. She loved painting, reading and being creative. It was MC’s goal from the outset to return to her love of the great outdoors, as well as creative arts and crafts. Following the conclusion of her case, MC has purchased a motorised scooter to enable her to return to fishing alongside her husband and friends. She can now go to fishing spots that are more difficult to access, and drive to the river and fish at her own comfort. In addition, she has purchased various aids, such as a perching stool, to make her love of arts and crafts easier to enjoy.
The settlement has also enabled MC to purchase a fully adapted, level-access home to accommodate her needs for the future so that she can live comfortably and return to the activities she enjoyed in life with her husband and family. An accessible home was particularly important to MC following the arrival of a new grandchild shortly before the settlement of her legal case.
MC summarised the enormous impact the accessible home has had, both physically, mentally and socially, for her and her family by saying: “Having a new grandbaby to watch grow up is precious beyond words! The property has seven acres and a creek. We’ve gotten chickens and want to try our hand at beekeeping. It is a beautiful place to spend time with her.”
Commenting on the case
MC said this of the case’s outcome:
“This case had many challenges, spanning thousands of miles across two continents.
“Although I am acutely aware that settlement did not make the pain go away, it is already going a long way towards a secured future for me. We have purchased a beautiful home, all on one level, with larger than normal interior doors and a massive shower to accommodate my mobility needs.
“Your attention to detail and support during the last three years have been a reassuring presence in my life. Your efforts greatly helped repair damage that I wasn’t sure could be repaired. I will always be grateful for the efforts put forth on my behalf by all of you at Stewarts. This has been a life-changing settlement. You truly gave me hope for the future.”
After the case, Chris Deacon commented:
“It is genuinely rewarding for me to hear what a life-changing difference the settlement has made for MC. It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege getting to know and represent MC, who has shown remarkable resilience in challenging circumstances, both in terms of her injuries but also the litigation process.
“The conclusion of her case has allowed MC to concentrate on returning to her former hobbies and interests such as fishing and hopefully more in the future when she is ready and able. I am keen to hear more from MC each time she reaches a milestone in her recovery.
“I wish MC, her husband and family the very best for a happy and healthy future.”
Chris instructed Sarah Prager of 1 Chancery Lane. The defendant insurer instructed Weightmans and Neil Block QC of 39 Essex.
MC commented on the input of her barrister, Sarah Prager:
“I would appreciate it if you would extend my heartfelt thanks to Sarah. She was instrumental in knocking the ball out of the park. Her style and understanding of my needs were excellent. I know that we wouldn’t have achieved the outcome that we did without her intercession. She was amazing, and I am grateful that she was a part of my team.”
Life beyond injury
We have teamed up with other clients who have sustained catastrophic injuries to tell their stories of Life Beyond Injury. Please visit the Life Beyond Injury webpages here.
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