C was aged five when she suffered a severe brain injury following a road traffic accident. The family was facing a delay to the settlement process after the UK went into lockdown due to Covid-19, but following a remote settlement meeting held over Zoom, a £14m settlement was agreed with the defendant’s insurers.
C was aged five when she and her mother were knocked down while crossing a road in 2007. She suffered a life-changing brain injury and multiple orthopaedic injuries. After months of intensive rehabilitation in hospital, she was discharged to the home she shared with her mother and younger brother.
Legal and financial support
C was represented by two other firms of solicitors over an eight-year period before instructing Stewarts. During that eight year period, interim payments of £245,000 were made by the defendant’s road traffic insurers to pay for C’s rehabilitation and care costs. Nevertheless, before Stewarts’ involvement, the family often struggled financially. There were numerous expenses that the insurers refused to pay or were simply not made aware of by C’s then solicitors. C’s mother, who was also seriously injured in the accident, had little assistance with caring for her disabled daughter. She was under great strain caring for her, managing C’s rehabilitation and dealing with the administration of C’s claim.
Stewarts was instructed in 2015 when C was 13 years old. The firm took a different approach to that taken by C’s previous solicitors and immediately secured a £100,000 interim payments sufficient to meet C’s care and rehabilitation immediate care and rehabilitation needs. During the four years the claim was live with Stewarts, we recovered £254,000 in interim payments from the defendant. These funds paid for a multidisciplinary team of rehabilitation professionals to be recruited to work with C and her family. The team included a case manager, physiotherapist, neuropsychologist, private educational tutor, occupational therapist, speech and language therapist and a number of rehabilitation assistants who worked with her to support her independence. C was supported by her mother and rehabilitation team to attend her local college where she studied and passed a Hair & Beauty course.
A solicitor specialising in Court of Protection work was involved and subsequently appointed by the Court of Protection to administer the large sums of money involved in this case on C’s behalf.
Because of the various pressures on C’s mother, Stewarts arranged for the Official Solicitor to take on the role of litigation friend. This allowed C’s mother to focus on being a mother, supporting and caring for her family.
As a result of her brain injury, C lacks insight into the severity of her injuries. She struggles to appreciate her daily challenges and vulnerabilities which made ensuring a proper settlement to meet her support package and neuropsychological needs was essential.
Stewarts instructed a number of experts to advise her legal team and the Court on C’s accident-related needs. These experts were all of the view that because of the severity of C’s brain injury and her specific vulnerabilities, she would require a care package that would allow her to have access to care and support at all times for the remainder of her life.
Remote settlement discussions
As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown and the social distancing measures in place, a settlement meeting took place remotely over Zoom on 7 April 2020.
Given C’s young age, the exact long-term consequences of her injuries are uncertain. However, it was not in C’s interests for the claim to continue for many more years. It was clear that any settlement had to cater for the ‘worst case’ scenario.
Five ‘red lines’ in terms of settlement were set by Stewarts and these were put to the defendant’s legal team before the meeting. These were that any settlement must include sufficient damages to meet:
- a 24/7 care and support package for life
- support for C if she goes on to have her own children
- her required therapies for life
- the costs of a solicitor to act as her professional deputy for life, and
- the income she would have earned and pension saved, had the accident not happened.
While a settlement was not reached on the day of the meeting, further negotiations ensued and the defendant agreed to pay C damages of £14m in a one off, lump sum payment. This sum is sufficient to cater for the ‘worst case’ scenario of C’s future. The settlement was approved in the High Court in London on 19 May 2020.
Life Beyond Injury
The settlement will allow the family to move on with their lives and to access the specialist care, accommodation, therapies and equipment that C requires for the rest of her life to maximise her independence.
C’s damages are protected by her professional Deputy and the Court of Protection. This gives her family peace of mind in the knowledge that C’s disability-related needs will be met for the rest of her life.
Testimonial from C’s mother
“Stewarts were the best solicitors we had. They just seemed to sort everything out and removed all the stress from C’s case. Warren Maxwell was a good solicitor. He was very professional, understanding and always available to speak. James Fox, Warren’s paralegal, was also really supportive.
“I’m glad we ended up with the best solicitors who got a great settlement for us but, to be honest, I’m just happy that we can finally move on. There have been so many people involved throughout C’s case, which has been hard. It is nice to have some peace and quiet from it all. I now know that if she needs medical treatment, the money is there for her to go privately. I know that there will be support workers available who she can use if, and when, she needs them and I know that she is sorted and has everything in place for the future.
“C is quite active so, although there is not a lot that she can do at the moment because of the pandemic, she is looking forward to going back to the gym when this is all over. She was able to get a private physio with the settlement money, who gives her exercises to do, so we have talked about using the settlement money to get her a personal trainer when things go back to normal who can also help with that.
“Stewarts were the first solicitors we felt comfortable with and I wish we had known about them before.”
Thanks must be given to Counsel in the claim, Christopher Wilson-Smith QC and Ben Bradley at Outer Temple Chambers and to all members of C’s multi-disciplinary team of rehabilitation professionals.
This article was co-written by our Senior Paralegal James Fox
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