Our client, C, sustained a serious brain injury after being involved in a road traffic accident. A consensual approach was taken by Stewarts and the defendant’s insurers and solicitors to agree a settlement that will provide for C during his long-term rehabilitation process. Agreement was reached at a remote settlement meeting during the Covid-19 lockdown.
C was the driver of a vehicle hit in the rear by a lorry after the driver had failed to see that traffic on the motorway was slowing up ahead. He suffered a life-changing brain injury and various orthopaedic injuries. This led to a lengthy and challenging period as an inpatient in hospital before C returned to the family home.
C instructed Stewarts, with partner Charles Edwards leading on the case.
Approach to the case
This case represents a good example of a collaborative approach being taken by the parties from the start. Early face-to-face meetings were useful in educating the opposition about the client’s background, interests and goals, and setting out the extent and detail of the injuries he had sustained. C instructed a case manager early on, and an excellent multi-disciplinary team was installed. This included practitioners in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, neuropsychiatry, psychology, and rehabilitation medicine, as well as a dietician, who managed the interaction between C’s injuries and his pre-existing diabetes.
These meetings developed into regular catch-up telephone calls, some of which included the case manager to give an overview of how C was progressing. She explained the goals C had achieved and his therapy’s focus over the upcoming period. While general interim payments flowed, a further pot of money was placed in the hands of the case management firm (and topped up regularly) to cover rehabilitation, care and case management expenses.
Assessment and rehabilitation
The main ongoing issues C faced related to cognitive and executive deficits, behavioural complications and fatigue. He found it difficult to accept assistance from others but responded well to the setting of targets. He did engage with activities when guided by the support workers put in place after his discharge from hospital.
An interesting complication arose regarding a difference of opinion between experts on whether C had capacity following the accident. When the claim was issued, it was deemed that C did retain capacity, but when it came to re-examinations, our experts were unanimous in saying he did not have capacity. The experts instructed by the other side all said C retained capacity. A professional deputy was put in place, and future costs claimed on the basis that such input would continue for the rest of his life. Further expert evidence endorsed a comprehensive lifelong package of support worker assistance, together with input from psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
The parties did their best to ensure that re-examinations by experts in advance of the planned settlement meeting took place within close proximity of time so that the same presentation of facts was given to each expert of the same discipline. Expert evidence was then exchanged ahead of the settlement meeting, along with a schedule setting out our views of the case’s value under different heads of loss. This allowed the defendant to respond with its counter schedule.
The Covid-19 lockdown meant a face-to-face meeting was impossible, so the meeting took place remotely in November 2020 using Zoom. It was made clear to the defendant that settlement must take place on the basis that:
- the claimant lacked capacity and, therefore, professional deputyship fees had to be included, and
- the future package of care and support must be sufficient to provide for the C if his marriage failed, it being recognised that the impact of the accident had placed a great strain on the couple.
These requirements were reflected in the settlement achieved, which on top of the rehabilitation/care costs met by the other side during the life of the claim, was worth £4m on a lump sum basis. The settlement included annual payments for life in respect of care and deputyship costs, plus annual payments of earnings up to retirement age.
In January 2021, a judge was asked to consider the proposed settlement at a High Court hearing. He told the parties that he had “no hesitation” in giving his approval, commending Stewarts for the sensible result achieved on the case. He commented that “the early settlement was undoubtedly helped by having extremely experienced solicitors and counsel on both sides.”
The plan is for C to purchase a bungalow (as catered for within the settlement) and continue with the support in place to achieve his goals and live a fulfilling life. C’s vehicle was written off in the accident, and having now been permitted to return to driving, he has already enjoyed choosing a new one.
Testimonial from C’s wife
“Looking for legal representation following a life-threatening accident is incredibly challenging at an already unbelievably stressful time. We were hounded by disreputable firms and local small firms who could not demonstrate the level of expertise we knew we needed in such a complex case. Stewarts was different from the moment we called. Our first meeting with Charles was at the hospital, at his suggestion. This meant I stayed close to intensive care at a perilous time. From that first meeting, his calm, caring expertise gave me confidence.
“The quality of service, empathy, understanding and honesty from Charles and Stewarts could not have been higher. Charles’ expertise and speed in getting additional care and support in place directly contributed, we believe, to C’s remarkable level of recovery. He would not be where he is today, with the quality of life he has, were it not for Charles knowing which medical experts to call upon at each stage.
“When choosing a firm, you also want an honest testimonial about the final figures. On this, we are extremely pleased. Due to the thoroughness and quality of Charles’ work, we are convinced our final ‘take-home’ figure is millions more than it would have been. In a way, we are even sad that the case is over as Charles has been like a member of the family. We are forever in his debt.”
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