Our client, Grace McGowan, was just 22 years old when she was involved in a car accident that left her wheelchair bound for life.
Grace was a front seat passenger in a car, wearing her seatbelt, when the driver swerved to avoid a car that was coming out of a junction. The driver veered off the road and collided with a fence. Grace sustained multiple injuries and, most seriously, a spinal cord injury rendering her tetraplegic.
Rehabilitation and recovery
Following the accident, Grace underwent spinal surgery and was later transferred to a spinal rehabilitation centre. She remained in hospital for five months.
Grace was unable to return to the house that she lived in before the accident as it was completely inaccessible. Instead, Grace was discharged to the home of her mother and grandmother as a temporary measure.
Grace felt strongly that she was capable of progressing further with her rehabilitation so she visited two spinal rehabilitation centres with a view to undergoing a further period of residential rehabilitation. Grace was subsequently admitted to Oaksey House, where she received intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy. She made good progress and was able to build on this by continuing with her treatment at home and purchasing equipment, including a functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike. This was funded through her claim.
Legal case and settlement
During the claim, Grace received substantial interim payments totalling a seven figure sum. The interim payments enabled her to purchase a property and adapt it to meet her long-term accommodation needs. Grace was able to drive and purchase a car, which increased her independence.
Grace was highly motivated to improve her wheelchair skills including transferring in and out of her wheelchair. She was able to use the interim payments to continue to fund physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions at home and in clinic. She also underwent hydrotherapy courses intermittently. Grace had several further admissions to Oaksey House and Hobbs Rehabilitation for intensive treatment.
Grace found out about biofeedback treatment from the expert report of the spinal injuries consultant, obtained for the purposes of her claim. Grace carried out her own research into this treatment and the options available. Grace’s interim payments allowed her to travel to Miami on two occasions to undergo biofeedback at the Brucker Institute. The cost of future visits and treatment was included in the claim.
The interim payments enabled Grace to fund extensive equipment including the BATEC, the Lifestand, an FES bike, an all-terrain wheelchair and a rugby wheelchair.
Grace was able to trial three exoskeletons: the Rex, Esko and ReWalk. Grace was able to try the Rex in her new home. She then underwent prolonged trials of the Esko and the ReWalk at Hobbs Rehabilitation. Grace then rented the ReWalk for a period of time before purchasing it. The cost of purchasing the ReWalk was included in her claim and was conceded by the defendants.
The claim settled for an eight figure sum. This money will help Grace provide for her adapted needs throughout her life and ensure her long-term care needs are met.
Life beyond injury
From the outset, Grace has adopted a positive attitude towards her injury and the dramatic impact on her life. Grace has constantly sought opportunities to enhance her quality of life. Since her injury, Grace has commenced an Open University psychology degree and returned to work part time in a GP surgery.
Before her accident, Grace enjoyed going to music concerts and she has continued to do this, even hiring a motorhome to go to Glastonbury in 2017, with friends made during her initial rehabilitation at the spinal injuries centre.
Grace subsequently purchased a motorhome with her interim payment, not just for music concerts but to allow her easily accessible holidays and accessible overnight accommodation when staying away for rugby events. Grace is a keen rugby player who competes in the Super Series Rugby League and the Rugby 5s for the Bournemouth Lions.
In 2017, Grace participated in Parallel London, walking 1km in a ReWalk to raise funds for the Bournemouth Lions.
In 2018, Grace completed the London Marathon in her wheelchair to raise funds for Spinal Research.
On 17 August 2019, just days before her wedding, Grace took part in the Superhero Tri at Dorney Lake in Windsor to raise money for the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust. Grace completed the Half Tri in her ReWalk.
The big day
On 25 August 2019, Grace married her fiancé Nick. Grace decided some time before the wedding date that she wanted to walk down the aisle on her big day. She could achieve this with her ReWalk device. Grace had a wedding dress custom made to fit over the ReWalk device and surprised her guests by walking down the aisle. The wedding was featured in the Daily Mail. A link to the article can be found here.
A testimonial from Grace:
“Stewarts are just good at what they do and they get the results they set out to achieve. Everyone there has been so friendly and they’re always available over the phone. It’s a nice environment and has made me feel welcome.
The settlement has made a massive difference to my life since my injury. It just takes the stress away and I haven’t had to worry, knowing I am going to be okay. It’s a nice feeling to know that you are set up.
I have known Lucy for over five years now and she has always made sure that she has got the best for me. She was really on it all the time and is a really lovely lady. As are her paralegals, Harriet and Kate.
Since my accident, I take part in completely new sports. I play wheelchair rugby, participating in competitions and training weekly. The settlement has allowed me to get my own chair. It has also helped with transport and accessibility. We are getting a campervan, which means that when I go on rugby tour next month, we have somewhere to stay and can take the dogs as well!”
Life beyond injury
We have teamed up with other clients who have suffered catastrophic injuries to tell their stories of Life Beyond Injury. Please visit the Life Beyond Injury webpages here.
We hope that by sharing these stories, newly injured people can see that with the right support they too can overcome adversity to lead full and active lives.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Personal Injury pages.
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