Stewarts represents ABX, who received a significant settlement following a remote video joint settlement meeting in March 2021. The claim arose from an accident that happened while ABX was a serving soldier.
ABX joined the Army when she was 18. She was fit and healthy and loved her career.
In 2015, ABX was serving overseas when she sustained full thickness burns to 40-54% of her body, including her face, chest, both upper limbs and legs following orders to fight a range fire.
She underwent multiple surgeries to save her hands and was subsequently repatriated to the UK for further surgeries and rehabilitation at various military rehabilitation centres. ABX was discharged from the Army on medical grounds in 2018 and returned to her family home, where she continues to live.
ABX, who was right hand dominant before the accident, now has no functional use of her right hand due to the significant scar tissue over her hand and amputation of her fingertips. Her left hand has limited function, which she estimates at 50%.
She has facial scarring and extensive scarring elsewhere on her body, which causes her distress.
Since 1987, the Crown Proceedings (Armed Forces) Act 1987 has allowed military personnel who have sustained injury during their service to claim compensation if the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has breached its legal duty of care to them. This applies whether the injury occurs in the UK or while serving overseas.
The facts of the case were clear-cut in that ABX had been tasked to fight a large and dangerous range fire with little training and inappropriate equipment. Liability was admitted by the MOD early in the course of the claim.
Appointment of Stewarts
ABX transferred her claim from another solicitors’ firm to Stewarts in January 2019. Warren Maxwell took over the conduct of the claim in June 2020 after ABX’s then solicitor took maternity leave.
Understandably, following such a long period of surgeries and rehabilitation, ABX needed time to come to terms with the effect of her injuries and how she wished to live in the longer term.
One of the major issues ABX had to decide was whether to undergo elective surgery to amputate her right hand. To help ABX with this decision and obtain evidence in the claim, Stewarts arranged for ABX to meet experts in the fields of amputation, surgery, rehabilitation and care. Each of them provided reports on her injuries, treatment and what could be done to assist her independence and better her quality of life. Stewarts obtained interim payments from the defendant, the MOD, to pay for her to access the best advice, support and information to assist her in making this important decision. After much torment, she has chosen to proceed with the amputation surgery.
In addition to resolving the difficult issue of how she would deal with her severely injured right hand, this decision was a hugely important feature of the case. If ABX decided to have the surgery, her claim would include the costs of the surgery, prosthetics and post-amputation rehabilitation throughout her life.
Appointment of case manager
ABX was introduced to and chose to employ a case manager, VB. It was VB’s role to assess ABX’s needs and recommend how to best address them. The case manager’s role is to assess the physical, emotional, and functional impact of an accident and arrange the provision of a suitably skilled support package through a therapy team to facilitate a client’s rehabilitation and goals. These goals are set between the client and their therapy team.
In ABX’s case, VB recommended the provision of case management, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology, care and support assistance, consultant orthopaedic review, speech and language therapy, burns and plastics management and cleaning support.
An occupational therapy assessment of ABX’s equipment needs was carried out by PACE Rehabilitation, a company that provides a multi-disciplinary service to individuals who have sustained limb loss and/or serious limb injury. Recommendations were made for several adaptive equipment aids and gadgets to increase ABX’s independence in her daily life and help her move to adapted accommodation so that she can live independently.
ABX received a huge amount of care and support from her family and friends throughout her claim. With the support of her case manager, ABX was able to put in place a paid support package so that she can receive daily care and support when she needs it most.
A main area of contention in this case was the prosthetics needs of ABX. The defendant’s evidence on prosthetics and the needs of ABX was that she only needed basic prosthetics costing a few hundred pounds for her right hand for her appearance; any prosthetics would simply have slots where ABX could insert tools to help her eat and grip objects. This suggestion was wholly rejected by the prosthetics expert instructed by the claimant, and a significant sum was recovered to meet ABX’s future prosthetics needs in the settlement.
Court proceedings issued
ABX issued court proceedings in the High Court in London in July 2018, and her case was listed for trial in May 2021.
A joint settlement meeting held remotely in March 2021 due to the Covid-19 lockdown resulted in a successful outcome to the claim, with the defendant agreeing to pay a significant sum in damages to ABX.
In addition to this significant sum, ABX has received a large lump sum payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, and she will continue to receive annual Guaranteed Income Payments for the remainder of her life.
The damages ABX has recovered will allow her to purchase and adapt a home for life and to receive ongoing case management and support for the remainder of her life.
These funds will also allow her to undergo future cutting-edge surgeries and to have contingencies in place for future private consultations and revision surgeries should any complications arise. Built into the settlement is a provision ABX be entitled to return to court to claim further damages if certain post-surgery complications arise, such as serious infections. This has allowed her to have peace of mind about the risks of surgery, an important factor in her decision to undergo the elective amputation.
ABX plans to have a trans-radial amputation with the fitting of a myoelectric prosthesis of her right hand in the near future. ABX is looking to have either a Michelangelo or an i-Limb prosthetic hand fitted to her right hand to give her more independence and make her activities of daily living much more manageable.
Testimonial from ABX
“Stewarts were brilliant. They were everything I needed, and I haven’t got a bad word to say about the firm. I got along with Warren immediately – I’m not sure if it was because of his military background but I just felt at ease. It was really important for me to get on with the person I was working with during my case.
“The settlement money has helped me out a lot. I can afford to buy all the things I’ve been recommended, and that just makes things a lot easier. I also have a case manager on standby, who I can call if I need anything, and I see a physio once a week. Football is now my main sport, and I do some coaching at a club.
“My case dragged on for a long time which was draining. It was a relief, and a weight lifted off my shoulders once it finally settled. I cannot fault Warren for all the help he has given me. He was professional and stuck to his word.”
Further information about PACE Rehabilitation can be found here.
Further information on the Michelangelo prosthetic hand can be found by clicking here.
Further information on the i-Limb prosthetic hand can be found by clicking here.
This article was written by our Senior Paralegal James Fox
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