Settlement agreed for spinal injury case
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Kym Provan, partner in the clinical negligence team at BL Claims Solicitors, has recently agreed settlement of a spinal cord injury claim on behalf of her client, Mr E.
In 2010 Mr E was referred for an orthopaedic opinion at a London Hospital by his GP, following continual lower back pain. In June 2011 Mr E was seen by a specialist physiotherapist who requested an MRI scan.
The next day Mr E attended A&E at a second London Hospital. He was concerned as he had numbness in his groin area. He was assessed by a doctor who told him he would discuss his case with the doctors at the first hospital and discharged Mr E.
Later that day Mr E called 999 as the numbness had started to affect his legs and he was unable to pass urine. He was taken to A&E at the first hospital. He was diagnosed with probable cauda equina syndrome (this is a disorder where there is pressure on the nerves at the very bottom of the spinal cord. It requires urgent investigation and treatment to prevent the nerves to the bladder and bowel from becoming permanently damaged).
An urgent MRI scan was requested but there were no scanning facilities at the hospital so Mr E was transferred by ambulance to a third London hospital. The scan confirmed that Mr E had cauda equina syndrome and he was operated on immediately. Unfortunately this surgery was not performed correctly and 3 days later Mr E had to have re-do surgery to remove his prolapsed disc.
Cauda Equina syndrome
As a result of the delays in his diagnosis and treatment for his cauda equina syndrome Mr E was left with constant pain; reduced mobility; numbness to his leg and foot; and bladder, bowel and sexual function problems.
Mr E instructed BL Claims Solicitors as specialist clinical negligence solicitors. He alleged that his diagnosis at the second hospital had been negligently delayed; that his treatment at the third hospital was negligently performed and if the diagnosis had been made earlier and his surgery performed to an acceptable standard he would not have suffered such devastating injuries.
Expert evidence was obtained into the care that Mr E had received and a formal Letter of Claim was sent to both hospital Trusts. The Trust solicitors accepted liability, but disputed the extent of the injuries that Mr E has sustained as a result.
Prior to his injury, Mr E had been a successful businessman in the building industry and had a number of professional qualifications. Unfortunately his injuries prevented him from returning to work at all for a prolonged period of time. Once he did feel able to return to work, he found that there were a large number of tasks that he was unable to complete himself, and he had to employ others to do jobs that he would previously have done himself. Mr E also needed ready access to a toilet at all times, which again caused difficulties. This had a significant impact upon the profitability of the business and ultimately, the business failed.
Mr E owned a number of properties which were let out. His injuries prevented him from being able to maintain the properties or to sort out the letting arrangements and as a consequence the properties fell into disrepair. Mr E was unable to meet the mortgage payments and ultimately faced possession proceedings. Mr E and his family faced very considerable financial problems as a direct consequence of his injuries and Mr E was diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. Because of his mobility problems, he was unable to care for his young children alone when his wife went to work and the family were reliant on childcare from friends and family.
As a result of the complex nature of cauda equina syndrome and the wide-reaching effects that it can have on all aspects of an individual's life, it was agreed that assistance was required from a large number of independent experts to try to best assess Mr E's long-term needs and the losses that he had, and would continue to suffer as a result of the Defendants' admitted negligence.
After securing formal judgement on Mr E's behalf, with damages to be assessed, Kym requested an interim payment on his behalf from the Defendants, to try to alleviate some of the financial hardship that the family were suffering and to enable Mr E to repay some of his debts. The Defendants failed to respond to the request and instead tried to agree full and final settlement for an unsatisfactory and inadequate sum. Kym therefore made a formal application to the court for an interim payment and the Defendant agreed to make an interim payment of £75,000 shortly before the court hearing.
Offers of settlement were made by both parties as the case progressed. Kym took detailed Witness Statements from Mr E and his wife about the devastating impact that the Defendants' negligence had had on their lives. These were served together with some further documentation about Mr E's former level of earnings. Shortly after this, the Defendants made an increased offer to settle the claim in the sum of £500,000. Although both Kym and Counsel Paul Dean advised Mr E that his claim was worth substantially more than this, Mr E was clearly suffering from the stress of the litigation and continuing financial difficulties and after much thought, he instructed Kym to accept the Defendants' offer on his behalf.
The settlement should mean that Mr E can begin to rebuild his life and to clear his financial debts. He is intending to engage in some counselling and psychological treatment to help him come to terms with events and allow him to move forward, with the hope that he will eventually be able to return to some form of paid employment, even if that means having to undertake some retraining. Mr E's settlement monies will provide the security for him and his family that he needs to enable him to do this.
If you have any enquires relating to cauda equina syndrome or spinal injuries please contact our Clinical Negligence team.
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