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Lionel Stride (instructed by Patrick Maguire and Amber Braybrooke of HCC Solicitors, recent winners of the Catastrophic Injury Team of the Year, and led at the JSM by Simon Browne KC) represented a young claimant who was rendered paraplegic following a high-speed car accident.
The Claimant, who was 18 at the time of injury, was in a car being driven recklessly by an older friend, resulting in a crash in which the vehicle rolled multiple times. Primary liability was admitted but the insurers initially pursued contributory negligence arguments based on an alleged failure to wear a seatbelt (the Claimant having no recollection). This issue was conceded by the Defendants only once it became clear on the medical evidence that the violence and multi-directional forces involved would have made the injury equally, if not more, severe even if a seatbelt had been worn.
The claim was issued at an early stage to secure interim payments after the Defendants refused to fund treatment, care or accommodation under the rehabilitation code. Once interims had been paid, and suitable temporary accommodation and care had been arranged, the claim proceeded with a full spectrum of experts on each side. The main disputes related to the quality and quantity of the existing care regime required (including the ongoing need for a professional companion to maximise independence); how the care regime should be stepped up over time due to inevitable age-related decline and waning upper body strength through overuse of his upper limbs (at 40-45, 55-60, 65-75 and in the last 5 years of life); life expectancy; accommodation; aids and equipment (including whether exoskeleton therapy was reasonably required or would be tolerated); and the value of the Claimant’s lost career (the claim having been pleaded on the basis of several alternative scenarios).
The case involved interesting issues of principle, including the extent to which the care regime should extend to offering greater independence, freedom of choice and autonomy – by enabling the Claimant to have an assistant on call 24 hours/day – rather than merely meeting his basic care needs (as the Defendants contended); and whether the past costs of a personal injury trust should be recoverable as a form of financial assistance in circumstances where, despite retaining capacity, the Claimant would have no feasible method of managing his unallocated interim payments without such assistance (the case of Martin v Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust  EWHC 532 (QB) having resolved the issue unfavourably to injured parties with capacity in respect of prospective trust costs only).
Settlement was achieved at a Joint Settlement Meeting against leading counsel on 29 November 2022 after exchange of evidence and fully pleaded schedules on a without prejudice basis. The settlement figure was commensurate with the Claimant’s contentions about the cost and quality of his current care needs, with the Claimant accepting a larger lump sum to invest rather than a VPPO.