A prepardness to listen to and take on the unconventional and challenging is a prerequisite. The difficulty may arise from the attentions of a former lawyer whose activities may even have exacerbated a problem. Delay is often the worst culprit as evidence is lost and witnesses forget.
Where the accident victim is a young person in education a whole raft of issues arise which demand particular insight. Several case studies illistrating this situation are grouped together below.
A Rolls Royce employee embarked on his journey home one late afternoon in February from the site in Filton. He was noted leaving work in appropriate cycling kit. Subsequently he was involved in an accident with a large goods vehicle travelling along the road in the same direction. The cyclist sustained a head injury and had no memory of his journey at all. There were no immediate witnesses of the collision, only of the scene afterwards.
We recovered 100% on liability. The keys included the length of time that the cyclist had been there to be seen, the location and contents of the debris field and the height of the vehicle's nearside indicator unit. A swift check of aircraft movements into the nearby airfield (flight path over the road) coupled with the lucky break of finding that the truck driver was ex-RAF were instrumental in a rewarding result.
Failing cycle forks.
Our client, a cabinet maker, suffered serious head and facial injuries when his forks catastrophically failed just below the lower headset bearing. The steerer 'snapped' leaving the rider plunging headfirst to the road. The bike had been purchased in component form some 5 years earlier from a recognised supplier who had machined the headset bearing seat and assembled the components. First problem: prove a contract. We accessed the clients credit card records and found a transaction at round about the correct date. But what was it for?
Our library of cycle magazines came to the rescue. We were able to find the advert to which the client had responded. The prices advertised matched the credit card payment. Result!
West Sussex Cyclist
Our lady client sustained devastating lower limb and facial injuries when struck from the rear offside by an impatient driver going for an overtake as she prepared to make a right turn into her driveway. There were no independent witnesses. The Police ommitted to interview the driver under caution nor even ask him at what speed he had been travelling. First solicitors managed to interview the police officer but somehow managed to overlook the album of photographs that the CIU had produced. The claimant was advised that her case would fail.
We were consulted two years six months after the crash. The road had been extensively reworked. The accident scene had ceased to exist. A combination of old plans from the council's archives, OS maps and identification of the unchanged hedgerows and powerlines enabled a reconstruction. the claimant recovered 65% of her claim after a contested hearing.
Trans Africa adventurer.
Our young female client was travelling across Africa as part of a group on an adventure holiday. The company provided commercial vehicles adapted for African conditions and a crew of two per truck. The group, as part of the holiday, were expected to organise themselves into rotas to undertake chores such as purchasing and preparing food, making camp and assisting progress of the vehicle in adverse conditions.
Whilst attempting to push many tons of floundering Mercedes Benz wagon out of a mudhole in darkest Zaire the claimant fell beneath the vehicles wheels. Both legs and one arm were crushed and broken. She was extremely fortunate to be med-evaced after a few days and repatriated. Her claim against the tour operator succeeded. How so?
We retained Land Rover's expedition consultant to advise upon health and safety training issues and recognised techniques for traversing unmade roads and vehicle recovery. Fortunately the claimant's photo album was available. A succession of 'accident waiting to happen' images taken earlier in the adventure convinced us (PD) that the claim would succeed. His having taken his own vehicle through the centre of Africa a few years earlier provided the fund of knowledge as to how things ought properly to be done. Local Knowledge!
The young victim.
Injury during primary, secondary or further education is especially problematic because the victim may stand still while time marches on. Playing 'catch-up', arranging for particular arrangements and identifying and valuing the lost time/opportunities demands a specialist approach.
This young man was hit by a stolen car driven by an uninsured driver under the influence of drugs. AB was 14 years of age and immediatley hospitalised with a serious brain injury. Once discharged he attempted to return to school, while still displaying many of the synptoms of ABI: mood swings, excessive fatigue, impaired memory, concentration and word-finding.
School lacked any staff with insight into brain injury. A statement of special educational need was contended for. Class room support was organised. Debate occurred over the pros and cons of frepeating a year. While all of this went on the young man was absent more often than not and increasingly despondent with his situation.
As soon as possible after instructions were received the collection of material and witness statments relating to AB's previous schooling and abilities began in order to identify the levels at which he had previously functioned. Over this was superimposed his post-trauma achievments which enabled the paediatric neuro-psychologists to establish a base line against which further psychometric testing could be compared. In turn, this enabled a future assessment to be made of likely vocations and earnings.
Had the evidence gathering not begun as soon as practically possible opportunities to corroborate the victims's abilities could easily have been lost. Moreover, appropriate input into the educational regime enabled AB to remain at the top of the headmaster's agenda rather than slipping down it!
This technique was employed in the case of the young student sports injury therapist who lost the mayority of her left hand in a traffic accident. Again, records from school and statements from school tutors were obtained to evidence that the qualification was one to which the young pupil had aspired since her early teens. This was particularly prudent because the main tutor sadly predeceased the eventual final settlement; fortunately his statement was already complete.
The message is: gather evidence while it is there to be had, when events are at the forefront of minds; be aware that opportunities pass with time. Utilize the resources available (in terms of Statementing); do not be deflected -once these years are lost, they're lost!