Accident at work – but what actually happened?
John (name changed), a stone mason and building labourer, was working alone in an outbuilding at a rural property, rendering internal walls so they were ready to be plastered. What exactly happened is unknown (there were no witnesses to the incident and John could not remember), but he was found by the owner of the property on the ground outside the building, agitated and in obvious distress – he had suffered a severe head injury and had blood coming from his head, mouth and ears.
John was airlifted to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to save his life. After a period in the intensive care unit and then on the ward, he was transferred to a hospital nearer to his home and then to a neurological rehabilitation centre. After spending two months in hospital, he was discharged home.
It was clear that John’s life would never again be as it was prior to the accident. Whilst his mobility was good, he had lost significant physical fitness, experienced dizziness, severe headaches and fatigue. He also had an impaired memory and issues with his speech, slurring on occasions and undergoing word finding difficulties, particularly when he was tired. His symptoms and ongoing difficulties made it unlikely that he would ever be able to work again in a job that he loved.
John and his family consulted Lee Hart, Head of the Serious Injury team, for advice about a potential claim. Despite the unusual circumstances, where no-one witnessed what happened and John could not remember because of the severity of his brain injury, the set up in the outbuilding suggested that John may have fallen from a trestle table onto the concrete floor below.
Commenting on the issues, Lee said: “In cases where the facts of an incident are unknown, in order to succeed, the claimant must prove the facts from which an inference of negligence on the part of the defendant may reasonably be drawn. Whilst the circumstances giving rise to John’s injuries were not straightforward, I took the view that it was a claim worth pursuing and so I wrote to John’s employer, alleging that negligence and a breach of statutory regulations on the employer’s part had led to John falling from height and suffering injury. The employer’s insurers denied liability, requiring John to prove that he fell from height. They suggested that his injuries could have been caused by an unrelated medical event, a pre-existing condition (which caused him to have dizzy spells), or a fall from ground level, and they refused to engage in a collaborative assessment of John’s rehabilitation needs.
In the absence of a witness or any recollection of events on John’s part, we set about gathering evidence from the accident scene, from paramedics who attended and from the Health and Safety Executive who carried out an investigation, but concluded there was insufficient evidence of what actually happened to take any action against John’s employer.”
Of crucial importance was the independent medical evidence obtained by Lee from an expert Neurologist and Neuroradiologist, who concluded that on the balance of probabilities, the presence of bilateral skull fractures and the severe contra coup injury to the brain was more consistent with John having fallen from height than having fallen over on the same level, or having suffered some other medical event. The employer’s representatives obtained their own expert evidence which sought to cast doubt on the opinions reached.
Given the continued denial of liability, the claim was listed for a trial on liability alone in the first instance. Just a few days before trial, the defendant made John an offer of substantial compensation which he decided to accept.
Commenting on the case, Lee said: “Ultimately, it was a very satisfying outcome. The defendant representative’s often obstructive conduct throughout the claim made it extremely difficult for John, who was understandably emotional about not being able to remember what had happened and worried that others might be blaming him, but with guidance, support and advice, John was able to see it through to a successful conclusion and allow him the financial security to provide for his family, which is so important to him.”
Know someone who has sustained an injury?
If you or someone you know has sustained serious injury, please contact Lee Hart or call us on 0800 316 8892 for a free consultation to find out if you or your loved one is entitled to make a compensation claim. A claim is not just about securing a financial award, we can also make sure that you get the best treatment, rehabilitation and support to maximise your quality of life.