£140,000 Compensation for Head, Neck and Shoulder Injuries plus FND After an Accident at Work

Posted on: 5 mins read
Melanie Burden

Partner, Head of Employer's Liability - Serious Injury

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Our client was working as an HGV driver on a building site when he was struck by a falling branch on the head, neck and shoulder which caused him to suffer a serious injury and to develop the debilitating condition FND (Functional Neurological Disorder).

Brian was working for his employers as an HGV driver and was visiting a building site. He was stood by the side of his lorry when another lorry struck a branch of an overhanging tree which caused the branch to fall off and strike our client on the head, neck and shoulders.  He fell to his knees and was trapped by the branch. He was wearing a hard hat on site which fortunately prevented him from suffering a more serious head injury. His work colleagues went to help him and removed him from the trapped branch.

The accident resulted in severe neck pain, lower back pain and shoulder pain. He was in shock. 

Brian attended hospital and was x-rayed.  He was diagnosed with a whiplash injury to his neck and the x-rays showed he had suffered a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder which he later had surgery to repair.

He was also diagnosed with sciatica which he was told was a worsening of some pre-existing degenerative changes in his spine, which had been triggered by the accident. The pain from the sciatica spread down both his legs. He had a series of facet joint injections to try and help alleviate the pain and manage his symptoms.

Unfortunately, Brian really started to struggle with psychological problems with worsening depression and anxiety as he began to despair about his worsening pain and started to worry about his financial situation and inability to work. He had worked all his life.  He was coming to the twilight of his career but had hoped, due to his previous good health, to continue working for at least another 8 years until retirement.  He also struggled at times with confusion and memory and also managing his temper.

As Brian’s depression spiralled, he began to suffer from tremors in his body.  The movements were jerking movements affecting the legs and trunk of his body which he could not control. At times the movements were so severe that, to his family and friends, it looked like he was suffering a convulsion - a non-epileptic fit. This severely affected his quality of life. It was particularly bad at times of stress and shock and could be triggered by touch and loud noise. He was diagnosed with Spinal Myoclonus by the Neurology team who were treating him.

He got in touch with our expert Personal Injury Solicitors for a free claims assessment, and after listening to his story, we felt he had a strong claim for compensation, and we agreed to take on his case on a No Win, No Fee basis.

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How We Helped

We made enquiries to establish the details of the company who employed the lorry driver who drove into the tree branch and we sent them a letter of claim.  They denied liability, blamed the local council for not maintaining the tree branches in the area and for permitting them to protrude dangerously into the road.  

We then directed a letter of claim to the local council responsible for maintenance of the tree. We argued that the dangerously protruding branch from the tree created a public nuisance and that it was reasonably foreseeable that a higher vehicle such as a lorry could strike it when driving down the road and cause a risk of injury. The local council eventually admitted liability for the accident.

We arranged for Brian to have medical assessments by a whole team of medical experts due to the complexity of his symptoms which we recognised required specialist advice. We obtained medical reports from the following types of medical experts:

      • Spinal Surgeon
      • Orthopaedic Surgeon specialising in Shoulder Injuries
      • Neurologist
      • Psychologist
      • Neuropsychiatrist

These independent experts each prepared medical reports detailing his injuries and how they affected his life.

The experts recommended a number of diagnostic tests which Brian had to undergo in order to help them reach a diagnosis.  These included having an MRI scan and also having to undergo Sleep Studies where he had to be admitted to hospital overnight so he could be observed sleeping, to monitor his movements, in particular the jerking movements when he was asleep.  He had to be tested on two separate occasions.

The Neurologist ordered the tests because the medical results to date had not found any explanation for any other neurological condition or cause of his symptoms. The testing was carried out to exclude other causes before arriving at a diagnosis of Functional Neurological Disorder (FND).

The Psychiatrist agreed that there was a contributing psychological component to the symptoms and that he was suffering in addition with major depression.   

A programme of targeted treatment including residential treatment to treat the FND was recommended with a multi-disciplinary team involving a neurologist, neuropsychologist, and neuropsychiatrist.  We obtained a quote for the cost of the residential treatment.

It was recommended that the maximum potential benefits of the treatment would be achieved after settlement of the case, as the litigation was proving stressful for Brian. He opted to claim for the cost of the treatment as part of his case, to settle the case and undergo the treatment after the litigation was concluded.

Using the evidence we had gathered, including the medical reports, we determined how much compensation Brian should claim and at his request we asked the Defendants to meet with us for a Joint Settlement Meeting which is a more informal, and less stressful option at looking to settle a case rather than running the case all the way to a court hearing. Our valuation of his claim reflected many factors, including his physical injuries, his psychological symptoms, the cost of having the recommended programme of treatment and some loss of earnings.

The cause of the FND symptoms was fully disputed by the Defendants.

The Outcome

The case was settled out of court at a Joint Settlement Meeting for £140,000.

The most important outcome for the client was to be able to have a diagnosis of his symptoms, with a diagnosis of FND and importantly to feel understood.  The compensation package enabled him to secure the money he needed to undergo a package of specialist private treatment to manage and treat the FND.

The case is important also in highlighting that, whilst an accident may have happened to you whilst working it is not always your employer who is at fault. In this case the blame was actually attached to the local council for failing to prune and maintain a tree which had a branch which protruded dangerously into the road. Fortunately, in our client’s case, a work colleague had taken some photographs of the tree and the branch after the accident. It was also witnessed so we were able to prove that the local council were at fault.

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