Case Study – Personal injury following clinical negligence

23 October 2018

Alice* was struck down when crossing a road near her home by a car and suffered a simple fracture of the tibia. The case against the driver of the vehicle was disputed and he tried to suggest that Alice was to blame for the accident for walking out in front of his vehicle. However events changed course when she was admitted to hospital and had a plaster cast put on the leg.

Unfortunately Alice then developed a fever and then became very unwell. She was tested for a number of possible diagnoses but the hospital staff took too long to check underneath the plaster and had not realised that the leg had turned gangrenous due to an infected haematoma. They tried to save the leg with several operations. Eventually the lower part of her right leg had to be amputated. When she was suffering from multi organ failure she also suffered septicaemia which caused mild brain damage.

Caroline Flashman was instructed very early on in the case by Alice’s mother and the case progressed as a duel personal injury and clinical negligence claims. One issue relating to the brain damage was especially complicated as it had to be established whether she had suffered a head injury in the road traffic accident or she had suffered brain damage due to the septicaemia and organ failure. Despite the fact that there was a fight on liability with the drivers insures and representatives, the hospital representatives, and their solicitors finally took over the case in relation to both issues and admitted negligence so that Judgment could be entered.

Caroline then managed to obtain a substantial interim payment to purchase a vehicle for Alice to aid her mobility and also to purchase two top of the range wheelchairs and other pieces of equipment. Issues with quantum continued to be negotiated and eventually the matter was set down for trial to assess the value of the case. At a round table meeting with the Defendant’s representatives it was clear that the Defendants were not offering enough to settle the claim and everything was prepared for the trial. Two days before the trial the Defendants made a further offer and Alice decided to accept it as she did not want to go through the trauma of a trial. She is now purchasing a bungalow adapted for wheelchair use and investing the funds to provide an income for her future needs.

Hybrid cases involving personal injury following clinical negligence are rare and obviously the cases require expertise in both areas. Numerous expert reports had to be obtained to cover all of the heads of loss. There was a particular issue in relation to prosthetics as it was discovered that Alice had an underlying immune problem which prevented her from tolerating a prosthesis although she is now having a bespoke cosmetic prosthesis made for her which will be used in a non-weight bearing capacity. This is an example of a case where it is important to instruct specialist solicitors and the correct experts to maximise the value of the claim.

*The name 'Alice' has been used for representational purposes.