Car whiplash injury

Damages recovered after road traffic accident leads to functional neurological disorder

Oliver Chapman, specialist personal injury lawyer acting for the claimant successfully obtained a settlement of £834,500 to compensate the claimant for her pain and suffering and financial losses, including past and future care needs, adaptations to the home and past and future loss of income.

We acted for Mrs K who suffered polytrauma following a road traffic accident.  As she was driving her car to work the defendant began to execute a right turn and pulled into Mrs K’s path, causing an unavoidable collision.

At the time of the accident Mrs K was in good physical health, with a history of mild depressive symptoms which were well controlled at the time of the accident.  She was in a stable marriage and mother to two children.  She had a challenging job which required her to be dynamic and hardworking. She had an excellent work record.

The mechanism of the accident was a high-energy double frontal collision.  The front of her car struck the front off side corner of the defendant’s car at the speed of between 40 mph and 45mph before then careering into a ‘no right turn’ road sign.  She sustained widespread soft tissue injuries.

She suffered immediate pain from her soft tissue injury sites which became progressively more intrusive and difficult to endure. Her mobility was compromised by reason of soft tissue injuries to her feet and ankles. She was unable to return to work and her contract of employment was terminated when she resigned on medical grounds eight months later.

About five months after the accident she began to experience some involuntary jerking movements in her legs.  A month later she developed an uncontrollable tremor in her right arm.  This settled after 30 to 40 minutes, but recurred two days later and then spread intermittently to the contralateral arm and into her legs.

Thereafter the tremors in all four limbs became frequent and often aggressive.

The tremors, coupled with the chronic pain across her body, became acutely debilitating to the point where she mobilised in a wheelchair when outside of the home and her lower limbs were tremoring.  At other times she had been able to walk slowly, usually with walking aids.  Her symptoms deteriorated over the first 18 months after the accident and plateaued thereafter.

She underwent clinical and medico-legal assessment by experts in the fields of neuropsychiatry, neurology, chronic pain, orthopaedic surgery and neuropsychology.  The experts were agreed that there was no enduring organic basis for her chronic presentation.

The expert neuropsychiatrist diagnosed chronic pain disorder likely to be psychologically driven, and a functional neurological disorder (often abbreviated to “FND”).

In addition, he confirmed she presented with symptoms of travel related phobic anxiety and some PTSD symptoms, which had improved.  In addition she developed a recurrence of a mild to moderate severe depressive episode which progressed gradually following the accident.  The other experts concurred with the neuropsychiatrist’s diagnoses and recommended treatment

She received rehabilitation which brought some improvement, but the neuropsychiatrist advised that there was still a chance of further, potentially significant gains in the future provided she receive further

expert support. He considered she had a one third chance of experiencing a full recovery, a one third chance of some recovery and a one third chance of no recovery.  A return to employment was therefore a possibility.

Liability was admitted by the defendant’s insurer, but the causative impact of the accident upon the client was denied.

It was the claimant’s case that she suffered significant soft tissue injuries in an objectively terrifying and high energy head-on collision, causing her a continuum of symptoms that subsequently manifested and presented as debilitating tremors, explicable by reference to a functional neurological disorder.

The defendant rejected that case, positing instead that she had a stressful job and “The FND provided a face-saving means of reducing onerous responsibility and stresses”.  It was the claimant’s case that, on the contrary, she loved her job, deriving pleasure from its demands.

The defendant was aggressive throughout and made multiple offers of up to £150,000, which we advised the claimant to reject.

The defendant also insisted there be an early settlement meeting, but we argued that the parties needed to consider the timing of alternative dispute resolution carefully so as not to waste time and costs holding a settlement meeting at a point in time when one or other party had not yet been able to interrogate the other’s case with sufficient rigor.  The defendant’s case had not been tested at the point the defendant suggested a settlement meeting.  Accordingly, a settlement meeting had the best chance of succeeding after the claimant had been able to plead her final case and after joint discussions between the parties’ respective experts.  We considered this approach would ultimate maximise the claimant’s damages.

We prepared detailed witness statements responding to the defendant’s very personal attacks on the claimant’s presentation.  Meanwhile the defendant was unable to find any witnesses to support its contentions.

When we attended a settlement meeting with the defendant, our experts and lay witness evidence was strong, resulting in a negotiated settlement of £834,500.  Had we attended an earlier meeting as the defendant wanted, it is wholly unlikely that such a result would have been achieved.

Oliver Chapman  specialises in personal injury cases.  If you would like to ask Oliver a question about a potential case, or if you have a general query about any personal injury, contact Oliver Chapman at Thomson Snell & Passmore solicitors on 01892 701234 in confidence. We offer no win no fee agreements on the vast majority of our clinical negligence and personal injury cases.

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