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We have represented Mrs X in respect of pursuing a claim against the defendant for damages for personal injury and consequential loss arising from a road traffic accident.

The accident

Mrs X was the sole occupant of the vehicle she was driving and she was wearing seatbelt. The defendant, negligently and without warning, drove into the off side of her vehicle, with sufficient force to lift her vehicle from the road. The front of her vehicle struck the near side kerb in the subsequent impact.

The injury

Our client sustained a soft tissue injury to the left wrist, a soft tissue injury to the cervical spine and a soft tissue injury to the lumbar spine with pain radiating to both feet with a subsequent diagnosis of a disc protrusion and later spinal surgery. Our client required a complex two stage spinal fusion surgery with a blood transfusion. Our medical expert stated that the accident accelerated her pre-existing asymptomatic condition (spondylolisthesis which was chronic in nature) by 3 years and therefore she would have required the spinal fusion surgery at some point in any event even if the material accident had not occurred. 

Claiming compensation

Our client was left with permanent symptoms and was significantly disadvantaged on the open labour market and in her current employment.

We have included ‘Smith & Manchester’ award in her claim (damages for future loss of earnings due to handicap on the open labour market). They cover the situation where the injured party is still in work by the time the case settles, but is at risk at being out of work at some point in the future.

The risk of future unemployment does not have to be due to the injuries but if the injuries would make it harder for them to find another job they are regarded as having a handicap on the open labour market and compensation will normally be awarded.

To be entitled to an award the injured claimants have to show that there is a serious risk that at some point in the future they will be looking for a new job and that their ability to find a job will be harder because of their disability when compared to an able bodied person.

Historically Judges applied a mathematical approach to the issue, estimating how many months the injured person would be able to work because of their injuries and awarding the loss of earnings that would arise.

More recently a lump sum approach has been favoured, meaning that Judges give a specific figure without explaining how it has been calculated. The Judge has to assess the degree of risk that loss of employment might occur, when and how badly the ability to find another job would be affected. Aspects such as the nature of employment, age, qualifications, length of service, length of future expected working life and the nature of any disability are all taken into account as part of the assessment.

After lengthy negotiations the claim settled out of court for £28,500.