Road traffic accident news

 

Why do children need to wear cycle helmets?

The health benefits of cycling are widely recognised for children who cycle for fun in parks and off-road environments, but also on the roads to get to school. Health and fitness, as well as environmental concerns, are great reasons to encourage kids to use their bikes for getting around, but as our brain injury lawyers know only too well, there are also risks to cycling on the road. 

How can parents encourage safer cycling?

Teaching children good road sense, the highway code and ‘bikeability’ or cycling proficiency can help them avoid being the cause of an accident, but serious injury from falls and collisions can still occur even when the child is riding carefully, from dangerous road and weather conditions or the carelessness of other road users.

To protect their child’s head from severe brain injury in the event of an accident, leading brain injury charity, Headway, and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) both advise parents to ensure that children always wear a cycle helmet.

Does wearing a cycle helmet reduce the risk of serious brain injury?

Absolutely! The purpose of a cycle helmet is to prevent or reduce the extent of injury to a cyclist’s head during a fall from the bike or a collision. The devastation caused by severe brain injury cannot be understated. Preventing skull fracture and severe brain injury is precisely what a cycle helmet is designed to do.

What does the brain injury charity, Headway, say about cycle helmets?

Headway believe that all cyclists should wear cycle helmet and that wearing helmets should be compulsory for children. They support their strong position by saying that it is based on research and expert opinion from leading neurosurgeons, together with common sense which dictates that wearing a cycle helmet will offer greater protection to a person’s fragile skull than not wearing one.

What does RoSPA, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, say about cycle helmets?

RoSPA strongly recommend that cyclists wear a cycle helmet, which reduces the risk of suffering a serious head or brain injury in an accident. However, they point out that cycle helmets alone do not prevent crashes from happening, nor guarantee survival. They are a secondary safety feature which provide a last line of defence for the cyclist’s head.  Therefore, preventing collisions from happening in the first place must be paramount. Unlike Headway, although RoSPA firmly believes cyclists should wear cycle helmets, it doesn’t call for compulsory cycle helmet laws. 

What does the law say about cycle helmets?

Despite the protection that a cycle helmet can offer, cyclists in the UK are not required by law to wear a helmet, however, the Highway Code states that cyclists ‘should wear a cycle helmet that conforms to current regulation, is the correct size and securely fastened’.

What do the statistics from research studies say about cycle helmets?

RoSPA refers to a number of studies which have shown how cycle helmets can help reduce and prevent serious brain injury. The statistics include:

  • a Cochrane Review of five case-control studies from different countries which suggested that helmets decreased the risk of injury to the head and brain by 65%-88%, and injury to the upper and mid-face by 65%;
  • a French study found that helmets contributed to a 24%-31% reduction in head injury and a 70% reduction in head injuries categorised above level 2 (moderate injury);
  • research into police data regarding cycling crashes over a five-year period from the Road Authority of Victoria  found that not wearing a helmet increased the risk of severe injury by 56%;
  • a study by McNally and Whitehead found that helmets effectively reduced the severity of head injuries over a full range of simulations. Where head impact occurred, the risk of serious injury (above level 3) was reduced by 40%;
  • cycle helmets have been found by many studies to make less of a difference at high energy impact with a vehicle but could prevent fatality in a third of high impact RTA cases;
  • the most recent and extensive review by Olivier and Creighton compared 64,000 casualties with and without helmets and estimates that wearing a cycle helmet reduces the risk of severe head injury by 69% and the risk of fatal head injury by 65%.

Headway refers to a 2018 study in the academic journal, Accident Analysis & Prevention, which gathered the findings of 55 studies from 1989 – 2017 and found that cycle helmets:

  • reduced head injury by 48%;
  • reduced serious head injury by 60%;
  • reduced traumatic brain injury by 53%;
  • reduced facial injury by 23%;
  • reduced the total number of killed or seriously injured cyclists by 34%.

Commenting on this study, Headway’s Chief Executive, Peter McCabe, said:

“There is an overwhelming body of evidence proving the effectiveness of helmets in reducing the risk of cyclists sustaining life-changing brain injuries. This latest piece of comprehensive research is yet another part of scientific evidence that reinforces this fact. It also highlights that although cyclists can take every care to avoid accidents, at times there are simply things that are outside of their control, such as icy road conditions or other road users. Cycling is a fabulous way to keep fit and active and at Headway we are passionate about promoting safe cycling, while supporting measures to make it safer for people of all ages to take to their bikes and get pedalling. Sadly however, we also know easy it can be to sustain a brain injury and the devastating effects that can result. Our message to all cyclists is please use your head – use a helmet”

Why do some people argue against making cycle helmets compulsory?

Reasons given by people who don’t want cycle helmets to be compulsory include:

  • it was suggested that some studies showed that cyclists or vehicle drivers take more risks, (such as riding faster or overtaking at closer distance) when the cyclist is wearing a helmet, however, further analysis of this research has disproved this idea, which is also known as ‘risk compensation’;
  • cyclists may be less aware of surroundings because of the fit of their helmet; 
  • some people are concerned that helmets may put people off cycling (losing the health benefits), either because they are perceived as not cool or uncomfortable or give the impression that cycling is a high risk activity.  However, as Headway points out, mandatory use of seatbelts and motorcycle helmets were initially argued against but in retrospect the benefits are now accepted.

What CAN’T a cycle helmet do?

The purpose of a cycle helmet is to reduce the extent and severity of the injury to the cyclist’s head and brain when a collision (or fall from the bike) occurs.

Clearly, wearing a cycle helmet alone cannot:

  • prevent a road traffic accident (RTA) or fall from the bike from occurring;
  • prevent all injuries – but it reduces the chances of devastating severe brain injury;
  • change the road infrastructure or make cycling safer in other ways on the roads – that must be dealt with by the government and the highway authorities. Headway and ROSPA both call for a range of additional measures to improve cycling safety, including safe cycling lanes and campaigning for education.

How does not wearing a cycling helmet in a road traffic accident (RTA) affect a cyclist’s brain injury claim? 

If a cyclist is head-injured in a road traffic collision that was caused by another driver’s negligence and their injury could have been prevented or reduced if they were wearing a cycle helmet, the driver’s insurers may argue that their failure to wear a helmet contributed to their own injury and their compensation award may be significantly reduced. 

Knowing the facts about cycle helmets and brain injury, what CAN a parent do?

Whether cycle helmets for children ever become mandatory in the UK remains to be seen, but the benefits of cycle helmets in reducing risk of serious brain injury are clear. It’s up to parents to do what we can to encourage our children to cycle safely and wear a correctly fitting helmet, so that they can enjoy being healthy and safe on their bikes.

Always:

  • ensure that the child’s bike is roadworthy and suitable in size for the child;
  • ensure the child wears a helmet;
  • ensure the helmet is made to correct safety standards – EN1080 in the case of children’s helmets and fits properly to maximise benefit, comfort and visibility;
  • ensure high visibility clothing is worn and there are lights on the bike – some helmets have built in rear lights;
  • ensure the child follows the highway code;
  • set a good example as an adult by using good road sense and wearing a helmet when cycling.

How can Boyes Turner help?

Boyes Turner’s personal injury team are recognised as national experts in the Legal 500 and Chambers directories for their expertise and experience in helping brain-injured cyclists and their families obtain rehabilitation, care, adapted accommodation, equipment, therapies and substantial compensation following road traffic accidents.

If you or a family member have suffered brain injury or serious disability in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, and would like to find out more about making a claim, contact us by email at piclaims@boyesturner.com.

Recovery of seriously injured woman hailed as 'incredible' as she launches new career as author

A specialist lawyer has hailed her seriously injured former client as ‘an inspiration’ as the road accident victim prepares to launch the next stage of her life as a published author.

Jessica Stevens, from Hendon, North West London, was left fighting for her life after a serious road accident in 2015 in which she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, a fractured pelvis, an injury to her right shoulder, a collapsed lung and internal bleeding, spending six weeks in a coma.

But serious injury expert Kim Smerdon, from law firm Boyes Turner, worked with the then 25-year-old to get her access to rehabilitation as soon as she was able to leave hospital – enabling her to return to her job with the Financial Ombudsman within 14 months of her accident.

And now Jessica, who continues to suffer some health problems as a result of the accident, will take the next step in her career as she launches a book called Everything is Broken, which tells the story of her injuries and her recovery.

Jessica still remembers nothing about the accident or the period immediately before or after it but was subsequently told that she was struck by a speeding driver as she was turning right onto the main road from the street in which she lived with her parents and brother.

Once out of the coma, a month and half after the incident in June 2015, Jessica spent a further three months in hospital, learning to walk and talk again.

In the immediate aftermath, she was left very unsteady on her feet, with slowed and slurred speech and with her right arm locked in a bent position, as well as facing weakness down the whole of the right side of her body.

Although she was eventually able to return home, she had to undergo continual rehabilitation involving a number of therapists providing physiotherapy, occupational therapy, personal training and a phased return to work.

Through sheer determination, Jessica made an impressive recovery, though she still suffers from ongoing problems including a continued weakness in her right-hand side, limited dexterity in her right hand, inability to straighten her right arm, problems with balance, scarring, memory problems and an increased risk of epilepsy and further stroke.

Now, she has captured her battle to recover and achieve the best possible quality of life she can in her honest and revealing book. It will be launched at a special event at the end of April hosted by Boyes Turner, who worked with Jessica to ensure she could access the support she needed and will continue to need.

Jessica said:

“I was out cold from the accident for six weeks and even when I came out of the coma, I then had to learn how to walk again, how to brush my hair and to dress myself.

“The rehabilitation I was able to get as soon as possible meant I could work with an occupational therapist, a neuro physio and a personal trainer to work my way back to being as strong as possible and get some confidence again.”

The 29-year old has already spoken to some other Boyes Turner clients who have suffered similar life-changing injuries to pass on her experiences and said her book aimed to help others who suffer serious injury in their recovery as well.

“It really does turn your life upside down in a moment, not just for me but for my family as well. It’s been a difficult journey, sometimes very emotional, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in my recovery and in being able to tell this story too,”

she said.

“My story shows what can be achieved with the support of the right people and a little determination. I look back on where I was and I’m delighted with where I am now. I’ve still got a way to go and I still have some effects from the accident to deal with but I hope people see what I’ve achieved and it helps them as they begin their recovery.”

Kim Smerdon, a partner and specialist in brain and serious injuries at Reading-based Boyes Turner, said:

“I couldn’t be happier for Jessica. To have achieved what she has achieved in terms of her recovery and the life she has built for herself is nothing short of incredible.

“She’s an absolute inspiration to anyone who faces the challenge of recovering from a serious brain injury.

“Her story shows the importance of injured people receiving quick rehabilitation and physiotherapy to help them begin their recovery journey as quickly as possible. It was vital in helping Jessica and played a huge part in her being able to return to work as quickly as she did, which was always her goal.

“To see her now launching her own book is just fantastic. She deserves every success and I’ve no doubt that this is just the beginning of another inspirational journey for her.”

Chris Day, whose firm Filament have published Everything is Broken, said:

“Jessica has been on a traumatic, emotional but ultimately successful journey from her original accident and injuries to where she is today. Her story makes for incredible reading and will inspire many people, whether they are in a similar situation or not.”

Why you should use a local solicitor for road traffic accident injury claims

If you are involved in a car accident or other type of road traffic accident where liability is disputed, having a local solicitor handle your claim can increase your chances of securing fair compensation.

There are a number of reasons a local claims specialist is likely to be the best choice, including their local knowledge, ability to take a ‘hands on’ approach and their connections with other local road traffic accident experts.

In this article, we will cover some of the key ways using a local road traffic accident claims solicitor can increase your chances of securing compensation in a disputed accident claim.

Making use of local knowledge

An experienced local road traffic accidents solicitor should have strong knowledge of local accident hot spots, traffic conditions and other factors that could be highly relevant to your claim. They will typically have dealt with many other claims similar to yours, possibly even at the same location and in similar circumstances.

This specific local knowledge can help your solicitor to ensure all of the relevant information is brought to light to support your claim (e.g. that several other people have had similar accidents at the same location in recent years).

This type of background information can be crucial to building your case, so its value should not be overlooked.

Visiting the scene of the accident

Where there is a dispute over liability for a road traffic accident, police reports and police witness statements should not be taken at face value when building your case. In our experience, there is no substitute for visiting the scene of accident in person to collect accurate evidence on factors that may have played a part in the events leading to an accident.

This visit should always take place as soon as possible and at the same time of day and under similar conditions to those at the time of the accident to give the most accurate and meaningful information.

Critical evidence a scene of accident visit can produce includes information on:

  1. Road layout – including width of lanes, bends, crossings and lights to establish what the parties involved could have seen at the time of the accident.
  2. Surrounding environment – including anything which might affect driver visibility, whether the area is heavily populated, number of pedestrians at the time of the day the accident occurred, any other specific hazards.
  3. Traffic flow and speed limit – can help judge whether the defendant should have been able to take evasive action at the speed they should have been travelling.
  4. Distances – these can be deceiving, so it is important to understand the direction of travel of all parties and what they could and could not have seen.
  5. Common practices of motorists on the particular stretch of road – e.g. whether bus lanes are being used by other vehicles etc.
  6. Road markings – such as hatchings and signage, which can help to establish whether they may have been reason for confusion over road use.

Non-local solicitors may rely on technology such as Google Maps to judge road conditions, which often miss key details, such as a slight bend in a road that appears straight on a map, or where the images used for Google Maps are not up to date.

Non-local solicitors may also rely on a local agents they do not know personally to visit the site for them and produce a ‘locus report’ or accident reconstruction report. While locus reports and accident reconstructions can be highly useful in disputed claims, it is critical that they be produced accurately and reliably.

For this reason, it is generally safer to work with a local lawyer who has an established working relationship with the road traffic accident experts who produce these reports.

Producing a locus report

A locus report provides clear, detailed information on the place where an accident occurred. It will typically include photos, sketches, diagrams and other types of visual information, as well as a written report on the area.

Locus reports are often critical pieces of evidence during a disputed road traffic accident claim, helping to reduce any uncertainty or leeway for dispute over the traffic conditions or other factors that may have led to the accident in question.

Using accident reconstructions

Accident reconstruction experts will examine the vehicles involved in an accident, as well as looking at the scene of the accident, reviewing evidence from witnesses and any other relevant information to build up a clear picture of what occurred during the accident.

By looking at the damage to the vehicles, the distance the vehicles moved after the impact, any damage to the surrounding environment and other details, an accident investigator can often establish important details, such as how fast the vehicles involved were moving at the time of the accident.

They will then use this information to put together a reconstruction of exactly what they believe occurred in the moments leading up to and during a road traffic accident.

Increasingly accident reconstructions use video and 3D animation to help visualise the events leading up to an accident. This evidence can often be highly compelling in disputed liability cases.

Speak to your local personal injury lawyers in Reading

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident, our specialist personal injury solicitors in Reading have the local knowledge and contacts to help you build the strongest possible case, so you have the best chance of securing fair compensation.

We work with a number of trusted local agents who can produce detailed, reliable locus reports, as well as accident reconstruction experts to help us fight cases where liability for an accident is in dispute.

Our personal injury team have many years of experience handling road traffic accidents for people in Reading and the surrounding area, including Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. This gives us deep knowledge of local accident blackspots and challenging traffic conditions, allowing us to give you the strong local expertise you need for a successful claim.

To start a road traffic accident claim with Boyes Turner or to find out more, please get in touch by calling the team on 0800 124 4845 or emailing at claimsadvice@boyesturner.com.

Cycling accident pair demand safety improvements after another incident at hotspot

Lawyers acting for two cyclists injured in separate incidents at the same Reading roundabout have joined their clients in calling for urgent safety improvements after another person was injured there.

Experts at Boyes Turner say the latest incident at the Vastern Road roundabout in the town centre adds to existing concerns over safety at the busy interchange, which has seen a number of accidents in recent years and left several cyclists injured.

The lawyers’ call for action was joined by a local teenager who spent two nights in hospital after being knocked off his bike in September last year and continues to suffer from injuries, including a fracture to his back, five months later.

A second cyclist injured at the same spot has also added his voice to the calls for improved safety, just over a year after he too was knocked off his bike at the Vastern Road site and also needed hospital treatment after suffering three fractures to his back.

And it comes just days after a motorist suffered serious injuries and was also left needing hospital treatment after another incident at the roundabout, which has been highlighted as a safety concern several times by local campaigners who say as many as 19 cyclists have been injured there in the past few years.

Adam Adrian, 19, from Caversham, had already safely negotiated most of the roundabout in busy traffic as he tried to turn right over Reading Bridge but was knocked off his bike and onto the road after being hit by a car.

An ambulance rushed him to hospital where he needed two nights’ treatment and had his arm put in plaster before being allowed home to begin his recovery from the fracture to his spine and injuries to his wrist and knee.

Doctors have since given Adam the devastating news that his spinal fracture will never heal fully, leaving the teenager facing an uncertain future as he tries to move on from the incident.

The former Highdown Secondary School student had been pursuing an acting career, with a place secured on a course at Chichester University, but has been restricted in any roles he can take since the accident due to the continued pain he suffers when moving, while his wrist injuries have also restricted his role in local rock band Before The Breakdown.

Julian Wigmore was also injured at the Vastern Road roundabout, when an SUV vehicle pulled out in front of him, catapulting the 66-year-old, also from Caversham, onto the bonnet of the car. He too was taken to hospital, where he was told he had fractured three vertebrae.

His injuries have left the bid manager two inches shorter and, despite rehabilitation arranged by his legal team, he continues to suffer pain a year later and is still unable to ride his bike on the road due to anxiety. He was also unable to work for a short period after the incident, which cost him a freelance contract.

Both Adam and Julian are now being helped by experts at Thames-Valley based Boyes Turner. Serious injury specialist solicitor Laura Magson said the latest incident at Vastern Road showed things were not improving and that it was time that action was taken by the local council.

“Adam and Julian’s stories are just two examples of people being injured at this same spot and questions have to be asked as to how many more people will have to suffer injuries or worse before something is done,”

she said.

“Cyclists in particular are vulnerable and far too many have already been injured at this roundabout, which has been singled out for attention by safety campaigners including ourselves before.

“Adam and Julian face a further fight to recover from the injuries and regain the lives they had before. The worry Adam faces while waiting to see if his fractured spine will repair fully is something no-one should have to endure at any stage in their life, let alone at just 19, and Julian also still suffers from his injuries a year on, despite important rehabilitation work.”

Laura added:

“Their stories should serve as a catalyst for action to prevent this happening to anyone else. We now want to see the authorities carry out an urgent review and make sure no-one else suffers what our clients have suffered. Safety has to come first.”

Adam said:

“The accident itself was horrific and it still affects me now, but the biggest frustration is not being able to just get on with my life. My acting ambitions and my music have all been affected by something which wasn’t my fault.

“However, when you then find out that you’re not the only person who has been injured at this roundabout, it’s even more frustrating, especially when you see more accidents like the recent one. I don’t want to see anyone else go through what I have gone through.”

Julian added: “All I was doing was cycling home and the next minute, my life had been turned upside down. A year on, I’m still in pain and still can’t do the things I could do before.

“Enough is enough. There have to be changes at this roundabout to stop anyone else being injured. One accident is too many but there have been a series of incidents there. Someone else will be seriously injured if action isn’t taken immediately”

Local cycle campaigners have previously highlighted the Vastern Road roundabout as a serious cause for concern and demanded action from council officials, saying statistics show that 19 cyclists have been injured at the interchange in recent years.

 

Amputation: What are the 3 most common causes we see?

Amputations are more common than you might think. The recent GIRFT report on vascular surgery puts the current number of lower limb amputations performed on the NHS each year at around 8,000, with an associated mortality rate of 7.5%. The good news is that with awareness, self-care and proper medical care, many amputations are preventable. For those whose avoidable amputations were caused by medical, employer or other road user negligence, financial help may be available through a legal claim.

Boyes Turner’s experienced amputation lawyers regularly help amputees restore their mobility and independence by securing funding to pay for rehabilitation, essential prosthetics, home adaptations and essential care and domestic assistance. Where the amputee is unable to return to their former employment, we can help alleviate the financial hardship that arises from their loss of earnings.

We asked our amputation specialist lawyers to tell us the most common causes of avoidable amputations which can give rise to a compensation claim:

Traumatic injury

Trauma, such as farm or factory accidents, where the injury arose as a result of unsafe working conditions or in an unsafe environment for visitors or children, are common causes of amputation claims against the employer or owner of the premises.

Road traffic accidents give rise to claims where a pedestrian, a cyclist, passenger in a car or taxi, pillion passenger on a motorbike or a bicycle, or another driver has been injured as a result of someone else’s negligent driving.

Complications of diabetes

With Type 2 diabetes on the increase, diabetes-related amputations are now performed at an alarming rate of 20 each day in England. Four out of five diabetes-related amputations are preventable, arising from minor foot conditions such as cuts, blisters, foot ulcers or sprains which develop into more serious infections or deformities such as Charcot foot.

Diabetes can lead to reduced blood circulation and loss of sensation in the sufferer’s feet, which means that they might not feel a blister or small cut until it has become infected or formed an ulcer. They might continue to walk on a sprained ankle until it develops signs of Charcot foot.

Diabetics and their health carers can reduce their risk of lower limb amputation by carrying out regular visual checks of their feet, promptly treating any signs of injury – cuts, blisters, discharge or oozing, redness, warmth or swelling – with rest, antibiotics if needed, and referral to foot care specialists.

Peripheral ischaemia

Peripheral ischaemia – a serious condition in which narrowing or blockage of the arteries restricts blood flow to a limb – was listed in a recent report on rising litigation costs by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) as one of the top five areas of substantial claims in GP practice.

If peripheral ischaemia is unrecognised or left untreated it can lead to ulcers, gangrene and amputation. Diabetics, smokers and sufferers of coronary artery disease are at increased risk, regardless of age, but 20% of adults over the age of 60 are believed to have some degree of peripheral artery disease.

Ischaemia to a limb can also be caused by surgical errors, such as mismanaged peri-operative anti-coagulation where the patient is known to be at risk of thrombosis or surgical injury to the popliteal artery.

If you have suffered an amputation or a serious injury with future risk of amputation as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact us on mednegclaims@boyesturner.com.

Is the Boyes Turner personal injury team right for you?

When someone has suffered a personal injury it is essential that they pick the right solicitor to assist them with their claim.

Carefully selecting the correct solicitor will ensure that you have:

  1. Access to up to date legal advice.
  2. Advice from a large network of specialists that we work with, such as medical experts, barristers, financial and welfare benefit advisors, employment and educational experts, housing and conveyancing specialists, and more.
  3. Access to specialist care and rehabilitation providers to assist you in your recovery journey.
  4. A speedy conclusion of your claim.
  5. Peace of mind that you will receive the compensation you need to secure your future.

No two claims are the same, even if the injuries are similar or if they were injured in the same accident. Thankfully Boyes Turner’s team of dedicated personal injury specialists are able to advise on all types of personal injury claims from minor injuries right through to life changing injuries such as brain injuries, spinal injuries and amputations.

Below we give you a quick introduction to the partners in the team and the specialisms they hold.

Kim Smerdon

Kim Smerdon leads Boyes Turner’s highly regarded personal injury team. A specialist in catastrophic injury cases, Kim acts for clients with acquired brain damage, spinal injuries and serious orthopaedic injuries.

Kim has extensive experience of all types of personal injury cases and has acted for clients who have been injured in road traffic accidents, in the workplace, as a result of defective products and criminal injuries.

A keen charity fundraiser, Kim recently completed the 3 Peaks Challenge, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours to raise over £35,000 for The Debbie Fund, a charity set up to raise funds for research into cervical cancer.

Kim is a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel and an accredited senior litigator and brain injury specialist with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). She is an associate member of the Child Brain Injury Trust, and a member of the Brain Injury Social Work Group, Headway and Spinal Injuries Panel Solicitors. She is a Headway Life Member, a trustee of Headway Thames Valley and trustee of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, a charity committed to saving young people’s lives by promoting safer cycling and benefits of using a cycle helmet. 

Claire Roantree

As a partner in Boyes Turner’s highly regarded personal injury team, Claire acts for clients with life-changing injuries, such as mild to very severe brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, severe burns, complex orthopaedic and musculoskeletal injury, chronic pain and PTSD. 

Claire works closely with the defendant insurers, using the Rehabilitation Code and securing interim payments to provide her injured clients with the treatment, care, facilities and support that they need to get their rehabilitation underway straight away, without losing valuable recovery time whilst waiting for final settlement at the conclusion of the claim. Working with experts in a variety of medical and therapeutic disciplines, professional case managers and carers, the client’s immediate needs are prioritised – recovery and rehabilitation – whilst the claim is quantified to make maximum provision  for their future needs for ongoing care, support and financial security.

A keen charity supporter and fundraiser she has used her love of running and walking to fundraise for The Children's Trust, Tadworth. She has run events for Headway SW London for whom she was a trustee for six years. She is a trustee for Cycle Smart and supports the charity’s campaign to raise cycling safety awareness and reduce road traffic accidents. 

Claire is a member of the Law Society's Personal Injury Panel, APIL (Brain Injury Specialist Interest Group), Headway and ABIL (Acquired Brain Injury across London).

As you can see there is no type of claim that the team cannot handle and together they are confident that they can assist you in achieving the best recovery possible as well as the justice and compensation you deserve.

If you would like to speak to our specialist personal injury team please do not hesitate to contact us for a free no obligation advice by email piclaims@boyesturner.com.

Cycle Smart Foundation: The 5 S's event, Friday 27 April 2018

As specialists in brain injury and severe disability claims, Boyes Turner’s personal injury lawyers are active supporters of the Cycle Smart Foundation which campaigns for child safety, the prevention of accidents and reduction of injury. 

Boyes Turner have been working with the charity’s founder, Angie Lee, to promote safer cycling for children by encouraging them to wear well-fitted cycle helmets properly. Learn more about the 5 Ss campaign here.

Cycle Smart Foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary in May 2018. To mark the event, personal injury partner and Cycle Smart trustee, Claire Roantree, was delighted to host the charity’s ‘5 Ss’ research meeting which gathered representatives from local councils in Berkshire and the South East, the Department for Transport, Hampshire & Thames Valley Police, CCG, Child Accident Prevention Trust, Royal Berkshire Hospital, Brain Injury Group,  Brake, Headway UK and Circle Hospital Reading to review and discuss data collected by Cycle Smart over the last 12 months relating to children’s cycling habits.

The charity carried out national questionnaire surveys in 2017 which looked at the cycling behaviour of children aged five to seven, seven to nine, and ten to 14, and studied attitudes in teenage cyclists.  All questionnaires were completed in schools which had been randomly selected but gave a cross-section of child cyclists in England. 

Findings of the study

The study found that although more children walked to school than cycled, there were higher numbers of hospital admissions for pedal cycle injuries than for injuries to child pedestrians.

There was an increase in the number of cyclists aged between five to nine years old. 79% of children in this younger age group own a helmet, compared with only 58% of 11 to 14 year old cyclists. Amongst helmet owners, a higher proportion of younger children wear their helmet than teenagers. Despite owning a helmet, a large proportion of teenagers never wear one.

Should wearing cycle helmets be mandatory for children up to the age of 14?

More children are cycling on roads where there are cars. Amongst primary school children, who are more easily influenced by their parents and teachers, cycle helmets tend to be worn. Secondary school children are more susceptible to influence from social and peer pressures where factors such as, whether their friends wear helmets, whether to do so is uncool or messes up their hair, are deterring them from looking after their own safety and placing them at increased risk of serious injury in the event of an accident or a fall.

Internationally, more and more countries have introduced legislation to make helmets mandatory for child cyclists, including France, 22 states of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jersey. The obvious implication is that mandatory cycle helmet legislation is considered to be associated with a reduction in head injuries with cyclists of all ages. However, young children are particularly vulnerable to head injury if they fall from their bikes. 

The diverse and experienced focus group discussed the influence of parental control, social factors, demographics, education, peer pressure, the availability of Bikeability schemes and funding issues in Local Authorities.

Cycle Smart promotes the availability of the Bikeability Scheme for all children regardless of background, beginning at an earlier age and continuing into secondary education to promote and maintain better cycling safety habits. Cycle Smart also campaigns for the mandatory wearing of cycle helmets for children up to 14 years of age. 

This push for legislative change is all too frequently met with arguments ranging from the fear that the imposition of mandatory helmets will deter people from cycling if they perceive it to be a dangerous sport to concerns about increasing obesity within an increasingly inactive population. However, for those who have seen first-hand the brain damage and lifelong disability that can be suffered by children who are knocked or fall from their bikes, it makes sense to make safety and the protection of their head and brain the overriding priority.

Cycle Smart’s research reveals that the key factors in influencing the behaviour of children of all ages are school rules and the law. Encouragement is needed to create a collective consciousness whereby the wearing of cycle helmets becomes “the norm”. 

In the light of this latest research Boyes Turner await the government’s review of child cycling safety, due later this year in the hope that mandatory increased safety measures will reduce the numbers of children suffering head injuries from cycle accidents in England each year.

 

 

Epilepsy medicine Valproate linked to birth defects

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has changed the licensing rules controlling the prescription of valproate drugs for women and girls of childbearing age with epilepsy. The new contraindication of drugs such as Epilim in pregnancy, follows evidence that up to 10% of babies born to mothers prescribed the drug have serious birth defects, with as many as 40% suffering developmental problems.

Birth defects associated with valproate in pregnancy

Birth defects suffered by babies of valproate-medicated mothers during pregnancy include congenital malformation of the spine (spina bifida), face and skull (such as cleft palate), limbs and organs including the heart, kidneys and sexual organs.

The long-term effects of the developmental problems suffered by valproate babies are not yet fully understood but include delayed walking and talking, reduced intelligence, impaired speech and language and memory problems.

Children exposed to valproate in the womb also have an increased risk of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Valproate – little change despite warnings

“Valproate is a common treatment for epilepsy and bipolar disorder and is prescribed to thousands of women. The drug was introduced in 1974 and its product information for doctors has always included a warning that it carried a potential risk of birth defects.”

Over time, as more information has been gathered in Europe about the drug’s association with congenital malformations and developmental impairments, the MHRA’s warnings to doctors and pharmacists about the risks to the medicated woman’s unborn child have been strengthened. However, the MHRA’s latest alert confirms that despite the strengthened warnings that they issued to prescribers in 2015 and 2016 against prescribing valproate medicines in girls and women of childbearing age unless other treatments are ineffective and they are using effective contraception, one in five women taking valproate remain unaware of its risks in pregnancy. Without such information, women are unable to make informed decisions about their treatment. They risk becoming pregnant with high risk of serious injury to their child. MHRA’s previous communications appear to have had little impact on prescribing practice.

New regulation of valproate prescription from April 2018

In March 2018, after further research revealed the extent to which previous warnings had not been heeded, the European Medicines Agency, CMDh (Coordination Group for Mutual Recognition and Decentralised Procedures – Human), recommended tougher regulation of the prescription of valproate medicines. The new regulations will come into force at the end of April 2018 and will be backed up by amended guidance from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Valproate medicines are now contraindicated in women and girls of childbearing potential unless the conditions of a specified Pregnancy Prevention Programme are met, and only if other treatments are ineffective or not tolerated, as judged by an experienced specialist. The Pregnancy Prevention Programme also applies to female patients who are not sexually active unless there are compelling reasons to indicate that there is no risk of pregnancy.

Compliance with the Pregnancy Prevention Programme means that all female patients taking valproate medicines:

  • have been told and understand the risks of pregnancy and have signed a risk acknowledgement form.
  • are on highly effective, user-independent contraception -  such as long acting reversible contraceptive, a copper intrauterine device (coil), progesterone implant or levonorgestrel intrauterine system – or using two complementary forms of contraception including a barrier method and undergo regular pregnancy testing
  • see their specialist for review and re-evaluation at least once every year.

GPs must now identify and recall all valproate-medicated women and girls of childbearing potential to give them the patient guide, check that they have been reviewed by a specialist within the last year and are on highly effective contraception.  

Specialists are required to review and re-evaluate their patients at least annually, provide clear explanations and complete and sign the risk acknowledgement form which must be copied to the patient or their carer and sent to the patient’s GP.

Pharmacists must ensure that where valproate medicines are dispensed to women and girls of childbearing potential the (ideally whole) packs must bear a pre-printed warning label or the pharmacist must place a warning sticker on the pack.  Pharmacists are also required to discuss the risks in pregnancy with female patients each time they dispense their valproate medicines, and to check that they have the Patient Guide and have discussed their treatment and contraception with their GP or specialist.

I’m on valproate. What do I do now?

All women and girls who are prescribed valproate should now contact their GP and arrange to have their treatment reviewed. Meanwhile, MHRA emphasise that it is important women don’t stop taking valproate without first discussing it with their doctor.

Boyes Turner’s specialist birth injury and cerebral palsy lawyers have decades of experience of helping families whose children have suffered severe disability as a result of inappropriate medical care. We welcome the recent action taken by MHRA and NICE to enforce responsible prescribing practice in the hope that fewer babies will suffer the devastating disability caused by in-utero exposure to valproate drugs.

If you are caring for a child with serious disability arising from negligent medical care please contact us on 0118 952 7219 or email us on mednegclaims@boyesturner.com.

Cycle helmets: To wear or not to wear?

Recently, one of our personal injury team, asked the following question on Linkedin:

“Should cycle helmets be a legal requirement on UK roads for safety purposes?”

We were surprised at the reaction this question received.

  • The post was viewed 15,350 times in just 7 days, suggesting that the issue of cycle safety and brain injury prevention is important to a large sector of the population, whether cyclists or not.
  • The post received 137 comments:
    • Of those comments:
      • 17 people replied ‘yes’
      • 13 people replied ‘no’

The remaining comments were not ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, but were people giving their views on the subject, many of whom described their own accident experiences when they were or were not wearing a helmet.

Of the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers provided, it can be seen that more of those who answered the survey question (56.66%) are in favour of cycle helmets being a mandatory requirement, but not by much. As personal injury lawyers we were surprised by the response and expected the ‘yes’ votes to be higher.

Why should cycle helmets be a legal requirement?

Boyes Turner’s personal injury team act for many cyclists who are knocked off their bicycles by other vehicles on the roads, or who suffer injury due to a poorly maintained road. We regularly help injured cyclists who are suffering from:

  • brain injuries
  • hearing loss/tinnitus
  • loss of vision
  • facial injuries
  • skull fractures
  • extensive scarring

Many of these injuries can be avoided or, their severity reduced, if a cycle helmet is worn. 

Above is a picture of a damaged cycle helmet following an accident. It is scary to think what condition the wearer’s skull and brain may have been in had they not been wearing a helmet at the time of this accident.

Whilst the Highway Code (Rule 59) does not mandate that a cycle helmet is worn, (it simply states you ‘should’ wear one), Boyes Turner believes that this doesn't go far enough. Our experience confirms our belief that it makes sense to wear one. 

Boyes Turner’s injury lawyers also believe that it is good practice to educate children about the benefits of wearing a cycle helmet and the risks of not doing so. If children are taught this important lesson from a young age they are much more likely to continue wearing a cycle helmet for the rest of their cycling lives.

Boyes Turner supports Cycle-Smart Foundation, a local Reading charity who campaign for safer cycling particularly amongst younger children.

If you or someone you know has been seriously injured following a cycling accident please contact us on 0118 952 7137 or email piclaims@boyesturner.com for a free no obligation advice on pursuing a personal injury claim. 

 

Santa's little bikers need safety advice under the tree to go with their new wheels

Children are cycling on our busy roads at a younger and younger age, many from the age of five, according to new research from local child cyclist’s safety charity Cycle-Smart

With the Christmas peak in bike and helmet sales now upon us, the charity - as part of its #FiveSs campaign - is visiting schools across the Thames Valley to increase parent's and children's awareness of the need for properly fitted helmets and safer cycling practice - to mitigate risk of serious injury or death if new bikes and helmets are not accompanied by more effective, simple guidance on head protection and road safety. 

The national research from Cycle-Smart surveyed over 1,700 children in England aged 5-9, and found:

More than one in seven (15%) of 5-6 year olds now cycle on roads where there are cars;

The figure rises to 37% of 7-9 year olds;

Amongst boys in the 7-9 year old  44% were more likely to cycle on the road compared to 23% of girls;

Only 70% even own a helmet, and only 47% wear them every time they use their bike.

The last 6 months of road data (January- June 2017) shows a 24% increase in serious child cycling casualties compared to same 6 months last year.

Boyes Turner is proud to have sponsored a video for Cycle-Smart, released today, which gives simple to follow tips on helmet fitting and cycle safety.   

A snap-survey conducted last month by Cycle-Smart volunteers of 350 children, including 120 in the Reading, Newbury, Slough and wider Berkshire area, has revealed a worrying failure of children to wear properly fitted helmets:

Over 60% of under six-year-olds did not have straps secured properly under the chin or with the Y-shaped straps fitted correctly around the ears;

Over a quarter of under six-year-olds did not have the helmet positioned correctly on their heads.

For 6-14 year olds, over 40% didn’t have straps positioned and secured correctly, and 18% didn’t have the helmet positioned correctly on their heads.

Angela Lee, Founder and Chief Executive of Cycle-Smart, says:
"A lifetime of happy, healthy cycling is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their child. But a bike without a well-fitted helmet and the common-sense advice and training necessary to share the road with cars, vans and trucks could lead to unnecessary anguish. We're urging parents, bike shops and those responsible for educating our children to use the roads safely to come together to make sure this Christmas's bike bonanza leaves a safe and happy legacy in the New Year."

Claire Roantree, Trustee of Cycle-Smart and Partner at Boyes Turner LLP, says:
"Thousands of new bikes will be under the tree this Christmas. They're gifts that will create happier, healthier, more independent kids. However, it is an unavoidable fact that some of these bikes will lead to accidents. The risks shouldn't stop kids getting freer and fitter on their bikes. But it would be reckless if a major part of the gift wasn't parents, bike shops and schools coming together to ensure helmets are always well-fitted and advice is provided to the ever-younger kids sharing the roads with cars. We urge all parents of child cyclists to watch the Cycle-Smart video."

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