‘Alan’ – Fractured Spine sustained in an Accident at Work

Case handler: Matthew Dixon (Partner)

Key elements of our client’s case

In this case, our client was injured as a result of an accident at work where he sustained a fractured spine (L3 vertebrae) which required surgery.

In addition to his fracture spine, he suffered from black eyes, a cut to his chin, an injury to his neck and an injury to his head with subsequent memory difficulties and extensive bruising. Our client also suffered depression, nightmares and frequent sleep disturbance and was unable to return to work following the accident.

On the day of the accident, our client was working as a self-employed labourer working as a subcontractor in the process of removing a lift car from a residential tower block when the lift car dropped down the shaft and our client fell approximately 3 metres.

Where our specialist serious injury experience really added value to our client’s situation

When instructed by our client to act for him, the liability position for the accident was unclear and we consequently made enquiries with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who were investigating the accident. Over the following months, numerous approaches were made to the HSE who finally confirmed that no legal action was to be taken against the main contractor for the accident.

We therefore sought sight of the full HSE investigation file which was not disclosed until several months later. Upon review and after analysing the evidence of the accident circumstances, we decided letters of claim should be sent to the main and sub-contractors responsible for the work on the day of the accident.

Liability was denied by the main contractor who alleged that their sub-contractor was responsible for the health and safety on site on the day of the accident. The sub-contractor subsequently denied liability alleging the main contractor’s project manager had attended site on the day of the accident.

It was alleged by the sub-contractor that the main contractor decided to ignore advice on how to safely remove the lift car by waiting for scaffolding to be erected and that this was the cause of the accident. Our client believed that his safety was the responsibility of the main contractor.

In order to properly document our client’s injuries, we sought medical evidence from a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Psychologist. The medical evidence confirmed that our client’s symptoms should stabilise within 3 years from the date of the accident but he was at a disadvantage on the open labour market and physiotherapy was recommended. The psychological evidence confirmed that our client suffered with stress symptoms, mood disturbance, elevated general anxiety and social withdrawal and recommended a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

As both Defendants continued to deny liability, we were forced to issue legal proceedings against both contractors and as a result the sub-contractor commenced legal proceedings against the main contractor.

Following the procedural elements after the issuing of proceedings, the Court listed the matter for a directions hearing to decide how our client’s case should proceed and it was agreed that our client’s case be listed for a liability-only trial to determine who was responsible for our client’s injuries.

We commissioned an engineering expert’s report which confirmed that both main and sub-contractors were negligent, however, that the sub-contractor had overriding responsibility for the safety on site.

Reaching settlement

After further extensive analysis of the accident circumstances and the evidence and once we had disclosed the engineering evidence, we recommended that a liability offer was put forward which was subsequently accepted by both contractors with some liability for the accident being accepted by our client for contributory fault and the remaining liability being apportioned equally between the main contractor and sub-contractor,which was then formalised in a court order.

Following agreement in respect of liability the sub-contractor put forward an offer on behalf of both contractors for a five figure sum.

Following our advice, the offer was rejected by our client and we were instructed to make a counter offer for a significantly higher sum on his behalf.

Following further pressure caused by us advancing the procedural elements of the case, the sub-contractor put forward a much improved offer on behalf of both contractors which was accepted by our client.

This case demonstrates that engaging lawyers who have a track record of handling difficult liability cases involving multiple potential Defendants is extremely important to ensure the right outcome is achieved for the injured party.

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