What happened

Educating young children about the perils of our highways is always of paramount importance, particularly when some of the most dangerous roads are those outside of school grounds.

At the same time, it is up to drivers to maintain a high level of awareness and anticipate the erratic behaviour of unpredictable pedestrians; be they absent-mindedly running into the road or simply misjudging speed.

Just one small mistake by a motorist, pedestrian or both, can spell disastrous consequences.

Nicola’s accident happened on a wet and blustery afternoon in the suburbs of a major city, when she was just 13 years old. Just like any other lunchtime, she and her friends were outside of the school grounds to buy lunch.

Without an umbrella to protect herself from the weather, Nicola and her friend came up with a solution: they both held a single coat up over their heads, jointly shielding themselves from the rain.

The pair reached the kerb at the side of the road. In an effort to get back to school and out of the rain, Nicola started to cross.

A bus approached from Nicola’s blind right hand side and collided with her, fracturing her skull and causing a severe brain injury.

Her family were devastated, and it took some time before they became aware that Nicola would need help getting her life back on track. Thankfully, Nicola’s mother contacted Serious Injury Law.

How we helped

Nicola was 14 years old when her parents got in touch with us. She’d spent just under three months in hospital receiving intensive neuro-rehabilitation, so was yet to return to school.

The accident meant that Nicola had problems with her balance, co-ordination, walking, hearing and talking. She received intensive physiotherapy and speech therapy, which continued on a daily basis after leaving hospital.

Nicola’s brain injury had further effects on her, affecting her memory and concentration, inhibitions (she had a reduced awareness of danger in situations such as crossing the road), and a noticeable change in her personality.

With Nicola’s life turned completely upside down, it was obvious that both she and her family would need assistance to help her begin the rest of her life. Severe head injuries are incredibly unpredictable, and there may be consequences that may not appear until sometime after the accident.

Spurred into action, our solicitors began a thorough investigation to understand the full circumstances of her accident.

The defendant bus company denied any responsibility for the accident. This meant that we had to determine both the bus’ speed and whether it was suitable for the conditions. We worked with of eyewitnesses such as Nicola’s friends, school staff and her family, and studied CCTV footage of the incident in minute detail with the assistance of an experienced engineer.

This helped us to determine the speed and approach of the bus.

The Highway Code states that the speed limit should be considered the “absolute maximum” that a driver should be travelling “irrespective of conditions”, so it’s important to “adapt your driving to the appropriate type and condition of road you are on” and drive with “the safety of children in mind”.

Through expert evidence and analysis, we were able to show with confidence that the bus driver was driving at in excess of the recommended speed on that stretch of road.

To evaluate the full consequences of the injury (and the possibility of any future symptoms), we gathered evidence from an independent and expert neurologist, neuropsychologist and neuropsychiatrist.

By this point, we were confident in Nicola’s case and constructed a substantial case, ready for a court trial if necessary. It then appeared that the defendants recognised the strength of our arguments and, despite their original liability denial, they decided to meet to discuss a potential settlement.

During the Joint Settlement Meeting, the defendant’s legal team offered a substantial six-figure compensation sum following negotiation. This allowed us to help set up Nicola’s Personal Injury Trust, into which the family invested her compensation award.

One particularly interesting feature of Nicola’s case involved the foresight of our legal team to take into account the possibility that her head injury may one day develop into post-traumatic epilepsy and that if so, she’ll receive further damages.

Of course, we hope that Nicola never develops post-traumatic epilepsy but, if it does, she and her family can take comfort in knowing that her case will be re-opened.

Ben Priestley – Solicitor’s comments
“I am very pleased that Nicola now has the means to start the next chapter in her life. Given her age, I felt it was very important that she has the protection of knowing that she has the option of having the case re-opened if in the future, she develops epilepsy related to the accident.”

If you or someone you care about has experienced a serious injury like Nicola, please contact us now to find out how we can help you.