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ACCIDENT & PERSONAL INJURY - CASE STUDIES

Case Study A

Mrs A who was 88 lived in sheltered housing run by a housing association. Unfortunately the flags on the pathways near her flat were allowed to fall into disrepair and she tripped on a protruding flagstone and fell heavily breaking her neck. She survived but had to wear a “crown of thorns” a steel cage neck brace for many months and was left with significant impaired quality of life because of her age. Her recovery was slow.

Were you not familiar with the insurance industry you might expect the liability insurers to take a sympathetic view and settle this case speedily to ease the victim’s final years, particularly in view of the excellent evidence we had obtained of the tripping point within days of the accident. They did not. The liability insurers denied liability and fought the case every step of the way. Proceedings were issued to force the matter to a conclusion quickly particularly in view of the client’s advanced age. The liability insurers procrastinated and attempted to delay. We applied pressure and insurers agreed to pay £28,000.00 virtually at the door of the court plus costs.

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Case Study B

A straight forward whiplash case.
Miss B was stationary at some traffic lights when she was hit from the rear. Her car (which was of modest value) was written off and Miss B suffered whiplash and other uninsured losses including a week off work. Liability was not disputed by the third party insurers but causation and quantum was. After giving the appropriate advice Ashton Bell Accident solicitors entered into a no win no fee agreement with Miss B, took a full statement and collated evidence of her losses. An accident and emergency consultant was instructed to prepare a medical report which was in our hands within 3 months of the accident date. the medical gave a prognosis for a full recovery in 9 to 12 months post accident. Miss B’s uninsured losses (the value of her car, recovery charges, storage charges, value of full tank of petrol, loss of earnings, travel expenses, incidental expenses such as telephone calls etc, extra care and assistance with the housework rendered voluntarily by friends) were all agreed at around what could have been recovered at trial on a voluntarily basis. A junior barrister’s opinion was sought as to the value of the injury which was received within 1 week of instructions.

In light of the medial evidence and counsel's advice Miss B opted to settle the case early instead of waiting to see whether she did in fact recover within 9 to 12 months which would have been a more cautious approach. Acting on those instructions Ashton Bell Accident solicitors (after receiving several unreasonable offers from the insurers) settled general damage at £2,500.00, (the same as a trial judge might be expected to award following a contested hearing), within 4 months of the accident date. This was an excellent result given that the third party insurers have 21 days to acknowledge the letter of claim and 3 months under the personal injury pre action protocol to decided whether or not to concede liability. If the third party insurers respect the pre action protocol these cases can be processed quickly and settlement achieved in a simple case in typically 6 to 9 months, although it can be done more quickly than this as shown above.

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Case Study C


A not so simple whiplash claim
Mrs C was involved in an accident in Germany whilst a passenger in a car of an English friend which was registered and insured in England. Although the impact was moderate and there was no bony damage, because of pre existing back problems she experienced persistent symptoms which were still ongoing 2 years after the accident.

The German police held Mrs C’s friend responsible at the scene and imposed an on the spot fine.

Mrs C was initally reluctant to hold her friend responsible and wanted to proceed against the German driver despite the position taken by the German police. However it was pointed out to Mrs C that she could not possibly be responsible, being a passenger and as her friend was insured in England and had been obliged to make a claim under his own insurance policy in respect of his vehicle (and therefore lost his no claims bonus) it made little difference to her friend’s insurers whether or not there was an additional claim for her personal injury. A failure to claim against his insurers would not therefore improve his position.

It was also pointed out that seeking to claim against he German driver would necessitate proceedings in Germany and in view of the attitude of the police, would be fraught with difficulty, and have uncertain prospects of success.

In light of this advice Mrs C did proceed against her friend’s insurers who conceded liability. There was still plenty of work to do because of Mrs C’s complex medical history. There was also a substantial subrogated loss of earnings claim (Mrs C having had some 6 months off work) and a substantial claim for extra care and assistance rendered by Mrs C’s family as she was not able to carry out everyday household tasks for about 6 months. The third party liability insurers having conceded liability were not so obliging over quantum (how much she should receive) and took every possible point over what turned out to be a substantial list of special damage (items of loss which could be quantified). Evidence had to be obtained in respect of each and every head of damage and negotiations were made protracted by the insurers obstinacy and persistence on having even nominal items vouched for. This case could not be settled quickly as Mrs C’s medical condition failed to stabilise early or show a progressive recovery pattern. Settling early in this case would have involved a risk of under settling the claim had she not recovered, as the initial consultants report suggested a recovery to pre accident levels of symptoms within 18 to 24 months. An 18 to 24 month prognosis for back pain would generally trigger an award of between £3,750.00 and £4,250.00 for pain and suffering (general damage). (2001 figures)

As Mrs C had failed to recover to pre accident levels after 2 years a further medical opinion was sought. This report confirmed that Mrs C’s symptoms were unlikely to get any better (i.e. were chronic) but was inconclusive as to the attributes ability of those symptoms. It was thought that in view of pre existing degenerative changes in Mrs C’s back (she was in her early 50’s) then she would have experienced similar symptoms anyway but the onset of those symptoms had been accelerated. In light of this following intensive negotiations Mrs C’s claim for her back pain was settled at £8,000.00 shortly after Ashton Bell accident solicitors received the second medical.

Her special damage (loss of earnings, nursing care and assistance and other miscellaneous expenses) were settled at close to what she might reasonably have expected to receive following a trial, without the need to issue proceedings. Mrs C also had her legal costs paid in full and did not have to contribute anything towards to cost of her claim.

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Case Study D


Severe Injury
Mrs D thought she might like some new double glazed windows in a cottage she had just bought. Unfortunately she went to a local jobbing builder who neglected to advise her that she should fit windows with opening restrictors to the first floor bedroom window (which was set very low). After fitment and payment (in cash) Mrs D got up one night and opened the bedroom window, overbalanced and fell 14 feet onto spiked railings, impaling herself through her torso in three places. Miraculously she survived, albeit with extensive and unpleasant injuries.

Problems with case study D

• The installer was an uninsured
• The transaction was in cash
• There was no case law on the point
• Regulatory framework was sparse
• Mrs D was impecunious
• Uncertain prospects of recovery
• The installer being uninsured decided to instruct solicitors and deny liability.

Although both liability and recovery were far from certain, Ashton Bell accident solicitors underwrote and funded the whole of this potentially risky case on a “no win no fee” basis.

After appropriate investigation of the circumstances, appropriate experts were instructed, proceedings were issued and the matter was driven to a fully contested trial where judgement was given for substantial compensation and costs.

The debt was secured against the installer’s home by way of an application for a charging order. This may be said to be hard on him, but not as hard as the consequences of the negligence for our client.

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upon without providing Ashton Bell an opportunity of obtaining full and proper instructions so as to be in a position to advise you properly.


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