Friday, 31 October 2014

JMW Solicitors: Relocation, Relocation, Relocation?

Andrew Lilley, Partner - JMW Solicitors

Despite the ubiquity of property shows on TV, Estate agents often vie for position with lawyers at the bottom of popularity polls.  However the fact that (as with lawyers) we all eventually need to use their services was brought home to me recently when I successfully settled a case on behalf of a child who was rendered paraplegic as the result of a devastating accident which occurred when she was a passenger in the family car. 

The family had to deal with the fallout of the accident, which tragically included the death of one child and very serious injuries to two other children.  Given the colossal impact the accident had on every area of their lives, the family had little choice but to make a personal injury claim on behalf of their injured children so that they could get some of the support they needed during this very difficult time.  They instructed a local firm of solicitors and unfortunately there were a number of problems with the initial stages of the case.  This ultimately led them to express dissatisfaction at how their previous solicitor was dealing with the case, and I took the case on at the suggestion of the child’s trustee.

A legal case involving a spinal injury should be viewed holistically, with a view to assessing the support that is likely to be required by both the injured claimant and their family throughout the course of the claim and beyond.  This particular case is a good example of the need to ensure that these requirements are recognised early, and appropriate measures are then taken to meet them.  For our client, chief amongst those issues was the matter of location, and understanding the ways in which a rural location, versus an urban location, can impact upon SCI individuals both in terms of obtaining treatment in the short to medium term, and with regard to lifelong care. 

My client’s family lived in a fairly remote part of Britain.  Their ‘local’ spinal cord injuries specialist unit was theoretically in Oswestry, roughly a five hour round trip.  This meant that just the process of making these visits could be taxing, quite aside from the required treatment that was awaiting my client at the end.  As my client was a young girl, it was vital that she had access to a centre that was geared to provide appropriate medical support and advice as she grew older and faced new challenges on her road to adulthood. Obviously Oswestry is just such a centre, however the difficulties in travelling were such that she was not able to get anything like the access to this support and advice that we would have liked.  We were fortunate in this case to have a very experienced case manager who was able to supplement the support from the centre and liaise with them if any additional support was required. 

As an SCI individual, if you are living in a remote location then consideration needs to be given as to whether or not you may need to move closer to a specialist spinal cord injuries unit.  In my client’s case, and in that of many others, living in a remote location also affected the decisions surrounding a care regime.  Despite working with the case manager to craft a care regime that would provide the highest possible level of independence, our client still required a sleep-in carer, and this was in part due to the issues caused with reaching our client’s location should an emergency occur during the night. 

When considering a compensation settlement on behalf of an SCI individual, thought also needs to be given to whether the client may choose to move.  In this case the family understandably did not feel able to leave the local area where the children had been brought up.  However in the longer term, we needed to consider the likelihood that our client would want to gain some independence and leave the family home.  So the claim that was made on behalf of our client included provision for this, and therefore funds to adapt not only the existing family home, but also a second home in a more urban area and nearer to a spinal centre that she was likely to want to move towards as she reached adulthood. 

Location will play a part in an SCI individual’s other needs too; part of my time on this client’s case was spent ensuring that her school was fully compliant with her needs, again working with the school, case manager and defendant insurer in order to make that happen.  A remote location also made socialising more of a challenge for my client, and it was important that transport was made as easy for her as possible.  This included ensuring that there was provision for her to learn how to drive an automatic car, so that she could reach friends and undertake social activities. 

If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury and are embarking on litigation, it is vital to ensure that you have full confidence in your legal advisers.  If anyone requires assistance or advice, I  am always happy to have an informal chat to provide guidance or  any other assistance that may be required.  You can reach me on 0161 828 1958 or at . 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Futureproofing a personal injury claim for a spinal cord injured person by Andrew Lilley

Andrew Lilley - Partner, JMW Solicitors

When pursuing a case for compensation for someone who has sustained injuries that will affect them for the rest of their life, there used to be only one certainty; that they would receive the wrong amount of compensation. This was because traditionally, lump sum awards were more common and would be based on an educated guess not only as to what the claimant’s future needs would be, but also how long they would live to require that assistance.

Broadly speaking, the life expectancy of most Spinal Cord Injured people is very similar to that of the general population and so it was quite possible that you would be predicting what might happen over the next 70 years.  Ironically, the nightmare scenario for Spinal Cord Injured claimants was that they would live longer than expected and therefore run out of compensation in the later stages of their lives when assistance was most needed.

Thankfully, this position has changed and now as many of the claimant’s ongoing future losses as possible can be included in an appropriately indexed annual payment that is paid throughout the claimant’s life, and so a large part of this uncertainty has been removed (although I have to add the lawyer’s proviso here that there are occasional cases more suited to lump sum payments, but these are the exception and clients will need specific specialist advice on that point.).

The ongoing need to futureproof our clients’ claims was reinforced to me recently, when I learnt of the heart-warming story of Irving Caplan.  Mr Caplan is a tetraplegic gentleman who was able to stand up and make a father-of-the-bride speech at his daughter’s wedding, thanks to a special robotic exoskeleton suit, created by a robotic exoskeleton organisation that specialise in providing independence to mobility impaired individuals by using advanced robotic technology.

Mr Caplan was a cyclist who was involved in a collision with an HGV and is exactly the sort of individual we work with.  His story is a stark demonstration of the need to attempt to future proof your client’s claim to allow access to the latest technology and medical treatments.

I recently settled a case on behalf of a paraplegic client whom I’d been working with, who was originally injured in 2002.  She’s a minor and throughout the course of the claim, one of the issues we needed to be aware of was the need to cater for her as she grew and developed through childhood and adolescence.  Even during that short time there have been developments in wheelchair technology for example that allow new activities to become more accessible and thereby improve quality of life.

It is interesting to reflect that at the date of my client’s injury, home internet use was in its infancy, and communication aids that we all now rely on daily such as social media, iPads and Skype were not available.  When it came to settling the claim, after consultation with the Spinal Consultant I ensured that a sum was included to ensure that provision was made within the claim so that she could keep availing herself of future treatments (which by their nature are unknowable at the time the claim is submitted) as they developed.

Mr Caplan’s story raises further questions as to what could be considered possible.  Clearly the technology referred to is a long way from a practical solution for someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury.  However, it is only 70 years this year since Dr Guttman founded the National Spinal Cord Injuries centre at Stoke Mandeville; only just over 50 years since the first Paralympic games and 20 years ago when I qualified as a solicitor, this sort of technology was entirely inconceivable.  It is both exciting and daunting to consider the potential future aids and equipment that may be available within the lifetime of current claimants.  It is vital therefore that an appropriate expert is selected who is prepared to consider these future possibilities. 

The need to keep abreast of developments and crucially, to raise public awareness of the needs of SCI patients mean that in their 40th year, the work of the SIA is more needed than ever.  Not least to ensure that such cutting edge research into possible uses of new technology is continued.  If the same progress can be made over the next 20 years as has been made in the last 20 years, it is exciting to consider what options we may be able to discuss in the charity’s diamond anniversary (and I look forward to discussing them with you then!).

To get in touch with me to discuss how we are able to help those who have a spinal cord injury, you can call me on 0800 054 6570, or email me; . 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

JMW Solicitors: Supporting victims of devastating SCI cauda equina syndrome

By Eddie Jones, head of medical negligence at JMWSolicitors LLP

Photograph: Eddie Jones
As specialists in medical negligence claims JMW Solicitors has links with several support services and charities that can offer our clients an additional lifeline following a serious injury.

One of our particular areas of expertise is the spinal condition cauda equina syndrome (CES), which can be caused if worrying ‘red flag’ signs are overlooked or not treated with enough urgency by healthcare professionals.

This is a highly specialist area as many people have never heard of cauda equina syndrome, or its devastating consequences. Sadly if the window of opportunity to treat the condition is missed the result can include permanent disability, incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pain.

The standard of CES care is an ongoing issue and JMW is working with the SIA to hopefully improve the situation and enable more victims to be treated in specialist spinal centres sooner rather than later. However, as a huge organisation which serves the needs of people affected by spinal cord injuries of all natures, even the SIA’s experienced team can learn from support services that are dedicated to the CES cause.

That’s where the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association (CESA) comes in as this JMW supported organisation is fighting to raise awareness of CES and provide sufferers with assistance with the issues they are dealing with.

CESA was established in 2013 by my client Claire Thornber, who is living with permanent CES after mistakes were made by a Lancashire hospital. Claire is now supporting hundreds of people affected by CES and their families across the UK through the CESA Facebook group and via the website

Claire is doing vital work to support people affected by CES who can find their condition incredibly isolating and debilitating. Just having the opportunity to speak to someone who has experienced what they are going through has been a huge help to some of the sufferers I am representing.

Claire’s specialist knowledge of cauda equina syndrome is what makes the support she offers so tailored to the clients she serves. On the legal side of the coin that is also what JMW is proud to be able to provide to sufferers whose CES was avoidable with better medical care.

Ensuring these clients have access to the care package that they require is what makes our work so rewarding and teamed and with added support from CESA and the SIA hopefully we are making a real difference to sufferers’ lives.
Find out more about how JMW helps people affected by cauda equina syndrome medical negligence here: