Sunday, 29 March 2015

Thompsons: Spinal Injuries on Holiday

By specialist holiday and serious injury solicitor Martyn Gwyther, of Thompsons Solicitors.

Holidays abroad are something we all dream about, plan and spend a lot of time looking forward to enjoying. 

Sadly, for thousands of holiday makers each year, those dreams and aspirations can end in disaster due to an injury or illness suffered in resort.

In the context of spinal cord injuries, just as with domestic occurrences, the majority arise as a consequence of road traffic accidents. However, there are other regular causes including:
  • Falls from height;
  • Sporting accidents (mainly related to diving into swimming pools or cliff diving);
  • Aviation incidents; and
  • Violence
Speaking to survivors of spinal cord injury at Thompsons Solicitors, I have heard accounts of incidents in each circumstance; some of which may have been avoidable, others that were clearly not so. In every case, the consequences have been life changing.

For example, one of my clients suffered a severe spinal injury in an emergency aircraft landing that occurred whilst she was in Tanzania during the course of a `once in a lifetime’ safari holiday.  The injuries left her with a lifetime requirement for care from her husband. Her family home in Lincolnshire had to be substantially adapted to provide wider doorways, access ramps, a wet room and accessible worktops amongst other things. The adaptations were made possible in part by the significant compensation that came as a result of her personal injury claim against the airline.

In a road traffic collision that occurred in Spain involving two vehicles (one driven by an English resident and the other by a Spanish resident) a decision had to be taken whether it was feasible to run the case in the English courts. At the time there was some uncertainty about this issue but the English Court accepted that they had the power to determine the claim; a right that is now well enshrined into English law.

However, just because the case can be pursued in England does not necessarily mean that English law will be used to determine all of the issues that exist in the case. In this example, the claimant suffered a spinal cord injury leaving him with permanently impaired movement and sensation in both upper limbs, but with sufficient functionality to complete most activities of daily living and the capacity to drive an adapted vehicle. The value of the claim would have varied significantly according to whether English law or Spanish law was found to apply.

More recent developments in the law however mean that in the same set of circumstances the outcome may well have been different. Under a new law because the injury was in a road traffic accident in Spain there would be a strong argument that Spanish law would apply both to the case itself as well as the damages the injured person was entitled to.
What this case illustrates is how important it is to work with specialist serious injury lawyers who understands the full context. 

Thompsons has a wealth of experience involving claims relating to injuries which took place overseas and can help you with expert advice if your spinal cord injury was incurred abroad. Visit our website

Friday, 27 March 2015

Thompsons: Funding a Spinal Cord Injury Claim – The Options

Funding solicitors’ costs and expenses may seem daunting but at Thompsons Solicitors we will work with you to make sure that all the options open to you are explained and give you guidance on what to consider before you decide which solicitor to instruct.

After a serious injury, such as a spinal cord injury, you should expect that a solicitor should normally be happy to discuss the claim with you on an initial “no obligation, no fee” basis. The discussion should be confidential and will cover the circumstances of your accident/ injury and the injuries you suffered. Thompsons Solicitors are specialist in spinal cord injuries and we believe it is important that you understand what the legal process will involve.

When we would sit down with you to discuss the ways that you can fund a spinal injury claim we will explain all the options. They are:

  1. Asking if you have membership of a Trade Union or other membership organisation which provides you with access to legal services. Trade unions may assist with the costs of your claim.
  2. Checking whether you have legal expenses insurance. You may have legal expenses insurance as part of your car insurance policy, household insurance or credit card insurance. If your injury was not a road traffic accident check your household and any credit card insurance. If you have legal expenses insurance you may be able to use this to cover the legal costs of your claim. Your solicitor will be able to check any policies and contact your insurer for you if applicable.
  3. Working to a “no win, no fee agreement”.  If options 1 & 2 do not apply and we believe you have a potential claim we will send you a formal agreement known a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). You will be advised of the detail of this agreement but the essential points are:

·    If you lose your claim you do not pay any fees or expenses;
·    If you win your claim the majority of your costs should be recovered from your opponent’s insurer;
·    You will not usually be asked to make any payment up front for your legal costs or expenses;
·    The costs recovered from the opponent’s insurer will be in addition to the compensation payment made to you;
·    You will probably be advised to take out insurance to cover your opponent’s costs at the stage court proceedings are issued, for which there will be a premium which you will have to pay if the case is successful. You are likely to have to pay for that premium if the case is successful;
·    Some solicitors will deduct from your final compensation payment and if in doubt you should clarify if this is likely to happen. At Thompsons we will always tell you if that applies. The amount that can be deducted is subject to a cap which cannot be more than 25% the compensation for your injury and your financial losses incurred to the date of settlement. No deduction can be taken from your future financial losses.

At Thompsons Solicitors, we will always present you with all the funding options that are available. We provide an initial consultation free of charge and work on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. For more information on funding a claim, visit our serious injury hub

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Thompsons: Kay Forshaw – My Spinal Injury and Paralympic Journey

Paralympic wheelchair tennis star Kay Forshaw went to Thompsons Solicitors after she sustained a spinal injury. Thompsons Solicitors fought her case and secured the compensation she needed to help her pursue a new career as an athlete. Here, she tells her story…

After becoming spinally injured I decided it would be a good idea to take up some kind of sport as a way of keeping fit. After all, I was thinking of doing this before I became injured, so why should this be any different? I had tried a little bit of tennis at the spinal unit I was at and remembered quite enjoying it. So, I started playing wheelchair tennis locally and decided to get some coaching in order to learn more about the game.

Little did I know that years later I would be on the World Class Performance programme with my sights on Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. I went from playing a couple of hours a week and playing some events representing Great Britain as a reserve to becoming a full time athlete.

I decided to take the big step of quitting my job so that I could play tennis full time, just for a year to see how it would go. So, I took a year out and played wheelchair tennis tournaments in the UK and abroad. My tournament results gave me a world ranking which rose steadily during that year. At this point I became a full time athlete on the lottery funded world class performance programme. I knew this was an amazing opportunity.

 This was my new job and what a job it was! I remember watching coverage of the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games and being inspired by what I saw. They were super human to me. I wondered how they got themselves to that level of peak performance and felt both daunted and excited by the task ahead of me. I knew that if I was going to do it I would leave no stone unturned. There would be no “what ifs”. 

My training changed dramatically at this time. It wasn’t simply just about hitting a ball on a tennis court; there were many more aspects to the game than that. The two big ones that spring to mind were strength and conditioning and sports psychology. They had a huge impact on my performance together with spending more time on court. My tournament programme increased and I travelled much further afield; spending a month of the winter in Australia and New Zealand and doing some back to back tournaments in the States. Travelling became a big part of the job, especially the year before the Paralympic Games. This was a hectic year and more pressurised because tournament results and rankings determined your eligibility to the Paralympic Games.
Fortunately, with my ranking at a steady 13 in the world, I was going to the Games!
The Paralympic Games experience was incredible. It is very different from any other tournament; right from your arrival you are given the VIP treatment and fast tracked in a special Olympic lane and whisked off to the Olympic village. 

I have many happy memories, especially being in the stadium at the Opening Ceremony and feeling very excited to be a part of this unique and unusual opportunity and thinking of the weird and unusual circumstances that had lead me to be there that day.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Thompsons: Spotlight on spinal cord injury

1,000 people sustain a spinal cord injury in the UK and Ireland each year. For more information about spinal injury statistics and legal advice following a spinal injury, follow Thompsons Solicitors on Twitter at @ThompsonsInjury.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Thompsons: Spinal and Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs) Fact sheet

Spinal cord injury – the facts

A spinal cord injury occurs when trauma to a person’s spinal cord damages it to the point that it limits or even destroys their motor, sensory and autonomic functions. It is estimated that there are 40,000 people living with spinal injuries in the UK.

What are the causes?

The most common causes of spinal cord injuries are accidents at work including falls (42%), road traffic accidents (37%) and sports accidents (12%). Spinal cord injuries can happen to anyone but the largest group are men aged 15-30.

Can people recover from spinal cord injuries?

Some people will not recover the physical functions they previously had before their spinal cord injury. There can be lifelong implications on people’s health and lifestyles.

In the aftermath of an injury, it is imperative that the injured person receives urgent critical care from experienced healthcare professionals at a dedicated trauma unit to prevent further damage to the person’s spinal cord. Quick diagnosis and specialist critical care from experience professionals can be hugely important in preventing further damage to the injured person’s spinal cord. There are dedicated trauma units that play a vital role in caring for those immediately after they’ve been injured and into the future.

Longer term access to specialist rehabilitation teams becomes an essential part of the recovery process and something that can have a dramatic impact on a person’s overall recovery and long term outcomes. Rehabilitation should be integrated into the recovery process as soon as possible but does require specific expertise and access to resources – and this is where a compensation claim can provide real, practical assistance.

Why do people with spinal cord injuries receive higher than average levels of compensation?

In any compensation claim the award is made up of damages for the individual’s pain and suffering to the date of the payment out but also for pain and suffering in to the future. In addition there is compensation for losses and expenses that the injured person incurs where it can be shown that the loss is connected to the injury. Spinal cord injuries often result in a person suffering a degree of paralysis that cannot be cured. This means that there are additional factors to be compensated such as rehabilitation costs, nursing care, disability aids or specialist equipment. In addition, the compensation should cover transport costs or the cost of having modifications made to the injured person’s home.

Where the injured person is unable to return to their previous (or any) work, damages awarded would also need to take into account any loss of earnings – to the date of the compensation payment.  

Why are there specialist spinal injury solicitors?

Recovering the proper amount of compensation in what are often complex cases requires a high level of skill. People with spinal injuries and spinal cord injuries need a legal representative who has a depth of experience in helping people in these challenging cases so they can recover the full amount due.  Thompsons has a team of experienced specialists who have secured millions of pounds worth of compensation for spinal injury victims.

Why Thompsons?

Some law firms will act for injured people and insurers who pay out for injured. Since 1921, when we were first formed, we have only ever acted for injured people. We refuse to act for insurance companies because we cannot understand how others can work for both sides.

Thompsons have offices across the UK, so wherever an accident or injury occurs, a local Thompsons branch is ready to help. We know how difficult it can be to come to terms with a spinal injury. That’s why we carry out home and hospital visits free of charge to ensure the road to securing compensation is as stress-free as possible. We’ll speak to you in plain English and make sure you are kept informed at every step of the way.

Thompsons also has a team of dedicated client support coordinators, whose job it is work with the injured person to assess their needs of the person with the spinal injury, and the availability of treatments both on the NHS and privately. This information is used by Thompsons’ solicitors to secure the right amount of compensation.

Why now?

There are strict time limits in place to make any injury claim, so it is important that anyone who has suffered a spinal cord injury seeks legal advice as soon as possible.

Thompsons knows the importance of getting compensation to injured people as soon as possible. Spinal injuries and spinal cord injuries can take time to conclude and we will, wherever we can, secure ‘interim payments’ for our clients whilst is ongoing. Interim payments can be often be lifelines for those needing immediate specialist care, which can be very expensive.

How can I get in touch about a claim?

Visit the Thompsons website for more information about making a claim:

Alternatively, call 08000 224 224, where you can be put through to one of our experienced serious injury solicitors. They will be happy to discuss your claim with you and talk you through the claims process.

What our clients say about us

“Today, I’m getting on with moving forward in my life in a variety of ways and I’m grateful for how Thompsons have helped with it all.” Mark

Links to helpful organisations

Spinal InjuriesAssociation – the leading national user-led charity for spinal cord injured (SCI) people.

Brain and Spine Foundation – charity helping people affected by spine and brain conditions

Aspire – offers practical support to people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Thompsons: Mark's Story

We worked to secure damages for Mark after he was seriously injured in a car accident. He shares his story and experience here:

“My spinal cord injury happened when I was 17. I was in the back of my brother’s car when he skidded on black ice. The skid caused the car to go down an embankment, which was a 70 foot drop, and crash into a wall.

I was found bent forward with the driver’s seat right back. My neck was broken in two places, and my lungs had collapsed – I was lucky to be alive. I had to stay in hospital for nine months, and I spent the first three on a life support machine. I also had surgery that lasted for eight hours.

My injuries left me paralysed from the chest down. The day they told me I wouldn’t walk again, I was determined not to let it beat me.

During my time in hospital, I discussed the support and treatment I’d need with my family. We knew there would considerable costs involved and that we would need to claim compensation.

My mum contacted Thompsons Solicitors on my behalf and my solicitor began to work on my case.

Thompsons Solicitors were brilliant, from the front line staff through to the solicitor who looked after my case. 

The team were really thorough in evaluating my needs. They talked at length to my carers about my current and future needs.

My solicitor became my friend because the service was so personal. I felt like I could pick up the phone and call at any time. He was a great support to me and my mum.

I found it quite difficult to get out and about after I came home from hospital but my solicitor would make house calls which relieved the stress of travelling for me.

Right through to the day my case was settled, Thompsons Solicitors looked after me. They fought to get the level of compensation that would help me live my life independently. They always made sure we knew what was happening and when.

I’m moving on with my life – I drive using just my hands and play wheelchair rugby. I’m so grateful to Thompsons for helping to get me through.”

 “My mam describes Thompsons as being ‘Absolutely great – they can’t do enough to help you!’ And I know she’s recommended Thompsons to other people.”  Mark