An RAF driving instructor has been paid £1.1m in damages after an accident in a ‘chaotic’ temporary Ministry of Defence car park led to him having to have his leg amputated.
The instructor, now aged 58, suffered a double fracture to his leg when he was knocked off his motorbike by a car as he left the Normandy Barracks site, at RAF Leconfield in East Yorkshire.
Complications following surgery saw him suffer unbearable pains in his leg, so much so he was unable to work, and the former military serviceman even opted to have his leg amputated below the knee.
Now, after five years of legal negotiations, our team of personal injury specialists at Hudgell Solicitors has secured the man the compensation he deserves, which will assist him in making necessary adaptations to his home, and to his life, going forward.
Liability admitted and compensation agreed
The case has seen the Ministry of Defence (MOD) agree to pay our client £935,000 in damages. Insurers acting on behalf of the other driver also paid £165,000 in damages, reaching the £1.1m total.
The MOD admitted the accident was caused by their negligence, having breached their statutory duty to ensure the site was in safe and efficient working order.
As part of our case, we highlighted the chaotic organisation of the temporary car park. There was no way of drivers knowing who had the right of way, no speed limits had been put in place, no signs indicated the direction of travel and there were no junction warning signs.
Cars were also parked outside of designated areas, blocking the view of our client, and the driver of the car who hit him, as they couldn’t see one another clearly.
Despite operations to fix his broken tibia and fibula, the accident victim soon began suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a rare condition, usually caused after injury, which can leave the affected limb so sensitive that just a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature can provoke intense pain.
The pains were so extreme, the man, who served 28 years of service with the army, including spells serving in America and Ireland as well as six years as a driving instructor to current servicemen and women, eventually opted to have his leg amputated below the knee.
Damages to help improve quality of life
He now intends to use the some of his compensation settlement to move from his three-storey home, which he shares with his partner and her 18-year-old daughter, to accommodation on a single level, which will be more suitable to his needs.
Solicitor James Burrell, who is based in Hudgell Solicitors’ Hull headquarters, said the MOD had clearly failed in its duty of care to ensure its own employees, and any visitors to the site, had been safe.
“Given the nature of work carried out at the RAF Leconfield site with regards to driver training, it is incomprehensible to suggest that people there were not aware of the dangers in the temporary car park given the chaotic parking situation,” he said.
“The management at the site simply failed to take any adequate care for those using the car park, exposing those who used it to a foreseeable risk of injury.
“Our client was a qualified driving instructor of vast experience. He knew the dangers having seen them first hand day to day, yet still he was unable to predict and avoid this devastating, life-changing injury.
“Such were his concerns over the safety on the site, and due to there being mud on the road, he was driving with extra care and slowly as he headed towards the exit. It was then that he was suddenly hit by the car from his left as it came from behind a large parked van.
“Had the proper provisions been in place, and the car park had clear signage and dedicated entrance and exit points, this accident simply would not have happened.
“Our client has faced some very difficult times over the past five years, and he and his family will continue to do so as he continues to adapt to life with his injuries.
“We hope the damages we have secured for him, and the rehabilitation programmes he has had access to, will help him adapt and enjoy the best quality of life possible going forward.”
Accident could have been avoided
Recalling the incident, which happened on February 25, 2010, the former instructor says it was an accident waiting to happen given the lack of organisation around the car park.
“Due to building work at the site, they had lost a car park which used to hold between 150 to 200 vehicles and that had been replaced with a temporary car park which held about 50 or 60 cars at most. It was chaos every day as there were simply not enough spaces,” he said.
“I had seen a few near misses in the days before my accident, and due to that I was taking extra care. I’m an experienced driver and had been driving for 35 years, but it was a ridiculous situation and an accident waiting to happen.
“I just didn’t see the driver coming at all. I was just driving slowly, and I can remember a split second in which I knew I was going to be hit, but I had no time to react at all. He came from nowhere and just clattered into the side of me.
“The next thing I knew I had been up in the air and landed on the car park, and the sole of my foot was facing up back towards me. I was conscious all the time, and my only thought at that time was that I was lucky to be alive. I think my bike was about 60 feet away.”
Injuries were life-changing and life-limiting
After being rushed to Hull Royal Infirmary, he was discharged just a week later after the fractures had been fixed and held together with a nail.
Eight months later, he temporarily returned to work, but soon started to suffer ‘excruciating pain’ in his left foot – leaving him unable to continue work. He was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and doctors could not guarantee the pain would go away.
“I was in agony all of the time, it was constant,” he said. “I couldn’t cope with anything touching my leg.
“I was only getting three hours sleep at night, and I couldn’t stand up for any length of time. My leg felt constantly cold and it became blue. I was getting spasms down my left side and I was only able to get around my house at home by shuffling around on my backside.
“In the end, I went to see a consultant and took the decision to have my leg amputated at the knee. I couldn’t face the constant pain any longer.”
Following the amputation in January 2013, life continued to be a major struggle, as he could only walk for 20 minutes with the prosthetic limb he had fitted before he needed to take it off in agony.
He then started to suffer from phantom limb, sensory hallucinations severe spasms.
“It’s a surreal experience. I still get pains in my toes, even though there is no limb there. I’m still having to shuffle around on my backside to get around the house. I had a great life and a job that I loved, but that was all taken away by this accident,” he added.
“I was always a very active person. We used to go hill walking and biking. I was a keen golfer too and used to go to the gym regularly. To suddenly not be able to work, or even make your way around your own home, is devastating.
“My partner has to help me into the bath, and at times I have felt confined to the home. I have been completely reliant on my partner and her daughter, who delayed going to university for two years following my accident to help out.
“It’s not just your own life that an accident like this impacts hugely on, it is also those around you. Everybody’s life completely changes beyond recognition.”
‘Phenomenal’ support of Hudgell Solicitors
The man was delighted with the support he had from Hudgell Solicitors throughout the long battle he faced to secure the final damages settlement.
“Hudgell Solicitors were absolutely phenomenal throughout the case,” he said.
“I have him to thank for the result we achieved, as we now have something to look forward to as a family. I’ll be able to live in accommodation on just one level, which will make a massive difference to my life, and my daughter-in-law will now be able to go to university, as she has put that back two years to help following my accident.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Hudgell Solicitors for the way he has worked throughout to get the very best possible result for me.”