Hudgell Solicitors has secured a £350,000 damages settlement and ensured a vital programme of rehabilitation support for a schoolboy who suffered long term physical and psychological injuries when slicing through his hand with a bill hook on work experience at a farm.
The pupil, who was 16 at the time of the accident, had been placed on work experience at a local farm along with a number of other students who were being educated off school site.
He had been using the bill hook to chop fallen trees into smaller pieces of wood when he became distracted and brought it down on his right wrist. He needed airlifting to hospital for emergency treatment, having cut through tendons and the main median nerve which provides sensation in the fingers and movement to small muscles in the hand.
A legal case was launched against insurers of his school, which was run by an academy, a company running the work placement programme, and the local authority which had organised the placement.
They each initially strongly denied liability and disputed responsibility for the boy’s safety when he was on the work placement.
Now, more than four years after the accident, and following a joint settlement hearing with legal representatives of all three defendants, a joint damages settlement of £350,000 has been secured.
Legal support provided vital rehabilitation support before damages were offered
A medical assessment concluded carried out as part of the legal case identified that the injuries had left the victim in ‘a vicious circle of pain’, unable to grip objects and suffering worsening pain when he moved his hand. Pains also spread to his neck and shoulders and left him panicky and reluctant to leave his home.
A consultant psychiatrist said the injuries and accident had directly caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Even now, aged 20, the injury victim still struggles to sleep and continues to have nightmares about the accident once or twice a week.
He has been supported through an ongoing package of rehabilitation, thanks to the support of Hudgell Solicitors.
As part of the legal case, led by solicitor Samuel McFadyen, a dedicated case manager was appointed to oversee all physical and psychological treatment and a personal assistant recruited to assist him in regaining his confidence going out and about in his local community, and to ensure he fully participated in the rehabilitation process.
He has benefitted from weekly psychological counselling, hand therapy treatment and weekly tutoring to help his education. A vocational work programme at a Bird of Prey Sanctuary was also arranged to help him start to work towards an eventual return to employment.
The victim’s mother says the rehabilitation support provided for her son has through the legal representation has ‘given him his life back, and a future to look forward to’.
She said: “It wasn’t until we had the support of Hudgell Solicitors and Sam in particular that my son started to make any progress at all after what happened to him. He only went out about 20 times in three years and was physically ill when he had to go out of our home.
“However, Sam managed to get the insurers to agree to fund the treatment he required before they admitted being at fault, and that included him being given a case manager to oversee his care, psychological treatment and he was put on a buddy scheme.
“Before that we’d been stuck trying to get him any treatment at all on the NHS as he fell through the system and the insurers didn’t want to know. I was acting as his full-time carer and as a result, that put a huge amount of pressure on us as a family.
“To see him making the progress he is now is amazing. He has been out to the movies, swimming and doing vocational work, and that has been all down to then programme of support Sam ensured was in place. He now also has the money he needs for the future. He is buying a house to secure his long term future, is going to learn to drive and he is also able to get the treatment he needs.
“I originally took legal action to hold those responsible to account and never thought about the money. My son felt guilty for the impact his injury had on the family, so it was a big thing when they jointly accepted blame.
“The psychological support provided has been crucial. It has helped him rebuild his life.”
Compensation claim highlighted huge impact on life of injuries
The legal claim identified how the injuries left the victim facing many barriers to gaining employment in the future, from his non-functioning right arm and excruciating pain to difficulty sleeping which impacts on his stamina and fitness, low mood, loss of confidence and reduced motivation.
Mr McFadyen, a specialist in handling claims around catastrophic and serious injury, said: “The rehabilitation programme has been focussed around returning his hand and arm to a maximum range of movement and strength, continuing to reducing the pain and sensitivity experienced, and managing the psychological effects of the accident.
“Alongside that, in recognition of him having missed a great deal of education, a package of support has been provided to help his reading and writing, to resume pre-accident leisure interests and hobbies whilst also supporting his family and hopefully maximising his employment potential in the future.
“The aim is to ensure he is given all the support he needs to be able to live independently on his own, enjoy hobbies and gain employment that give him a satisfactory and rewarding life. The settlement and ongoing package of support gives him every chance of that.
“This was a difficult case to settle as there were three defendants and a dispute between them as to who was responsible for our client’s safety when on the work placement.
“However, despite liability being disputed throughout and until the final offer was made, we managed to get two of the three defendants to agree to fund a rehabilitation programme on a without prejudice basis, which was crucial to being able to provide much needed physical and psychological support.”
Vital support extends beyond conclusion of compensation claim
When assessed by a hand therapist in January of this year, shortly before the damages settlement was agreed, the young man was found to only be able to extend his fingers out for three seconds, was still experiencing difficulties sleeping and still having nightmares once or twice a week.
Ongoing support as part of the case will see him undergo another 15-20 psychological sessions, and be supported by a dedicated GP, counselling psychologist, care agency, hand therapist, tutor and personal assistant.