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March 23rd 2017

Accidents at Work

£250,000 damages for equestrian centre riding instructor who lost thumb in accident involving horse

£250,000 damages for equestrian centre riding instructor who lost thumb in accident involving horse

Hudgell Solicitors has secured a £250,000 personal injury damages settlement for a mother-of-two whose thumb was torn off at the knuckle when caring for a horse at work.

Hudgell Solicitors has secured a £250,000 personal injury damages settlement for a mother-of-two whose thumb was torn off at the knuckle when caring for a horse at work.

The woman, who asked not to be named, had been helping change bandages on the horse’s hoof, but had not been made aware that it had needed sedating some days earlier because of its reaction to treatment.

Trying to hold the horse still, the woman’s thumb became trapped against a barn gate and a rope clipped under its chin. As the horse reared up sharply and with force due to being in pain, her left thumb was pulled off from the knuckle.

Prior to the accident, which happened in April 2016, the woman was not made aware of any behavioural issues or concerns regarding the horse when being treated by her employers.

She required surgery and nerve block medication as her tendons and ligaments were damaged, and lost feeling in the tip of her index finger which she now cannot straighten and is left in a hook position.

The woman also had to have skin removed from her left index finger, and the psychological impact of the incident left her needing anti-depressant medication, as well as being referred to a psychiatrist due to post-traumatic stress.

Number of failures to protect employees from risk of injury identified

As part of the claim made against the centre by Hudgell Solicitors, it was alleged the centre had failed to carry out suitable health and safety assessments for its employees, failed to take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury by sedating the horse, and failed to ensure a safe system was in place when treating the horse.

It was also alleged the employers caused or permitted the woman to hold onto the horse when the yard manager was aware of its likely reaction, failed to warn her of the possible reaction of the horse, and therefore exposed her to danger or risk of injury by failing to take any adequate care for her safety.

Following the legal action, insurers acting on behalf of the centre admitted full liability, leading to a damages settlement of £250,000 being agreed.

The woman has undergone specialist therapeutic care and pain management, as well as requiring adaptations of her home.

Litigation Executive Samantha Thompson, who represented the woman in the accident at work claim, said she has suffered an incredible amount of pain and discomfort in a situation which was beyond her control and should and could have been prevented.

“There was a clear failing in this case to protect an employee from foreseeable danger and harm,” she said.

“Regardless of any safety systems in place, it should have been apparent to the centre that the horse was a possible danger as it had been in pain when previously treated on its hoof and needed sedating for the work to be completed. The very least which should have been done was to warn my client of this.

“My client was treated by paramedics at the scene of the accident before being taken to a plastic surgery hospital ward, where she underwent a long operation to repair her thumb.

“Skin grafts were taken from her arm and fingers to repair the soft tissue and half of her thumb remains intact. She needed a hand brace, support and splint to aid her recovery, and she was prescribed a range of medication to help with pain and anxiety.

“She also experienced fatigue and reduced strength, as well as ‘phantom’ pains from the thumb, which means she has had to take the maximum dose of pain relief each day.

“This incident has also caused her to suffer psychologically, particularly with low mood, anxiety, flashbacks, reduced confidence and lack of sleep. Her injury meant she needed additional support from her family to achieve essential daily tasks at home.”

Damages from injury claim covered rehabilitation, treatment and home adaptation costs

Mrs Thompson said the ordeal has had a significant impact on her client’s confidence, which has resulted in her needing to seek alternative employment.

“Although she briefly returned to work following the accident, a lack of confidence set in,” she said.

“She now works at a supermarket on the checkout for approximately half her usual pay because she cannot psychologically and, to some degree, physically work with horses again.

“She has undergone rehabilitation, including specialist hand therapy, pain management and physiotherapy, through the successful claim against her former employer’s insurers.

“She has also had adaptations to her home to assist her and, given the impact this has had on her life, it was only right that her employers were held to account.

“It was pleasing to see full liability admitted in this case. Although it can never make up for the pain and suffering my client has experienced, I hope it goes some way to making her day-to-day life slightly easier.”

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