A local authority has agreed to pay £120,000 damages to a woman who has been left unable to lift her left arm above waist level after suffering a serious break to her shoulder when falling on a broken kerbstone.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council denied any responsibility for the injuries caused when faced with legal action – despite residents having complained about its poor condition the previous year.
However, the authority has now agreed a six-figure out-of-court damages settlement with the woman for her injuries and the impact it has had on her life.
It follows legal representation on the woman’s behalf by Hudgell Solicitors.
A legal claim, led by solicitor Sarah Scully, alleged that the kerbstone should have been repaired as a result of inspections, and highlighted how the injury had forced the woman, who was 54 at the time, to give up her job as a carer after 33 years.
She was left so heavily reliant on her husband to care for her, he also subsequently had to give up his own job.
Women ‘heartbroken’ at having to give up working career
The woman says she is still not able to sleep in her bed since the accident, which happened in 2014, and sleeps downstairs in an upright position, as laying down is too painful.
She requires help washing, dressing and doing day-to-day tasks around the home, has suffered from vertigo since her fall and depression. Despite two major operations on her shoulder, it has not reunited and has ‘no little function’, with no improvement in movement or pain.
Doctors have told her there is no guarantee any further operations will be successful and have advised pain management through a pain clinic. She is intending to have a third operation in the hope the pain can be lessened.
The woman, now 59, says the loss of her career, in which she worked 30 hours a week as a carer, has left her ‘heartbroken’.
“I have worked as a carer and looked after people for 30 years, but now my husband cares for me,” she said.
“It has been heartbreaking to be out of work and the pain has really got me down at times. Sometimes I just sit and cry at how this has impacted on my life. I have worked all my life and no longer being able to go out and earn makes me very sad.
“I worked in a care home where we looked after around 30 residents. I enjoyed my job, I miss my former colleagues and the residents I cared for.
“When I stand with my arms by my side I can still only lift my arm to my waist. I used to have hobbies and enjoy going out walking, but I now suffer from vertigo which I never had before my accident. I don’t feel like going out anymore. I am so scared of falling again I prefer to stay at home.
“I would love to return to work and earn but I find it so difficult to apply for anything as I cannot do anything manual and my old job required lifting people in and out of bed, pushing residents in wheelchairs and shopping for toiletries. None of these I can do now.”
Road was notorious for being in state of disrepair
Despite the issue of continuing disrepair being raised by residents and even featured in the media in 2013, the council did not carry out repairs on the Bridlington road until after the woman’s accident in March 2014.
Such was the deterioration of the kerb, it had weeds growing out of the broken stone when the woman suffered her fall.
“I was stepping up onto the path from the road and my foot just twisted under me like I had stepped in a large hole,” the woman said.
“I just fell straight onto my shoulder and at first the pain wasn’t too bad so I went home. It was the next day when it was all bruised and swollen that I knew I had done something serious so went to hospital.
“It is really frustrating to have been left in this situation and left unable to work. It has put a massive strain on us. We’ve had to borrow money from friends and also cash in our pensions early because we were left on benefits and couldn’t afford our bills.
“The legal case being settled means we will be able to pay back the people that have helped us out.”
Solicitor says local authorities must keep roads and pathways safe
The result has been welcomed by solicitor Katy Nelson, of Hudgell Solicitors, who says the firm was determined to ensure a positive result for the woman.
She said: “It is simply not acceptable for local authorities to let roads and pavements fall into such a state of disrepair that they become a danger.
“This particular road and pavement had been in such a poor state that residents and local councilors had made numerous complaints and the issue was also highlighted in the media.
“Despite this, no action was taken until late 2014, well after our client’s injuries were suffered. As can be seen from pictures of the kerb where our client suffered her fall, there were weeds growing from it as it had been left for some time. This should have been picked up on an inspection and then repaired.
“Throughout this case we were focused entirely on the serious injuries suffered by our client and the impact it has had not only on her life, but also her husband’s too.
“The Highways Act stipulates that it is the responsibility of local authorities to keep roads and pavements in a safe condition and free from issues that could cause harm, and whilst we appreciate repairs can’t always be carried out immediately, it is not acceptable to leave them for so long.
“We were pleased that East Riding of Yorkshire Council eventually recognised the impact of this fall on our client and her husband and offered a damages settlement which reflected this.”