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November 28th 2016

Car Accident Claims

Barrie Steeley can remember the day family life changed forever as if it were yesterday

Samuel McFadyen

Samuel McFadyen

Senior Solicitor, Personal Injury

Barrie Steeley can remember the day family life changed forever as if it were yesterday

He was in bed at home, getting some sleep ahead of a night shift at the care home where he worked, when he heard banging on his door.

He was in bed at home, getting some sleep ahead of a night shift at the care home where he worked, when he heard banging on his door.

Looking out of his window and seeing his best friend, and a friend of his partner of seven years stood in his front garden with police officers, he braced himself for bad news.

You just know straight away that it’s devastating news.

Mr Steeley’s partner Jennifer Lowes, and their six-year-old daughter Kodi, had been killed in a car accident. It came after brave Kodi had faced 18-months of treatment battling leukaemia, and on the way home from her latest session of treatment at hospital.

Jennifer, 29, had lost control of the car and it had left the road, crashing head-on into a tree.

Kodi’s brother Brandon, who was just 15-months-old at the time, was also in the car and was air-lifted to hospital having suffered a severe brain injury.

The couple’s third child Morgan, who was four at the time, was not involved in the accident and was safe, but at that stage, Mr Steeley faced the very real prospect of losing three of his loved ones in one night.

Having suffered a severe brain injury, Brandon remained in hospital for three weeks, with a compound open skull fracture. When he left hospital, Mr Steeley was told Brandon would need dedicated care and support throughout his formative years, something he says he was unable to consider the scale of at the time.

At that point, I had no idea of what lay in store ahead of us as a family and just how difficult life was going to be, but I simply said to myself that everything I was going to do from that point would be for the kids.

Quitting his job to become the children’s full-time carer, Mr Steeley dedicated his life, 24 hours a day, to bringing up his boys. Looking back now, he says he feels he’s been ‘more of a carer than a father’ over the past decade.

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Barrie Steeley family

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Someone mentioned to me the possibility of looking at claiming compensation, and to be honest it was something I’d never really thought about.

Then, I was told that it would be Jenny’s insurers who would be held responsible, which was an extremely difficult thing for me to accept.

The legal process meant Jenny was named as being at fault for failing to keep a proper look out, failing to brake in time and causing the fatal injuries.

That was so hard, and not for one minute would I ever say Jenny was to blame for her death or Kodi’s. It was an accident, that’s why they are called accidents, and that will always be the case.

I wasn’t going to go ahead with claiming compensation at first, but Jenny’s mum told me to think of the children’s future, and I am so glad I did. We’ve had tremendous support ever since.

That support started immediately and continues today through Hudgell Solicitors, specialists in supporting people who have suffered injury or loss as the result of accidents or medical negligence.

Working with insurers the RSA Insurance Group, a package of continued home-based rehabilitation support has helped Brandon’s recovery, independence, educational development and his quality of life. Support has included care, neuro-occupational therapy and clinical psychology provided by brain injury rehabilitation specialists Reach.

He’s had one-to-one supervision at nursery, whilst both Mr Steeley and Morgan have also benefitted from psychological support, not otherwise offered to them, in coming to terms with their own bereavement, and living with a disabled family member.

Interim damages payments, to supplement care from the State and to cover Mr Steeley’s loss of earnings, has ensured relevant support has been provided as the family’s needs have changed, and that they have not suffered any financial hardship as a result of the difficult life situation they were left in.

An experienced and dedicated case manager was also appointed to support the family and coordinate a full rehabilitation programme, developing a trusted and valued relationship with them and working with education authorities to secure funding which has provided teaching assistant support for Brandon during and after school.

The support we have had has been fantastic, we couldn’t have coped without it.

We’ve not had massive amounts of money as part of the claim, but I have had a number of payments to compensate for my loss of earnings, and a couple of payments to take the boys away on holidays. When we’ve needed that financial support, we’ve been able to ask for it and there have been no problems.

I’ve been reluctant to take too much money as part of the claim, as I don’t want it to come away from what Brandon will get eventually, as that has to support him into adult life, but family and friends have said we have needed a break so we have been away.

If we’ve needed any support at any stage, I’ve been able to call the solicitors and the support has been provided, from care and counselling to a bit of financial help when times have been tough.

It really has given me peace of mind, and allowed me to do what I instinctively knew was my priority after the accident, to focus on being there for the boys at all times and to bring them up well.

Bring them up well Mr Steeley has.

Morgan is predicted to do well in his GCSEs and Brandon recently completed his first year at a mainstream secondary school. Last summer he spent a few nights away from home at scout camp and he is now learning to understand his life with a brain injury.

Looking forward, Mr Steeley sees a positive and happy future, even though there will always be a big hole in their life.

I feel proud of the boys, I just hope they now become a bit closer, if Jenny is looking down on us as a family now I think she’ll be proud of where we are and how we’ve handled all that is thrown at us.

The Barrie Steeley

Personal injury specialist Samuel McFadyen, of Hudgell Solicitors, says a joined up approach of support between his firm and insurers has been key in ensuring the best support possible for the family.

We have been delighted to be able to provide vital rehabilitation, care and counselling support to this wonderful family since this tragic accident.

With all parties working closely at all times to fully understand and appreciate the needs of the family as a whole, we have ensured they have had access to relevant rehabilitation, care and counselling, as well as securing various interim compensation payments to ensure they have not suffered financially.

Speedy access to the relevant expert support at key stages in the family’s life have been crucial.

This tragic accident killed a dedicated mother, a much-loved daughter and sister, and left the youngest family member, a 15-month-old baby at the time, with a serious brain injury. This was absolutely devastating to those left behind.

They needed support and guidance to have any chance of starting to rebuild their shattered lives.

We are proud of the support they have received through our work, and of how they have coped as a family through the toughest of times.

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