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Woman traumatised by house fire receives £100,000 compensation
A woman who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after escaping from her burning London flat has received more than £100,000 in compensation.
The woman, in her 30s, was lucky to escape the fire, which had started in a restaurant directly beneath the home she shared with her son and partner.
James Easson, of Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the woman’s ordeal was nothing short of terrifying. “It was the evening, and she was alone in the flat watching television as her son and partner were away for the night,” said James. “She first noticed a burning smell, like burning plastic, and began to feel dizzy, confused and very panicky. The room soon filled with acrid smoke and she could not work out where it was coming from.
“Visibility was very poor, and she became increasingly short of breath and was coughing from the smoke.”
James said that as his client did not know the source of the fire she was unsure which exit to use to escape the flat. “She saw staff from the restaurant below standing on the pavement outside, but no-one shouted or tried to alert her to a fire. She had to make a quick decision whether to jump from one of the windows or leave through the door.”
As visibility worsened and smoke continued to fill the flat, the woman fled from the flat through the front door wearing only her nightclothes. She managed to grab only a handbag on her way out, leaving all of her other items and possessions in her home.
“Flames shot from the restaurant extractor fan towards her as she made her escape, and she was terrified that the wooden staircase she had to use to reach safety might collapse,” said James. “She was very disorientated but made it down the stairs and was taken straight to an ambulance. Covered in black soot and suffering breathing difficulties, she was treated with oxygen.”
James said that for months afterwards the woman suffered with breathing difficulties and a bad cough. She was also struggling to sleep due to extreme anxiety, and suffered from panic attacks and flashbacks.
“My client displayed classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but thankfully was astute enough to immediately seek medical attention,” James said. “She had nightmares whenever she managed to sleep, and found herself constantly reliving the event. She would regularly wake up in a panicked state, choking. When she began having suicidal thoughts she took herself straight to her local hospital for help.”
James said that the fire not only destroyed his client’s material possessions, but also led to a breakdown in her personal situation. “She lost her home in the fire, and when she was allowed to return to the flat she found that most of her possessions had been destroyed or were very seriously damaged,” he said. “The psychological trauma then led to the breakdown of her relationship with her partner, profoundly affected her relationship with her son, and damaged her previously strong career prospects.”
Although until that time she had been very successful in her career, the woman has been unable to secure a job since the incident due to her erratic behaviour and poor concentration levels, and has been certified as not fit to work by a Consultant Psychiatrist.
“This was clearly a traumatic incident for my client, one which she was frankly lucky to survive,” said James. “The defendant insurers admitted liability within months of the fire, but contested much of the claim for a further two years. This woman not only lost her home, but she lost many of her possessions, suffered a substantial loss of earnings, incurred hotel bills, storage bills and significant medical expenses,” he said.
“But the defendant disputed many of the issues - even pressing for an inspection of the damaged items, which my client was simply not well enough to do. We instead instructed an independent loss adjuster to prepare an inventory of the damaged items on her behalf and issued proceedings.”
Shortly after this, the defendants agreed to settle the claim for a gross sum of £110,000.
“My client’s ordeal cost her so much and continues to have an impact on her life, not just financially but psychologically and emotionally,” said James. “I’m delighted we were able to secure this level of compensation on her behalf, and that she can now get on with the process of trying to rebuild her life.”
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