£1m damages for migrant worker seriously injured in minibus crash

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£1m damages for migrant worker seriously injured in minibus crash

9th October 2015

An Eastern European woman who had to have her leg amputated at the scene of a horrific road traffic collision whilst working in the UK, has received £1,000,000 in an out of court settlement.

The woman’s two sons were with her at the time, and Matthew Clayton, a specialist serious and catastrophic injuries lawyer with Fentons Solicitors LLP, represented the family, who had been working as flower pickers before the incident.

“Their employer had told the family they would be earning about £100 each a week,” said Matthew, a partner with the firm. “But upon arrival in the UK they found that - along with about 30 other employees from various Eastern European countries - they were being paid only £50 per week from which they had to pay for their board and lodgings.”

The incident occurred as the woman, who had only been in the UK a matter of days, was being driven to her digs in a minibus, together with her two sons and a group of other migrant workers. “After they had finished work, the group was told to choose a driver from their number and follow the boss’s car as he drove back to their digs,” explained Matthew. “No-one had ever driven a car in the UK before, let alone a minibus. Another worker eventually stepped forward as he was the only person who had passed a driving test in his home country.

“The boss was driving in a much faster vehicle and the driver of the minibus struggled to keep up, especially in the winding roads of the English coastline. None of the passengers were told to wear seatbelts, and as they had never had seatbelts fitted in similar vehicles in their respective countries they simply sat back for the ride.”

“The inevitable happened and in a vain attempt to keep up with the boss’s car, the driver appears to have lost control and the minibus left the road, colliding with some trees in a ravine,” he said.

Matthew said the woman’s leg was so badly injured that emergency medics had to carry out an above-the-knee amputation at the accident site in order to save her life. “Her injuries were horrific, and life-threatening,” said Matthew. “Not only did she lose one of her legs, but she also suffered a degloving injury to the other knee – where the skin is effectively torn from the flesh – as well as a head injury. This led to subsequent psychological and psychiatric injuries, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Matthew said his client’s psychological injuries were compounded by her witnessing her eldest son suffer horrific skull fractures in a head injury in the same incident. Although the youngest son escaped unscathed, he too was subjected to seeing his brother lying seemingly dead next to him with a severe skull fracture and his mother operated on in the wreckage of the minibus.

“The claim for the mother was very difficult to value, as the cost of living in her home country was substantially less than in the UK,” said Matthew. “For instance, the cost of a specially-built new bungalow there would cost only £60,000, and the hourly rate for carers is as low as £2 per hour. This complicated our negotiations with the insurers, who had admitted liability but argued there should be a deduction for contributory negligence for not wearing seatbelts.”

Matthew said that as the case progressed, arrangements were made for his clients to travel to the UK for prosthetics and treatment, whilst he himself made visits to Eastern Europe with counsel and medical experts.

The elder son had facial surgery in the UK which helped to improve his appearance, as the skull fracture gave him a lop-sided face which meant he was shunned in his home land where disability is treated very differently to in the West.

“All three family members were appointed a Case Manager here in the UK, who organised the various treatments they required including psychotherapy and arranged for the family to attend a number of medical and legal appointments,” he said.

“We were able to secure significant interim payments of more than £130,000 throughout the course of the case for the mother and £100,000 for the more seriously injured son,” he said. “These payments enabled them all to make necessary visits to the UK to attend a number of medical and legal appointments, including receiving specialist treatment and rehabilitation and the purchasing of prosthetic limbs.”

Matthew visited the family in their home country on two occasions and said the standard of living and the state of the family home was a shock. “The mother, who had only one leg, had to negotiate her way up a set of steep dilapidated stairs with no lighting in winter to get to her apartment,” he said. “There was no toilet but a latrine for the whole apartment block to use which was only accessed through a dirt track and a badly broken and rutted pavement.

“On the second visit I travelled with my legal team of medical experts, counsel and care and accommodation experts, as we organised and helped the mother to purchase a plot of land for a new home in the town where she had been brought up as a child,” said Matthew. “We also worked with local architects and builders as well as lawyers in that country, who helped with the complicated system of land purchase. With my care expert we also sourced a team of carers and a specialist nurse of the same nationality to take on the role of Case Manager.”

The defendants visited the victim’s home country with their legal team at the same time to obtain expert reports for the litigation, but upon returning to the UK Matthew was able to successfully negotiate a settlement of £1 million, less the interim payments which had already been made. Although the woman’s youngest son escaped any physical injury, he was compensated £20,000 for the psychological trauma of the accident. Her elder son, who suffered severe skull fractures and lost his sight in his right eye, also received £360,000 in compensation.

“I was so pleased that we had been able to provide this very poor family, who had suffered so much from their visit to the UK, with the assistance they needed to make a difference for them in the future beyond the award of compensation,” said Matthew. “This was a horrific ordeal for them. Thankfully the settlement enabled us to secure the appropriate medical treatment and rehabilitation they need to move on with their lives.”

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons Solicitors is experienced in handling claims relating to all types of serious injury and has a specialist department experienced in handling claims involving catastrophic injuries and amputations.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.