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15 November 2021 | Comment | Article by Cari Sowden-Taylor

Brake Road Safety Week 2021

#RoadSafetyWeek is the UK’s biggest annual road safety campaign. Every year, thousands of schools, organisations and communities get involved to shout out for our right to make safe and healthy journeys every day. This year, Road Safety Week takes place from 15-21 November 2021.

Hugh James will be supporting Brake and other charities in raising awareness of the importance of road safety.

As specialist catastrophic injury solicitors, we represent many clients who have sadly suffered life changing injuries as a result of road traffic collisions. This case study explains the devastating consequences of road traffic collisions upon families.

I recently settled a tragic case concerning a young man who I’ll refer to as Eddie. Eddie was a lovely guy, but sadly as a result of the injuries he suffered, in a road traffic collision which was not his fault, his life unravelled and he sadly took his own life. It has been heart-breaking to witness what they have been through as a family. Eddie’s family has consented to share their story.

Eddie suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, significant maxillo-facial and orthopaedic injuries after a road traffic collision in 2015. He was in hospital for a couple of months and was then cared for by his family after his discharge home, but sadly Eddie’s personality had changed as a result of his brain injury and life was never the same for them as a family.

I secured interim payments amounting to £100,000 and arranged specialist rehabilitation which comprised of a case manager, occupational therapist and neuropsychologist, however, as a result of Eddie’s injuries, he found it difficult to engage in rehabilitation.

Eddie lacked insight and was desperate to get back to work. He would sometimes secure work through friends which would last a week or so, but then he’d become tired, suffer pain, lack motivation, struggle with concentration and it would normally result in him losing the job, which in turn, led to him suffering from extremely low mood. He desperately wanted his old life back.

It was an emotional rollercoaster for him and his family. The only way he said that he could cope, was through alcohol because it enabled him to forget how his life had changed. Then he started dabbling with drugs. Despite trying to put specialist support in place, he gradually became more and more dependant upon drugs.

He was a loving son and brother one minute and then aggressive the next. It was extremely difficult for his family to cope with his changed personality and challenging behaviour.

Sadly, Eddie attempted suicide on a couple of occasions. He reluctantly agreed to spend time at a residential rehab setting, but discharged himself after a week because he didn’t like it. Given that he wasn’t sectioned under the Mental Health Act, we couldn’t stop him leaving.

The specialist support team struggled to maintain relationships with him despite trying to provide a huge amount of support.

Eddie wanted to live on his own – he was desperate to live independently and whilst his parents and the multidisciplinary team were all extremely concerned about the prospect of Eddie living on his own, he insisted on moving out. After much debate, a property was located and he moved in. For a few days he liked the independence, but the novelty quickly wore off.

Sadly after a few weeks of being in the property (and 4 years after the road traffic collision), Eddie committed suicide. My heart ached for what Eddie’s family were going through. Everyone questioned whether there was anything they could have done differently.

Eddie’s passing occurred just before the outbreak of the pandemic and so his family, unfortunately, had to wait 9 months for the coroner’s inquest.

As the litigation solicitor, I attended the inquest with the barrister. It was extremely important for Eddie’s parents to be properly represented at the inquest. They felt supported throughout the process and were grateful that I liaised with the coroner on their behalf. I obtained evidence from the medico-legal experts which assisted the coroner in reaching conclusions as to the cause of death. Whilst the record of inquest confirmed death as a result of committing suicide, the coroner also linked his death to the injuries he had sustained in the road traffic collision. That acknowledgement that Eddie’s death was caused by the accident was, understandably, important to his family.

Eddie’s estate was able to claim compensation under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and Fatal Accidents Act 1976 for the losses that had been sustained, but how can you ever compensate a family in monetary terms when their loss is invaluable? We recovered what we could for them on the basis of the applicable law, but the outcome felt unsatisfactory in light of everything that had happened.

Sadly, many families go through what Eddie and his family experienced after a road traffic collision and it is extremely important, especially during Road Safety Week, that we remember people who have been injured and killed on our roads.

(Names have been changed to protect anonymity)

Author bio

Cari is a Partner and Joint Head of the National Serious Injury Team, and specialises in representing adult and child claimants who have sustained life changing injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, limb loss and polytrauma following road traffic collisions, injuries at work and assaults.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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