What are you looking for?

22 October 2022 | Case Study | Article by Helen Dolan

Undiagnosed spinal fracture leaves man severely disabled

Hundreds of thousands in compensation for man whose spinal injury was diagnosed too late. At only 17 years old, Simon was diagnosed with a form of chronic arthritis called spondylitis which reduced the flexibility of his spine. His condition meant that if Simon was to fall, then he could very likely fracture his spine.

Many years later, when Simon was 63, he fell about 45cm from his bed onto his back. He immediately felt a sharp pain in his back and was taken to hospital where he was given an x-ray.

The doctor noted tenderness in the spine and, although the spondylitis was very relevant with his fall, the only medical history recorded was that he suffered from diabetes.

Simon was told nothing was broken and was sent home with pain relief.

A few weeks after being discharged from hospital, Simon began to notice a loss of sensation in his lower limbs and that he sometimes suffered from incontinence.

Simon was admitted to a different hospital where doctors noticed tenderness in his lower spine and a reduction in power of his right leg.

The next day, Simon was vomiting profusely and showed weakness and lack of sensation in both legs.

A CT scan revealed that Simon actually had a spinal fracture, previously undiagnosed, which had left bone fragments in the spinal canal causing it to narrow.

Surgeons performed an internal fixation on Simon’s spine but he was left with motor and sensory paraplegia.

Simon is now severely disabled, lacking sensation in both his legs and abdominal muscles. He lacks control of his bladder, bowel and sexual organs. Since discharge, Simon requires several wheelchairs and therapies.

If Simon had been diagnosed sooner with more x-rays, he would have undergone the fixation surgery straight away.

He would, therefore, have avoided several days of pain and, most importantly, his later neurological decline.

Hugh James were successful in achieving a lump sum settlement of over £800,000 for Simon as well as annual periodical payments of £115,000 to cover care and case management costs.

Helen Dolan acted on behalf of Simon and commented:

This was a difficult and complex case as many spinal injury cases are. However, I am very pleased that Simon has now received the appropriate amount of compensation to enable him to be supported and live as independently as possible

The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Author bio

Helen Dolan is Joint Head of the Manchester Office and Head of the Clinical Negligence team. Helen specialises in high value complex secondary brain injury, spinal cord injury (including cauda equina syndrome), birth injury, cerebral palsy and wrongful birth cases, and also has extensive experience of orthopaedic and surgical cases.

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.

Contact one of our experts

Fill in the form and one of our experts will get in touch with you shortly.