We have settled a claim for a cyclist who was badly injured when he was hit by a car while riding around Clapham Common in London. The accident happened on a bright, dry day in May when the driver of a Peugeot 307 hit our client from behind before driving over him and away from the scene. CCTV footage from a nearby bus captured snapshots of what happened.
The accident caused our client serious traumatic brain injury. The base of his skull was fractured and he sustained frontal lobe haemorrhages. These injuries have caused and continue to cause him cognitive and behavioural difficulties. His hearing has been impaired by the accident and he suffers episodes of tinnitus. He also sustained injuries to his right hand and wrist and lacerations to his forehead. He was taken by air ambulance to King’s College Hospital and initially treated in an induced coma.
The first step was to investigate who was responsible for the accident. The Police tracked down the car and found a man carrying a Peugeot car key with glass in his hair, which they believed to be from the shattered car windscreen. Despite this evidence, no prosecution was brought against him because the Crown Prosecution Service considered the prospects were too low of establishing this man was the driver at the time of the accident.
The man held a seven day motor insurance policy for the car, which had expired two days earlier, meaning there was no valid motor insurance covering the time when the accident occured. Our investigations therefore led to the conclusion that a claim had to be brought not only against the man alleged to have been driving, but also involving the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB). The MIB is a company set up by the Government to compensate victims of uninsured and untraced drivers in the UK. It is funded through compulsory contributions from insurers underwriting motor insurance.
The circumstances of the accident and the uncertainties over what had happened required us thoroughly and carefully to amass all the relevant evidence. Our client has no recollection of the incident and its aftermath, so we had to make extensive enquiries to identify who had been present at the scene and what relevant CCTV footage existed, including determining which specific buses had been in the vicinity and reviewing the CCTV footage they had recorded.
We instructed an expert in accident reconstruction to piece together from the available evidence the most likely sequence of events, including the relative positions and speeds of our client on his bicycle and the car that struck him, leading up to, during and after the collision. We also had to investigate and establish the full extent of our client’s physical and psychological injuries, instructing experts in various fields, including orthopaedics, neurology, neuropsychology and ENT (ear, nose and throat services).
Having investigated the circumstances and extent of the claim, we issued court proceedings on our client’s behalf against the man we believed to have been the driver and against the MIB.
In its defence, the MIB denied that this man had been the driver. Even if he were responsible, the MIB denied it had any liability for the accident, arguing instead that our client had caused the accident by his cycling. The MIB maintained this position throughout the claim.
The physical and psychological effects of the accident had a subtle but profound impact on our client’s day-to-day life. Despite the serious traumatic brain injury he suffered, with rehabilitative therapy he has made a good physical recovery, but with ongoing difficulties that continue to affect him. He now requires a hearing aid to help compensate for his loss of hearing. He was able to return to his previous work, but struggled to continue to perform at the high level he had previously achieved. His employer was initially understanding, but it was clear our client’s career trajectory was compromised and he sought alternative employment. He joined a new company and eventually completed training to qualify as a chartered surveyor, but remained with cognitive and functional impairment compared to before the accident. This causes him to struggle with cognitive fatigue, which at times he finds overwhelming. His confidence is affected and he finds it very difficult to engage in networking events, vital to establishing business connections in his field, and social events generally. These will have a long-term impact on him, including his earning potential.
The claim proceeded and evidence to support the financial losses and damage to our client was disclosed to the MIB. Evidence was exchanged between the parties as to both the circumstances of the accident from reconstruction experts, as well as the physical and psychological impact on our client from medical experts. The case was due to be heard in trial at the High Court, but was resolved at a recent round-table meeting at which we and the MIB discussed our respective positions and negotiated a settlement of £260,000 plus our client’s reasonable legal costs.
The case is notable because of the considerable evidential difficulties in establishing the circumstances of the accident and the importance of thoroughly investigating the impact of traumatic brain injury. On the face of it, our client made a remarkable recovery from the severe injuries he sustained, but the subtle, long-term effects needed careful and knowledgeable investigation. We have significant experience advising in cases involving brain injury, including identifying and involving experts in the appropriate medical fields to assess the full extent of the damage caused and the impact on our clients, to date and potentially for the rest of their lives.
We also have a team that is well experienced in advising clients in cases involving uninsured and untraced drivers. The MIB has strict procedural requirements governing how claims must be brought and imposes stringent time limits. It is important that anyone affected by an uninsured or untraced driver fully understands and complies with the MIB’s requirements, or obtains professional advice from a solicitor who has expert knowledge of the scheme.