Peter was 53 when he injured his lower back whilst helping to manually move a large piece of machinery at work.
He had never previously suffered with back pain and thought that his back would soon recover. When it showed no signs of improvement over the next couple of weeks, he attended his GP, who prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug, Naproxen, and referred him for physiotherapy. The physiotherapy initially provided short term modest relief of his symptoms, but after a few weeks it was not helping at all, so he stopped attending.
He had been on lighter duties at work, but was now even struggling to cope with those. His GP therefore signed him off sick.
At this point he contacted a national claims company whose advertisement he saw in the media. They sold his claim on to a large firm of solicitors, who advised him that he had reasonable prospects of succeeding in a claim against his employers. His employer’s insurance company duly admitted that his employer was at fault for the accident. The solicitors instructed an orthopaedic surgeon through a medical agency to examine Peter and prepare a report. Use of a medical agency is classic sign of corner cutting – ‘processing’ rather than representing.
The opinion of the orthopaedic surgeon was that Peter was unlikely to make a full recovery, that he would not be able to return to his previous employment and would have to find a less physically demanding job. However, the orthopaedic surgeon went on to say that in his opinion, Peter would have developed low back pain in any event within 5 years, even if he had not been involved in the accident.
This opinion meant, on the face of it, that Peter would only be compensated for losses sustained in the first five years following his accident.
Understandably, Peter was very unhappy with the medical report, particularly as he had never suffered with back pain before the accident. He asked his solicitors if they could challenge the medical opinion. He was advised that he either had to accept the consultant’s opinion or obtain a second opinion from another consultant, but was told that he would have to pay for that himself.
Peter contacted BLB Solicitors as specialists in chronic pain. He instructed us to take over conduct of his claim. We wrote to his solicitors and obtained their file.
Upon reviewing the file and the medical evidence, a couple of things were quickly apparent. The orthopaedic surgeon was a knee specialist, not a spinal surgeon. He had suggested that the accident had simply accelerated underlying degenerative changes in Peter’s spine. This was despite Peter having no documented history of back pain or making any further investigations such as requesting an MRI scan.
We opted against speaking or writing to the orthopaedic surgeon, as he was clearly an inappropriate medical expert given that he was not a spinal specialist and Peter clearly had ongoing spinal symptoms.
Instead we instructed a nationally respected spinal surgeon. He requested an MRI scan and discovered that the cause of Peter’s back pain was a lumbar disc prolapse. In his report he stated that the prolapse, “in the absence of any other obvious triggering event,was caused by the incident at his place of work“. He went on to say that “at this stage I consider it unlikely that surgery is going to significantly improve his symptoms and on balance he is likely to suffer with symptoms at a similar level for the rest of his life“.
Clearly, Peter was distressed that his symptoms were now likely to be permanent. However, at least we now had reliable medical evidence that would help to ensure that he was properly compensated to ensure his and his family’s long term financial security.
The insurance company commissioned their own medical evidence from another spinal surgeon. His evidence was, as you might expect, less favourable to Peter’s claim. We therefore arranged for the two spinal surgeons to meet to discuss their differences. Following that meeting, the other spinal surgeon had moved his position more towards the spinal surgeon instructed by us. We were therefore fairly confident that if the matter went to trial, the judge was more likely to favour the opinion of our spinal surgeon.
We proceeded to prepare full details of Peter’s claim, with supporting evidence. His claim included lost earnings for his reduced earning capacity in the remaining 11 years until his retirement (he had by then found lighter work, but on a significantly lower salary), the fact that he would be at a disadvantage on the employment market should he lose his job, the cost of ‘maintenance’ treatment, future medication and the cost of his future care and equipment requirements.
Following round table discussions, his claim settled for £235,000.