We were contacted by Hazel, a 43-year-old administration officer, in May 2008. In 2004, she had slipped on a spillage of liquid at work, which had caused her to fall to the floor, fracturing her ankle.
Her leg was immobilised in plaster for several weeks following the accident. Once she was removed from the plaster, she underwent a course of physiotherapy and was expecting her symptoms to resolve. However, rather than resolving, she started to experience an array of symptoms, including a severe burning pain, swelling, hypersensitivity to touch and discolouration to her skin.
“Hazel started to experience an array of
symptoms, including a severe burning
pain, swelling, hypersensitivity to touch
and discolouration to her skin.”
The orthopaedic outpatient department where Hazel had been receiving treatment referred her to a pain clinic. The consultant at the pain clinic diagnosed her as suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). She instructed a large national firm of solicitors to pursue a claim against her employer. Hazel initially continued to work following the accident, but was having increasing periods of time off sick, and was eventually signed off on long term sick leave by her general practitioner.
Her employer had admitted liability for causing the initial fall but disputed any link between the fall and the symptoms of CRPS. Her solicitors did not consider it necessary to obtain her medical records and simply requested a third party medical agency to obtain a report from an orthopaedic surgeon. He was very dismissive of her condition and his opinion was that there was no causal link between her current symptoms and the accident at work.
“Her employer had admitted liability
for causing the initial fall but disputed
any link between the fall and the
symptoms of CRPS.”
Naturally, Hazel was very disappointed with this report, but when she raised her concerns with her solicitor, she was told that she would have to accept this opinion unless she was prepared to pay for a second opinion herself. In the meantime, court proceedings had been issued and those proceedings were at a fairly advanced stage when Hazel contacted BLB Solicitors for advice. At her request, we agreed to take over conduct of her claim.
When we received the papers from her former solicitors, it was clear that it had been wholly inappropriate to rely solely on a report from an orthopaedic surgeon, given the very clear evidence at that stage that she was suffering from CRPS. BLB Solicitors applied successfully to the court for permission to obtain, and rely upon, a medical report from a consultant in pain medicine. This report confirmed the diagnosis of CRPS and, importantly for Hazel’s claim, that there was a clear causal link between the CRPS and the original accident at work.
“The report obtained by BLB confirmed the
diagnosis of CRPS and, importantly for Hazel’s
claim, that there was a clear causal link between
the CRPS and the original accident at work.”
The prognosis, however, was not good, the consultant being of the opinion that Hazel was only likely to be capable of “part time, light employment” in the future. The defendant would not accept the opinion of our expert in pain medicine and obtained their own report. The opinion of their own pain management consultant was somewhat more optimistic, particularly in terms of Hazel’s ability to work in the future.
Following a joint discussion between the two pain medicine consultants, the expert instructed by the defendant conceded that Hazel would indeed have significant difficulties in holding down anything other than part time employment in the future.