At 36 years of age, Alex’s life seemed settled and happy. He and his partner had two young children and they had recently moved into what he referred to as “our project”, a house they were gradually renovating. Unfortunately, his life was about to change.
In 2009, Alex suffered a fall at work which resulted in an injury to the tendon of his right (dominant) thumb. He was initially treated conservatively with rest and pain killing and anti-inflammatory medication. However, his symptoms did not improve and he was referred to a specialist hand surgeon by his GP who recommended that he undergo surgery to repair the tendon.
Following surgery, he underwent physiotherapy but within a few weeks of surgery, he started to experience symptoms including excruciating pain in his right hand and the lower portion of his right forearm.
On a follow up visit to the hand surgeon, he was diagnosed with possible Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and referred for the opinion of a specialist in pain medicine.
By this stage, Alex was suffering constant and high levels of pain, as well as swelling of his hand and hypersensitivity to touch in the affected hand and forearm. The specialist in pain medicine confirmed the diagnosis of CRPS. and advised him that the only treatment that he could offer him was a series of nerve block injections. The specialist explained that the nerve block was not in itself curative, but it was hoped that during the time that the block was effective, the adverse nerve impulses would start to correct themselves and after further nerve blocks his CRPS may improve or even go into remission.
Warned that the procedure could be extremely painful, Alex was initially reluctant to undergo the nerve block procedure. However, as his symptoms were not improving he eventually agreed to proceed. Unfortunately, after three nerve blocks he had noticed no improvement and the specialist advised that there was little if any more treatment that he could offer.
At the time of the accident, Alex had been employed as a Building Inspector. It became clear that he was not going to be able to return to his former employment. In fact, with an effectively unusable dominant right arm, Alex was at a significant disadvantage in the employment market.
When Alex instructed us it was clear there was a lot to do. We took a detailed personal and medical history, obtained a full set of medical and employment records, which required collating. A detailed chronology was prepared of his medical history and letters of instruction were drafted to medical experts which, to ensure their accuracy, Alex was asked to approve. Detailed witness statements were taken from Alex, members of his family and three of his colleagues.
As Alex was unable to work, we obtained interim payments for Alex to keep his head above water financially.
We instructed leading experts in hand surgery, pain medicine and pain psychiatry. These experts are all active in both clinical practice and research.
It was recommended that Alex consider Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS). This is a major procedure. We therefore arranged a private consultation for Alex to see Dr Adnan Al-Kaisy, one of the country’s most respected experts in SCS. After discussing his options, Alex decided to proceed with SCS. This cost almost £30,000 and we arranged for that to be funded by the other party’s insurance company.
Following his recovery from surgery, Alex experienced what he described as “a modest benefit” in terms of pain relief from his SCS.
Alex was understandably keen to return to employment. We arranged specialist guidance and assistance from an employment consultant. Funding was arranged to allow Alex to return to college to qualify as a lecturer in further education, utilising his existing knowledge and skills to train others.
Following retraining, he quickly obtained employment at a local college, although his income was a little less than it had been in his former employment. When Alex’s claim settled, in addition to the award for the injury itself (known as damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity) the main heads of damage included past and future care and treatment, past and future loss of earnings, the cost of retraining and damages for the ongoing disadvantage that he would face on the employment market if he were to lose his new job.
The total claim settlement was £360,000.