Speak informally to Andrew on 01225 462871. Alternatively, you can email him, or complete the Contact Form at the foot of this page.
Andrew Atkinson heads BLB Solicitor’s highly respected chronic pain team. After graduating from Bristol University, he began his legal career as a barrister before requalifying as a solicitor and specialising in personal injury. In 2014, he joined BLB to further develop his interest in claims involving chronic pain conditions, becoming head of department in 2018.
Why do you find claims involving chronic pain so interesting?
Chronic pain claims are complex by their very nature. Working to prove that a particular incident has caused a client’s chronic pain is challenging and much more involved than in a claim where a straightforward physical injury has been caused and will settle over a period of months or years.
Often there is a range of opinions between very experienced and distinguished medical experts as to what has caused or triggered a client’s chronic pain, the correct diagnosis or label for the condition, how best to treat it, and the prognosis. In addition, there is often an overlap between the views of pain consultants and psychiatrists regarding whether physical or psychological forces are driving constant pain and reduced function.
Most of your clients come to you after a bad experience with another law firm. Why do they put their trust in you?
First of all, I spend a lot of time listening. One of the main reasons a client wants to change solicitors is because they don’t feel that their solicitor listens to them and understands them. They have often had several solicitors or claims handlers who they have to explain themselves to and educate about their condition. Furthermore, a client has often seen several different clinicians and had a battery of tests and investigations without a clear diagnosis or effective treatment plan, which adds to their frustrations. Feeling heard and understood is the first step in developing trust.
Secondly, litigation is not something that most people have experienced, and it’s stressful at the best of times. For that reason, I spend time at the outset explaining how it works, the process involved and why certain steps are taken. I will explain what approach defendants often take in countering their claim and what to expect as the claim progresses. It amazes me how poor some solicitors are at communicating with clients. Many people who instruct me have little or no idea what steps have been taken in their claim to that point, why certain things have been done (or have not been done) and how it all fits together to achieve a compensation settlement.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best thing about my job is developing close and often long-lasting relationships with my clients. To represent them properly, it’s essential to forensically examine their medical and social history, understand each and every aspect of their life, and explore and justify aspects of their medical or social history which are important to address within the litigation. Claims can often take several years to conclude, and I’m therefore involved in the client’s life for a significant period of time, often when they are at their lowest ebb.
The worst thing about my job is addressing a defendant’s repeated attempts to undermine a client’s credibility and the claim generally. With cases involving chronic pain, credibility is key. It’s usual for the defendant to take issue with statements made in historical documents or on social media platforms and/or to use various forms of surveillance to allege inconsistencies in the presentation or reporting of their symptoms. Having to address these and justify the evidence can be soul-destroying for a client whose life has fallen apart as a result of an accident that simply wasn’t their fault.
Is there one stand-out case you’ve dealt with?
There isn’t one particular case that stands out for me; each case is different and fought in equal measure. I don’t rank my cases based on the amount of damages achieved, but rather on the battles fought and won within the claim.
A recent case which was particularly rewarding was complicated since the client was involved in two road traffic accidents 18 months apart. She had developed intractable pain following the first accident, which was then exacerbated by the second. The Defendants’ approach was first to question my client’s veracity and then blame each other for the injuries caused. All parties obtained their own medical evidence from orthopaedic surgeons, pain consultants and psychiatrists – each tasked with disseminating which aspects of my client’s injuries were due to the respective accidents. Their opinions were predictably diverse, which made negotiations difficult. Furthermore, my client had a complex loss of earnings claim, having been a self-employed financial advisor, a job she was struggling to pursue after the accidents. Eventually, her claim settled for over £500,000 at a joint settlement meeting, but just six weeks before we were due to go to trial.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a keen cyclist and commute to and from work by bike. I’m very competitive though, and my commute often becomes a time trial. Generally, I cycle by myself and enjoy the solitude, fresh air and even the battle against the weather and terrain. The slower pace also means that I see more of my surroundings than I would from a car window.
I enjoy gardening and growing vegetables, especially things my children can pick straight from the plant and eat. It’s a constant learning curve; no two days, weeks or years are the same, and you can never sit back in the knowledge that what you did last spring will create the same harvest or bloom again this year. Growing a healthy plant from seed and watching it grow before your eyes is very rewarding.