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Brain and spinal cord injury specialists gather

Brain and spinal cord injury specialists are to gather to share knowledge and best practice.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) will be hosting its annual Brain and Spinal Cord Injury conference on 19 and 20 May, at Celtic Manor.

The conference brings together leading practitioners, specialist medical consultants and expert witnesses, who share their expertise and provide a valuable insight into dealing with catastrophic injury cases.

Atherton Godfrey is well placed to deal with these complex injury cases. The firm has a highly experienced team, led by John McQuater, partner and head of litigation, who is himself an accredited specialist in recovering brain injury compensation, as well as compensation for spine injuries and fatal accidents.

John will open the conference on 19 May and then chair the morning session. On 20 May, in his role of deputy digest editor, John will be on the panel for the Journal of Personal Injury Lawyers case and comment session.

The conference, which is back after 2 years, is running as a hybrid event allowing for virtual or in person attendance.

Specialist subjects

Topics covered will include the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as transverse myelitis and spinal stroke. Also covered will be best practice in dealing with potential breaches of duty and issues of causation. Specialists will share practical tips on addressing the issue of dealing with pre-existing medical conditions when handling brain and spinal cord injury claims.

To ensure there is a well-rounded and informative programme, there will also be a discussion on dementia and the potential links with brain injury, assessing cognitive impairment and life after injury.

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Manual handling and back injuries

Manual handling is incorporated in many different jobs. Unsafe manual handling techniques are a common route to back injuries.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) musculoskeletal injury accounts for 30 percent of all ill-health in the workplace, and the biggest cause by far is poor manual handling practices.

Musculoskeletal injury includes damage to the bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and soft tissue that affects the body’s movement.

Sectors with the highest rates of manual handling injury are agriculture, healthcare, construction and postal/courier services. Across all sectors, there were almost 9 million working days lost during 2019/20.

Manual handling weight guidance

Manual handling refers to lifting, carrying, moving (pushing or pulling) an object, person or animal.

HSE guidance is that a man shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 25kg while the safe maximum limit for a woman is 16kg. These limits are for loads being lifted to no more than waist height.

Where the load is to be lifted to shoulder height, the maximum weight reduces to 5kg for men and 3kg for women.

Two-man lifting

Where two people are lifting together, the general rule is that the load should not be more than two thirds of their combined weight total. So, for two men the combined weight should not be more than 33kg.

“Heavy lifting” is considered to be anything over 22.7kg.

Safe lifting?

Lifting a load below the weight limit does not mean that it is safe to lift. The maximum weights are based on the assumptions that the working conditions are good, the load is easy to grip with both hands and the employee is reasonably fit and well.

Even where the load is within the safe limit, the risk of injury increases significantly if there is any degree of bending, stretching or twisting involved.

Employer’s legal obligations

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, all employers must provide their staff with proper information and training to be able to carry out  manual handling tasks safely.

Employers must also carry out a thorough risk assessment that considers the task being carried out, the individual, the nature of the load and the working environment.

Employee obligations

Creating a safe working environment is not solely down to the employer, staff must play their part too. Staff must follow systems of work that are in place and use equipment properly. Staff are also under an obligation to notify their employer if there are changes in the workplace or they identify an activity that is either unsafe or has the potential to become unsafe.

Injured at work?

If you have been injured while carrying out  your job and you believe it was not your fault, call and have a no obligation chat with our friendly team. We will be happy to let you know what your options are. Call 01302 320621.




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Injured upholstery worker wins significant compensation

An injured upholstery worker was awarded significant compensation after suffering a shoulder injury.

Stephen Bradley-Watson, one of our specialist personal injury solicitors, handled a case for a client who suffered with a shoulder injury after a long career working for a furniture manufacturer. The client has kindly agreed that we can share details of his case but prefers not to be named.

The case

Mr L came to us in April 2018 looking for answers. He’d had surgery in November 2017 to repair a torn rotator cuff, an injury he believed was caused by 40 years of repetitively cutting fabric (The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that keeps the arm in the shoulder socket).

He was a hard worker who rarely took time off and used his knowledge and experience to train new starters.

When the business went through a restructure, Mr L’s job was made redundant. He was offered an alternative role but was unable to accept because of his shoulder injury, instead, he took redundancy. But for the shoulder injury, he would have accepted the offer and carried on working until his planned retirement at the age of 70.

How we helped

We arranged for Mr L to see several medical experts, including a specialist in upper limb workplace injuries. With these expert reports, we were then able to enter negotiations with the employer’s insurance company.

The employer denied responsibility for the injury so there followed months of exchanging evidence and statements.

Unable to reach a satisfactory agreement on the amount of compensation, a court hearing was scheduled.

Bob Allen, one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors also became involved in the case. As an expert in calculating losses, Bob drew up a schedule of loss which was put to the insurers – it was then up to them to either accept these or negotiate.

The first offer they made was rejected as it was far too low. Mr L had spent hundreds of pounds in travel expenses alone, then there were past and future losses to take into consideration, so we went back with a counteroffer.

Typically, the insurers embarked on delaying tactics, which caused further distress to the client. But we held firm and eventually, an out of court settlement was agreed, which the client was delighted with.

After the case, Mr L wrote to us saying: “I would like to send my thanks and appreciation to everyone for the hard work and commitment shown to me over the last 3 ½ years of my claim.

“Covid restrictions made working life and communication more difficult, but your support and guidance and belief in me brought my case to a winning conclusion.

“My special thanks to Stephen Bradley-Watson and his team for the success of my case.”

He added: “I had confidence right from the start with everyone I met and talked with by phone.”

Asked how he found out about Atherton Godfrey, he said: “I Googled solicitors in Doncaster, walked into the office and made an appointment straight away.”

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Road accident compensation: woman secures £1m

A Manchester woman  who was left immobilised after a road traffic accident has finally been awarded more than £1 million in compensation.

The lengthy legal battle began in 2014 when the woman suffered complex fractures of her hip and ankle, along with multiple rib fractures. Her injuries were so severe that she was left unable to walk without crutches and unable to get around her home.

As is common in complex injury cases, the woman’s solicitor was able to secure an interim payment from the defendant which allowed her to move into a rented bungalow.

Diane Parker, head of personal injury at Atherton Godfrey, explains: “Interim payments are an essential element of complex injury compensation claims.  Lawyers secure these payments while the long-term effects are assessed by the various experts we engage.

“Often, clients have been badly injured and need specialist treatment, adaptations to their home or, as in this case,  more suitable  accommodation. It would be wholly unacceptable for them to have to wait until their claim is finalised,  which could be several years, before they are able to get the support they need. “

Unfortunately, there were further complications in this particular case. Being immobilised for such a long time led to the woman gaining a substantial amount of weight which put her at too high risk to undergo the hip surgery she was waiting for. In the end, the client’s legal team engaged a bariatric surgeon to help her lose sufficient weight to be able to have the hip replacement surgery.

Ms Parker added: “Hopefully,  the hip surgery will allow a return to full mobility and the compensation award will provide the financial stability needed to be able to rebuild her life.”

The woman is to receive a compensation package totalling £1,080,000.





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Make sure all PPE is fit for purpose

It goes without saying that all personal protective equipment or PPE must be fit for purpose.

Yet, an established freight transport company has issued a warning to businesses that have leapt on to the PPE shortage dilemma as a means of providing a new income stream.

Anton Gunter, managing director of Global Freight said that he is seeing an ‘unprecedented rise’ in enquiries from newly established import companies. Whilst Mr Gunter said he applauds their diversification and resilience, he has voiced concerns that many of these companies are not checking their goods have proper certification.

Speaking to the Shropshire Star, Mr Gunter said: “We are becoming concerned that some people who are new to importing and international trade are not doing their research properly and are purchasing goods from abroad which don’t have the proper certification.

This is certainly the case for PPE products and without the correct certification importers risk having their goods held up at ports and airports. In some cases goods are not being released because they fail to meet UK safety standards.”

In an effort to meet demand, the government has relaxed certification requirements to some extent, but will be quick to act where they find PPE imports are not up to standard. This was made very clear when an 84-tonne shipment of PPE from Turkey was impounded recently because it failed to meet UK safety regulations.

Katrina Elsey, personal injury lawyer commented: “An increasing number of companies will be purchasing PPE for use by their employees. It is important to ensure compliance with regulatory and product safety requirements in relation to PPE, whether it is manufactured in the UK or imported from other countries.

Whilst the government has followed European Commission guidance to relax the regulatory requirements in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is still vital that PPE is fit for purpose and meets appropriate standards to ensure it is safe to use within the UK.”

See the HSE website for advice on PPE

Have you been injured?

If you have suffered an injury through a lack of appropriate safety equipment you may be eligible for compensation. Call 01302 320621 and speak to our experienced team or email 


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Private medicine: is your doctor insured?

We have all seen slick advertisements on television extolling the benefits of private care. The current BUPA website states: ‘We’re proud to give you nothing less than health expertise’. But what happens if something goes wrong with your treatment?

In cases where treatment is provided by the NHS, if clinical negligence is established, then the NHS will pay agreed or awarded damages together with the costs of bringing the claim. The private patient is not so well protected.

The private health insurer is not responsible for the standard of care provided. Similarly, the private hospital where the treatment is carried out will not accept responsibility for the doctors who use their facilities. The injured patient is left to pursue their treating clinician.

All doctors engaged in private medicine should be members of one of the three medical defence organisation. As part of the membership benefits, the defence organisations will indemnify the doctor in respect of clinical negligence claims arising out of their private practice. Thus, a successful claimant will have their damages and costs paid by doctor’s defence organisations.

Unfortunately, defence organisations can and do withdraw indemnity from their members. The injured claimant has no claim against the defence organisation, who will routinely refuse to give reasons why the indemnity is withdrawn. The claimant will then have to pursue their claim against the clinician concerned with no guarantee that if they are successful, they would be able to enforce any award for damages.

Anecdotally, speaking to colleagues, this is becoming increasingly common. I recently acted for a man who suffered catastrophic injuries when an operation performed by a noted London Surgeon went wrong. His defence organisation withdrew indemnity and the doctor then ignored court proceedings. Substantial damages were awarded. The successful claimant will now have to attempt to enforce the award which, even if successful, will result in further delay in him being compensated.

This is a risk to bear in mind when considering private treatment.


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Hospital failures leave lady permanently disabled

Rachel Baker, associate solicitor recovered £150,000 compensation for a hospital administrator who has been left with permanent pain and reduced mobility as a result of medical negligence.

At the beginning of 2013 Mrs L had surgery after being diagnosed with cancer in one of her kidneys. She made a good recovery and surgeons were confident they had removed all the cancer, so there was no need for follow-up radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

However, in August she started experiencing shooting pains in her legs. Assuming it was a trapped nerve, she carried on as normal.

Later that month, Mrs L went to hospital for what was just a routine follow-up CT scan. Unfortunately it showed that the cancer hadn’t been removed and had in fact spread to her spine and lungs.
She was referred to a specialist who scheduled two-part surgery to take place in early November.

Over the next few months, Mrs L experienced persistent problems and severe leg pain and developed cauda equine (a condition that affects the nerves at the base of the spine).

Towards the end of October the pain was so severe that she was taken to hospital. There she explained her medical history and the possible complications that she had been advised could occur. Despite this, she was prescribed Tramadol and discharged without further examination.

A few days before her planned surgery, Mrs L was once again admitted to hospital in acute pain. As on the previous occasion, she was prescribed further pain killers to tide her over until her surgery and discharged. As she got up to leave the examination room, one of her legs gave way underneath her and she fell to the floor. Still no action was taken.

By the time Mrs L was admitted for the planned surgery two days later, her symptoms had deteriorated significantly.

The hospital admitted that the treatment they had provided had fallen below a reasonable standard of care. Mrs L should have been admitted to hospital for further investigations which would have led to surgery taking place earlier.

As a result of the delay, Mrs L suffered a more prolonged rehabilitation period, additional pain and also suffered some mild neurological disturbance.

Rachel Baker commented on the case: “Mrs L now suffers persistent pain and weakness in both of her legs. Her mobility is reduced to the point that she needs to use a walking stick or a wheelchair when she is outside. She also has to self-catheterise each day and needs help with many routine daily tasks. Unfortunately, her symptoms and disability are permanent.”

As a direct result of the injuries, Mrs L has had stop working full-time and work part-time instead. She has had to make adjustments around her home and has had to buy an automatic car.

Mrs L commented: “The injuries have forced a complete change in my lifestyle and have significantly reduced my overall quality of life. From having a number of interests, I have found myself very limited in what I can do and, because of this I tend to dwell on my plight without the diversion of the activities I used to enjoy.”

Compensation totalling £150,000 was recovered in an out of court settlement.

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Compensation for man assaulted by bouncers

Mr W (44) was on a night out with his family, when he was subjected to an unprovoked assault by bouncers outside a nightclub on Silver Street.

After being punched in the face several times, Mr W was thrown to the ground. One bouncer sat on his legs while another knelt on his neck, repeatedly punching him.

To add insult to injury, Mr W then suffered the trauma of being arrested. However, once police had reviewed CCTV they were happy to release him without charge.

Soon after arriving home, Mr W collapsed and had to be taken to hospital. His face was swollen and bruised, but fortunately there were no broken bones. The cause of his collapse was unknown.

The assault had left him with cuts and bruising to his face and head, temporary damage to his eye, blurred vision, and fractures to three of his front teeth.

Mr W visited his dentist who capped two of his teeth. However, the caps came away several times.

Atherton Godfrey was recommended to Mr W, as a law firm that specialised in recovering personal injury compensation. The firm was able to offer a conditional fee agreement, commonly known as a `no win no fee’ agreement – meaning that Mr W would not need to pay anything to pursue his claim.

Maria Dallas, chartered legal executive, recovered £13,000 compensation for Mr W.

How is the amount of compensation worked out?

It takes skill and experience to accurately assess the correct amount of damages for each claim. No two claims are the same, even with the same injury; many other factors have to be considered.

To assess the injuries and recovery periods, we had a medical expert examine Mr W and a dental expert to determine the extent of damage to his teeth and appropriate treatment.

The dental report allowed us to secure sufficient compensation to fund future dental work; either crowns or veneers.

We also recovered lost earnings, the dental charges Mr W had already paid as well as the cost of travelling to and from the hospital and dental appointments.

Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity – is a standard ‘head of claim’ that allows us to recover an amount in addition to the amount we recover for actual and future losses.

This particular case was pursued on the basis of vicarious liability – which effectively means that an employer is held liable for the actions of an employee. In this case, the security firm was held liable for the actions of the bouncers.

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Almost 200 years of health and safety regulations: employees still at risk of injury

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been in existence since 1 January 1975. It was formed with the specific remit of enforcing health and safety legislation in the workplace.

But its roots go back over 180 years to when the first factory inspectors were appointed under the Factories Act 1833. At the time there were just 4 inspectors working across more than 3,000 textile mills.

In 1842 the Mines Act was brought in after a report commissioned to look at conditions in the mines caused a public outcry when it revealed that working in dangerous conditions, very long hours, accidents, lung disease and brutality were the norm.

In 1894 the Quarries Act was introduced and the Quarry Inspectorate was formed.

1965 saw the introduction of the Agriculture (Health, Safety and Welfare Provisions) Act that brought in comprehensive safeguards and protection for those working the land.

In 1959 the Nuclear Installations Act was brought in following an investigation in to a major incident at the Windscale nuclear plant in October 1957.

Then in 1974 the Health and Safety at Work Act, that we still rely on today, came in to force. It was described as “a bold and far reaching piece of legislation”. The Act was supported by guidance and codes of practice and for the first time, employers and employees were involved in designing a modern health and safety system.

So, with health and safety at work being covered by so many Acts, regulations and safe systems of work, it’s shocking to see that employees, across all industries, are still being put at risk of injury, as these recent cases show:

An engineering company was fined £12,000 after a 19-year-old apprentice suffered crush injuries because he was wearing gloves. HSE found that the use of gloves in this case increased the likelihood of hands being drawn into the machine. An HSE inspector commented: “A young man’s life has been changed because his employer failed to ensure adequate training in and supervision of a safe system of work”.

A construction company was fined £300,000 after a worker suffered fatal head injuries in a fall. An investigation found that although the company had identified control measures that would have prevented the accident, safeguards were “virtually absent”. The work was not planned, properly supervised or carried out in a safe manner.

And a waste recycling company was fined £1 million plus costs of £130,000 after one of its workers was run over and killed. Inspectors said that the company had failed to properly assess the risk and had not implemented “industry recognised control measures” to protect their employees.

Diane Parker, personal injury solicitor, commented: “Health and safety regulations are there for a reason, yet these cases illustrate a blatant disregard for the safety of employees.
It will be of little comfort to those affected, but in addition to the hefty fines imposed by HSE, all these companies are likely to face further financial penalties in the form of personal injury compensation claims, from either the injured worker or the family of the deceased.”