A lorry driver who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after being involved in a fatal collision has received £220,000 in an out of court settlement for his fatal accident claim.
The man, who was working as a fuel tanker driver at the time, was so badly affected by the incident that he suffered flashbacks and even suicidal thoughts, leading to a problem with alcohol which left him unable to return to work.
"My client had been a driver for a number of years, but this incident left him in such a poor state of mental health that it was impossible for him to get back behind the wheel," said James Easson, a serious and fatal incident specialist with Fentons Personal Injury Solicitors LLP.
"He was driving his tanker rig as normal when the driver of another vehicle, travelling in the opposite direction, appeared to lose control on a bend and veered straight into my client's path," he said. "There was no way for him to avoid a collision, and the two vehicles crashed head-on."
James said that when his client recovered from the shock of the initial impact, he was worried that one or both of the vehicles might catch fire. "He went back into his cab to grab the fire extinguisher and ran around his vehicle to check it was not on fire, which thankfully it was not. He placed hazard warning signs around his lorry to warn other traffic there had been an accident, and then went over to the vehicle which had crashed into him. He was devastated to see the other driver had been killed as a result of the impact."
James said that when emergency services arrived, his client was strapped to a special spinal board and taken to hospital by ambulance where he was kept for two days. "He received treatment for various injuries including pain in his neck, shoulder and lower back," he said, "as well as chest pains, internal bruising, numbness and pins and needles in both his arms and hands, severe headaches and dizziness.
"Although he was physically injured to the extent that he had to use a walking stick to get around in the immediate aftermath and rely on his family to help with household chores, the most serious of his injuries was in fact a psychological one."
James said that the death of the other driver in the collision had a devastating impact on him. "In the days and weeks that followed he began to be plagued by intense and severe flashbacks, culminating in suicidal thoughts," he said. "He was clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but, as his condition was undiagnosed, he turned to drink in an effort to try to cope."
The defendants in the case - the other driver's insurer - admitted liability for the incident and so James was able to secure several interim payments to help his client meet his living costs, which were mounting up as he was unable to work. "Those payments also helped fund treatments including rehabilitation and therapy to help him come to terms with what had happened and help him reduce his excessive alcohol use," said James.
When the defendants initially offered to settle the case for £100,000, James entered into negotiations before settling the claim on his client's behalf for £220,000.
"The size of the settlement is based not on the physical injuries my client sustained in the collision, but the lasting effect the psychological impact of the incident has had on his ability to earn a living," said James. "Psychological injuries are too often dismissed by wider society as something to 'get over', but they are a medical injury and, much in the same way as a broken arm or leg, they take a great deal of time and medical assistance to heal.
"Although clearly it will take a long time for him to recover from this ordeal, I am pleased that the settlement now affords my client the time he needs and removes any concerns over meeting his future financial obligations."