Mental Health Awareness week 16 – 22 May


Mental Health Awareness week 16 – 22 May

This year’s Mental Health Awareness week focuses on relationships, and how healthy and supportive relationships protect and sustain our mental health.

If you suffer an injury – especially head injuries, this can cause mental health problems. If the brain is damaged physically then this can affect the person’s character mood and subsequent relationships. There are cases where people have suffered a complete personality change.

Even where the injury is not a head injury, serious injuries can have a huge effect on a person’s mental health. Not being able to work, exercise – play a sport that you loved and enjoyed – and probably excelled at can lead to people feeling ostracised, useless and unvalued. Men in particular who are unable to work as a result of a serious injury suffer depression and often turn to drink as feelings of inadequacies set in. Not being able to provide for, support and care for a family, meet the mortgage, pay the bills and interact within a normal family life can be deeply distressing and upsetting.

At Simpson Millar where we have clients who have suffered psychological injuries as a result of an accident. Sometimes the symptoms are as a direct result of the accident such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can occur where someone has witnessed a horrific or life threatening disorder, or where the person themselves has experienced a serious accident, assault or abuse.

The symptoms of PTSD can be quite severe with flashbacks, sleep disturbance, mood changes, avoiding certain situations or activities or social groups. Many people trying to escape the effects of PTSD will turn to drink, drugs and generally isolate themselves from friends, family and society generally.

Even if someone does not suffer the more severe symptoms of PTSD they can suffer other psychological disorders such as situational anxiety disorder (fear of travelling in car following a road traffic accident) panic disorders (feelings of panic or severe anxiety when faced in particular situations or circumstances) and general depression.

As a friend or family member what can we do to help ?
Most people are overcome with feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. Some times all they want to do is talk about the way they feel. Even though it may seem that they are going over the same thing over and over again – it is good to let them talk and express themselves. However you should encourage them to seek medical help and treatment – even if they feel that there is “no point” or “it wouldn’t make any difference”. In respect of Counselling and other psychological help people are loathed to seek this sort of help – being afraid of the stigma attached. You can encourage and re-assure them that mental help is just as important and acceptable as physical help.

It is easy to “avoid” a person with mental health problems. Most people feel that they are not qualified to know what to say or what to do. You don’t have to “do” anything. All you need to do is listen and re-assure. Continue to include them in activities and outings. Don’t automatically assume that they “won’t want to” come even though they may time and time again decline invitations. Many clients suffering with depression say “oh, friends have stopped asking me now. They got fed up”.
Even if they continually say no, or stop answering calls, or texts – you must continue. Send them a text – or a card – or even an old fashioned letter works wonders.

If you are a close friend or family then be on the look out to see if anything in particular “triggers” depressive episodes. Be quick to steer them away and if necessary occupy them with some other task or activity.

Finally look after yourself. It is easy especially when caring for a close friend or loved one to get “dragged down”. If you feel that you are unable to cope yourself then you should talk to your GP or other someone else about getting health for yourself.
At Simpson Millar we have many clients who suffer with psychological injuries – whether that be as a result of a brain injury, PTSD, or depressive symptoms following a long standing injury that has affected their day to day life. We seek to help our client’s by seeking early treatment (counselling advice and assistance and in more severe cases medication where necessary). We fund the cost of this treatment by obtaining payment from the insurers involved so that the Claimant is not financially burdened with having to foot the cost of lengthy and expensive treatment.

This page © Copyright 2016, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


World day for Safety and Health at Work



This year, “Workplace Stress: a collective challenge” is the theme for the World Day for Safety and Health at work campaign.

Work related stress affects workers in all professions, in all countries.  Bearing in mind we spend more than 50% of our waking life in the workplace this is quite significant.

What are the main causes of work related stress ?

There are the more well known factors of high work loads and the feeling of not being able to meet deadlines, not being able to deliver targets and generally feeling over worked and out of control.  Other factors  however include the stress caused through work relationships.  Not just the “demanding” boss, but the  poor relationships caused with colleagues.  People who feel isolated at work, feel unsupported and not “part of team” probably suffer just as equally inwardly that the “stressed out” employee running around.

Deeper stress facts tend to focus around job security. The threat of redundancy and the fear or concern  around job changes, management re-structuring and the like.  Pay is often a significant factor.  Not getting paid as much as other employees – who you see yourself as equal to causes resentment, and causes the individual to feel undervalued, unappreciated and unworthy in terms of what they deliver.

So what can we do to reduce stress in the work place ?

As Managers you should aim to spot the signs of stress before they escalate and become something bigger and unhealthier.

As individuals however we need to learn to speak out.  If you feel you are not coping speak to someone and let them know.  Learn to look after yourself.  Have a  better work – life balance.   Take things one step at a time. Focus on exercise and  getting moving.  Sitting at a desk all day long with mere comfort breaks is not good.  Take that lunch break !  Get out and have a walk – even if it is just 20 minutes it will make you feel better.  Eat healthily. Surround yourself with fruit.  Eating small amounts regularly is better for you.  It helps you maintain a level blood sugar level and keeps you focused and your mood up.  Finally, get enough sleep.  If you are tired and fatigued due to insufficient sleep you are more likely to be prone to stress.

How you actually perform at work can also help reduce stress.   Plan your work.  Prioritize tasks.  Have a diary system and actually use it.  If a job is large and complex – break it down into smaller parts. Completing small parts at a time.  Delegate.  If someone around you is willing to help – make use of them !  Do not feel that asking for help shows  weakness or failure.

Finally, learn to laugh.  There is nothing like humour to keep spirits lifted.

This page © Copyright 2016, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


What is Neuropathic Pain ?


What is Neuropathic Pain ?

It is a chronic pain usually associated with tissue damage. It does not start immediately and usually takes a while to resolve.

When nerve fibres are damaged they send messages to the brain and other pain centres to register pain.  Therefore, you could have an injury to your neck and the pain (especially if it occurs for a period of time) could cause nerve endings at other parts of the body other than the injury site to spark off sending messages of pain to the brain. You can have neuropathic pain yet scans and nerve conduction studies can show as normal. You do not need to have nerve damage to have neuropathic pain.  Having said that nerve damage such as through diabetes, chemotherapy, drug or alcohol abuse can result in neuropathic pain.

A common example is where someone has  an arm or leg removed.  The nerves that originally carried messages of pain to the brain misfire and continue to send  incorrect signals to the brain of pain.  This is called phantom limb syndrome.

There is no obvious cause of neuropathic pain.  The symptoms consist of a shooting or burning pain, tingling or numbness.

Treating neuropathic pain can be very hard as neuropathic pain responds very poorly to standard pain treatments (eg: physiotherapy, massage or acupuncture) and may get worse instead of better over time.  Electrical stimulation of nerves  can help to control pain symptoms.  Antidepressant drugs also help as they have the effect of dulling the receipt of pain messages by the brain in response to the nerve sparks. Typical pain relief and control drugs for neuropathic pain are pregabalin, gabapentin, carbamazepine and trapentadol.  More intrusive forms of treatment include spinal cord stimulation where electrical wires are placed under the skin or near to the spinal column and sends electrical impulses which block’s the brains ability to receive pain from the affected area. While spinal cord stimulation  can be used to treat chronic pain from multiple sources, it does not eliminate the source of chronic pain or treats the underlying cause of the pain. Instead, they interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain, so the brain does not recognize (or has only limited recognition) of the pain.

Vashti Norman
Solicitor – Serious Personal Injury

This page © Copyright 2016, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


How A Fall From A Ladder Led to a £250,000 Payout



How A Fall From A Ladder Led to a £250,000 Payout

Dated: 14/04/2016 By

If you fall and sustain a life altering injury through no fault of your own, you may feel life has been unfair, and question “why me?” Our team of expert solicitors deal with cases of complex Personal Injury every day: below is the story of one client, whose fall from a bunk bed resulted in a £250,000 compensation settlement.

Spinal injury

We can help even when you might think your case is a lost cause.

Getting On The Ladder

Our client was 52 years old when her injury was sustained at her rented property. The bunk bed which she was supplied with as part of her furnished rental made use of a ladder that was not affixed to the bed or the floor.

This ladder was the only means of getting up and down from the bed; and our client fell on 3rd January 2013, suffering a serious fracture of her spine at T11 level.

Our client was left with fractured spinal injuries and the Landlord admitted liability.

Upon treatment at the hospital, it was decided to go down the non-surgical route in the form of a back brace and physiotherapy.

Continued Back Problems

After a lot of time passed, the fracture did eventually heal – but in a deformed position that left the fracture unstable and allowed it to continue to move.

It was noted that the vertebrae was at risk of coming into contact with the spinal nerve and would lead to paraplegia within 20 – 25 years.

Changing Liabilities

It was immediately after this diagnosis that we helped to devise a schedule that would provide for the Claimant’s special needs in 20 – 25 years’ time as a paraplegic; taking into account the high level of care and special equipment that would be required.

This was the point where the Defendant decided that a separate legal case should be taken against the NHS; whist the defendant had accepted liability for the accident and for the injury she sustained, but anything after, it was considered that there was a novus actus interveniens.

  • Novus Actus Interveniens: This is when negligence of the Defendant is established, but another event breaks the connection between them, and means that the defendant is not solely liable for any further wrongdoing.

The Defendant alleged that if the NHS had operated, the complications of the disc healing in a deformed and unstable position would not have arisen and the Claimant becoming paraplegic would not happen.

Continued Counsel and Compensation Claims

This complex case was then referred to Counsel (Adam Dawson from 9 Gough Square Chambers). Where, he stated that the Claimant would have to show that there had been gross negligence by the NHS to have a successful claim.

Because our client had received an accepted method of medical practice (the non-surgical route), Counsel could not find that there had been gross negligence on the part of the NHS.

It was sufficient on their part that the choice between conservative treatment and surgical treatment had been considered. The decision was reasonable at the time. To add to the decision to go down the none-surgical route, the Claimant agreed that she would not have then, and still would not have the surgery recommended due to the risks involved.

It was concluded that Defendant’s assertion of Novus Actus Interveniens was not credible; and no claim could be made against the NHS. The original case continued, and was ultimately settled in favour of our client to the sum of £250,000.

This page © Copyright 2016, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


World Health Day and Diabetes


World Health Day and Diabetes

Dated: 07/04/2016 By

Today is World Health Day and the emphasis is very much on Diabetes Awareness.

Diabetes awareness is vital its prevention

A recent client of ours broke her back in a nasty fall; when lowering herself from a bunk bed she fell from an unrestrained ladder. Since the accident and her following inability to exercise she has developed Type 2 diabetes.

If you are female and have a waist size of 35 inches or more, if you suffer with high blood pressure, or if you have a BMI of 25 or more, then you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

1 in 16 People in the UK Will Get or Already Have Type 2 Diabetes

It is not known whether anyone in our clients’ situation would have been at risk before the accident (due to body weight) – but certainly the inability to exercise will lead to weight gain, increased blood pressure and probably contribute to the onset of the diabetes.

Diet is also very important, if you are unable to work for 2 years post-accident, the consequent lack of money may result in you not eating the best diet – which can also contribute.

Type 2 Diabetes in Sport

Diabetes can take a serious toll of on a person’s health, leading to far greater issues including heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease if not managed properly. But despite these risks, some people continue to succeed against all odds.

Sir Steve Redgrave was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, yet despite this he went on to win his final gold medal. Gary Blakie, a triathlete, also has Type 1 Diabetes and has managed his condition carefully so that he is still able to train and exercise twice daily.

This page © Copyright 2016, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


Council Admitted Liability But Continued to Rack Up Costs in Pothole Injury Dispute



Dated: 23/03/2016 By

4 years ago, Terry Coleman was crossing a road in Oldham and tripped on a pothole – with this began an avoidable legal dispute set to last many years, as the council admitted liability but continued to fight their case.


What Happened in Terry’s Case?

Terry had been out to the shops and was crossing a main road in Oldham when he was caught off-guard by a large pothole – he fell, and was left with a soft tissue injury to his knee.

2 days after the accident, Terry had photographs taken of the pothole by a professional accident investigator, which showed the extent of the defective hole. Terry appointed Vashti Norman, a Personal Injury law specialist at Simpson Millar, to handle his case.

The council accepted that the pothole shown in the picture was defective within the meaning of Section 41 of the Highways Act, however still went on to dispute liability.

Their reasons for disputing liability were:

1. They wanted our client to prove that he fell in that specific hole and not some other hole in the vicinity.
Despite the fact the accident investigator had already taken photos and provided a statement to say that all photos were taken at the same time, the council still continued to allege that our client had failed to prove where the road defect lay.

2. They wanted our client to prove that his injury arose from this exact fall.
After picking through our client’s medical records and checking whether our client had had pre-dating issues with his knee the other side refused to accept that our client’s injury was accident related.

3. They made an allegation of fraud and effectively alluded that the fall did not take place.
It was alleged that he had “noticed” this large hole and, in an effort to gain compensation, brought a claim forward. Terry was pressed on his movements that day but, again, the other side refused to accept any of the evidence.

The Outcome of the Case

By the time Terry’s case finally reached trial, it had been consistently run over by the council for as long as 3 years. Vashti’s hard work pursuing this case on Terry’s behalf finally paid off and she was able to secure £800 in compensation for Terry’s injury.

The court accepted our client’s evidence but deducted his damages by a third on the basis that he should have paid more attention where he was walking.

This case is significant because it highlights that councils are squandering large amounts of public funds defending low value cases whereby they have already admitted liability. This case could have been spared many years of hard work and legal costs had the council initially agreed on a settlement for their fault in this case.

Vashti comments on Terry’s case:

“It’s incredible that defendant councils would fight such a relatively small claim for so long, especially as this case was not subject to the fixed costs regime. This means that if they lose, they have to pay a substantial amount of costs both for our client’s claim for costs and for their own solicitors who have worked to defend their claim. This is remarkable, especially for a case where they have admitted breach of duty!”

“Terry’s case also pays testament to the fact that, even if the other side admits liability – you are not home and dry – as a claimant there is so much you have to prove by way of causation.”

Specialist Personal Injury Advice

We know that court is the last thing you want to have to go through. Like with Terry’s case, we will always try our hardest to reach a favourable settlement for you. Only in situations the other side continues to dispute a fair claim will we have to go ahead with court, where we’ll fight to get what’s fair for you.

Simpson Millar’s Personal Injury solicitors provide clear and straightforward advice throughout, and will support you every step of the way.

This page © Copyright 2016, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


Flash for Cash – fraudulent injury claim


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Flash for Cash – fraudulent injury claim

The insurance industry has seen their fair share of fraudulent claims.  There is apparently a new scam on the increase as highlighted on the BBC News recently. It’s called flash-for-cash and usually involves the criminal deliberately flashing another driver beckoning them to either pull out from a side road on to the main road or turn right across their path.  The other driver relying on the “flash” emerges only to find that the criminal does not stop but instead drives into them. It usually involves one persons word against the other – and the innocent victim’s insurer invariably is always left to pick up the tag. The recession and the advertising hype via the media advertising claims and actively encouraging people to make claims has led to the rise and increase in fraudulent claims.  We have all seen the documentaries in the past. The famous one is the phantom passenger :  You have an accident with another driver.  You are probably aware of one front seat passenger – yet a claim is then made by at least four people – the driver suddenly acquiring two other back seat passengers who were allegedly there at the time. Or there is the famous case of the bus that was involved in an accident.  The ticket machine reveals that there were 20 or so paying passengers – yet about 30 – 40 claims are made.  (CCTV later showed several bystanders hopping on to the bus after – pretending that they were there on the bus at the time of crash. The list goes on.  This latest scam is however very concerning.  We commute through congested traffic and rely on the good nature of other drivers to “let us out”.  Now this seriously questions whether we can rely on good natured gestures such as flashing.

This page © Copyright 2013, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


Uninsured Drivers! Bringing an injury claim against uninsured drivers


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Uninsured Drivers – bringing an injury claim against uninsured drivers

They say at least one in ten of us will be involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. With insurance premiums on the rise and ongoing recession showing no signs of ending this figure is only going to increase.

So, you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident. The driver behind has driven into the back of you. You get out, exchange details and go on your way. You report the accident to your insurers and they make arrangements to immediately repair your vehicle and provide you with a courtesy vehicle at the same time.

In the meantime, your neck and back stiffens and you realise you have suffered a whiplash injury. You make enquiries about bringing a personal injury claim against the other driver’s insurers. You instruct Solicitors to act for you. It is at this stage probably, that your Solicitors deliver the bad news: “You’ve been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver”.

What does this mean ?

It means that the person who hit you did not have motor insurance. Your claim will therefore be dealt with not by an insurance company but by the Motor Insurers Bureau. (MIB)

Initially you breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that your claim WILL be dealt with – just not by an insurance company.

However there are drawbacks. The MIB do not just pay claims “willy nilly”. They will certainly make sure you have jumped through all the legal hoops you possibly can. In particular, they will insist on you reporting the matter to the Police. If you did not report the matter to the Police (believing everything to be in order at the time !) they may refuse to deal with the claim.

If the MIB feel that you know (or ought to have known) that the driver was not insured – they will refuse to pay out on your claim. For example: John drives to Bills house to pick him up to go out for the night. Bill says: “Nice Car John – when did you get it ?” John says: “It’s not my car – it’s by cousin’s. He is staying with us at the moment and I asked if I could borrow it”. If later on that evening John crashes the car injuring both himself and Bill the MIB will argue that Bill should have known from that conversation that John was not insured (or unlikely to have been ) to drive the car . They will not pay out on the claim.

If the accident does not occur in a “public place” then again, the MIB will not pay out. So taking the scenario above – if John crashes the car on Bill’s drive way and not on a public road – the MIB do not have to pay out.

If and when the MIB do pay out on your claim, they have a £300 excess on property damage. So, if your Policy Excess (with your own insurance) is £250 – you can’t recover any of that because it falls within the £300. If your excess was £500 – then you can claw back £200 from the MIB.

Another disadvantage is the loss of any no claims bonus and your own insurance premiums going up. Normally, if you are involved in an accident with an insured motorist and the accident is not your fault, you can claim any personal injury and other losses from the other driver’s insurers. You will have your car repaired with your own insurer and maybe a courtesy vehicle provided by them. Your own insurer will then recover their costs of hire and repair from the other insurers as well. Because they have made a full recovery – your no claims bonus is protected and your premiums do not increase.

If you bring a claim against the MIB however your own insurers can not claim their losses against the MIB. Under these circumstances they have not made a full recovery and you do lose your no claims bonus ! (I am aware from the Direct Line advert that they are probably the exception).

Finally, MIB claims take absolutely ages to be processed. There is just one office in Milton Keynes dealing with all the thousands of uninsured and untraced drivers claims. Fast turn around of claims is hardly top of the agenda.

The answer: Why can we not have insurance discs on vehicles. In the same way we have tax discs which make it clear whether you have tax, you can have an insurance disc which shows whether you have valid insurance. This would undoubtedly reduce the number of uninsured drivers out there !

This page © Copyright 2013, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


Defective Premises – injury claim and liability


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Defective Premises – injury claim and liability

With the current economic climate fewer and fewer people are buying their homes. With Banks being reluctant to lend and inflation on the increase, the trend to rent is rising.

If you renting property and you are injured as a result of a defect in that property you can bring a claim for compensation for personal injury under the Defective Premises Act 1972.  This is the Act that covers landlords and builders in respect of poorly constructed and poorly maintained premises.

In reality however, how easy is it to bring a claim ?

Consider the case of Alker v Collingwood Housing Association 2007.  A tenant put her hand against the glass panel of a door to push the door open.  As safety glass had not been fitted her hand went through the glass and she was badly cut. The Courts found that the glass was not “safety glass” but complied with building standards.  The landlord’s duty extended to repairing and maintaining the property – but not necessarily making it safe.  As the glass had not been in a state of disrepair and had not been broken prior to the accident there was no liability on their part.  The absence of a safety feature therefore did not constitute liability.

Consider also the case of Adams v Rhymny Valley DC.  Window locks were fitted in a property.  There was a fire and the family in occupation burned to death as they were unable to open the window and escape. Again, there was no liability on the part of the landlord.  The absence of better features did not constitute “disrepair” even though they were hazardous.  Lack of improvements are in itself insufficient – you have to prove actual deterioration and disrepair.

It follows that you stand more chance of bringing a claim for personal injury if you are injured in a public building than in your own home. A landlord has less of a duty of care to his tenant than a shopkeeper has to a total stranger visiting his premises.  Under the Occupiers Liability Act the shopkeeper has a much larger duty of care:  The “Occupier” must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the visitor will be safe in using the property.  There is no such duty of care owed by a landlord to his tenant.

This page © Copyright 2012, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.


How much money will I get for my injury claim?


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How much money will I get for my injury claim ?

How much compensation you are entitled to depends on a number of  factors:-

a)      What type of injury:  So a broken foot, will attract a higher level of compensation than soft tissue injury or bruising.

b)      How long the symptoms last for:  So, a whiplash injury which is expected to last 6 months will attract a lower level of compensation than a whiplash injury which is expected to last 12 months

c)      How the injury impacts upon your day to day life:  An office typist would arguably achieve a higher award for a broken wrist than say a receptionist in the same firm who uses a hands free telephone system.

Some rough examples are as follows:

Whiplash injury to the neck where a

Full recovery takes place within 1 – 2 Years      £3,100  to  £5,600

Fractured clavicle                                               £3,650  to   £8,700

Fractures of the forearm                                    £4,750   to £13,700

Wrist Injuries:-

An uncomplicated Colles’ fracture.                     In the region of £5,300

Very minor undisplaced or minimally displaced fractures and soft tissue injuries necessitating application of plaster or bandage for a matter of weeks and a full or virtual recovery within up to 12 months or so.

This page © Copyright 2012, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.