The Consequences of a Secondary Brain Injury caused by Medical Negligence

On 29th December 2013, Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher suffered a serious brain injury caused by a fall while skiing, where he hit his head on a rock. Michael Schumacher was left critically injured and is still immobile and unable to speak ten months later. He is receiving first-class rehabilitation treatment to assist him on the road to recovery.

While Michael Schumacher’s injury received world-wide media coverage, many other families around the world are left supporting the fallout from their loved one’s traumatic brain injuries with much less financial support.

Traumatic brain injuries can cause a huge range of complications, from physical, cognitive and behavioural problems including co-ordination difficulties, memory loss and speech impediments. In extreme cases, brain injury can lead to permanent severe disability or even death.

Primary brain injury

Most brain injuries result from direct or indirect trauma to the head. This trauma can be caused by road accidents, heavy falls, violence or sports and recreational injuries.

Secondary brain injury

Secondary brain injury may be caused by medical misdiagnosis of the original brain injury. Immediate medical care is critical to the treatment of a brain injury. Occasionally, the brain injury is overlooked and left untreated as medical staff deal with other, more obvious bodily injuries. This is particularly common where there are “closed head” injuries and there are no outward signs of brain injury. Even where the skull is not fractured, there can still be internal brain injury.

The problem with medical staff misdiagnosing or overlooking an initial brain injury is that, left untreated, further injury within the brain can occur and cause permanent brain damage and even death. The long-term effects of your brain injury may not become apparent until days or weeks after the original accident. The delayed diagnosis of a brain injury can allow further brain damage to develop in the intervening period. Examples of this sort of secondary brain injury include seizures, edema and hematoma.

In addition, an untreated initial brain injury increases the likelihood of a secondary traumatic brain injury. Some of the symptoms of the initial brain injury can include balance and co-ordination problems, which in turn greatly increase the risk of subsequent falls and accidents. This may lead to a second blow to the head, which would carry more severe medical consequences than the initial brain injury.

Medical negligence

Medical staff have a duty of care to their patients and where care is not properly delivered, there may be grounds for a compensation claim. Two key elements have to be established in a case of medical negligence. Firstly, the actions of medical staff need to have exacerbated your original injury, and secondly, the level of care you received needs to have been unequal to a standard that you would expect from a similarly qualified medical practitioner.

Claiming for medical negligence

If your family member has suffered a secondary brain injury caused by medical negligence, the emotional pressure on you can be intense and overwhelming. There will be many demands on your time and energy, at a time when all you want to do is support your family member.

At Injury Lawyers 4U we specialise in personal injury and accident claims, including those arising from medical negligence, and we operate on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. Compensation can make a huge difference to the life of your injured family member and the rest of your family. We can manage your compensation claim sensitively and professionally, leaving you time to support your loved one.

Contact our professional team today by filling in our short contact form and one of our experienced team will get straight back to you.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Ambulance Workers

In April 2003, findings published in the British Medical Journal showed that emergency service workers are at high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The study questioned 617 personnel who worked for ambulance service, and it found that 22% suffered from some form of PTSD.

This is a troubling figure.  Ambulance personnel are required to attend situations that most of us could not begin to comprehend such as suicides, sudden infant death, and events such as the 7th July 2005 London bombings, which resulted in gruesome and distressing scenes, too graphic to be shown in the media, but sights these brave individuals had to face head on.  It is vitally important that ambulance staff are supported fully in their workplace, to ensure they stay psychologically safe, not only for themselves, but for the wider community who rely on them in times of desperate need.

What is PTSD?

PTSD can be caused by a single one-off event or after being exposed to a series of traumatic circumstances.  In the First World War the condition was named Shell Shock. It was later to become known as PTSD in 1980s.  Its symptoms include:

  • Hyper-arousal (always feeling on edge)
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Experiencing flashbacks
  • Anxiety and depression

When left untreated, and in extreme cases, PTSD has led to the suicide of first response workers. After a series of suicides, the governments of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada introduced legislation which applies a presumption that any emergency worker suffering from PTSD is presumed to have acquired the condition as a direct result of their work.  This has made claiming for compensation and support easier.

Compensation for Ambulance Staff Suffering from PTDS in Britain

Historically, the British courts have been reluctant to award compensation to emergency workers who have suffered from PTSD due to having to attend a horrific event caused by a third party’s negligence.  This, coupled with claimants no longer having access to legal aid to fund personal injury claims, has meant successful cases remained few and far between until recently.

However, with the growing acceptance that PTSD is a serious, life-affecting illness, and the advent of no win no fee arrangements to fund claims, things are starting to change and emergency workers are beginning to achieve the compensation they deserve.

A tragic incident that has led to many developments in this area of law was the Hillsborough Football Stadium disaster in 1989.  Although these particular claims involved police officers present at the scene, the principles of the cases could be applied equally to ambulance workers.

Traditionally, the courts have divided people who claim for psychiatric injury after a traumatic event into three categories:

  1. Those who are personally involved in the event who receive both physical and psychological injuries.  These victims are automatically entitled to claim for both mental and physical damage.
  2. People are put at risk of physical injury and escape it, however, go on to suffer from physiological damage.  They are known as primary victims.
  3. Individuals who are not in any physical danger, however, suffer from physiological injury, such as PTSD, because of the event they have directly witnessed.  These people are referred to as secondary victims.

One category of secondary victims is emergency service workers, who suffer from PTSD due to witnessing traumatic events whilst doing their job.  In the case of Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire which stemmed from the Hillsborough disaster, the House of Lords outlined ‘control mechanisms’ designed to limit the number of secondary claims which could be brought before the courts.  In order to qualify for compensation, it was held a secondary victim must prove the following:

“1. There must be a close tie of love and affection between the plaintiff and the victim.  2. The plaintiff must have been present at the accident or its immediate aftermath.  3. The psychiatric injury must have been caused by direct perception of the accident or its immediate aftermath and not by hearing about it from somebody else.”

The courts have not always been consistent when deciding on compensation claims for secondary victims.  For example, in the case of Chadwick v British Railways Board, decided prior to Alcock, the court did allow a secondary victim who assisted in rescuing people from a train crash to claim compensation.  In reaching his decision that the defendant did owe the claimant a duty of care, Waller J quoted Cardozo J in Wagner v  International  Railway Company 232 NY Rep 176, 180 (1921):

“Danger invites rescue. The cry of distress is the summons to relief. The law does not ignore these reactions of the mind in tracing conduct to its consequences. It recognises them as normal. It places their effect within the range of the natural and probable. The wrong that imperils life is a wrong to the imperilled victim; it is a wrong also to his rescuer.”

However, a majority of the House of Lords declined to follow Chadwick in the case of White v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. The claimants were police officers involved in the rescue at Hillsborough.  The officers claimed that their employers, the South Yorkshire Police, where negligent, and as a consequence they had developed psychiatric injuries after participating in the rescue of the victims of that tragic event.  Their Lordships held that the claim could not succeed because they were not in any physical danger, therefore they could not be seen as primary victims, and they did not satisfy any of the criteria which would have put them in the category of secondary victims. The Law Lords felt it was unfair to award compensation to rescue personnel, when many of the victim’s families were denied any form of compensation.

The tables were turned again in 2001 when a court awarded a police officer suffering from PTSD after Hillsborough £330,000 in compensation.

Unclear Precedents

In recent years, there have been a few successful claims by ambulance officers against their employers for not providing appropriate support for PTSD.  Although the law remains a little unclear, the respect and recognition that PTSD now receives will undoubtedly increase the likelihood of claimants being successful in gaining compensation to allow them to move on with their lives.

If you are an emergency worker and suffer from PTSD, which you believe was caused as a direct result of the trauma you experienced through your employment, then please contact us today.  We offer a no win no fee arrangement and have the necessary experience and expertise to bring forward your case and fight for your compensation.



Ten Entertainers Who Have Died in the Workplace

Do You Think Your Job Is Dangerous?

We all know that some jobs pose more risk than others.  Construction, farming and manufacturing all claim far too many lives every year. When it comes to dangerous professions, you would be forgiven for putting entertainers on the same level as office workers. However, it may surprise you to know that many entertainers have been killed in the workplace. Most of us have heard the sad tale of Brandon Lee who lost his life on the film-set of The Crow, but here are ten less well-known examples of entertainers who have suffered a fatal accident at work.

1.   Molière 1632-1673

One of the foremost comedy masters in world literature, the French playwright and actor’s most famous performance was his last.  He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis and whilst performing in Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), the last play he ever wrote, he collapsed on-stage after a fit of coughing and died a few hours later.

2.  Madame deLinsky died 1820

One of the oldest and most famous magic tricks is the ‘Bullet Catch’, however, this illusion is not for the faint-hearted and many a magician has died in front of their audience whilst performing it.  In 1820, a magician’s assistant Madame DeLinsky perished when the gun being used for the trick was loaded with a live bullet instead of a blank.

3.  John Marshall Alexander, Jr. 1929 –1954

On Christmas Day in 1954, the American rhythm and blues singer was playing with a .22 calibre revolver during a performance break in Houston, Texas.  Exactly what happened has always been disputed, but the young singer accidentally shot himself in the head and died.

4.  Les Harvey 1944 – 1972

A member of the Scottish band The Stone Crows, Harvey was electrocuted and died instantly during a sound check after touching an un-earthed microphone at the Top Rank Ballroom in Swansea.

5. Paul Mantz 1903-1965

Mantz, an experienced stunt pilot, was killed on the set of The Flight of the Phoenix when the plane he was flying during a stunt scene crashed into a hill.

6.  Karl Wallenda 1905-1978

The veteran high-wire walker plunged to his death after strong winds and a badly secured cable caused him to fall from the 10th story of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The moment was captured by a film crew and broadcast around the world.

7.  Vic Morrow 1929-1982

In one of the movie world’s most gruesome accidents, Morrow was decapitated during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie when a helicopter crashed on top of him and two child actors, killing all three instantly.

8.  Jon-Erik Hexum 1957-1984

The young American Actor and model died on the set of the TV show Cover Up after fooling around on set taking a blank-loaded gun and firing at point-blank range into his temple.  The impact was enough to shatter a piece of his skull and cause a massive haemorrhage.  He was pronounced brain-dead in hospital six days later.

9.  Eric Morecambe 1926-1984

The much loved comedian was performing at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury when he collapsed from a heart attack just after leaving the stage following six curtain calls.  His last words were jokingly “Thank goodness that’s over”.

10.  Owen Hart 1965 – 1999

The Canadian wrestler was killed when a harness, which was supposed to lower him into the ring for a pay-for-view match, malfunctioned causing him to fall 78 feet into the ring.  Although he sat up briefly after the fall, he collapsed and died shortly afterwards from internal bleeding.

If you have been injured at work, or have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Contact us today by filling out this form or call us on 0333 400 4445.

What To Do If You Have An Accident

It has been an extremely sobering experience reading the recent news coverage of the new report into the failings surrounding the response to the Hillsborough disaster a quarter of a century ago. Even 25 years later, the grief and loss suffered by those relatives and friends of the 96 piece who died is a raw reminder that when disaster strikes it is most often sudden, unexpected and has a lasting impact.

The fact that the victims were people going about a regular part of their routine, in this case going to watch a football match, brings it into even sharper focus that nobody expects an accident to happen. Even the most simple and seemingly safe pastimes can have shocking consequences in cases where something goes drastically wrong.

Of course this particular story is newsworthy for many varied and different reasons and the search for justice for the victims whose names were besmirched in the subsequent enquiries has been a long and draining struggle for those involved.

However, even the most simple and straightforward everyday accident such as a mishap in the workplace, a collision on the road or a slip or fall in a public place can lead to a situation that adds stress and complications.

If you suffer an illness or injury brought on by an incident of some kind that is not your fault and where the blame may lie with a third party through their own actions or negligence, you may well find that you have grounds to claim financial compensation.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that any accident injury or subsequent related illness will provide the basis for a successful claim but in many cases there is either an insurance policy in place or redress available through the court system.

This is an extremely complex and detailed area of law however, and it is often very difficult for the layman or woman to successfully navigate all the procedures that are involved on their own behalf. Apart from this, taking on such work is often the last thing that anyone who is recovering from an accident needs to do; especially when their time could be put to much better use by ensuring their recuperation.

So the best course of action to take if you feel that you might have the basis for a successful claim is to contact a firm of specialist lawyers who work exclusively in that particular area. Most general ‘claims companies’ take on a wide range of different insurance related work and as such do not have the specific skills that could make the difference to winning or losing your own unique case.

Obviously the very last thing people like to think of they go about their daily business is the possibility that they may be unlucky enough to suffer an accident. If the worst comes to the worst, it is well worth knowing what actions you can subsequently take to make sure things move forward in your own best interests.

What Kind Of Accidents Are The Basis For A Successful Claim?

If you are unlucky enough to suffer injury or illness through any type of accident that occurred through no fault of your own it can be an exhausting and draining experience. It may also have far reaching consequences on your ability to go about your daily business in the way to which you are accustomed.

Whether the effects are short term or have a longer lasting impact, the last thing you need to be concerned about dealing with is matters of a financial nature or delving too much into the details about whether or not you might be liable for some monetary compensation.

All of this can take up a great deal of time and effort which could be put to much better use at a time when your own wellbeing and recovery to full health and fitness should be at the very top of your personal agenda.

The circumstances that led to your predicament could very well mean that there is an insurance policy in place that could potentially mean that you might be liable for compensation. Depending on the kind of misfortune that you suffered, some cases can be due a payout of monies by way of due process of law through the court system.

Some examples of the type of situations that could lay the grounds for an accident claim are if you are the victim of an incident or accident in the workplace or if it is the result of carelessness on someone else’s behalf. A lack of the implementation of safety provisions that might reasonably or lawfully be expected to have been put in place could also be grounds for a successful claim.

If you do find yourself being in a position where you think you might be eligible for compensation you should consider contacting a specialised lawyer as such claims cases are a highly specialised area. It is far better to speak to a lawyer at a company, such as InjuryLawyers4u, rather than a more generalised claims handling company as a specialist in this specific area of law will look at details in each case from a different approach.

Accident related injury and illness claims can be complex and contain many and varied contentious issues when it comes to proving liability and laying blame. Due to the very nature of such cases it is extremely difficult to go through the procedures necessary in order to fight for compensation on your own behalf. This is why using the services offered by a specialised firm of professionals is a sensible choice to make.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that if you feel that the responsibility for an injury or illness that you have suffered might lie with a third party, there is a possibility that a financial liability might lie with them also. This gives grounds for a successful compensation claim and in such cases you should always contact an experienced lawyer for advice.