HGV driver hit by heavy door

Our client in this case was Mr Graham Bell, who was working as an HGV driver employed by Brake Bros Food Services Ltd. His role required him to carry out deliveries to various locations. On the day of his accident, 31 March 2015, he was making a delivery to a secondary school in Knightswood during a period of high winds.

Parking the vehicle on the main road, our client opened one of the vehicle's rear doors to unload the order. There are three doors at the back of the vehicle. Mr Bell opened the middle door and secured it with the suction cup (the majority of the HGVs in the fleet use T bar hatches to secure the door, but our client was driving one of the few that did not have these fittings).

As Mr Bell was placing the deliveries on a barrow so that his colleague could then transport them into the school, the catch of the door broke and the heavy door swung shut, colliding with our client's lower back and right shoulder. The impact also pushed him forward, causing him to fall on his left knee.

The consequences

Mr Bell and his colleague tried to complete the rest of the deliveries, but, after another instance of doors slamming shut (thankfully not hurting anyone), they decided it was too dangerous to continue and went back to the depot.

The impact of the door caused our client to suffer significant pain in his lower back, right shoulder, and right knee. His injuries led him to seek treatment from a physiotherapist, and he attended regular weekly sessions in the months following the accident. He also saw an osteopath, who noted that the tendons in the lower right side of his back had sustained damage. Although he had suffered previous problems with his back, the pain experienced afterwards was different.

Despite this pain, Mr Bell continued to work for as long as he felt he could, which was until January 2016. He then obtained a sick line and was paid until the beginning of May 2016. Due to the physical nature of the work, he decided not to continue his employment after this time.

The settlement

Mr Bell was a member of the union Unite and was able to instruct Thompsons with their help.

The suction cups on the vehicle being used by our client were clearly not safe for the weather conditions on the day. The catch was faulty, which caused the door to close unexpectedly on our client. After the accident, a much safer catch was put in place for all vehicles in the fleet, but the employer should have taken this step much sooner. The danger should have been known to the employer, as there had been similar incidents previously in which employees had been knocked out by the doors. The work accident solicitors at Thompsons believed Mr Bell had a strong case so intimated a claim to the employer. Liability was admitted.

We obtained a medical report from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who confirmed a recovery period of six months for our client's soft tissue back injury.

However, our client was not satisfied with the report and wished to have a second report conducted. The issue was that Mr Bell's back pain took a lot longer than six months to subside, as he visited his GP a full nine months after the accident still suffering from his symptoms. The second report, from another orthopaedic surgeon specialising in back issues, concurred with the original report. Mr Bell then agreed for the second report to be released and sent to the insurance company along with our valuation.

The defender made an offer of £2,225 in full and final settlement, which Mr Bell rejected. An increased offer of £3,025 was put forward, which was still not satisfactory.

As he did not sustain any loss of earnings, our client's claim was for solatium (i.e. an award given to compensate for pain and suffering). Bearing this in mind, we informed Mr Bell that the defender's further offer of £3,300 was reasonable based on the available medical evidence and he was advised to accept it.

When our client told us he was not satisfied with this amount, we said that we would raise court proceedings on his behalf if that was what he wanted. But because he wished for the matter to draw to an end sooner rather than later, he instructed us to accept the offer of £3,300, settling the case on 12 September 2017.

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