Waste and recycling amputation injury case study

In February 2011 our client, then 29-years-old, was employed as a production line supervisor at a recycling plant in Ayrshire when he sustained an amputation injury in a waste and recycling workplace accident.

The job required the pursuer to use and monitor the use of a 20-metre-long, 1.5-metre-wide rubber conveyor belt that was situated underneath a large shelter and up some steps; it was used to process aluminium, paper, plastic and cardboard.

At around 6.30am on the day of his accident, our client was called by a colleague in order to assist with a Quality Street tin which had become lodged in one of the three-inch-deep conveyor belt rollers and was causing the belt itself to move around one-inch to the side. He promptly sought to attend to the problem, moving through a gate to reach the conveyor belt. However, in attempting to extract the tin, his glove became caught in the roller, which caused his arm to be pulled in and to become trapped, very quickly severing the limb traumatically from just below his shoulder. A first aider was called and the injured man was taken first to Crosshouse Hospital and then to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

The Consequences

The accident left the pursuer without his left arm from the point of the proximal humerus. This has had profound personal, professional and familial consequences.

For example, the pursuer is no longer able to work, is no longer able to play five-a-side football, cannot carry out many basic household tasks, cannot do things such as playing the PlayStation with his children. He is dependent on two hours a day assistance from family in order to complete domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning.

Significantly, the pursuer has also been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Chronic Adjustment Disorder and for a time received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Eye Desensitisation and Reprocessing Treatment from a psychologist at Glasgow Priory until such point as journeys there from his home in Kilmarnock became unmanageable.

The workplace accident also left the pursuer requiring extensive surgery, including multiple skin grafts. Additionally, initial surgery left the pursuer with an ulceration tip at the stump of the amputation; this required the bone in to be trimmed back by 1.5cm to improve soft tissue cover.

Further complication occurred in February 2012 when a neuroma developed, again requiring additional surgery. He has also suffered from long-term phantom limb pain. This requires regular analgesic pain relief and tends to be worse in colder temperatures. He also experiences intense itching over the area of the stump and suffers from muscle twitches and spasms.

Medical experts agree that the man's pain is neuropathic and as such is likely to persist over the long term, possibly requiring medication for the duration of his lifetime. However, the medication has a number of side effects, including sedation, which are likely to have an impact on his employment prospects at a time when the mere fact of his amputation has already placed him at significant disadvantage in the labour market. And there will, inevitably, be considerable and detrimental impact on his pension rights.

Furthermore, it was found that the injuries sustained by the man would leave him in need of a prosthesis. However, such equipment comes at considerable expense and requires costly on-going maintenance.

The Settlement

The man's employer's admitted that the pursuer suffered his amputation injury as a result of his accident at work and admitted that this had precipitated the need for multiple surgeries and skin grafts. However, the defender sought to deny that the man's amputation injuries necessitated anything other than an NHS-provided cosmetic prosthesis; a position disputed by the medical experts instructed by Thompsons, who stated that there were a range of benefits to be gained through the provision of a practical prosthesis.

The cost to fund the sourcing of a practical prosthesis was estimated to be around £600,000, with further significant sums to ensure its maintenance. The difference of opinion regarding the provision of a prosthesis goes some way to explain the disparity between the pursuer's and the defender's respective valuations of the claim: Thompsons valued the claim at nearly £1.3 million and the defender at only £334,000.

In the end, Thompsons Solicitors' expertise in this kind of case proved crucial. We were able to demonstrate that, contrary to the claims of the defender, the pursuer was in fact able to operate a functioning prosthesis, thereby proving its value.

Eventually, and largely due to the tenacity and dedication of Thompsons' amputation claim solicitors, the case was settled for £900,000, a chiefly favourable outcome, particularly given the intransigence of the defender.

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