There was substantial dispute as to the facts of the accident. Although the Defendant admitted primary liability they alleged contributory negligence by the Claimant.
The Claimant's case was that she was cycling home along a side road in Fulham. There were parked cars on either side of the road. Suddenly and without warning the Defendant opened the driver's door of the parked vehicle in which she was sitting so that the Claimant collided with the door and landed on her head on the road.
The Defendant alleged that there was no direct collision between the Claimant's bicycle and the car door and that she swerved causing her to fall off her bicycle. They said the Defendant had her door open approximately 10 inches as the Claimant approached and was sitting with her leg outside of the car door. They said the Defendant looked behind to check if a vehicle behind her was going to pull out before she got out of the car and on seeing the road was clear she began to push the door further open. They said the Defendant had both feet on the ground outside the car and was seated inside when she heard the noise of the Claimant's bicycle fall to the ground.
The Defendant alleged that the Claimant was cycling too close to the parked cars, that on the balance of probabilities the Defendant's door was open as she approached and she should have seen it if she had been keeping a proper lookout and that she could have avoided the need to make an emergency manoeuvre had she done so. The Defendant stated that the Claimant contributed to the accident by failing to take reasonable care for her own safety.
There were no eye witnesses to the accident itself.
The main injuries to the Claimant were a head injury, fracture to the right wrist, soft tissue injuries to the right knee, a facial injury and damage to her front teeth.
Following the accident the Claimant had no income and no Legal Expenses Insurance. The case was funded by Russell-Cooke on a "no win no fee" basis.
The Claimant was diagnosed with a medium-risk mild head injury, leaving her with cognitive and memory problems. She suffered from Post Concussional Syndrome. The Claimant was also left with a facial scar where her front teeth went through her upper lip.
At the time of the accident the Claimant was 41 years old. She was the mother of 3 teenage boys and was studying for a PhD in Medical Nanotechnology, with a view to pursuing a career in academia. This had been a position covered by a bursary, researching and experimenting at the highest levels. It was likely that she would have progressed in this area but for the accident.
As a result of her head injury the Claimant was unable to continue her studies and became depressed. She lost her bursary and was left without any income. She attempted to work at secondary school level but was unable to cope due to her injuries.
The Claimant did find work as a teaching assistant in a junior school approximately 18 months post accident however it was felt that she would never be able to return to her former status. A claim for loss of earnings for life was put forward, making allowance for deduction of actual future earnings.
Proceedings were issued at Court on 12/05/09 and served on 09/09/09, together with the Claimant's medical evidence. The Defence was served on 19/10/09, alleging contributory negligence.
The Claimant was suffering extreme financial hardship as a result of losing her bursary and Russell-Cooke wrote to the Defendant obtaining an interim payment on account of damages for her.
On 12/03/10 the Claimant put forward a Part 36 Offer to settle the claim in the sum of £200,000. This was rejected by the Defendant and a counter offer of £150,000 was put forward. Following negotiation the claim was eventually settled on 19/04/10 in the sum of £175,000.
The figure of £175,000 was agreed globally, however this can be roughly broken down as follows:-
General Damages £30,000
Past loss of earnings £65,000
Past care £5,000
Loss of earnings £75,000
The Defendant also agreed to pay the Claimant's legal fees.
Shortly after becoming instructed Russell-Cooke became aware that this would be a hard fought case on liability, in relation to contributory negligence for this accident. Due to the nature of the Claimant's head injury she was initially unable to work, and when she did return to work it was at a level far lower than she had been at previously. Russell-Cooke were able to obtain an interim payment during the course of the case to alleviate financial hardship.
For the Claimant:
Timothy Briden of Lamb Chambers instructed by Sarah Towler of Russell-Cooke LLP
For the Defendant:
Yaqub Rahman of Oriel Chambers instructed by DWF LLP