04 MAR 2015
Peter Asher Siegel v Lester Pummell  EWHC 4309 (QB)
Brain damage – future Loss – measure of Damages – road traffic accident
High Court, Queen’s Bench Division: Wilkie J
18 December 2014
This was an assessment of damages in a claim arising out of a road accident on 16 November 2009 in which liability was conceded. Damages were awarded in the sum of £1,590,719 including an award of £1,446,431 for loss of earnings.
The parties were fundamentally at odds on the issue of quantum. The claimant contended that the defendant had been travelling at a speed exceeding 20mph when he hit the claimant’s vehicle. As a result the claimant suffered enduring physical, cognitive, and behavioural symptoms attributable to a diffuse axonal injury (DAI) to his brain brought about by the acceleration / deceleration forces applied to his head in the car accident. He was 38 years old at the time of the accident.
The defendant contended that the claimant’s reported symptoms of headache, fatigue, and memory loss were psychologically based. They pointed both to the anxiety-related symptoms which were a feature of the claimant’s medical history, and to persistence of the symptoms as being iatrogenic in nature.
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He also contended that the accident had not affected the claimant’s ability to obtain and retain employment at the level he previously held. The claimant was described as a high-achieving, driven person who operated at a high intellectual level throughout his career in the IT sector. The claimant claimed that as a result of the accident he would not able to sustain a career that he had reached prior to this and that his earning potential would be significantly reduced
The court accepted the claimant’s contention that he would have continued to advance in his career until he was 50, and awarded £1,590,719. The Court awarded £65,000 for general damages, classifying the brain injury as moderate.
This case was an interesting examination of the interpretation of symptoms in two very different ways. The defendant’s implication was that by informing the claimant he had a brain injury, he then expected the persisting symptoms he described. It is worth considering the effect that certain terms have on the way in which claimants perceive their injuries, and in turn how this might affect their recovery in the long term.
Summarised by Adam Dyl & Hannah Swarbrick, Anthony Gold Solicitors