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Our client, Simon Howe, had worked on building sites since 2011 employed by Sheffield- based S10 as a labourer handling concreting, block work and a number of other jobs. On 02 July 2013 Simon was working at a site in Sheffield. It was his second day on that particular job – a small two storey extension to the rear of a semi-detached residential property.
He had been asked to ‘tooth out’ out some brickwork (i.e. cut into the outer brickwork to knock out a brick in every other row so that the new brickwork in the extension could be joined to the existing building). To do this he was provided with a petrol-driven saw which kept cutting out. Simon told his boss of the problem who said he would bring other equipment to do the job.
A short time later his boss arrived on site with a 9 inch 240v angle grinder. Simon had used an angle grinder previously, but had never received any training in the use of the tool. The grinder in question had two handles: a trigger handle and a guide handle. Simon had the trigger handle in his right hand with his left hand on the second guiding handle.
The grinder was around stomach height when he started cutting the bricks horizontally but it became snagged and kicked back. In doing so the grinding disc was thrown off the brickwork out of Simon’s grip on the guide handle. The momentum spun him around and the still rotating disc of the angle grinder cut into his forearm.
Simon contacted us at Shoosmiths to protect his position as his injuries were such that he feared he might never be able to work again. After listening to his story, we submitted a letter of claim to the defendant.
Simon had sustained a significant laceration to the arm and spent five days as an inpatient at the Northern General Hospital having surgery including a nerve graft from his right lower leg. He continued to have ongoing problems and in September 2015 he had a tendon transfer to try and improve the function of his thumb.
However despite these procedures, Simon continued to experience reduced sensation in his hand, pain and discomfort in his forearm, reduced power, grip and range of movement and more importantly a clawing of his hand. We obtained medical evidence from a plastic and hand surgeon, who confirmed the nature and implications of the injuries.
The same experts also confirmed that, on balance, the condition is permanent. Simon’s worst fears were realised – he will never see an improvement in the sensory and motor functions of his hand.
An anti-claw procedure might be considered, but it is difficult to say how much of an improvement could be achieved. Simon also had significant scarring on his arm which may require revision surgery in future. The defendants obtained their own medical evidence which reached a similar opinion to our expert.
The conclusions of the medical experts were important in assessing the value of the claim, but had far greater significance in helping us determine what immediate help and treatments Simon required to put his life back together. Sarah Cunliffe, an associate solicitor specialising in serious personal injury who handled this case explains:
‘We assess the injuries so we can negotiate the best possible financial award which ultimately funds the support and treatment our client will need. However, actually determining the extent and nature of the therapy and rehabilitation any client might require as quickly as possible is our first priority. Anyone who has suffered life-changing injuries should not have to wait until the end of the legal process before that help arrives.’
To that end, we quickly obtained a series of interim payments to fund therapies, treatments and support before the legal process had even begun. In addition to his physical scars, Simon also had severe psychological injuries so we arranged counselling and CBT therapy. The claim was strengthened when the HSE completed their investigation of the accident.
We obtained a copy of their report which concluded that Simon ought to have been provided with suitable training on the use of the equipment.
The HSE investigation also revealed that the grinding wheel had been fitted incorrectly so that it rotated in the wrong direction. Most significantly, the HSE report recommended that, if ‘toothing out’ was to be done in future, tools which did not expose the operator to a high risk of injury should be used rather than an angle grinder.
Despite his injuries Simon remains keen to try to earn his living, but does require support and help on an ongoing basis. Prior to his accident he also worked part time in a local pub. He tried to return to the bar job but struggled to cope. He also tried a few days’ work driving but struggled with that too.
We arranged for him to have assistance from Proclaim (a specialist case management organisation) to help in his search for work through assistance with writing a CV and interview techniques. We also obtained funding from the defendant so that Simon can retrain and be put through a security guard course so that he could work in this area.
The other side’s lawyers had put forward an offer to settle the claim on a 50:50 basis, implying that Simon was somehow partly to blame for his injuries. Liability was eventually resolved on an 80:20 basis in our client’s favour and the matter settled for over £200,000 gross. Simon was put in touch with our Wealth Protection team who assisted in setting up a Personal Injury Trust that ring fences his compensation award and protects his entitlement to benefits.
Simon Howe rates the support he got from Shoosmiths and Sarah Cunliffe in particular very highly:
‘The whole service I received from my solicitor (Sarah Cunliffe) was excellent, professional and delivered in a very friendly manner, not only to me but also my family. Thank you to all at Shoosmiths for their help.’