Personal injury lawyers should shift focus from money to what really matters - Jodi Gordon

Over the years, Personal Injury (PI) lawyers have at times acquired a poor reputation and been accused by the media of encouraging a compensation culture. This position is reinforced by some large PI law firms posting the significant sums of compensation they recover each week or advertising quite openly how much someone can claim for a whiplash injury.

As a PI lawyer representing those who have suffered complex injury, I have long believed that personal injury work should be seen as a vocation. It’s a huge responsibility as we meet our clients at their lowest point.

When I read an article or social media post stating that a firm has achieved £X in compensation per week for their clients, I am disheartened. For me, compensation should not be promoted as a measurement of success.

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The whole purpose of a personal injury claim is to restore an individual back into the position they would have been had the incident never occurred.

Access to therapies at an early stage can vastly improve quality of life for those who have suffered serious injury

Following serious injury, I often ask my clients, “what do you want to achieve?” It’s so important to understand their goals and ambitions. Early rehabilitation is always key. For example, if we can refer an amputee to a specialist rehab team, it helps that injured client to focus on the future again. Access to therapies at an early stage can vastly improve quality of life. I was reminded of this recently in conversation with a physiotherapist who specialises in working with amputees.

I’ve witnessed the devastating effects serious injury can have on the injured and their loved ones. I have seen relationships pushed to breaking-point. I’ve visited clients in hospital who have lost all hope and can’t see a way forward.

The harsh reality is that a physical injury has a material impact on mental health as the injured are forced into suddenly dealing with their “new normal”, a future they never saw coming. Money can mean very little to them but setting goals and smashing through them can be life-changing.

One such example is Garry Stagg, a remarkable man and former motorsports commentator who faced challenges few could even comprehend. In July 2017, his life changed forever when he was involved in a serious motorcycle collision on the A9. A car travelling in the opposite direction hit him head-on. Garry’s wife Hilda was riding pillion. Garry and Hilda sustained horrific injuries and both required leg amputations.

Garry was diagnosed with ICU neuropathy which meant he had no movement below the neck. He faced an uncertain future with the likelihood of 24-hour care. We agreed with the solicitor acting for the party at fault to refer Garry to a private rehabilitation hospital south of the border where he remained as an in-patient for over a year. There are no such facilities in Scotland.

During his stay, Garry suffered many setbacks, but with the support of his family and incredible rehab team, he returned to Scotland in February 2020 and later that year moved into a fully adapted home in his beloved Perthshire. Through his own determination and the dedication of the specialists in the rehabilitation facility, incredibly he now has the use of his arms. He can hold his own glass, enjoy a wee drink and even sit with his wife sharing some coffee together without a carer in sight. While Garry does need live-in care, he does not require 24-hour constant care as initially anticipated.

Garry said: “There have been many breakthroughs that have been indicative of my recovery, some small, some large, but all significant. Inevitably, there have been disappointments. Coming to terms with the reality of what cannot practically be achieved is an obstacle but is not insurmountable.

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“With support from family, friends, therapists and clinicians, it has become possible to enjoy a quality-of-life with enough independence to enable me to make the best use of the financial outcome of the settlement. In order to achieve this, from the very first opportunity, it has been essential to receive sympathetic guidance and informed advice from a knowledgeable and skilled legal team.”

As a specialist firm, we want to see the focus shift from money recovered to what really matters for these individuals. These are the true measurements of success and the key markers for a PI lawyer really doing the best by their client.

Jodi Gordon is a Partner, RTA Law LLP

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