H v T (Road traffic accident case)

The claim arose from a simple road traffic accident involving a middle-aged man. On the face of it, this should have been straightforward, particularly as liability was admitted promptly. However, the dispute blew up in relation to the claimant’s pre-accident state, causation and quantum.

In the aftermath of this RTA, the claimant reported suffering chronic pain at the extreme end of the spectrum such that he was unable to live independently. The claimant was extremely reluctant to disclose medical records and almost every step taken by one or other party seemed to increase the dispute rather than lead towards its resolution.

IE’s involvement enabled progress to be made.

When medical records were made available, they were extensive. The records suggested that the claimant was experiencing a difficult time with life in general at the time of the accident: he had been made redundant, his marriage had broken down and a new business venture was not a success and may have been a significant stressor in its own right.

The claimant essentially contended that the accident was “the straw which broke the camel’s back.” The defendants position was that the accident was insignificant in the context of the claimant’s life and he would have developed physical complaints as a consequence of his underlying psychological difficulties in any event. Neither party would accept the other side’s position.

Following Direction provided by the Evaluator, the case came to Evaluation.

A great deal of time was required to explore the medical records with the claimant. There were numerous entries in the GP records attributing the claimant’s difficulties to other events, as opposed to this RTA. The claimant believed that this difficulty could be overcome by giving evidence to the effect that the records were wrong. He had previously refused to accept advice from his solicitor in relation to the probative power of contemporaneous records and the fact that it was unlikely that his GP would inaccurately record consultations in the records. The Evaluator was able to explain to the claimant and his Counsel how this issue would be dealt with at trial with reference to the decision of the Court of Appeal in Denton Hall v Fifield [2006] EWCA 169. Once this had been explained, the claimant came to an appreciation that the trial would not be as straightforward as he had hoped or believed. This was key so far as the management of his expectations and the risks of proceeding to trial were concerned.

The claimant had insisted that he would never work again and required significant care; loss of earnings alone was almost £400,000. The defendant valued the entire case at around £30,000.

The Evaluator forensically analysed each head of claim loss in turn, eventually arriving at an evaluation figure of £100,000. Due to the way in which this analysis had taken place with the input of each party (in private sessions) and the explanations provided to all queries raised, it was noteworthy that both sides accepted the evaluation figure as being the probable outcome at trial.

The Evaluation paved the way for the facilitation of a resolution of the claim then and there. The defendant was satisfied that IE enabled them to achieve finality at least 2+ years earlier than would otherwise have been possible and that their overall settlement outlay was considerably less than would have been the case.

The claimant’s solicitor was grateful for the way in which the process helped manage his client’s expectations of trial and outcome. However, his greatest praise was for the avoidance of a litigation ordeal, where private life and credibility would have been closely scrutinised, which would inevitably have been very damaging to this particular client. Without any compromise of forensic rigour, IE is a much better environment than contested litigation for very many parties.

Evaluator: Rhiannon Jones QC