Mrs M was working as a chef in a public house in the west Country. On this particular day the kitchen was understaffed and besides carrying out her normal duties as a chef Mrs M was also expected to wash up and carry out other kitchen porter duties. Mrs M went to cook a batch of fried chips in the deep fat fryer and as she lowered the basket of chips into the fryer the oil reacted vigorously and spat oil onto her right arm causing her burn injuries to her arm and hand leaving scarring.
Mrs M instructed Hayward Baker Solicitors to act on her behalf in her claim for personal injury compensation.
Once Mrs M was signed up with her solicitor on a No Win No Fee Agreement her solicitor wrote a letter of claim to her employers at the public house stating why they were to blame for the accident and to advise Hayward Baker of their insurers details. A copy letter was attached so they could forward this to their insurance company.
The allegations were as follows:
“The reason we are alleging fault is that you, your servants and/or agents were negligent and/or in breach of your statutory duty in:
a) Failing to carry out any or any sufficient risk assessment, had you done so the risks would have been identified and steps taken to remove the risk or reduce it.
b) Failing to ensure that our client was provided with suitable personal protective equipment, contrary to reg.4(1) of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 or at all.
c) Failing to supply our client with gloves, arm protectors or other such relevant PPE for the task in hand.
d) Failing to warn our client of the dangers of working as above or otherwise to prevent her from doing.
e) Failing to train or instruct our client as to how or how safely to undertake her work or otherwise to supervise her to see that she undertook it safely.
f) Failing to provide or maintain for our client safe or adequate plant or equipment.
g) Failing to devise, institute or operate or ensure that institution or operation of a safe system of work.
h) Exposing our client to a foreseeable risk of injury.
i) Failing to take any or any adequate care for the safety of our client.”
Within 7 days the insurers wrote to Hayward Baker Solicitors confirming that they will be dealing with their insured’s claim and would get back with a decision on liability in due course. Within a month the insurers contacted Hayward Baker Solicitors by letter informing them that they admitted liability for the accident and that Mrs M’s claim would be settled on receipt of suitable medical evidence.
Mrs M’s solicitor informed her that liability was not in dispute and that meant that provided that the medical report confirms that she was injured as a result of the accident then they have agreed to pay her compensation. Her solicitors next step was to obtain copies of her medical records and arrange an appointment with a medical expert which was to be a Consultant Accident and Emergency Specialist.
A medical appointment was arranged and attended by Mrs M and a few weeks later her solicitor received the medical report which confirmed that her burn injuries were as a result of the accident. Mrs M was sent a copy of the report for her approval along with a draft copy of her special damages schedule (out of pocket expenses schedule) to check that it was up to date. Mrs M subsequently approved the report and signed her up to date expenses schedule and sent these back to her solicitor. However she did question why the consultant had not mentioned in his report about her anxiety when working around cooking oil or ovens and fryers. Also Mrs M will no longer wear short sleeve tops as she is concious of the scarring on her arm. Mrs M’s solicitor asked the medical expert to amend his report and having considered what she said about how she feels about the injuries he recommended an appointment with a Consultant Psychologist. The result of this psychological report was for Mrs M to attend 12 sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Treatment to which she agreed to attend and sent back the signed authority so her solicitor could arrange the treatment.
Mrs M’s solicitor had instructed a Barrister to advise on Quantum (what the claim is worth). Once this advice was received her solicitor wrote to Mrs M with a copy of the Barristers advice and explained that this is the amount that she is likely to be awarded should the matter go (proceed) to trial. There was also further information required from Mrs M and as soon as this was received the claim could be disclosed in full to the insurers.
Mrs M’s solicitor now had to issue court proceedings as the limitation period had nearly expired in which Mrs M had to make her claim, which was 3 years since the date of the accident. Hayward Baker had to take this course of action to protect Mrs M as should they issue court proceedings after this date they would have been too late.
The insurers responded to the Proceedings and had now nominated a firm of solicitors to act on their behalf. This is normal practice should the matter end up going to a court for a trial.
In the psychological experts report the consultant had suggested that Mrs M would benefit from seeing a camouflage artist to cover up her scars. Mrs M confirmed to her solicitor that she would like to explore this. Her solicitor wrote to the initial medical expert asking whether he would see Mrs M again and formulate a further report on whether the discolouration in Mrs M’s arm would be permanent and if so would he recommend a consultation with either a plastic surgeon or or a dermatologist to see if there are any options available to help reduce the appearance of the discolouration in her skin. The first consultant was happy to see Mrs M again and an appointment was arranged.
Court proceedings were now served on the defendant solicitors and Mrs M was informed by her solicitor that this now meant that the solicitors now have 14 days to either file an Acknowledgement of Service or a full Defence to her claim. The Defence will confirm their formal decision on the question of liability for Mrs M’s accident and will also indicate whether they accept the extent of her injuries and losses or whether they intend to argue about this. Once the Defence is received, the Court will then send a Directions Questionnaire to both parties and at that stage, her solicitor said that they will have an opportunity to inform the Court of the further steps which they think are necessary before a final Court hearing can take place.
A second appointment had now been received and Mrs M attended the appointment and the report followed shortly afterwards. In this report the consultant stated that the scars are permanent. Mrs M agreed with the supplementary report and signed the approval form allowing her solicitor to disclose this report to the defendant solicitors.
The defendant had now filed their defence and this was that they did not agree to some of Mrs M’s out of pocket expenses.
Mrs M’s solicitor had now sent a copy of the latest medical report to the defendant solicitors along with an updated schedule of special damages and proposed directions which were that the case be allocated to Fast Track, all documents from both sides to be disclosed by the specified date, all parties have permission to put written questions to any of the experts, expert replies by the specified date, each party should serve witness statements by the specified date, that the Claimant serve schedule of special damages by the specified date and the Defendant serve their counter schedule of damages again by the specified date and both parties complete a pre trial check list by the specified date.
A trial bundle of all documents in a binder clearly indexed should be at the court no more than 7 days and not less than 3 days before the Trial.
A case summary of no more than 250 words outlining the matters still in issue, and referring where appropriate to the relevant documents shall be included in the bundle for the assistance of the judge reading the papers before the Trial.
The parties shall seek to agree the contents of the trial bundle and case summary.
Quite a lot for the solicitors to do now preparing for Trial.
The case was now getting close to the Trial date and the defendant solicitors made a part 36 offer for £8,880.00 which is an amount reduced as the insurers believe that Mrs M was partly responsible for her accident as she wore a short sleeved chef jacket at the time of the accident..
Mrs M’s solicitor wrote to her explaining the offer made by the defendant solicitors and advised her if she accepts it the case comes to an end. If she rejects the offer then the case continues and there is nothing to stop the parties entering intofurther negotiations, perhaps continuing to exchange offers, and reaching agreement on any issue or even outright settlement on satisfactory terms. However, it is important to note that after the Defendant may, any time until it is accepted, withdraw the offer or change the terms so that these are less advantageous to Mrs M. If withdrawn the offer would no longer be open for acceptance. If changed the offer would only be open on the new terms.
Mrs M was also advised that unless her solicitor is unable to persuade the opponents to increase their offer, they may have to issue court proceedings and thereafter her case may go to trial. If Mrs M ultimately recovers more than the offer at trial, then the offer has no effect. The offer is kept secret from the judge so that it cannot influence his decision.
If on her solicitors advice Mrs M decides not to accept the offer and the case proceeds to trial and the court awards her a sum less than or equal to their offer, then she may be ordered to pay some of the Defendant’s costs personally. These could amount to the total amount of her compensation.
Mrs M’s solicitor thought the offer was too low and a counter offer of £12,000.00 should be made on the basis that hey may try to knock this offer down. She was also advised that they probably made this offer now before going to Trial to reduce their court costs in this matter.
If Mrs M agreed to allow her solicitor to make a counter offer then she was to sign and return the approval form. Mrs M agreed to try and settle the claim for £13,000.00.
Hayward Baker made numerous attempts to settle this case without going to court and eventually the defendant solicitors made an offer of £11,500.00 to settle the case now and avoid going to Trial. Mrs M accepted the offer and a copy of the offer was sent to court asking that proceedings be now be stayed.