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Spinal Cord Injury - failure to diagnose



The Claimant, a man of 45 years old who had drunk some alcohol, was involved in a road traffic accident when he was hit by a bus and injured. He was taken to hospital and the casualty doctors failed to recognise that he had suffered a spinal injury. As a result he was not managed appropriately and the chance to recognise and stabilise the spinal fracture was missed. He was left with a permanent spinal cord lesion and was confined to a wheelchair.

Claims were made in respect of both the road traffic accident and the medical care he received. In respect of the medical care, the claim was as follows:


  • Failure to identify the spinal injury
  • Failure to manage the claimant and handle him appropriately
  • Failure to immobilise and stabilise the fracture and thus avoid permanent injury


Court proceedings were issued and served. Liability was strongly disputed by the defendants all the way through to trial. It was argued by the defendants that the road accident was entirely the claimant’s own fault as he had drunk some alcohol and stepped into the path of the bus. Also it was said that the injury to the spinal cord was the result of the accident and that the hospital treatment made no difference and he would have ended up in a wheelchair anyway.

A trial date was set and shortly before trial an offer was made to settle on a compromise basis. Rather than take the risk of going to trial and losing his case the claimant decided to accept an offer of £500,000