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Nerve injury to dominant arm during routine surgery

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Settlement helps woman prepare for life-long support after seemingly routine surgery

Our client was 28 years old when she fractured her dominant arm in an accident. She attended a number of appointments at the fracture clinic at Stafford Hospital but the fracture failed to unite and some ten weeks after the accident it was decided that she would need to undergo surgery to correct the fracture.

Immediately following the surgery she noticed numbness in her fingers and a loss of sensation in her hand. Three months later a nerve specialist informed her that a nerve in her wrist had been damaged during the surgery and the surgeon had used a screw which was too long for the procedure, which was also causing further restrictions on her ability to use her arm.

She underwent further surgery to remove the screws but was told that the nerve damage was permanent. Despite intensive physiotherapy and further surgical procedures over a period of more than five years she did not recover and was left in pain with very limited movement in her dominant hand and arm.

This severely restricted her ability to perform ordinary household tasks such as prepare meals, vacuuming, changing beds and holding the lead to walk her dog. It impacted on her ability to socialise with friends and she was embarrassed to go out for meals as she needed assistance to cut up her food.

She was unable to pursue her hobbies including painting and playing badminton, and she could not wear the clothes she wanted as she was embarrassed by the scarring due to the multiple operations on her arms. Her self-confidence was further eroded as she had to change her hairstyle because she was not able to use a hairdryer on her long hair.

She could no longer drive her car and required lifts from her parents and partner for all journeys. She was unable to return to her employment as a dental nurse and as a result she received no income for several years.

Access Legal Solicitors were instructed to pursue a claim against Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Rebecca Sellers, a solicitor in the medical negligence team handled the case.
Rebecca explains:

‘The NHS Trust involved admitted early on that an overlong screw was used during the original surgery and that this had caused some short-term damage. However, our medical experts advised that the permanent damage to the nerve in our client’s wrist had been caused by the surgeon failing to protect the nerve during the surgery. Despite that expert evidence, this was denied by the NHS Trust throughout the lifetime of the case.’

Court proceedings were commenced and a number of medical experts were instructed to advise on the impact the injury would have on our client for the rest of her life. Rebecca obtained evidence from experts in hand surgery, mental health and pain management to identify what physical problems her client faced and what treatment might benefit her.

As well as evidence to directly support the claim, Rebecca also secured the services of experts in care and employment to help and assist her client to understand and explore the options that were available to her given that she was no longer able to pursue her career in dentistry.

The NHS Trust continued to deny liability for causing permanent nerve damage to the wrist and offered to settle the claim for £20,000. Rebecca considered this amount to be totally inadequate given the life-long impact the injuries would have on her client and her need for continued, permanent, support and assistance.

The legal team acting for the NHS Trust had consistently refused to meet with Rebecca and the Access Legal Solicitors team on a number of occasions throughout the case, but through dogged and robust perseverance - and only a few weeks before the case was due to go to trial - Rebecca settled the claim for over eighteen times the previously offered amount, securing a substantial six figure settlement in July 2017.

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