Belfast Telegraph

Woman set to receive up £5m for road accident brain injury 'should get a lump-sum'

A woman set to be awarded up to £5 million for a catastrophic brain injury suffered in a road accident should receive a lump-sum compensation, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Gillen decided against an alternative periodical payment order due to the impact of an anticipated deduction in the pay-out for the victim not having worn her seatbelt.

Based on contributory negligence, her damages are expected to be reduced by as much as a quarter.

The woman was injured in the accident at an undisclosed location in Northern Ireland in January 2006.

She has been left with permanent neurocognitive deficits and is prone to faulty decision-making.

As part of a care package put in place she is accompanied in all activities and when her parents are at work.

Although primary liability was accepted by the defendant, contributory negligence arose from the plaintiff's failure to wear a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

Legal authorities point to a deduction of between 20-25%, the court heard.

Mr Justice Gillen had to decide whether a lump sum - favoured by the woman's father - or a periodical payments order (PPO) was appropriate in the case.

In a ruling made last month but only published today he set out the scale of award expected to be made.

The judge said "in negotiations between the parties such were the catastrophic injuries to this plaintiff that figures in the range of £4m-£5m were discussed as representing the appropriate lump sum compensation". 

He added: "Having read the medical reports in this case this seemed a reasonable approach in terms of quantum.

"Of that figure, it was clear that care costs would require expenditure of something in the range of £2m over the lifetime of the plaintiff."

Concern was expressed that full compensation could never be achieved by the plaintiff under the PPO arrangement once the substantial contributory negligence is factored into the liability finding.

"In short, under a PPO, the plaintiff's controller would lose the flexibility necessarily arising as a result of the 20-25% contributory deduction to decide how to spend her damages and to manage the investment in the hope of achieving better growth income to meet the shortfall arising from the deduction," Mr Justice Gillen said.

"I am able to conclude that this is not an appropriate case for a PPO and that a lump sum is more likely to be in the interests of this plaintiff."

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