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“The legal team have been amazing,” says Liz Dobson. “I couldn’t have asked for more. They’ve been brilliant. Having the RCN there throughout has been so important. They’ve been very accessible, answering all my questions quickly and keeping in touch. Although I’ve been an RCN member for years, I didn’t know that this support was there. It’s been a godsend.”

Road to recovery

In 2017, Liz and her husband were spending a weekend away in Whitby. As they were walking into the town, she was hit by a car that was being driven erratically. Knocked over a wall, the crash caused extensive injuries, including fracturing her pelvis and two vertebrae, alongside a compound fracture of her left leg. The driver later admitted dangerous driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

“I needed major surgery,” says Liz, who qualified as a nurse in 1994 and has been an RCN member ever since. Two operations followed and she was in hospital for two months. “It was a very long recovery. I was off work for about 18 months,” she says.

While she was in hospital, one of her friends suggested she contact the RCN for support. “I got in touch, and they set the wheels in motion,” Liz recalls. She was quickly referred to RCNLaw for expert help, who visited her once she was back home. Support included seeking interim payments to help her meet her living expenses. “They were very supportive in advising what was reasonable to ask for,” she says.

It’s affected the whole family

She now lives with some disabilities, including oedema in both legs, which means she must wear compression socks everyday, plus continuing pain around the fracture and injury sites. As a result of the injuries, she’s also had to have a hip replacement.

Before the crash, Liz was a specialist college sexual health nurse, but was unable to return to her post because of the impact of her injuries. “It’s a catch-22,” she says. “The swelling means I can’t stand up for very long, but the pelvic injury means I can’t sit down for too long either. There’s no happy medium.”

Financial impact

Liz had also worked for a GP out-of-hours service for extra cash and although she managed to return for a short while, she found the hours and travelling too difficult to manage. For the last two years, she’s been working for a private healthcare company as an immunisation nurse in a school for 12 hours a week.

The financial impact has been high, with her NHS pension severely affected. Initially she lost £750 a month from her additional work and was also on half-pay from her substantive post, after six months. Her husband also couldn’t do any overtime, as he needed to support her and their five children at home. “It impacts so much,” says Liz. “It’s work, health, finances, family and future planning.”

Liz Dobson and horse

The family has a smallholding, with animals including sheep. “I used to do most of the shearing, but I can’t do that now. It’s affected the whole family and we’ve had to adapt,” says Liz. “Before the accident I rode my horse, but now I can’t ride anymore. I haven’t been able to do as much with my twin daughters and their ponies as I would have wanted. There are so many restrictions of what I can and can’t do.”

Eventually compensation was settled out of court. “It’s been five-and-a-half years, with some of the process held up by COVID. Now I’m relieved it’s over. It’s good to have some financial stability and I can move forwards,” says Liz. “Although the money sounds a lot, it won’t make a difference to our lifestyle, because it has to pay my pension, lost income and earning ability until retirement. It’s made things easier – but no money will ever compensate for all I’ve lost and the way it’s changed my life.”

I'm relieved it's over. I can move forwards

Specialist support

Supported throughout by the RCN, this included providing a case manager, who was able to assess Liz’s rehabilitation needs, ensuring any treatment and equipment recommendations were directly funded by the defendant’s insurance company. A welfare team also assisted with her initial application for benefits.

“As Liz sustained so many injuries, we arranged for her to be examined by a number of specialists,” says James Llewellyn-Jones, an associate who worked with Liz to progress her claim. This made certain all the consequences of her injuries were fully explored and understood, so that Liz could be provided with a fair and just sum of compensation.

We aim to support claimants through their journey

“We recognise that being involved in such a serious accident and then bringing a claim for compensation is both a traumatic and daunting process,” James adds. “We aim to support claimants throughout their journey, making sure they can pay their bills while recovering, and their rehabilitation needs are met.

Liz Dobson and sheep

“Ultimately, our aim is to help clients recover a sum of money that goes as far as possible towards putting them back in the position they would have been in had they not suffered the injuries in the first place. Where possible, as well as covering the losses and expenses the client has already suffered, the sum of money will cover any injury-related shortfall in, for example, their future earnings and pension payments following retirement. It will also cover the cost of meeting the client’s future injury-related needs, and enable them to still do the activities and pastimes they would have done had they not been injured.”

RCN support for personal injury

RCN members are entitled to legal advice and representation for injuries sustained due to someone else’s fault, whether they happen in the workplace or elsewhere. The service is completely free to members, whether the claim is successful or not, and individuals receive 100% of any award.

Compensation may include for the injuries themselves, any medical expenses and rehabilitation, and the loss of income. There is also emotional support and counselling available for those who need it.

To be able to progress a claim, injuries must have occurred within the last three years, with members in membership at the time of the incident. The RCN will take forward claims they believe have a greater than 50% chance of success.

Words by Lynne Pearce. 

Images by Lucy Hunter.

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