'Racoon eyes' reveal serious head injury

Racoon Eyes - evidence of a brain injury

Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes and all ages too. That’s the beauty of cycling; anyone can do it and there is no cut off point. However, all can find themselves at the mercy of careless drivers.

Brenda Mitchell first met her wonderful cycling client in October 2015. He had been a client of another firm but as they didn’t specialise in cycling collisions, the file was referred to Cycle Law Scotland. On file was an opinion from an Advocate valuing the claim at £12,000.

John, aged 75, cycled approximately 100 miles a week before his accident on 8th September 2013. Competent and experienced, he was involved in a collision that wasn’t his fault; a collision that has had a huge impact on himself and those around him.

On the day in question, John was out for a solo training ride near his home. It was a fine day with good weather conditions; the time was around 2pm. John was established on a roundabout, travelling at approximately 15mph, when a driver failed to give way and crossed onto the roundabout towards him. John was unable to take evasive action. He was thrown from his bicycle and onto the carriageway. The car driver immediately apologised and admitted that he had been at fault.

On arrival at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, John was examined, X-rayed and diagnosed with having sustained soft tissue injuries. He had been wearing a helmet but, such was the force of the impact, he sustained a head injury and had classic panda eye or racoon eye bruising around both eyes.

For several months, he suffered from intermittent, throbbing headaches; these were later diagnosed by a medical expert as symptoms of post-traumatic migraine. He also suffered persistent stiffness, discomfort and lack of mobility in his neck, and discomfort and stiffness in his right shoulder. The neck pain eased somewhat after a period of nine months, but the shoulder was never resolved.

However, it was the head injury symptoms that were most profound. Following the accident, John, who was previously a relaxed and laid-back person, became irritable and snappy. He suddenly had a tendency to ‘fly off the handle’ easily, and could find himself irritated by very small things. He also experienced problems with cognitive functioning: simple tasks became a big problem for him, and he found that it was difficult to follow conversations involving more than two or three other people. In addition, he became aware of a significant deterioration in his short-term memory, as well as an impeded ability to organise day-to-day activities. Simple things like arranging to cut the grass became very difficult for him, and his wife had to take over the responsibility of everyday administration.

Taken together, these symptoms – personality change, mood swings, and problems with academic, cognitive and intellectual functioning – suggested that John was suffering from post-traumatic syndrome disorder.

Brenda met John and his wife on a number of occasions and, recognising his difficulties, instructed a report from a Consultant neurologist. Although liability was admitted, the driver’s insurance company failed to provide adequate compensation for John’s very serious injury. Proceedings were raised in Court and before the final court hearing John’s case was settled at a level almost four times more than the value placed on his claim at the outset.

Today, John has returned to cycling but no longer has the confidence to cycle alone, preferring the company of others. He’s an inspirational character. Brenda still admires his resolve and the fact he did manage to get back on two wheels. He had many stories to tell her of his old cycling days. For all of us at Cycle Law Scotland, this case reflects what we do best. We are passionate cyclists, but importantly, experienced lawyers. It’s that experience that allows us to recognise symptoms and put in place the instruction of the best medical experts in their field to report on the injuries. We get to know our clients and their families.

In head injury cases, where the symptoms are often more subtle, such as forgetfulness and irritability, it’s best to speak to the family to get the true picture of the suffering. It’s only when that full picture is obtained, that you can identify your medical experts and properly quantify the claim. Of course, we know it’s not all about the award of damages. It’s just as important to provide support and guidance to secure the best outcome. John will never return to his pre- accident happy-go-lucky state, but he and his family are now better placed to manage his difficulties and his cycling is helping his recovery.

It was a long and difficult journey for John and his incredibly supportive wife but with steely determination we prevailed. We like to think we don’t just make a difference, we are the difference.

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