10 November 2010
Coping with Serious Injuries: Prime Example of Human Endurance
I have always been intrigued and amazed by the capacity that the human race has to cope with adversity. Much of the adversity is of course brought upon ourselves. We have an amazing capacity to do harm to each other, sometimes intentionally and other times not. The capacity to adapt though to the adversity we face is impressive. Charles Darwin would of course be pleased and I have thought often of his quote that it is "not the strongest nor most intelligent of species that survive, but instead those that are more easily able to adapt to changing environments."We are of course all different. Some of us cope better with adversity than others. And when pondering on this point which I do often, what has sprung to mind on many occasions is the adversity that my clients have managed to overcome in difficult circumstances to cope with significant injuries and continue their lives.I remember seeing a client who had no more than a few days earlier, undergone a traumatic below knee amputation after he was involved in a cycling accident. I can recall that he, rather than being upset having woken to find that his lower right leg was no longer where it should be, he was instead elated to be alive. A positive attitude that was tested over the ensuing months but which no doubt assisted in his recovery. We all need help when we are involved in an accident. We should all expect help in addition since that is what we, as humans, are meant to provide. From a Judge’s point of view, they will always be pleased to see that the injured party has done his or her best to try to overcome the restrictions that they are now faced with. A Claimant has a duty to mitigate their loss. I have mentioned this earlier and means that as an injured party, you must do your best to try and reduce your losses in so far as is reasonable. If therefore there is a claim for loss of earnings since you are no longer able to carry out the job that you were doing at the time of the accident due to the injuries that sustained, there is a continuing duty to attempt to find alternative employment so long as it is reasonable to do so. On rare occassions clients have asked me whether they are likely to be criticised by a Court for having returned to work despite the pain that they were in. The simple answer is that the opposite applies. A Court is more likely to look favourably upon a Claimant who has made every attempt to recover from their injuries and return to work than a Judge will on a Claimant who has remained off work for a considerable period of time which cannot be reasonably justified given the injuries sustained and the medical evidence obtained.The long and short of it is that the vast majority of us try our best. We will not be criticised by a Court for doing so and indeed to a large extent it is expected of us and we will be applauded for doing so. At the same time a Court is very much aware of the effect that injuries can have upon a person and the struggles that person faces as a result. I continue to have faith in our justice system that we are in the vast majority of cases, treated fairly and as we should be.Tristan Hallam is a partner in Personal Injury in the London office of Russell Jones & Walker.
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