A promising tattoo artist who was left blind after a horrific dual carriageway crash has been awarded a seven figure payout.
Damian Mills, 28, was on a night out with friends when the car he was travelling in hit a broken down lorry, invisible through the clouds of black smoke billowing out the back.
Minutes later a third vehicle on the A19 crashed into the rear of their Ford Ka.
No one was killed, but Damian, a passenger in the car, suffered serious injuries, including a broken neck and irreparable damage to nerves at the back of his eyes.
A talented tattooist who had travelled the world with his work, he spent weeks in hospital before moving back in with his mam Elaine and stepdad Paul at their home in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
He says their support got him through one of the hardest times in his life.
Tragically Elaine, who was 56, died recently after being taken ill with pancreatitis – just days before they were due to get the keys to a new family home which Damian had bought to say thanks.
He said: “My mam devoted her life to raising me and my sister.
“We were always close, but after the accident we would spend nearly every day together and she got me through one of the hardest times in my life.
“She was always fighting my corner and on the days when I couldn’t be bothered, she was the one who helped me through it. She was always looking after other people, she would do anything to help.
“The new house was my way of saying thank you, all I wanted to do was repay her for her kindness and she was so excited packing and getting everything ready.
“The whole thing happened so quickly, it still doesn’t seem real.”
Following the crash on April 22, 2012, lorry driver John Peel, from Winlaton, Gateshead, admitted dangerous driving and, in March 2013, was sentenced to 12 months in jail.
But it wasn’t until recently that lawyers were able to agree the undisclosed out-of-court settlement with Peel’s insurers.
Damian, who will now live with his stepdad, sister Gemma and nieces Lillie and Daisy, added: “In the beginning it was really hard. Going from drawing and painting all the time to not being able to tell the difference between night and day was like a horrible dream.
“I have come to terms with it a lot more now, but reaching the settlement is a big relief. It will make life a lot more comfortable.”
Jonathan Reid, from law firm Slater and Gordon, who represented Damian, added: “Elaine and I have spoken many times over the last couple of years and I know her family meant the world to her.
“She was determined to get justice for her son and make sure his future was financially secure.
“Damian is a strong and courageous young man, but for him to lose his mother so suddenly, just as he was starting to get back on his feet and rebuild his life, is heart-breaking.”