Billingham man wins six figure compensation award

Fall from ladder at work

13.04.2005

A Billingham man who fell off a ladder while working in France has received a six-figure settlement cheque as compensation for his resulting injuries and losses.

Forty seven-year-old Robert Cowley, of Quenby Road, Billingham was working as a hod carrier for Bedford-based building contractors Irvine Whitlock Ltd at the time of his accident in October 1999.

The accident occurred on a construction site at the Ollaing Chartier Toyota Car plant in Valenciennes in Northern France.

Mr Cowley was descending a ladder when it slipped from the scaffolding causing him to fall three metres to the ground. Other Irvine Whitlock employees working at the site had previously raised concerns about the safety of the ladders yet nothing was done to ensure they were properly fixed to the scaffolding.

Mr Cowley was temporarily knocked unconscious and was admitted to a local French hospital before being discharged the following day. Despite terrible pain his employers then left him to make his own way home to England by train.

His long term partner, Janet Jackson, who picked him up from Darlington station, said: "He hardly even acknowledged me when I saw him and acted like a zombie. He didn't even realise he had left his bag in France until I told him. He was in terrible pain and once I got him home he slept for days".

Robert Cowley grew up in the local area and was an active member of the Billingham TUC Working Men's Club prior to his accident. He was also an active sportsman who played for Billingham TUC FC and a member of the Seaham Fishing Club before his fall.

He suffered life changing head and spinal injuries as a consequence of his fall and was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from severe depression and post traumatic stress disorder. He also lost approximately six stones in weight.

He is shortly due to undergo therapy treatment to assist his depression and may also resort to a procedure to help ease his on-going back pain.

Irvine Whitlock originally offered a compensation payment of £18,000 to Mr Cowley, although this was subsequently increased to £125,000 in January of this year.

Mr Cowley's lawyer Mark Lee, of Newcastle-based personal injury lawyers Irwin Mitchell, finally agreed the final settlement with the defendant's solicitors in last month, just days before the trial.

Mr Lee said that he was pleased with the settlement, since payout should ensure Mr Cowley has enough money to look after himself in the future.

"We realised it was unlikely Robert would ever be able to return to work as a consequence of his injuries and this could evidently have caused him considerable financial hardship," said Mark Lee.

"However, we managed to persuade the defendant's solicitors to pay Robert a substantial sum for his future loss of earnings, in addition to compensation for his injuries and other related out of pocket expenses, thereby safeguarding his future financial security.

"It was also pleasing that the defendant agreed to pay compensation for the daily care and assistance provided to Robert by his partner Janet since his accident."

Robert Cowley added: "I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get through the last few years, especially my family and my solicitor Mark Lee.

"The settlement means that a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I can now move forward and look positively to the future."

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious back or spinal cord injury as the result of an accident, our serious injury claims team could help you claim compensation. Visit our Spinal Injury Compensation Claims page for more information.