Leeds teenager awarded £4m compensation for road accident

Compensation for road accident

14.11.2005

A Leeds teenager left with permanent brain damage and physical disabilities after a road accident has been awarded £4m in compensation.

Leeann Rhodes, now 15, was awarded the sum in an out-of-court settlement, following a four-year legal battle.

In September 2001, Leeann who was 11 at the time, was hit by a car driven by Nicholas Ford, who was then 18. As she crossed Potternewton Lane, Leeds, she was hit by Mr Ford's car which was travelling well in excess of the 30mph speed limit. The road also had several warning signs about nearby schools and children using the road.

The Defendant Mr Ford, now aged 22, originally admitted driving at 45 to 50mph at the time of the accident to the police but later denied it. He was later convicted of driving without due care and attention at Leeds Magistrates Court in September 2002, and was fined £400 and had his licence endorsed with eight points.

Leeann suffered severe brain swelling and bleeding, and was unconscious for several weeks. She also fractured both thigh-bones and remained in hospital for over a year, until October 2002.

Road accident lawyer

Her Laywer, Carolyn Heaton, a personal injury expert with law firm Irwin Mitchell, based at its offices in Queen Street, Leeds, said: "As a result of the accident, Leeann has a variety of problems, including extensive cognitive and intellectual impairment. She will always be incapable of managing her own affairs and the Court of Protection will now look after her money and use it for her benefit.

"She also has severe physical disabilities and is now dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Leeann now needs assistance with all aspects of daily living and will always require 24 hour care and supervision."

Leanne's family had to move out of their three bedroom council house in Potternewton, Leeds before Leeann could be discharged from hospital, as it was unsuitable for her needs. Although Leeds City Council provided her with another adapted home Leeann was unable to access most of the rooms and its small size made caring for her very difficult especially as she became older.

Mr Ford's insurers were asked to make an interim payment to Leeann, to enable her to buy a suitable home, but refused arguing that Leeds City Council should fund it. After a contested application, a Judge at Leeds High Court ordered Mr Ford, via his insurers, to make an interim payment of £425,000 to allow Leeann to buy an appropriate home.

Mr Ford's insurers refused to hand the money over and asked the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the Judge's decision. The Court of Appeal looked at this twice, and on both occasions turned down the insurers request. After this the insurers were left with no choice but to pay the money over.

Carolyn Heaton continued: "Leeann sustained catastrophic injuries, affecting every aspect of her life. Her prognosis was originally extremely poor, but fortunately she has very loving and supportive parents and, with help from dedicated medical and educational professionals, has made tremendous progress over the years.

"Despite her difficulties, she is a caring girl with a cheeky sense of humour.

"She remains very disabled, will never work or have a normal life, and will always require a large amount of expensive equipment, support and care. The insurer of the driver responsible fought the case for a long time but fortunately we have now been able to negotiate a settlement, thus avoiding the need for a trial.

"Leeann's compensation will mean that she can now afford to pay for the care and equipment she will need throughout her life"

Leeann's mother, Dawn Simpson, said: "She was very badly injured and her life and ours have been turned upside down. But Leeann is a fighter - at one point she could barely talk, but now she chatters away like mad

"From a practical point of view, the worst thing for us has been the housing - Leanne had to sleep downstairs for many weeks and getting her bathed and dressed in such small rooms has been very difficult.

"We're very relieved this is all over and we can now start planning for her future. We would like to thank Leeann's solicitor Carolyn Heaton from Irwin Mitchell and her barristers, Lizanne Gumbel QC and Henry Witcomb, as they have been really supportive and helped us understand a lot of difficult issues. We would also like to thank her doctors, therapist and teachers for helping her make such good progress over the years."

Can we help you? If you or someone you know has been involved in a similar incident visit our accidents on the road section to see how we could help you.