Dad-Of-Five Left Brain Damaged Wins Vital Care Package

Head Injury Lawyer Calls For Improved Safety Within Construction Industry As Worker Left Brain Injured By Falling Scaffolding Pole  


The family of a man left fighting for his life after he was hit on the head by a scaffolding pole that fell 18 floors down a lift shaft are calling for improved health and safety within the construction industry after he was today awarded a care package for life approved at Bristol High Court.

Father of five, Richard Chodkiewicz, 54, from Bristol, was left with horrific, life changing head injuries after the accident which happened whilst he was working on the construction of the Radisson Blu Hotel in the city’s Broad Quay development in July 2008.

He was airlifted to Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital and underwent emergency surgery, spending more than six weeks in both intensive care and the high dependency unit before undergoing more than 12 months of tough rehabilitation. He was finally able to return home almost 18 months after the accident but requires 24 hour care.

Richard’s devastating brain injuries have had significant impact on him physically causing limited movement, problems with speech and considerable cognitive and memory problems.

His devastated wife Karen contacted specialist workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell in a battle for justice and said the care package awarded to Richard today will ensure he has access to the specialist lifelong care and rehabilitation he now needs.

Lift company, Hoistway Ltd, who were successfully prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) last year admitted liability for failing to protect Richard while he was working on their behalf and a substantial seven figure undisclosed financial settlement has today, 12 June 2012, been approved by the High Court in Bristol.

Deborah Bigwood, a serious injury specialist at law firm Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, represented the Chodkiewicz family. She said: “Richard is extremely lucky to be alive after this horrific incident.  It is a testament to his determination and the loving support of his family that he has battled hard to make progress in his rehabilitation. However the fact remains that he has been left with a significant, permanent brain injury which means that he will never be able to live an independent life or return to work.

“Although no amount of money will ever turn back the clock, today’s settlement will provide Richard with a care package that provide the support that is so vital as well as much needed financial security for his family as Richard is sadly no longer able to act as the main earner.”

During the criminal prosecution brought by the HSE against Hoistway and main contractor, Miller Construction, it was revealed that a scaffolding pole had been tied to a plumb line and was being used as a makeshift ‘plumb bob’ – a piece of metal that hangs down to ensure the construction is straight and aligned.

The pole, which had not been secured properly, came loose as it was being winched 18 storeys up inside the lift shaft and fell to the base of the shaft, striking Richard who was working below.

Bristol Crown Court sentenced Miller Construction and Hoistway Ltd in June 2011 to fines of £40,000 and £70,000 respectively, plus costs, after both parties previously pleaded guilty to failing to protect Richard’s health and safety. Today’s civil claim for compensation will not only provide financial security for the family in respect of loss of earnings but will also fund the care package including the cost of support workers who assist in the round the clock care which Richard now requires.

Commenting on today’s settlement, Karen Chodkiewicz said: “The last three and a half years have been an absolute roller coaster of emotions.

“When I was initially told about the accident, I rushed to Frenchay Hospital to find Richard in intensive care and unconscious. We were told that it was highly unlikely he would survive.

“When he finally regained consciousness, I had to deal with the shocking news that his brain injury was so serious that he would have lifelong problems. Richard is a fighter and, thanks to the fantastic work of the rehabilitation specialists at Frenchay Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre who have been so supportive, he has made a remarkable recovery.

“However, the fact remains that Richard will never be able to lead a normal independent life. He has no concept of anything that happens on the left side of his body and he now walks with a stick. His short term memory is very poor and he needs constant care and monitoring for his own safety. Richard’s long term memory has also been affected and at times he has difficulty remembering the names of his own children which is heartbreaking.”

Deborah Bigwood, added: “This particularly horrific workplace accident highlights the importance of the health and safety regulations which exist to protect workers. People have a basic fundamental right to know that when they go to work they will return home safely and unharmed.

“Richard took steps to protect himself, wearing the appropriate safety equipment, yet because the correct tools for the job weren’t provided, he suffered appalling injuries which were wholly avoidable.

“We have repeatedly called for improvements in site safety as the construction industry is one of the most dangerous to work in. HSE reported 2,298 reported major injuries to employees in 2010-2011 and this will only be reduced when greater measures are taken to protect workers safety.”