Multi-million pound compensation for boy left with severe brain injury after powerboat accident

Ben Ridd, a young Dorset man, suffered a severe brain injury after a devastating powerboat accident during a junior offshore competition organised by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) in Portland Harbour, Dorset in 2005, when he was aged just 13 years old. Following a lengthy legal battle, he finally received £5.5 million in damages.

Ben was navigating a power boat being driven by a 10 year old with limited racing experience when his boat ‘hooked’ as the young driver tried to make the first turn on the course, causing the boat to come to a complete halt. A boat directly behind Ben’s – again being driven by an inexperienced youngster, aged 11 years - went into the port side of Ben’s boat, overriding it and striking him hard on the head, fracturing his skull.

A paramedic administered CPR on the boat and Ben was airlifted by a Coast Guard helicopter to Dorchester Hospital and transferred to the Wessex Neurological Centre at Southampton General Hospital where he lay in a coma for three weeks.

He was left with severe brain damage, dysexecutive functioning and cognitive difficulties, disinhibition, speech and swallowing disorder, loss of facial and disabling weakness down the left side of his body. He sustained massive haemorrhaging in his brain, a broken collarbone and a T9 fracture to the spine and was left with considerable physical disabilities and neuropsychological injuries that he can never fully recover from. He was finally discharged as an inpatient into his family’s care, on his birthday in October 2009.

Legal action

Ben’s case was initially handled by local solicitors but was then transferred to Novum Law, due to our expertise dealing with catastrophic and severe traumatic brain injuries.  Liability for the accident was denied and limited progress was initially made on the liability investigations, which were extremely complex and resulted in proceedings against 17 Defendants. This included the executive members of an unincorporated association and a number of individuals associated with the safety, organisation and decision making of the sporting event itself and the RYA.

The RYA refused to admit liability for the accident for over 7 years, resulting in an inordinate amount of additional pressure on Ben and his family who had provided constant support since the accident. As there was no provision of interim funds until late 2012, there was a significant delay in Ben receiving the vital therapy, rehabilitation, professional care and case management and neuropsychological support he so badly needed, following his initial period of rehabilitation. Prior to securing funds to implement a suitable care regime and after the initial 18 months when his mother gave up work to care for him,  he spent a great deal of time on his own or engaged in very limited activities, resulting in a lack of structure and purpose to his life.

Kim Chamberlain, a Senior Associate at Novum Law with a specialist interest in sporting accidents and her team, succeeded in obtaining an admission of liability and secured  interim payments to fund Ben’s rehabilitation, independent living trial and his care and case management regime.

Kim Chamberlain said: “Achieving Ben’s compensation award marked the beginning of a new chapter for Ben and his family; bringing to an end what was an extraordinarily difficult nine and a half years for them all.

“It was a lengthy battle to obtain a just settlement for Ben who requires support and rehabilitation for the remainder of his life due to his catastrophic injuries. There have been constant challenges throughout the life of this case and it is regretful that the RYA refused, for over seven years, to admit liability.

“Ben suffered serious life-threatening injuries and almost lost his life. Their refusal to admit liability meant that for many years, Ben did not have access to the specialist therapies, rehabilitation and support he desperately needed to help Ben and his family move on with their lives, adding to their ordeal.”

Leanne Ridd, Ben’s Mum, commented: “Our son has demonstrated amazing fortitude and courage since his accident and has amazed us all. He’s determined to be as independent as his injuries allow him to be. With the assistance of his clinical team, he now volunteers at a local charity shop in Poole several times a week and is an avid Bournemouth FC fan attending many home and away games. He has maintained his passion for the water attempting water skiing and canoeing for the disabled and continues to go out with his Dad on powerboats, although sadly he will never be able to drive a boat again due to his physical and cognitive difficulties. He is keen to get involved in inspirational speaking to help others affected by brain injuries by talking about the challenges he’s faced and how he’s overcome them. We are just so proud of him!”