Experience on both sides of the table

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In 2011, law student Annabelle Turner’s life was turned upside down when she was seriously injured in a road traffic accident, and needed an above-knee amputation. Today, she is a qualified solicitor at Novum Law, specialising in supporting clients with life-changing injuries. Here she tells her story.

As a specialist personal injury solicitor, I am able to offer my clients a unique understanding of what it is like to pursue a serious personal injury claim because I have been on the other side of the table.

Nearly 10 years ago, in December 2011, I was involved in an horrific road traffic accident as I cycled to my dance school in Bristol.

I was knocked off my bike and run over by a lorry.  Unfortunately, I remember the whole ordeal.  I was lying in the middle of the road, losing copious amounts of blood and in excruciating pain, for what felt like hours as I waited for the emergency services to arrive.

By the time the Great Western Air Ambulance had arrived at the scene, I had blacked out but still had all of my other senses intact. Due to the severity of the accident, I was immediately treated by an emergency doctor there and then.

I distinctly remember one of the paramedics told me that he would cut my sleeve to get medication into my arm. But as I felt the scissors at my sleeve, I pulled my arm away, rolled up my sleeve and gave him back my arm, saying, “there you go”. It is incredible what you worry about, even when you’re in a life-threatening situation!

I was taken by ambulance to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where I received urgent surgery.

Doctors told my poor parents to prepare themselves for the worst. There was a risk that I might not survive my injuries. But against the odds, I lived to tell the tale. I woke up at three a.m. after my operation to be told that I had lost my leg.

As a dancer and a fitness fanatic, this news was absolutely earth-shattering.

I went through three very painful operations, spending two weeks in the hospital, including a week in intensive care. I was discharged on Christmas Eve, although our Christmas plans went entirely out of the window that year.

In the days and weeks that followed, there were, as you can imagine, many struggles. None more so than the overwhelming feeling that I had lost my whole identity.

I have been a dancer my entire life. I was a member of not one but two competitive dance groups at my university, as well as the cheerleading squad and took weekly classes at a local dance school. I was fitness mad and doing as many fitness classes as possible at my gym that I could fit around my lectures, seminars and squad training. I also held down a part-time job at a nightclub.

But all of that stopped in a heartbeat. I found myself thinking, without all of that, who am I?

What helped me most in this situation was that my friends and family didn’t treat me any differently.  Of course, there have been people who can’t see beyond my disability and have defined me simply by what happened to me on that fateful day. I can’t tell you how frustrating this can be – there is so much more to me than my accident.

My road to recovery

Throughout this journey, I have been very fortunate to have received first-class medical treatment and rehabilitation. I can’t thank the world-leading NHS enough for their expert treatment and the dedicated care and support I received.

In the initial few months following an accident you don’t really have the mental capacity to think about things like instructing a solicitor, as all of your energy is focussed on your recovery. It is an exhausting journey, especially when you are just trying to cope and get on with your life as best you can.

That is where my very supportive family and friendship support network came into play.  My dad arranged an initial consultation with a personal injury solicitor and it went from there.  I had numerous appointments with various medico-legal experts who wrote reports on my injuries and the consequential effects, to provide their expert opinion on the ongoing costs for things such as future care needs, prosthetics and rehabilitation.

There was a criminal claim against the lorry driver for driving without due care and attention.  He was given four points on his licence and received a fine of around £650.  The important thing here was that he was found guilty in the criminal court which requires a 99% certainty.  This helped us with my personal injury claim, as you need to prove your case on only a 51% certainty.

Bristol is a city with a high number of cyclists and my accident showed me the true dangers of cycling on the roads today.  There was an article I read at the time that said that more cyclists had died on British roads that year than soldiers did in Afghanistan.

I was happy to find out that the Council had put in a cycling box at the very junction where my accident happened, helping to prevent this from happening to someone else.

It took a year before liability was admitted by the defendant’s insurers.  It was a real learning curve for me, as an ambitious law graduate keen to specialise in this area, at the arguments put forward by the defendants in an attempt to shift the blame onto me, the innocent party.

My personal injury claim put interim payments in place to fund top-of-the-range prosthetics from Pace Rehabilitation, along with physiotherapy and psychological support.  This enabled me to focus on my recovery and life ambitions, while my personal injury claim was pursued.

It was a very difficult time facing the repercussions of the life-changing injuries I had sustained, while continuing with my studies (and hobbies as far as possible) and, at the same time, pursuing a personal injury claim.  It was made easier however having an expert solicitor on board to navigate the pathway for me.

It was five days short of the three-year anniversary of my accident when I had a joint settlement meeting, with a view to settling my claim.  This may seem like a long time to many people, but this is actually a reasonable timeframe considering all of the work that is required before you are in a position to consider a settlement.  We finally settled my claim at the end of what was a very long, tiring and stressful day.  It took a good few weeks for it all to sink in!

After I settled my legal case, I travelled to Sydney, Australia to have Osseointegration surgery from the pioneering orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Munjed Al Muderis. Osseointegration is an innovative technique for permanently anchoring artificial limbs to bones. It offers greater mobility, comfort and quality of life to amputees.

My Osseointegration surgery has enabled me to get back to unlimited gym classes, qualify as a spin instructor, and, most importantly, get back into the dance studio.  Having an experienced rehabilitation team behind you all the way is invaluable and with a life-changing injury, they often remain an important part of your life going forwards. It has helped me to get my old life back and return to the world I once knew.

A career in law

My accident happened halfway through the final year of my undergraduate law degree. At the time, I was studying Medicine and the Law – a subject that truly caught my interest.

My experience of making my own personal injury claim made me realise the importance of securing compensation and rehabilitation. I wanted to learn how to put this into practice as a legal professional. This drove me to continue with my studies. I returned to university straight after the Christmas holidays and less than a month after my accident – much to the shock and dismay of my lecturers, friends and family alike!

My determination to pursue a rewarding legal career that enables me to change lives for the better has found me in the very privileged place I find myself today; as a solicitor specialising in catastrophic personal injury claims, with a particular interest in limb loss and amputation claims.

At Novum Law, I represent clients who have suffered severe, life-changing injuries, who are battling to tread the path back to ‘normality’.

My job is about so much more than just securing compensation for our clients. It is about rebuilding lives, both for the injured party and their family. All of them are significantly affected by these circumstances.  It is my firm belief is that there is no proper form of justice in situations like this, but what we can do as solicitors is put funds in place to rehabilitate our clients to piece their lives back together and create a more promising future.

While my day-to-day work is dedicated to the individual clients I’m supporting, I have a life-long ambition to ensure that people who suffer devastating injuries, through no fault of their own, are offered a pathway to rebuild their lives.

One of the key ambitions in my career is to help to tackle the stigma behind pursuing a personal injury claim.  I know through my own experiences, the difference that it can make to your life, going from a catastrophic injury which at the time feels like it’s the end of your world, to getting the appropriate rehabilitation and support to get you back on your feet – quite literally in my case!

I am proof there is hope after limb loss and amputation. A disability should not define you.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone out there who has sustained a life-changing injury is not to let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. Only you, and you alone, can make that decision for yourself.

There are so many exciting developments in medicine and rehabilitation. There are opportunities to benefit from innovations in treatment and support.  These often come at a financial cost, and that’s where personal injury compensation can help.

If you have been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault and sustained life-changing injuries, Novum Law’s specialist personal injury solicitors have the experience and expertise to help. Call 0800 884 0777, email info@novumlaw.com or complete our online enquiry form.

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