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Compromise Settlement Reached Following Client’s Functional Neurological Disorder

Minster Law

Marie Tate, a member of our serious injury team, shares a recent case in which Minster Law was able to reach a settlement following a client’s functional neurological disorder and disagreement between medical experts. 

In March 2017, our client was driving their motor vehicle in the middle lane of the roundabout when the defendant, who was driving a lorry, attempted to change lanes to manoeuvre around a broken down vehicle and in doing so, collided with the nearside rear passenger door of our client’s vehicle.  Liability was admitted in full by the defendant.

The impact of the collision was minor, and our client sustained a minor soft tissue injury to their neck and exacerbation of a pre-existing back pain. Our client was referred for physiotherapy shortly after the accident for the back pain and whilst receiving the treatment, started to develop a tremor in their right hand. This progressively got worse, and they started to develop loss of function in the right arm and a weakness down the right side.  They were admitted to hospital where they underwent various tests for Muscular Sclerosis or early onset of Parkinson’s. It was an extremely frightening time for them, not knowing what was causing these symptoms which were getting progressively worse.

After being seen by a neurologist, they diagnosed him with a functional neurological disorder (FND) or conversion disorder. This is a condition in which you have physical symptoms of health problems but no injury or illness to explain them.  Research is ongoing as to a specific cause for this condition, but it is believed that it happens as a way for your brain to deal with emotional stress.

Symptoms vary, depending on the type of FND and may include specific patterns such as affecting senses, such as ability to walk, swallow, see or hear. In our client’s case they developed tics, involuntary movement, and muscle spasms together with significant fatigue. They experienced episodes where the right leg would give way and they had to use a stick to help with balance.  At times, the neurological symptoms were disabling. They had difficulty speaking and required speech therapy and functional blindness in one eye. In addition, our client went on to develop features of post-traumatic stress.

Our client underwent treatment with a neuropsychologist which involved EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) treatment.

At the time of the accident, our client was employed as a police officer, where during their career they had been witness to several traumatic events and had been in involved in a previous accident. They had a history of non-epileptic attacks prior to the accident resulting in episodes of shaking uncontrollably.  Despite this, they continued in their role as a police officer.

However, following this accident, they could not return to work and were subsequently retired on ill health grounds.

Whilst the medical experts agreed our client sustained a conversion disorder/ FND, they could not agree the cause.  Our client’s medical expert was of the view that the accident was the cause of the symptoms and had they not been involved in the accident then they would have been able to continue as a police officer.

The defendant’s expert would not accept this view, suggesting that our client had an underlying condition (considering the previous non-epileptic disorder) and whilst the symptoms from this condition were dormant at the time of the accident, the condition was still active, and our client would have relapsed at some point regardless of the accident.

The experts could not agree and it looked like the matter was heading for trial, which would not have been beneficial for our client given that stress could be a causative factor for FND so they could have suffered a further relapse.  As with any cases, there was a risk that the defendant’s expert evidence would be accepted by the Court and if this was to occur, then our client could have received very little by way of damages.

Despite this risk, Minster Law continued to fight the claim and prepared the case for trial to try and secure damages which we believed our client was entitled to.

Negotiations continued with the defendant and eventually a compromise settlement was reached. The case settled just over week before trial and our client was awarded £25,000.

This was a difficult case to deal with in view of our client’s previous medical history and that there is little known as to the specific cause for a conversion disorder. Our client was pleased with the overall result, especially as they did not have to undergo the stress of attending trial.