A Meeting in Person, in Times of Remoteness
I have always found that whenever possible, meeting clients in person is always invaluable, not just in relation to the case at hand but also in terms of gaining personal development and experience as a Solicitor.
A few months ago, I instructed a Senior Barrister to meet one of my clients with a Brain injury case. My client had suffered a subsequent deterioration in his physical capabilities and capacity following negligent brain surgery.
The barrister, local to my client, was asked to meet with the client in person to better understand the Claimant’s capabilities, impairments and needs, and to any further medical evidence required and the valuation of his potential damages (settlement).
The client was born with Hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain - excess fluid puts pressure on the brain, which can damage it), and for years he was treated via stents to his stomach, until this was no longer viable and he had to undergo brain surgery. This is when he unfortunately suffered a brain injury because of Clinical Negligence.
We were also investigating causation (namely whether the negligent treatment had caused/materially contributed to the deterioration of his physical capabilities and caused impairments), the barrister asked me to speak to my client's mother to obtain details as to what his physical capabilities and capacity was, before and after the negligent surgery.
On a call, I spoke to his mother at length. During this, I discovered that her son had been diagnosed with Hydrocephalus before he was born and he’d had ground-breaking surgical procedure, to drain the excess liquid in his brain, whilst she was pregnant with him. She told me this was when she lived in the US and it made the News.
I was told about his childhood, how sociable he was after his school/college years and she rarely saw him as he enjoyed his meals and nights out with his friends....until the negligent brain surgery had left him confined to his house. His Mother is wheelchair bound due to her medical conditions and struggled to care for her son as best as she can under the circumstances. I felt as if I knew my client so much more, than just words on a medical record.
I was asked if I wanted to go and see my client along with the barrister. I said yes, but without realising just how far away my client lived haha :) He lives in South Wales (pretty much as South as you can get in Wales) and to my concern and surprise, the car journey from my house to Manchester Piccadilly, the two train journeys and the taxi ride to his house were approximately 4 hours, each way (ouch!!)
I reviewed the files on the train journey from Manchester to Cardiff. I attended his house and the meeting lasted just under 2 hours.
The barrister was excellent, and I asked some questions, made notes. A clear case plan was made, and the visit gave me a real sense of how his day-to-day life had changed since the negligent surgery. They live in his Mothers bungalow, on top a very high hilly road. It was obvious that my client and his mother were close and that they had been there for each other.
My client was very happy at the progress made and the case plan going forward. The two hours flew by and felt like only a few minutes!
On the way back I was typing up the key information from the meeting. It was a great meeting, but I missed all the beauty of the Welsh Countryside whilst busy typing away!
The barrister submitted the schedule of loss and outlined his advice in writing. After a review, I called the client to obtain further details when he informed me the tragic news that his mother had sadly passed away recently.
This came as a very big shock. Having spoken to her at length and then having seen both in person, I felt a sense of sadness and loss that you normally feel for a friend. I tried to console my client with words of sympathy, but I cannot imagine what he must have been going through.
Since then, his care needs have increased, and I’ve caught up with him several times. I have felt a personal connection with my client due to the experience of seeing him and his mother in person. Although the conference could have been done by Zoom, there is an unexplainable quality in seeing someone in person.
My senior colleague recently commented that as clinical negligence cases can sometimes run for years, you become close to your clients, you become their friend and sometimes, long after their case has concluded, they still pick up the phone to you, just as a friend does at a time of need. That is so true!
Clinical Negligence Team