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Making a difference
12:23pm Friday 20th June 2008 in Legal
One of the country's leading spinal injuries lawyers, Richard Dawson, of Marshall and Galpin, explains what motivates his involvement in this highly-specialised legal field
I have found it a very moving experience dealing with people whose whole life is turned upside down in a split second through no fault of their own.
I am a solicitor, not a doctor. I cannot do anything to bring about a cure, but I can make sure I get the best possible settlement for them so they have no financial worries and can concentrate on getting on with the rest of their lives.
After I qualified from Manchester University in 1972 I soon specialised in personal injury. I set up my own company in 1989, specialising in personal injury and clinical negligence and I joined the panel of the Spinal Injuries Association.
In 1997, I decided to concentrate on spinal injury work, because I found that these cases did not mix well with my other work.
Level of attention When a patient is on a spinal ward and they are told they will never walk again, everyone reacts in a different way. The people I see are usually so positive, but then I do not see them in the middle of the night.
Luckily, the spinal units are good at dealing with the emotional side, not just with the physical injuries.
Often, patients have to lie still for weeks or months on end, unable to move a muscle, I have had many conversations with clients when the only way they can see me is through a series of mirrors. It can be very humbling.
I will not take on too many cases, as it is important to provide the right level of attention to all my clients. If you are going to do a job, its only worth doing it if you can do it properly.
At the moment I have 13 cases on the go. Ten are road accidents; one was an accident at work, one a clinical injury and the other a sporting injury.
Rapid assessment Time is vital when dealing with my clients. Many clients need the money that is due to them as quickly as possible, to get their lives underway again.
If there is no real issue about liability, or the extent of the injuries, I can sometimes get a case settled in under 12 months. If there are matters to resolve it can take up to three years.
The doctors that I deal with appreciate that I am a specialist and only deal with spinal injury work. They are specialists and they know that I understand what they are doing, I have had to learn a great deal about the subject and can rapidly assess what the likely legal ramifications are, once a doctor has given his prognosis.
Nothing I can do can turn back the clock but I do believe I can make a difference and help my clients get on with the rest of their lives.
Specialist equipment One young man I acted for was the middle passenger in the front of a three-seater pick-up truck. It was travelling at 40 mph, the temporary speed limit in roadworks on a motorway. A lorry travelling behind did not stop and squashed the pick-up into the vehicles in front and to the side.
The lorry driver and the other two people in the pick-up were killed.
I was able to get just under £1m in interim damages so my client could buy a house big enough to take the specialist equipment he needed to live his life right away. Eventually, the settlement was £4.5m.
Now he runs his own property firm with his father. He sorts out all the paperwork and acquisitions and his father does most of the building work, but he does quite a lot of work from his wheelchair.
Another client, a paraplegic, got close to one of the nurses when he was in hospital. When he was discharged he asked her out. They are now married with two children.
o Contact: 01865 268647