£1.1m payout for Doncaster man who lost leg in MOD base horror

The plaque outside the South Door of the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall, London.
The plaque outside the South Door of the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall, London.

An RAF driving instructor has landed more than £1 million compensation after he lost a leg following an accident at a military base.

The 58-year-old, who lives in Doncaster suffered a double fracture to his leg when he was knocked off his motorbike by a car as he left the Normandy Barracks site near Beverley in East Yorkshire.

Complications following surgery saw him suffer unbearable pains in his leg, so much so he was unable to work, and the former military serviceman even opted to have his leg amputated below the knee.

Now, the Ministry of Defence has agreed to pay the unnamed man £935,000 in damages to reflect the loss he has suffered, to assist him in making the necessary adaptations at home to live more comfortably, and to cover his loss of future earnings.

The site, which provides driver training for the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines, as well as specialist training to the Police and Fire Service, had failed to ensure a temporary parking site was safe for both employees and visitors.

‘Chaotic’ organisation meant there was no way of drivers knowing who had the right of way, no speed limits had been put in place, no signs indicated the direction of travel and there were no junction warning signs.

Cars were also parked outside of designated areas, blocking the view of both the victim, and the driver of the car who hit him, as they couldn’t see one another clearly.

Despite operations to fix his broken tibia and fibula, the instructor soon began suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – a rare condition, usually caused after injury, which can leave the affected limb so sensitive that just a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature can provoke intense pain.

Now, after more than five years of legal battles, a damages settlement has been reached between the MOD and personal injury specialists Neil Hudgell Solicitors.

The MOD admitted the accident had been caused by their negligence, breaching their statutory duty to ensure the site was in safe and efficient working order. Insurers acting on behalf of the other driver also paid the man £165,000 in damages.

After 28 years’ service with the army, including spells serving in America and Ireland and six years as a driving instructor to current servicemen and women, the man now intends to use the some of the money to move from his three-storey home, which he shares with his partner and her 18-year-old daughter, to accommodation on a single level.

Recalling the incident, which happened on February 25, 2010, the former instructor says it was an accident waiting to happen given the lack of organisation around the car park.

He said: “Due to building work at the site, they had lost a car park which used to hold between 150 to 200 vehicles and that had been replaced with a temporary car park which held about 50 or 60 cars at most. It was chaos every day as there were simply not enough spaces.

“I had seen a few near misses in the days before my accident, and due to that I was taking extra care. I’m an experienced driver and had been driving for 35 years, but it was a ridiculous situation and an accident waiting to happen.

“I just didn’t see the driver coming at all. I was just driving slowly, and I can remember a split second in which I knew I was going to be hit, but I had no time to react at all. He came from nowhere and just clattered into the side of me.

“The next thing I knew I had been up in the air and landed on the car park, and the sole of my foot was facing up back towards me. I was conscious all the time, and my only thought at that time was that I was lucky to be alive. I think my bike was about 60 feet away.”

After being rushed to Hull Royal Infirmary, he was discharged just a week later after the fractures had been fixed and held together with a nail.

Eight months later, he temporarily returned to work, but soon started to suffer ‘excruciating pain’ in his left foot – leaving him unable to continue work. He was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and doctors could not guarantee the pain would go away.

“I was in agony all of the time, it was constant,” he said. “I couldn’t cope with anything touching my leg.

“I was only getting three hours sleep at night, and I couldn’t stand up for any length of time. My leg felt constantly cold and it became blue. I was getting spasms down my left side and I was only able to get around my house at home by shuffling around on my backside.

“In the end, I went to see a consultant and took the decision to have my leg amputated at the knee. I couldn’t face the constant pain any longer.”

Following the amputation in January 2013, life continued to be a major struggle, as he could only walk for 20 minutes with the prosthetic limb he had fitted before he needed to take it off in agony.

He then started to suffer from phantom limb, sensory hallucinations severe spasms.

“It’s a surreal experience. I still get pains in my toes, even though there is no limb there. I’m still having to shuffle around on my backside to get around the house. I had a great life and a job that I loved, but that was all taken away by this accident.

“I was always a very active person. We used to go hill walking and biking. I was a keen golfer too and used to go to the gym regularly. To suddenly not be able to work, or even make your way around your own home, is devastating.

“My partner has to help me into the bath, and at times I have felt confined to the home. I have been completely reliant on my partner and her daughter, who delayed going to university for two years following my accident to help out.

“It’s not just your own life that an accident like this impacts hugely on, it is also those around you. Everybody’s life completely changes beyond recognition.”

Solicitor James Burrell, who is based in Neil Hudgell Solicitors’ Hull headquarters, said the MOD had clearly failed in its duty of care to ensure its own employees, and any visitors to the site, had been safe.

“Given the nature of work carried out at the RAF Leconfield site with regards to driver training, it is incomprehensible to suggest that people there were not aware of the dangers in the temporary car park given the chaotic parking situation,” he said.

“The management at the site simply failed to take any adequate care for those using the car park, exposing those who used it to a foreseeable risk of injury.

“Our client was a qualified driving instructor of vast experience. He knew the dangers having seen them first hand day to day, yet still he was unable to predict and avoid this devastating, life-changing injury.

“Such were his concerns over the safety on the site, and due to there being mud on the road, he was driving with extra care and slowly as he headed towards the exit. It was then that he was suddenly hit by the car from his left as it came from behind a large parked van.

“Had the proper provisions been in place, and the car park had clear signage and dedicated entrance and exit points, this accident simply would not have happened.

“Our client has faced some very difficult times over the past five years, and he and his family will continue to do so as he continues to adapt to life with his injuries. We hope the damages we have secured for him, and the rehabilitation programmes he has had access to, will help him adapt and enjoy the best quality of life possible going forward.”