Record £3.9m compensation for crash victim

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The Independent Online

A former student paralysed in a road accident 12 years ago has been awarded nearly £3.9 million in compensation.

Darren Smith, 29, suffered massive head injuries when a car travelling in the opposite direction overtook a lorry on a bend and hit his car, causing it to crash into the lorry.

Mr Smith, who was 17 when the accident happened, was trapped in the wreckage of his car for so long that his brain was starved of oxygen.

The accident in 1988 happened near his home in Red Row, near Ashington, Northumberland.

He has been in a wheelchair ever since, is unable to bath or feed himself and only has the use of two fingers in his right hand, although he remains mentality capable.

His mother Elizabeth Costello, 48, who had to give up her job with the family engineering firm to look after Darren full time, said the award could never compensate for what had happened to her son.

She said: "It seems like a lot of money, but it will not change what Darren has been through and what he will have to go through for the rest of his life.

"Every single penny of the settlement has already been spent on care or will have to be spent on care for Darren for the rest of his life.

"He cannot do anything for himself. He has to be fed and bathed and looked after 24 hours a day. Everyone in the family has been affected."

Although the insurers in the case admitted liability seven years ago and interim payments have been paid to Darren, the final settlement was only awarded at Newcastle High Court last week.

In arriving at the figure, the court took into account Darren's life expectancy and the calculation that his level of care would be needed for the next 40 years.

Solicitor Tim Gorman, of Newcastle-based Gorman Hamilton, a firm specialising in road injury claims, said recent changes in compensation law would hopefully speed up future cases.

He said: "This was a very complicated case involving several very difficult issues. Things have changed in the time that this case has been running.

"The civil justice has changed but the benefits of that were not felt in Darren's case."

Darren had been hoping to go into the family's civil engineering firm when the accident happened.

Less than 5% of the award was for injury to feelings, the rest was for loss of earnings and the cost of his care.