A Sunday afternoon in May 2012
It was an average Sunday afternoon.
My now wife and I had slept in (in our days before kids!) … We’d picked up some croissants from the deli around the corner… We’d driven to Columbia Market in East London for a stroll around, to buy some flowers and have a bite to eat from one of the food vendors there…
Then we drove back via the supermarket, where we were picking up the Sunday Times and some groceries for the coming week.
I parked the car.
We rounded the corner to the pavement down to the supermarket.
And that’s the last thing I remember for several hours…
When I woke up, I was in A&E. I was in a lot of pain, confused and disoriented.
A car had lost control turning into the road I was walking down. We believe the driver accelerated around the corner to skip through the red light. The car veered from side to side before mounting the curb and ploughing into me.
I was thrown over the bonnet, onto the windscreen and landed in a crumpled heap on the floor.
To this day I have no recollection of the event at all. I know the above because my wife was stood next to me. Fortunately, the car hit me and not her.
I don’t often think about this as I’ve tried hard to move on. But when I occasionally ponder the incident, I must admit to being worried that one day I’ll wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night with it all flooding back to me. But so far, so good.
With a fractured collarbone (which was operated on), a fractured wrist, soft tissue injuries to my ankle, various cuts and scarring and bruises, and what I later discovered to be disc degeneration in my neck, I had a laundry list of physical ailments. This, coupled with the fact that this clearly wasn’t my fault, led me to pursue for the first (and, so far, only time in my life) a personal injury claim.
Because of the circumstances – fault never being in question – this proceeded very smoothly overall. There was a little bit of haggling about quantum. But I took the view, with my solicitor’s advice, that we stuck to our guns and we, broadly speaking, got what we thought was a fair settlement for the incident.
I was already working in the field of safety and risk when this happened, but the whole thing gave me a huge added perspective on my “why”.
Why is it that I’m passionate about keeping people safe? Why do I believe it’s 100% necessary that people get this? Why mustn’t we allow people to get hurt and suffer injuries like I did?
I think it comes down to five main lessons.
- Nobody wants to suffer an accident and be seriously injured. It’s crap! Yes, we might have spurious, made-up claims, but anyone injured like this will certainly feel like they want and deserve compensation.
- No amount of money is enough. Under the UK system – designed to put you back in the position you were before the incident that led to your claim – you simply won’t ever be awarded enough cash to make an accent like this seem worth it. I got a relatively significant sum. But there’s never been a day where I’m glad the accident happened.
- Seemingly innocuous events can ruin lives. Walking on the pavement is a daily occurrence (at least in non-pandemic times). Yet, walking down the pavement I had the most traumatic experience of my life. Walking into your building entrance could lead someone to suffer the most traumatic experience of their life, too.
- We need to stop avoidable incidents and claims. Insurers will not quibble on paying out claims when justified. But should these claims be happening in the first place? In my scenario the lady, clearly, was not a great driver. But what else contributed to her running me over that was controllable through better planning, preparation, and education? There were probably all sorts of things.
- Physical injuries heal, psychological issues take much longer to be solved. Whilst I still have niggles with my neck and wrist, broadly speaking, within three months, I was physically more or less normal. I could lead my day-to-day life albeit I couldn’t do press ups or play golf. What stuck with me much longer was an extremely heightened sense of awareness of traffic speed. Living in London, cars driving past me happens multiple times each day. But since then, I’ve been much more aware of the speed at which cars travel. And I’ve certainly become a more responsible driver myself. The physical injuries sustained in workplace accidents can of course be very serious, but we mustn’t forget that the mental scars can last much longer – people don’t deserve this.
Accidents affect people’s lives – an accident certainly affected mine
Most workplace incidents (where most people get hurt) are avoidable. We owe it to ourselves to sleep well at night, but critically to those people whose safety is our responsibility to do our very best to protect them. Not take any shortcuts. To get to the root causes of why incidents occur.
We need to stop innocuous activities like walking down the pavement from being a cause of significant, long-lasting, and even potentially life-changing issues for our