Functional Neurological Disorder: A Legal Case Study 3
Functional neurological disorder (FND) is a condition where there is a disorder of the function of the nervous system, i.e., how the brain and body send/receive signals. With current technology, it is not a condition where we are able to see structural neurological damage.
FND can cause debilitating symptoms. Historically, there has been a lack of understanding and acceptance of FND by doctors and patients, although this is now changing. This has been thanks to: a growing number of charities, such as FND Hope UK and FND Action, who do great work raising awareness; a vocal online community; and leading doctors (such as Dr Chris Symeon, Prof Alan Carson, Prof Jon Stone) talking about this condition.
To raise awareness of FND, I write this third case study showing the importance of instructing a solicitor who understands FND and has the expertise to prove this before the court. We helped our client obtain compensation more than 25 times the amount her previous solicitor initially advised. Information has been changed to protect the identity of our client.
Julia hit her face and head on the ground due to the Defendant leaving an obstacle on the pavement.
Symptoms and Treatment
She blacked out briefly and went to hospital. Brain scans were normal, she was diagnosed with concussion and was discharged home.
Prior to this, Julia was healthy, vivacious and had a bright career. Over the next few months bruising faded, but she developed a host of symptoms which appeared out of proportion to the head injury. For example: balance issues; light and sound sensitivity; smell/taste disturbance; fatigue; cognitive impairment; shaking/twitching; and limb weakness.
Julia was proactive with getting treatment. She was referred to a neurologist, who declined to see her on the basis of a normal MRI scan and likely post-concussion syndrome lasting over six months. Instead, she was referred to psychological services. Julia was frustrated and felt like she was being pushed from pillar to post by her doctors.
Julia initially instructed a solicitor recommended by her insurer. The Defendant admitted early they were responsible. The only issue left for the solicitor was to identify injuries and work out how much compensation Julia was entitled to. The solicitor was dismissive of Julia’s injuries. They initially valued the claim at no more than £10,000.
When Julia contacted us, she had lost confidence in her solicitor and she sought help from brain injury specialists. She was particularly exasperated because the Defendant made an offer of £30,000, her solicitor was not giving clear advice and implied she should accept it. Julia did not want to accept the offer because it did not reflect the severity of her injuries.
At this stage she had not been diagnosed with FND. I listened to her and knew the head injury could have caused FND with debilitating symptoms; and the offer was not enough. I took over the case.
When I considered the previous solicitor’s file, there was a report from a neurologist which stated there was no organic cause for Julia’s symptoms. The previous solicitor thought this meant that Julia’s injuries could not be explained and therefore cannot be caused by the accident. They thought the report was harmful and did not rely on it. As brain injury specialists, we know a lack of organic cause does not exclude a brain injury. On top of this, with experience winning FND cases, I knew the neurologist was speaking from a narrow point of view and may well support causation of FND, if they were asked the right questions. We discussed matters with the neurologist and they went on to fully support Julia’s case. We used the original report, which was in fact helpful. This allowed us to recover his fees and save Julia money. We went on to obtain reports from a neuropsychologist and neuropsychiatrist.
We fought hard for Julia and in just under two years after taking over, we settled her case for over £250,000 – more than 25 times the amount her previous solicitor initially advised.
This case is a stark reminder of the importance of instructing the right solicitor. Julia needed solicitors who listened and trusted her; who were willing to fight; and with the necessary expertise to win. She found this in Bolt Burdon Kemp.
Hokman Wong was a pharmacist and is now a specialist brain injury solicitor. Through acting for clients with FND he realises how poorly understood this condition is. He wishes to raise awareness of FND to help patients get treatment and safeguard their legal rights.