£3.7m compensation for disabled refuse worker

A refuse worker who was left severely disabled after an accident has been awarded £3.75m after he made a claim for compensation from his employers.

Richard Taylor, from Cannock, was just 19-years-old when he was involved in the accident which left him paralysed. He was working for Lichfield District Council as part of a four-man recycling team, when the refuse collection lorry he was riding in on 21 February 2005, overturned.

The accident was caused by the driver of the lorry performing a manoeuvre known as a ‘shift load’ after he was instructed to do so by his team leader. The manoeuvre is intended to move the accumulated rubbish up the truck and is not endorsed by the council. It entailed driving at a high speed around the corner of a residential street and braking hard, but on this occasion as the vehicle turned the corner the entire lorry toppled over. The lorry overturned on the corner of Morley Road and Boney Hay Road in Burntwood, Staffordshire. Mr Taylor suffered catastrophic spinal cord injuries when his colleague fell on top of him.

Mr Taylor, now aged 21, was initially treated at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, but was soon transferred to the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries in Oswestry, where he received specialist care and rehabilitation. He was not discharged from hospital for 7 months after the accident and has been left severely disabled, unable to use his arms and legs, and in need of 24-hour care.

It was when he was still in hospital that he filed his compensation claim against his Lichfield District Council for spinal cord injury compensation. His solicitors managed to secure him an interim payment of £500,000 while he was still in hospital which allowed him to purchase a bungalow specifically designed to meet his care needs.

His compensation case was settled on 6 November 2006 after Lichfield District Council admitted partial liability, and he was awarded £3.75m to pay for his life long care. After representing Mr Taylor in court, Richard Davis QC, said: “He now needs a lifetime of care, with two carers round the clock. I would like to pay tribute to him and his family. He comes from a very close and loving family and the way in which he has built his new life has been an inspiration to us all.”

In previous court cases, the driver of the lorry was convicted of dangerous driving and his team leader was convicted of aiding and abetting dangerous driving. Both have since been dismissed from there employment at the council.

After the hearing Mr Taylor said: “After my accident I quickly began to realise that life would never be the same again. However, thanks to the financial settlement that my lawyers achieved for me, I have been able to purchase and fully adapt my own bungalow and I have been able to secure a wide range of aids and equipment that help me to live an independent life.”

A statement released from the council expressed their deepest regret and sympathy to Mr Taylor for his dreadful injuries. It said: “The council would like to make it clear that it did not and does not condone any practice of so-called ‘load shifting’, either by its employees or by agency workers engaged in refuse collection on the council’s behalf. Such an activity is highly dangerous and must not be carried out under any circumstances.”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found the council had not been negligent.

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