Mechanic gets £400k for cut hand

Fears over a rising compensation culture in the UK were heightened today when a mechanic received a staggering £400,000 in compensation for a cut finger.

Alexander Darg, aged 39, of Meopham in Kent, made a compensation claim after he cut his fingers when he slid them along a knife wedged between the two front seats of a police car that he was servicing for an airbag fault, at east London’s Limehouse Police Station. Mr Darg who worked for mobile technician company Venson PLC at the time of the accident in September 2002, suffered lacerations to two fingers which required sutures, he had to undergo a HIV test, which, which proved negative, and take precautions against Hepatitis B.

His wounds to his hands have long since healed, but Mr Darg filed a compensation claim for £1 million after he was left terrified of contracting HIV, which in turn led to him developing Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. CPRS is the term used to describe pain and swelling in one part of the body. It usually affects the hands, feet, elbows or knees, but can affect any part of the body. The pain may start after an injury, where the nerves have been damaged, or there may be no known cause for it to start. The pain usually gets gradually worse and may spread to other parts of the body. Mr Darg was forced to give up work in February 2004 as his condition had worsened.

While the Metropolitan Police admitted liability for the cuts to his hands, it strongly disputed the extent of Mr Darg’s injuries. The force accused Mr Darg of “wanting to be a millionaire” and coming to court in search of “a quick bit of cash”. The Met even tried to back up there claims, that he was exaggerating his disabilities, in London’s High Court by showing DVD footage of Mr Darg , secretly shot by inquiry agents.

In court, the Mets lawyers accused Mr Darg of “spicing up” his disabilities. They attacked his damages claims as “essentially false” and argued that he was due compensation only for superficial lacerations to his fingers which had swiftly healed. They showed footage of Mr Darg shopping in a DIY store, walking his two children to school and even taking part in an air rifle competition.

However, after observing this footage, High Court judge Sir Robert Nelson, said that the DVD’s were a matter of impression. He told the court: “A number of the attacks on Mr Darg’s credibility were without substance.” Sir Robert also told the court that although he believed Mr Darg’s disabilities had, to some extent, been exaggerated, he ruled that neither he, nor his wife, had been “wholly dishonest, and he had never falsely pretended to have symptoms which do not exist”. The judge went on to say that he was a highly valued employee, regarded as an ambassador for his company and extremely competent when the accident happened. He accepted that his suffering was genuine and awarded him £400,000 damages.

Apart from £32,500 for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life, the award was made up of compensation for past and future loss of earnings. Although the court heard that he can still drive, use a computer, walk, and fully enjoy his hobby of shooting, it is expected he will never return to employment.

Richard Lynagh QC for Mr Darg successfully argued that it was a result of his fingers being cut that he developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and CRPS after an unsuccessful operation in 2003.

The Metropolitan Police have also been handed the hefty sum of £100,000 to pay for all legal costs. John O’Connor, former head of the Met’s Flying Squad, said: “Every time police use a vehicle to convey a suspect it should be searched, so there is a case of negligence on behalf of an unknown officer. However, what is at issue is the amount of money involved. The Met is known for not contesting cases. Sometimes when there is a small amount like £10,000 the police just pay it without contesting it, so the culture of suing the police is actually encouraged.”

The huge payout, which dwarfs the sums given to British soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan has sparked controversy. Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “What we have in Britain today is a compensation culture gone mad. When you compare sums like this with the compensation available top our troops if they lose a limb on the battlefield, many people will feel we have our priorities utterly wrong.”

Marine Ben McBean, 21, was offered only £161,000 after losing an arm and a leg in an explosion in Afghanistan, and Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 24, lost both legs, the use of one arm, his speech, and his memory in a landmine blast in 2006. His payout was a measly £152,150. Both soldiers suffered far greater losses and injuries than Mr Darg, but received far less compensation .

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