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MoD school spinal injury claim possible

Women in wheelchair
14th May 2014
A girl who suffered a serious spinal injury after a six-metre fall at school could make a personal injury claim against the Ministry of Defence (MoD), after liability was admitted for the incident.

The fall happened at the Royal Hospital School in Suffolk, which is owned by the Royal Navy's charity, the Greenwich Hospital, of which the defence secretary – and therefore the MoD – is the sole trustee. The 15-year-old was taking part in a PE class at the school when she was involved in an uncontrolled descent from the top of the wall, landing on the hard wooden gym floor below.

She suffered a fractured spine, which required her to spend two weeks in hospital and numerous further weeks in a body cast. Despite the fall happening in March 2009, she's still receiving medical treatment for her spinal injury today.

As a crown body, the MoD can't be criminally prosecuted, but has been censured by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the school admitted on its behalf that "at the time of the accident the risk assessment, written operating procedure, written procedures or records for examination, inspection and maintenance regime relating to climbing activities / climbing wall and related equipment were not suitable or sufficient so as to ensure that risks were reduced to the lowest level reasonable practicable."

The school also admitted that despite some equipment being removed, instructors hadn't been given a refresher course relating to the new set-up.

The 15-year-old victim may be able to claim inspiration to make a personal injury claim from self-employed builder Dean Winstone, from Witney in Oxfordshire, who was awarded £1.25m in accident compensation after being left in a wheelchair as a result of a spinal injury he received following a fall.

Dean received his personal injury claim compensation at the High Court in London in March, after the company that owned the scaffolding from which he fell – Gemini Riteway Scaffolding Ltd – agreed to settle without admitting liability.

You could be a victim of a spinal injury from incidents other than falls – drivers' and passengers' whiplash claims result from them having their spine and muscles damaged by a sudden jerking motion, whilst a motorist from Worcester is making a personal injury claim after his neck was broken and his spine was damaged after he collided with a horse that was loose in the road, resulting in the beast falling on top of him.

Reported by Fiona Campbell