It was initially though that he was not badly hurt but a year later he developed complex regional pain syndrome and was left wheelchair bound.
Robert Keane, 40, of Hull, was hit by a large cable section of a crane jib that snapped and fell in high winds as it was being lowered. He was working for Baldwins Crane Hire Ltd on a Wates Living Space site in Newcastle in October 2014. (See previous report here.)
He says he ‘cheated death’ as he was hit and knocked to the ground, with the impact sending him some distance across the building site. At the time it was believed his injuries were minor as he was able to get to his feet and walk to the ambulance that was called for him.
He had treatment in hospital for cuts and bruising to his left hand side, on his face, shoulder, chest, left arm and fractured wrist.
However, having returned to work less than two months later, he soon found his pains getting worse and he struggled with basic tasks such as walking up stairs.
That pain continued to increase and became so intense that just over a year after his accident he had to give up work and he was confined to a wheelchair and diagnosed as suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
The cause of Mr Keane’s CRPS has been long disputed by as part of a legal case between his lawyers, personal injury specialist Hudgell Solicitors, and legal representatives for Baldwins Crane Hire Ltd.
The case was further complicated since Mr Keane had been previously diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which had become active a few months following his accident. These symptoms subsequently abated, but Mr Keane was left with ongoing CRPS.
As the legal matter had not been resolved since the accident in October 2014, the case had been scheduled to be considered and ruled upon by a judge as to the cause of Mr Keane’s ongoing CRPS later this year. However, a court hearing has now been avoided as damages were agreed between the parties at a joint settlement meeting. The actual amount has not been disclosed, other thn being described as 'substantial'.
Mr Keane said: “My life has changed beyond recognition since my accident and in a matter of a few years I have gone from being a healthy and active man to being left in a wheelchair. It has been horrendous to be honest and I have found it very hard to cope at times. I count my blessings every day that I wasn’t hit directly on the head, as if it had I wouldn’t be here to talk about it. I didn’t see it coming at all at the time. I had been on the ground removing chains as I did every week when all of a sudden I heard a loud scraping sound. I knew it didn’t sound good but I don’t think I even had time to look up, I struggle to remember.
“The next thing I knew I was right across the other side of the yard on the ground with blood on my face and arms and legs. Since that accident my life has changed beyond all recognition. It impacted on my health massively, but also my relationship with my wife and children, and my own feeling of self-worth.
“I have always worked in construction and work was my life in many ways, so all of a sudden to have to stop and adapt to a completely different way of life in a wheelchair has been very tough. It wasn’t just tough for me, it was tough for those close to me as well.”
Although legal representatives for Baldwins Crane Hire Ltd admitted fault for the accident, the issue over the initial injuries and subsequent chronic regional pain symptoms experienced by Mr Keane’s injuries was disputed throughout.
“We’re delighted to have reached an agreement with the defendant’s solicitors on compensation for our client as without question he has suffered considerably since this accident,” said solicitor Samuel McFadyen, a specialist in handling serious injury cases at Hudgell Solicitors.
“It has been a complicated case given the significant decline in our client’s health over the years since this accident happened.
“Of course, it initially it appeared that, by some miracle, he had walked away relatively unscathed from an accident which could quite easily have taken his life. However, as time went on, and despite his desire to return to work, he continued to suffer intense pain in his neck, left shoulder, left arm, left leg and lower back pain which worsened in time, and became so unbearable he was confined to a wheelchair. He has suffered severe constant burning pains in his knee, left foot and ankle and the pain was so bad he felt like his leg didn’t belong to him.
“The matter of dispute was whether the accident caused the CRPS to develop, or whether it had developed from rheumatoid arthritis, which he had been diagnosed with some years earlier.
“Essentially, this matter was not resolved fully as there were conflicting opinions from independent medical experts, but a settlement was agreed on the basis that responsibility for the accident was accepted by his employer. We felt the substantial offer made was a good one for our client and reflective of the injuries suffered.”
Mr Keane said that he holds no grudges against his former employer but hopes lessons are learned to better protect future workers.
“Obviously the accident should never have happened and I hope that the business has learned from that and does all that it should to prevent any future accidents,” he said. “I’m a man of the real world though. These things happen and I know that when it becomes a legal situation they have to do what is best for them also.
“I know it was being suggested that the chronic pain had developed from my arthritis, but for me that is nonsense. I have had arthritis for many years and I know what that pain feels like. The pains I have suffered since the accident have been nothing like I have experienced before. At one stage I couldn’t even cope with a cloth being placed on my leg as it was like someone had dropped a tonne of bricks on it. I’m just glad it’s all settled now.”
With his settlement now secured, Mr Keane wants to be of use in his local community and has helped set up a food bank in East Hull to support the homeless and those on low incomes.
“I think one of the big positives of my damages settlement has been that it has helped me have financial stability and that has allowed me to commit the spare time I now have to voluntary work in the community, which I am finding very rewarding,” he said.