David Knifton QC and Paul Kirtley secure major settlement for brain-injured helicopter pilot

July 13, 2018

At a hearing before HHJ Gore QC on 4.7.18, the High Court approved a settlement worth almost £7.2m on behalf of a Navy pilot who suffered catastrophic injuries during the course of his duties.

The pilot had landed his Merlin helicopter on the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious at night-time, and was completing his post-flight inspection, when the flight deck lift was opened without a warning being sounded, causing him to fall a significant distance onto the deck below. As a result, he sustained a severe brain injury, together with multiple fractures and internal injuries.

Although he had made a remarkably good physical recovery, he had been left with major problems of fatigue, cognitive impairments and behavioural issues, such that his career as a Navy pilot had been terminated, he was unlikely to be capable of remunerative employment and he was left with significant support needs.

At a settlement meeting on 30.5.18, David Knifton QC and Paul Kirtley negotiated compensation of £5m, including around £3m for his lifetime care and case management needs. A significant element of the award provides for the rental of a respite flat, where the Claimant can stay during the week in order to manage his fatigue away from the demands of his family. It also provides for the Claimant to apply for further damages should he develop post-traumatic epilepsy during his lifetime as a consequence of his head injury. In addition, the Claimant will retain an Armed Forces Compensation Scheme award for his injuries, together with index-linked Guaranteed Income Payments in respect of his future loss of earnings and pension.

Commenting on the settlement, David Knifton QC said:

“This was a very challenging case, requiring skilled management by an experienced legal team over a prolonged period, in order to secure the best possible outcome. The Claimant was a dedicated and professional pilot with considerable natural ability, who anticipated an outstanding career as a Specialist Aviator in the Royal Navy, with the prospect of a subsequent career as a civilian helicopter pilot. The life-changing injuries he suffered brought that to an end. I am delighted that he has since fathered 2 children, and that he and his wife can look forward to their future life together, secure in the knowledge that his needs will be fully met. I wish them both every happiness.”

David Knifton QC and Paul Kirtley were instructed by Hilary Meredith Solicitors. They are both prominent members of the personal injury team at Exchange Chambers.