South East Wales

£4.25m for Rhiannon Millett 1996 crash care welcomed

The barrister representing a woman who suffered permanent brain damage in a car crash when she was six has welcomed a compensation award of £4.25m.

Rhiannon Millett, of Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, was injured in a crash involving a drunken driver in Blackwood, Caerphilly county, in 1996.

Simon Michael said Ms Millett, now 21, was unable to live independently.

"It's impossible to predict how someone with a severe brain injury is going to progress," he said.

Mr Michael told BBC Radio Wales that his client had been a passenger in a car driven by the partner of her mother Alison Kearney when the head-on crash happened in March 1996.

"It was Mother's Day, and they'd just left her mother at home having breakfast in bed," he said.

"They were faced with the defendant's vehicle being driven on the wrong side of the road as it came round a bend, and his having drunk excess alcohol."

The partner of Ms Millett's mother was killed in the crash, and Rhiannon was thought at first to have escaped with relatively minor injuries.

"She had a broken leg, a cut above her eyebrow and what seemed to be some minor bleeding in the brain," said Mr Michael.

"After she was discharged from hospital however she went home and then she deteriorated very quickly and fell into a coma.

"It was found she had suffered a serious brain injury and she was rushed back into hospital."

The driver was convicted in 1997 of driving without due care and attention while being over the limit.

Tax-free payments

Although the convicted driver's insurers admitted liability in 1998, Mr Michael said it was to the family's advantage that the damages had only now been awarded several years later.

He said Ms Millett's ability to live independently, complete her education or find a job could not have been assessed at the time.

"It's impossible to predict how someone with a severe brain injury is going to progress," he said.

"Rhiannon is sufficiently damaged that she doesn't have capacity - she's not able to make decisions for herself.

"It's much better to allow matters to develop so you can get a better idea of the value of the claim."

Mrs Justice Sharp at the High Court approved a settlement consisting of a £1m lump sum, plus index-linked and tax-free payments of £52,500-a-year to cover the costs of care for Ms Millett, who has a normal life expectancy.

Mr Michael said the award would make a significant difference to life for Ms Millett and her family.

"Her mother has been absolutely heroic - she has almost single-handedly brought up quite a badly damaged child.

"For the first time it will be possible for the family to obtain appropriate care so that Rhiannon will be able to have a support worker or buddy to spend the day with her, to help structure her life, and possibly help her get some voluntary work."

"She will also have someone to sleep in overnight with her, because she isn't able to be left alone overnight and until now that's all had to be done by family members."

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