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Meet the lawyer: Paul Sankey

In the latest of our series, we learn more about the career and approach of the Enable Law partner

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In the latest of our Meet the Lawyer series, Paul Sankey, partner at Enable Law, discusses his career and specialism in life-changing injury claims

 

Tell us about your experience to date

I have been a specialist in acting for patients in clinical negligence claims for 20 years. I previously led London’s largest specialist clinical negligence team whilst at a national law firm before moving to my current role at Enable Law in 2016. 

Most of my clients have disabling brain or spinal injuries, amputations, are sepsis survivors or people who cancer diagnoses have been delayed. I also act for families of people who have sadly died as a result of clinical negligence.

What makes brain and spinal cord injury claims different to general personal injury claims?

The medical issues are complex – it can take quite a long time to understand how the brain and spine work, what causes damage and how. The range of disability they cause can be quite wide, affecting not just movement but coordination, breathing and temperate control as well as how the brain functions. 

A brain injury can affect quite different mental processes – the ability to speak, process information, make decisions and plan. The injury may be stable but can still cause greater disability in the future as people age – so there are a lot of issues to be alive to.

How important is it to appoint a lawyer with specialism in brain and spinal injury claims?

Crucial. These claims are often highly complex. Lawyers need to understand the anatomy and medicine but also the effects of injuries in terms of disability.

Some injuries can be quite subtle. One can easily overlook the significant impact of apparently quite minor impairments and things that seem insignificant now can be very disabling in the future.

Can you share an example of a particularly challenging case you have worked on, and how you overcame these challenges, to secure a positive outcome for the client?

A man in his early 40s suffered a stroke after delay in managing an infection. He was left hemiplegic and cognitively very damaged. Establishing liability involved experts from eight disciplines and it was a hard fight throughout.

My client then relocated back to his native New Zealand. I decided to spend some time to visit him to ensure I had a full grasp of his home circumstances and the support available for him there. There were real challenges in working with someone so far away. Meetings were by Skype (these were pre-Covid days) at the crack of dawn. Housing regulation was very different and suitable accommodation was almost impossible to find. I had to train local experts in what our legal system required, so they could report on the claim.

For anyone who hasn’t done this, the rules on giving evidence remotely are challenging. You have to find the right venue, fix a Royal coat of arms to the wall and have someone administer the oath. We were able to negotiate a multi-million New Zealand dollar settlement just before trial which was transformative for my client.

Can and should a client change their lawyer if they are not happy with how the case is progressing?

Yes. Getting the best result and making sure people have the support they need for life is crucial to their wellbeing. The first step though is to make sure your lawyer understands your concerns and can address them if at all possible. 

Sometimes people are dissatisfied through no fault of the lawyer, who is actually doing a good job. But if that lawyer does not have the right specialism or in not handling the claim well, you should change. 

I once took over a case a non-specialist had valued at £12,000 and ultimately recovered £1.25million. The previous solicitor had not understood either what was in reality quite a subtle injury or the correct legal principles to apply. That was a rather extreme case but it does show what a difference the right specialist can make.

What do you look for when appointing or working with members of an MDT?

The right degree of expertise and good communication. Team members need to be able to bring their expertise to bear but also understand and be prepared to defer to the different expertise of others.

How vital a role can the right MDT play in a client’s outcome?

Getting the right team in place is vital if people are going to make the best recovery, get the right support and maximise their quality of life.

Can you share a couple of your personal career highlights

When I visited my client in New Zealand, I noticed that his brothers had welded a metal chair onto two poles to carry him into the sea, which was where he most loved to be. We managed to get him a top-of-the-range wheelchair to get him across the sand and into the sea. Seeing the sheer pleasure that gave him made the long hours worthwhile!

I acted for a police officer whose leg was amputated above the knee after the delayed diagnosis of sepsis. He was desperate to be able to stay in the police. With the right support he has managed to do so and he is still doing so 15 years later.

Seeing the life-changing impact of your work on people is what sticks in my mind.

Tell us a little about your life outside of work

I play jazz guitar and classical piano, enjoy wild swimming, walking in the mountains, and seeing birds and animals in the wild. I also help to welcome and support refugees from Hong Kong at my local church in Bristol.

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