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Meet the UK’s Catastrophic Injury Team of the Year

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Chris Stewart - head of the serious injury department at Digby Brown

As winner of the Catastrophic Injury Team of the Year at the most recent Personal Injury Awards, law firm Digby Brown writes for NR Times to highlight its track record in serious injury work and commitment to supporting brain and spinal cord injury survivors

To many the name may not be familiar.

The firm, after all, operates exclusively in Scotland. But their serious injury department, which specialises in helping brain and spinal cord injury, defeated competition from all over the UK to earn the top accolade in the Personal Injury Awards 2020.

It therefore merits that NR Times asks the question ‘Who is Digby Brown?’ so accident survivors and healthcare professionals can learn more about the firm which finds itself under the spotlight.

As a firm, Digby Brown has supported those affected by the most high profile cases in Scotland.

The Clutha helicopter tragedy. The Glasgow bin lorry disaster. The M9 police call handling scandal. The Stonehaven rail disaster. Abuse cases against religious groups and football clubs like Celtic. Even landmark settlements for asbestos disease claims.

And as a team, the firm’s serious injury department shares the firm’s reputation for being an expert advisor to survivors of ABI or spinal cord accidents.

Among the cases of note is the settlement of a claim for a man who suffered a serious head injury after being run over by the son of ex-Rangers footballer Ally McCoist.

They also act for the victims of a fatal road crash that claimed the life of one teenager and left two others with serious injuries.  This case was prolific in legal sector as it sparked a Scottish debate on the sentencing of drivers convicted of death by dangerous driving.

The firm, and indeed the serious injury department’s, reputation that has been hard-earned and forged with tenacity, compassion, consistent results and integrity which is why Digby Brown has strong ties among charities, support groups and health sectors.

Digby Brown is committed to not just recovering compensation – it has a compassionate hands-on approach to ensuring each survivor has a tailored all-round support package to meet their unique and individual needs.

Spinal Injuries Scotland and Back Up often refer spinal cord injury survivors to Digby Brown for legal support with spinal cord injuries while brain injury survivor network Headway highlights Digby Brown as a go-to firm for legal help after a traumatic brain injury.

Having close bonds with SIS and Back Up means Digby Brown also a great reputation among NHS staff at the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Unit in Glasgow – a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to treating and rehabilitating survivors of spinal cord injury.

The firms also repeatedly tops legal rankings year on year for personal injury work. In Chambers & Partners the firm has been ranked Band 1 for the last 15 years. The head of the serious injury department Chris Stewart is also ranked as a leading individual. While in The Legal 500 the firm has been ranked Tier 1 for the last 14 years.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has around 50 accredited specialists in the Scotland for personal injury work – and around half of these work at Digby Brown. Then there’s Moira Kay, a Partner in the Serious Injury department, who is the only APIL-accredited specialist for both brain injury and spinal cord injury in the whole of Scotland.

Then there’s the settlements themselves – £223million in the last 10 years.

“So they have the reputation, results and talent – but what does Digby Brown do differently?”

Under the leadership of Partner Chris Stewart, the Serious Injury team makes sure each new client has access to:

Immediate medical care (even if it needs to be obtained privately)

Counselling or CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) – the firm does everything it can to help a new client tap into a positive mindset to enhance the effectiveness and speed of their recovery.

Interim payments – if a brain or serious injury survivor can no longer work then Chris and his team will seek an immediate lump sum to help with urgent issues like mortgage payments

A case management worker – to take a hands-on approach to helping assess and solve your immediate, short term and long term care needs while also putting things in motion to help you create a home, personal and (if possible) work life for the future.

Welfare rights – Digby Brown has in-house staff who help accident survivors navigate the benefits process pro bono (completely free) simply as part of their service.

Charity support – the firm’s recognition from charities means they can help survivors access peer support groups for guidance and hands-on help.

And when all this is happening, the team is not merely a voice on the other end of the phone.

Chris’ team will welcome you to one of their seven offices across Scotland (whichever is nearest to you) or they are just as happy to visit you at home or even your hospital if you’re still engaged with rehab work.

Outside of the legal support the serious injury team at Digby Brown has a proven track record in educating and enhancing the support available to ABI and spinal cord survivors.

Each year is hosts the Head Injury Information Day (HiiD) in Glasgow and Edinburgh where brain injury survivors or healthcare professionals come together to share knowledge and access support. The last event saw 30 exhibitors and 300 people attend – a popularity that will now see similar events planned for Inverness, Dumfries and Aberdeen.

They also host an annual summer barbecue at Castle Semple near Glasgow where wheelchair users can experience hand cycling, sailing or kayaking.

Or the famous Winter Dinner Dance – an annual black tie gala that is the highlight of the year on the Scottish legal social calendar to raise money for wheelchair users and the charities that support them.

Then there’s the road awareness events it hosts alongside road safety stakeholders for 16-year-old school pupils before they don their L plates as well as numerous sponsorship programmes it offers for wheelchair sports like the Caledonian Crushers or Dundee Dragons.

All these things is why Digby Brown won the Catastrophic Injury Team of the Year award last year.

As the Personal Injury Award 2020 judges noted: “Catastrophic injury cases can be incredibly complex and demand a high level of collaboration and team work in order to see them to a successful outcome.

“This dedication is also reflected in [Digby Brown’s] impressive community work where again it goes the extra mile.”

Chris Stewart, head of the serious injury department, explained what he thinks is the secret to the department’s success in Scotland.

“I am in the fortunate position of leading a team of high skilled and experienced solicitors who are unwavering in their focus of achieving the best possible results for clients,” he says.

“As a specialist team we can concentrate all of our energy and knowledge on the most seriously injured and guide them through what is a complex legal process.”

He also outlined a few key differences between the legal systems in Scotland and England and what this means for accident survivors – but also what he hopes will improve or be achieved in the future.

Chris adds: “The long awaited introduction of Periodical Payments in Scotland will mean, for the first time, the most seriously injured will have a legal right to have their damages paid annually for the remainder of their life, rather than being forced to accept a discounted, one-off, lump sum which they are expected to invest in volatile markets.”

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