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What is Epilepsy?

March 22, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Epilepsy is a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain. Epilepsy is usually only diagnosed after a person has had more than one seizure. Not all seizures are due to epilepsy. Other conditions that can appear like Epilepsy includes fainting, or very low blood sugar in some people being treated for diabetes. Anyone can develop epilepsy, at any time of life. There are over half a million people with epilepsy in the UK, so around 1 in 100 people suffer from it.

Purple Day - Supporting Epilepsy Around The World

Causes of Epilepsy

There are many different causes both traumatic and genetic. Epilepsy can be caused by trauma to the brain resulting in structural changes or following illness such as a stroke or meningitis.

Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy

Traumatic head injuries can also result in people being at an increased risk of developing epilepsy. The increased risk of epilepsy can be a life time risk if someone has sustained a significant brain injury.

There have been many studies taking an in-depth look at the links between head injury and epilepsy. For example, the study published by The New England Journal of Medicine which can be found here.

Provisional Damages

It is important when settling a claim for compensation involving a head injury that your solicitor advises you about seeking a provisional damages award rather than settling your case for a full and final one off settlement.

Provisional damages settlements mean that if you do not have an epileptic seizure after suffering head trauma but go on to develop epilepsy within your lifetime you are able to reopen your case and claim any additional sums that you may be entitled to such as further compensation for pain suffering and loss of amenity, further treatment costs, loss of earnings etc.

If your compensation claim is settled on a full and final basis by acceptance of a lump sum and you go on to develop epilepsy afterwards you will not be able to claim any further damages in the future even if your condition deteriorates.

Here at Spencers, the Serious Injury Team have dealt with many cases involving Epilepsy as a result of head injuries and some examples of these can be found here.

Importance of reporting Epilepsy to the DVLA

Of course, the importance of reporting epilepsy to the DVLA can’t be emphasised enough as highlighted by the tragic case involving Harry Clarke, who was the driver of a bin lorry which ploughed through Christmas shoppers in central Glasgow, killing six people. Mr Clarke allegedly lost consciousness behind the wheel despite allegedly having experienced previous seizures which hadn’t been disclosed to the DVLA.

The future

Whilst much is still not understood about epilepsy and its causes, it is heartening that medical research has progressed so significantly that many epilepsy survivors are now living fairly normal lives despite the serious nature of the condition.

For more information, please visit Epilespy Society - Head Injuries and Epilepsy.

About the author

Emma Melia PhotoEmma Melia is a Solicitor and lead litigator within Spencers Solicitors' catastrophic injury team. Emma has over 17 years' experience helping people who have suffered life changing injuries.

Emma's last blog was Are you skiing on thin ice? How ensure you are protecting yourself on the slopes.

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Dealing with a Death in the Family – The Non-Practical Stuff

March 20, 2017 at 9:00 AM

When you have a death in the family, there are so many practical things that need to be dealt with alongside dealing with your grief:

Grief by walknboston via Flickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkn/2444686830

•  Getting a medical certificate to enable you to register the death.
•  Registering the death within 5 days.
•  Arranging the funeral.
•  Finding a Will/finding out what to do if there is no Will.
•  Getting letters of administration/grant of representation.
•  Gathering in the assets of the estate.
•  Distributing the assets of the estate.
•  Dealing with estate accounts.
•  Setting up and managing Trusts.

The list goes on and on....... but what about the other stuff. The stuff that no one talks about.....


Everyone deals with grief in their own unique way. Everyone around you will want to help. Everyone will be full of great ideas and well meaning advice on how you can get through the grief and get over it as quickly as possible. Why? Frankly your grief makes others feel uncomfortable!

It is important to recognise that grief can be crushing. It is okay to have days when you cannot work out how you are going to keep breathing. Grief can be a physical thing that causes tightness in your throat, heaviness across your chest and even pain around your heart. It can give you headaches and stomach upsets, it can muddle your mind, hot flushes, cold chills, it can affect your sleep, make you restless unable to concentrate and the list goes on.

Some people shut down, paste a smile on their face and act like nothing has happened.

All of the above is okay. All of the above or none of the above is fine because everyone grieves differently and there are no right or wrongs.

Many experts say that there are 5 stages of grief:

•  Denial – refusal to accept facts, the reality of the situation or information surrounding it. The fact is death is hard to avoid for long.

•  Anger – this can be directed at yourself, I could have tried harder, seen them more etc. This can be directed at the person that died and those close around you.

•  Bargaining – if I could just have them back even for 5 minutes I will never do this again or I will do that every day.

•  Depression – this is when reality sets in and a quiet acceptance begins to come but it can be hard, it can be dark and it can be debilitating. It is however a sign that you have finally started to accept what has happened and after depression comes...

•  Acceptance – you can finally accept what happened and now you can begin to recover. Recovery is an individual thing some people bounce back quickly and quietly and resume previous daily activities but some people radically change their life and go on a trip of a lifetime or change their jobs.

How can you help someone dealing with Grief?

The first thing to remember is that it is hard to help someone with their grief. Sometimes you can’t help them and all you can do is be there whilst they go through it.

Something that we all have in these situations is the fear of making things worse.

However, there is one thing that the experts in this field are agreed on. Talk less, listen more. This is skill that most of us find difficult especially in nervous situations. We all have a tendency to babble so being still and listening really is the hardest things to do.

In short, show up, don’t avoid them no matter how awkward it is. Bring food, food always breaks the ice, offer practical help, picking the kids up from school, doing the grocery shop but most importantly ask them how they are feeling and then listen, really listen.

Don’t be judgmental, stay in touch with them, be accessible but not overbearing, don’t use clichés they are just so annoying, ask how the rest of the family are and don’t avoid talking about the person that died as this can be cathartic.

Most all remember saying too little is better than saying too much resist the urge to babble!!!

Spencers Solicitors understand grief and how difficult it can be to deal with. Although we can only empathise when it comes to the non practical stuff, we are here to help ease the burden by supporting and advising you on the necessary practicalities at such a difficult time. Our experienced staff can provide straight forward advice on what needs to be done and assist in all aspects of probate and estate administration. Contact us for a free, no obligation chat on how we might be able to help.

About the Author

Samantha Ibrahim Photo

Samantha Ibrahim is a Chartered Legal Executive within Spencers Solicitors Private Client Team. Samantha’s main focus is on the provision of Wills and Probate services.

In addition to drafting Wills and providing advice on the administration of estates, Samantha is also able to obtain letters of administration, grant of probate, advanced decisions, lasting power of attorney and Court of Protection Deputyship.

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Supporting World Purple Day

March 17, 2017 at 9:00 AM

My colleague, Samantha, has recently written a couple of fantastic blogs (which you can read here and here) about raising awareness for epilepsy and supporting ‘World Purple Day’ on 26th March.

Purple Day - Supporting Epilepsy Around The World

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and possible causes include a stroke, a brain infection, a head injury and problems during birth.

I work within the Serious Injury Department here at Spencers Solicitors, and many of our clients have suffered life changing injuries, including traumatic brain injuries which can give rise to epilepsy, and part of our job is to try and help them rebuild their lives and get them the support they need.

In a split second a head trauma can dramatically change a person’s life. Recently we settled a claim for a gentleman who was involved in a road traffic accident in 2011. He was driving along a main road when another vehicle pulled out from a side road and hit him. Sounds fairly minor doesn’t it? Sadly it wasn’t. The accident has affected this man’s life and his family’s forever.

He was knocked out on impact. He had a seizure at the wheel and was told he had suffered a moderate brain injury. The effects of the brain injury became more apparent over time in that he had short term memory problems, difficulty finding words, problems with numbers, impaired concentration, sleepiness, depression; lots of the awful things associated with having a brain injury.

Two years after his accident our client was out in the garden when he suddenly experienced a tobacco like smell. He collapsed. It happened again shortly afterwards but this time he became unconscious and began convulsing. He had a total of 4 seizures before he arrived at hospital. It soon became apparent to his wife that falls he’d had since the accident, along with regularly waking up in the night and shaking were all connected and due to epileptic seizures. He was told he had developed post-traumatic epilepsy as a result of the accident and despite being on medication his condition was unlikely to ever be completely controlled.

In terms of his future he will never be able to work again, he requires a considerable amount of daily care and has ongoing treatment needs. We secured compensation for this gentleman to enable him to live a full life despite the epilepsy and to provide financial stability for him and his family for the rest if his life – something which had been taken away from him as a result of the accident.

Helping this gentleman helped me to understand so much more about epilepsy, the impact it has on that person’s everyday life and how important charities like Epilepsy Action and Headway the brain injury charity really are.

Headway was a huge support to our client and he benefited from their services so much. They gave him a sense of purpose, focus and motivation which had such a positive impact on his mood.

Another great charity is ‘Epilepsy Action’ who I know have also been a huge help. Our client used some of his funds to become a lifetime member of the charity which allows anyone with epilepsy or those caring for someone with epilepsy to get the information they need, get involved with fund raising and of course get in touch with people who understand the condition.

World Purple Day started in 2008 and I personally think it is a wonderful event to raise awareness, help people achieve a better understanding of epilepsy and at the same time raise money to help with medical research.

About the author

Laura Reaney  photo Laura Reaney is a litigator within Spencers Solicitors Complex Injury team. Laura has extensive experience in dealing with claimants that have complex and serious injuries, and over the years has worked on various cases including those involving back and spinal injuries.


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Changes to the Law: Keeping your Children Safe

March 15, 2017 at 9:00 AM

The law regarding car seats and booster seats changed recently. The change has been implemented earlier than anticipated and affects both families and manufacturers from the 1st March 2017.

Our Arandeep Lally, Solicitor and proud mum of twins, summarises the updated legal requirements to help other parents navigate the changes.

Car seat by uacescomm via Flickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/27847410202/

Previously, parents of children weighing as little as 15kg could use backless booster seats but these have now been deemed as unsuitable under the new rules.

Safety experts at the UN warn that backless booster seats do not protect smaller children against side-impacts.

If parents already have backless booster seats and cushions in their vehicles then they are not legally affected by the new rules and are allowed to carry on using them as normal as long as their child weighs at least 15kgs.

The rules are now as follows:

•  Children using the backless boosters will need to weigh more than 22kg and be taller than 125cm.

•  Children are required to use car seats until they are either twelve years old or 135 cm (4ft5in) tall, whichever comes first.

•  Children over the age of twelve or taller than 135cm must wear a seatbelt.

•  If however your child is under twelve or smaller than 135cm and does therefore require a car seat then the correct seat can be selected based on height or weight.

•  The seat can be rear-or front- facing if your baby is older than fifteen months but for those first months of life up to at least fifteen months a baby must face the back of the car.

•  If your baby weighs less than 9kg then they should travel in a baby carrier rather than a child seat.

•  Only EU approved seats are allowed to be used in the UK- Check for the capital E in a circle

•  If your child has any disabilities then they may need a specially designed seat.

It is vital to ensure that the seat itself is fitted correctly and as securely as possible with no excessive movement when tested.

When choosing a car seat it is important to ensure that it has either a diagonal strap; one that is designed to be used with a lap seat belt or one that has ISOFIX anchor points. The ISOFIX Points attach the child car seat to the actual seat of the car directly by three points; two metal bars at the base, and a top tether or support leg.

Many stores selling car seats will provide a fitting service to ensure the seats are fitted correctly.

Sometimes busy parents may buy car seats online so would not get the benefit of having the fitting checked in-store. We therefore list here some handy tips for ensuing that your child’s seat is fitted correctly if you are installing the seat yourself;

•  Deactivate any front air bags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat

•  Do not use any side facing seats.

•  The seat buckle must be outside the frame to prevent the risk of it opening in an accident.

•  Make sure that the harness is pulled tight with a maximum of two fingers’ room between their collar bones and the shoulder straps.

•  Check the harness buckle is as low as possible (ideally across the child’s pelvis rather than their stomach).

Always read the car seat instructions carefully and contact the manufacturer or supplier if there are any concerns.

There are a few exceptions to the law where children can legally travel without a car seat:

•  On unexpected emergency journeys if only for a short distance and the child is over three years old.

•  In a minibus, minicab, taxi, coach or van but not in the front of the vehicle.

•  If there are three children sitting in the back of the car and there is not room for a third seat and the child is at least three years old.

In order to keep babies and small children safe on car journeys, it is not only advisable to comply with the above but it is now the law. Parents who have existing seats will not be fined and face any action for having a backless booster but you will face a £500.00 fine if you are found travelling with your child in the incorrect seat requirements for their age, height and weight regardless.

Finally, it is worth noting that some main suppliers of child car seats are currently offering trade in options so that you can trade in your backless booster seats for new compliant seats and take advantage of a discounted price. You should enquire in store at the supplier of your choice for any such offers.

About the author

Arandeep Lally Photo Arandeep Lally is a Solicitor within Spencers Solicitors' mixed liability team. Arandeep manages an extensive case load ranging from public liability to criminal injury claims.

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#PurpleDay - Identifying Types of Epilepsy

March 8, 2017 at 9:00 AM

You might remember the blog I did recently about epilepsy and the work of Epilepsy Action, if you didn’t see it please follow this link.

With #PurpleDay only a few short weeks away I wanted to give you more information about the different types of epilepsy.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres each consisting of four lobes- the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes. There are about 40 different types of seizures which can happen in any part of the brain. The types of seizure are divided into two groups and are then sub-categorised.

Seizure types & sub-categories chart

The temporal lobes are responsible for many functions including hearing, speech, memory, emotions and learning. Temporal lobes seizures usually last between 30 seconds and two minutes.

The frontal lobes are responsible for making decisions, solving problems, behaviour, consciousness and emotions. Frontal lobe seizures usually last less than 30 seconds and often happen during sleep.

The parietal lobes are responsible for processing information from the different senses in the body, processing language, writing and maths skills. Parietal lobe seizures last between a few seconds and a few minutes and affect about one in twenty people with epilepsy.

The occipital lobes process information relating to vision. Occipital lobe seizures last for seconds and can affect between one in five and one in ten people with epilepsy.

Focal Seizures

In focal seizures the seizure starts in, and affects only part of the brain but the part affected could be large or small. During a focal seizure a person might be aware of what is going on around them but equally, they might not as different areas of the brain are responsible for controlling different movements, bodily functions and feelings meaning focal seizures can cause many different symptoms. Experiences during the seizure vary depending on where in the brain the seizure occurs and what that part of the brain usually does.

Sometimes focal seizures spread from one side to both sides of the brain. This is called a secondarily generalised seizure as it begins as a focal seizure before becoming generalised. When this happens a person becomes unconscious and will usually have a tonic clonic seizure.

Generalised Seizures

Generalised seizures affect both sides of the brain at once and can happen without warning. A person is usually unconscious if only for a few seconds. Afterwards they will not remember what happened during the seizure.

Full details on different types of seizures and the symptoms a person might experience can be found in the Advice and Information References section of the Epilepsy Action or by emailing helpline@epilepsyaction.org.uk but below is a handy table providing a brief overview of the different subcategories for both Focal and Generalised seizures so that you know what to look out for if you are in the company of someone who has an epileptic fit.

Focal Seizures Generalised Seizures

Simple Focal Seizures (SFS)

A small part of one of the lobes is affected. The person is conscious and will usually know that something is happening and will remember the seizure afterwards

Absence Seizures

Are more common in children and can happen frequently. During an absence a person becomes unconscious for a short time

Complex Focal Seizures (CFS)

A larger part of one hemisphere is affected. The person's consciousness may be affected, they may be confused and make strange or repetitive movements

Tonic Seizures

A person's muscles become stiff and if standing they may fall backwards which may cause injury to the back of their head. Tonic seizures tend to happen without warning and be brief

Atonic Seizures

A person's muscles suddenly relax and they become floppy. If standing they often fall forwards which may cause injury to their head or face

Myclonic Seizures

Are muscle jerks which are brief and can happen in clusters, muscle jerks are not always caused by epilepsy

Clonic Seizures

Are convulsive seizures but the person does not go stiff at the start

Tonic Clonic Seizures

The person becomes unconscious and their body goes stiff. If standing they usually fall backwards. During the seizure the person will jerk and shake as their muscle's relax and tighten rhythmically

What to do following a seizure

If you think that you have had a seizure you should visit your GP who will arrange for you to see an Epilepsy Specialist ensuring that you get the right diagnosis and treatment.

If you are diagnosed with Epilepsy it can be useful to keep a seizure diary, a record that helps the individual as well as their doctor or specialist to know what’s been happening, when seizures occur, the type and possible triggers.

How to help

On #PurpleDay, 26 March 2017 Epilepsy Action will be publishing stories from people with the condition about how epilepsy affects their daily lives. You can do your bit to raise awareness by sharing this blog or even having your own fundraising day like I will be doing.

You could also sign up for a newsletter from Epilepsy Action by visiting www.epilepsy.org.uk.

About the Author

Samantha Handley Photo

Samantha Handley is a Litigator within our Loss Recovery Team.

Samantha deals predominantly with corporate fleet clients and in addition to handling her own caseload, Samantha enjoys supporting and training new members of the team.

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