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How can we make horse riding safer on our roads?

July 30, 2014 at 12:04 PM

We are known as a nation of animal lovers, but that doesn't always seem to be reflected in the level of care taken when motorists encounter horses and riders on the road.

It's estimated that there were more than four thousand horse related accidents in 2012, but the British Horse Society believes that traffic accidents involving horses, many on side roads and country lanes, are significantly under reported.


horse rider on a countryside lane

Recently, a rider in Dorset had a 'miracle escape' after her horse was knocked by the side of a van as it passed on a country road. Both horse and rider were actually tipped onto the flat-bed trailer the van was towing, suffering significant injuries in the process. Yet, on this country road, there were actually multiple passing places the driver could have easily stopped in for a few moments, let horse and rider pass safely, and avoided such an accident.

Riders in Lancashire have also reported regularly being verbally abused by drivers simply because they are riding on public roads. Horse rider Eileen O'Donnell told her local newspaper:

"For the last three weeks we have received verbal abuse from cars on the road and people can be so inconsiderate. Sometimes they come right up to the back of the horse and they don't realise that if the horse gets spooked then it could cause a bad accident and possibly injure them as well as myself"

Often I see these incidents occur simply through a lack of understanding by motorists, and indeed pedestrians, of how easily a horse can be spooked by what may appear to be mundane events. Things like low flying aircraft, noise from bird scarers in nearby fields, or a sudden dog barking can scare a horse and put the rider in danger of serious injury - so imagine what a car horn, revving engines, or unsupervised animals can do.


Road sign warning of horseback-riders ahead, drive slowly

Making horse riding a safer activity

There are always two sides to every story, so it's important that both motorists and riders appreciate how best to behave on roads and when horses meet traffic.

Let's examine a few key horse safety tips for each:

For Motorists

• Especially in the countryside, motorists should slow down and be ready to stop safely when approaching a horse, and take special care when approaching blind bends.

• Avoid making noise through using your horn, loud stereo music or revving your engine. When you do pass, give as wide a berth as is safe to do so and overtake slowly without acceleration until you are well clear of both horse and rider.

• Watch for any signals from the rider, as they may be able to inform you of any upcoming hazards. Likewise they may indicate a horse has been frightened or made anxious and for you to hold off your approach.

For Riders

• Along with a suitable helmet and horse riding safety equipment, riders should always use reflective and high visibility clothing for themselves and their horse, especially in any poor light or weather conditions. In fact it's best to avoid failing light, fog, icy conditions and peak commuter time if at all possible.

• Plan your route in advance and double check before your leave that there are no roadworks or hazards. You can do this by using highways websites like www.trafficengland.com or www.traffic-wales.com, and also check for potential horse riding related hazards along the route using www.horseaccidents.org.uk.

• If certain roads are unfamiliar, it pays to ask an experienced rider to accompany you. When riding two abreast, move into single file as soon as possible to allow other road users to safely overtake.

• It's also best to always take your mobile phone, and be sure to leave details of where you are going before you head out on your ride.

 

It should be safe to be on horseback

Musician Mike Oldfield once said: "In summer, winter, rain or sun, it's good to be on horseback" and it's easy to understand the sentiment. Riding was an activity long before today's hustle and high speed society, and with sensible attitudes and careful behaviour, it can continue to be the safe pleasure it always has been.

Personally, whenever I encounter a rider when driving, I like to keep in mind that four legs was a mode of transport long before four wheels, and to give them the respect they deserve!

 

What are your top safety tips for when horse rider meets motorist? Please share them in the comments.

 

About the author

Emma Melia  photoEmma Melia is a Solicitor and lead litigator within Spencers Solicitors catastrophic injury team. Emma has over 17 year's extensive experience helping people who have suffered life changing injuries, including those involving traumatic brain and spinal cord damage.

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Surgery in the sun, what are the risks?

July 10, 2014 at 4:42 PM

Largely due to costs being significantly cheaper compared to the UK, more and more people are choosing to go abroad for surgical procedures. A practice known as medical tourism, it has recently hit the press following several horror stories.

With the Daily Mail headlining statistics that more than half of patients end up unhappy with their surgical results, why is this still a popular choice?

While undergoing surgery abroad may look appealing, with much cheaper costs and the added bonus of a holiday included, what are the risks and where do you stand legally if things go wrong?

Are people really weighing up the potential savings against the potential risks?


Neon Sign Plastic Surgery Specialists

The view from UK Surgeons

Cosmetic procedures are the most common type of treatment Britons undergo abroad, with the Daily Mail reporting that almost a third of all cosmetic surgery now occurs offshore.

Both the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) have voiced their concerns about people having problems following cosmetic surgery carried out abroad.

BAPRAS also conducted a study into cosmetic surgery abroad, which made the following worrying revelations:

  • • The foreign cosmetic surgery industry is both unevenly regulated and poorly documented
  • • Patients have found legal redress difficult to access if surgery goes wrong
  • • 16.5% of those surveyed reported complications following cosmetic surgery abroad
  • • 8.7% of patients surveyed required further treatment once at home

Whilst there are good surgeons all over the world, people are often looking to find someone that offers the cheapest price. However in return for this you may get the lowest standards in patient care.

The issue is that people may not fully appreciate the long term effects caused by having cheap surgery abroad. It can lead to serious health and financial consequences if all does not go to plan.

Therefore it is imperative to find out beforehand whether you have any redress against either your particular surgeon or the company that organised your surgery, in case something does go wrong. If you are not sure, don't do it.

What can happen if things go wrong?

It is vital that you do your homework before deciding on a surgical procedure in another country, to ensure that your bargain treatment doesn't end up being a costly mistake.

There was the story of Sue Briddick, who went to Turkey in 2011 to undergo a tummy tuck and breast uplift. She couldn't afford £11,000 to have the surgery carried out privately in the UK but after doing research online came across a company in Turkey who offered a package deal for £3,600 plus flights and accommodation.

The clinic insisted she pay in cash, and she admits that at this point alarm bells should have been ringing. However she still decided to go ahead with the surgery, and during aftercare the skin on her stomach started to turn black, yet the surgeon in Turkey told her it was just bruising and would go away.


Foreign Doctor Sign

When she then returned home to the UK, after just a few days she visited a private surgeon who immediately told her she needed to go to hospital or she would die. Sue had developed a serious infection called necrosis and had to undergo further surgery, staying in hospital for a whole month. Despite trying to make contact with the Turkish company to find out if she was entitled to claim compensation, they initially ignored her calls and emails. This highlights the critical importance of finding out first what recourse you have in case things go wrong.

There was also the case involving Alison Chapman in 2012 whose surgical wound opened following a breast enhancement operation in Tunisia. Following the operation Ms Chapman was disappointed with the results and returned to the clinic in Tunisia in order for corrections to be made.

However upon returning home to the UK she was in severe pain and the wound burst open. She then had to undergo two further corrective operations in the UK and was ultimately awarded £12,000 in compensation from her credit card provider. She hopes that her story will act as a warning to anyone considering surgery abroad.

Steps to minimise the risk of negligence

As with any surgical procedure, there is always a risk of something going wrong, so people need to be even more careful about this when deciding whether to go abroad.

If things do go wrong and you don't receive adequate treatment then there can be emotional, financial and sometimes even physical scars to deal with. It is therefore extremely important to ask the following questions before deciding on surgery in the sun and signing on that dotted line:

  • • Obtain full details of the surgeon's training and qualifications
  • • Ask about the after care package and what specifically it includes, for example are there any time limits on the recovery period?
  • • What are the local standards of anaesthesia and nursing care? What credentials do these providers hold?
  • • Ask whether there are doctors and nurses at the clinic who speak English?
  • • What happens if you return to the UK and something goes wrong?
  • • Is there a complaints procedure and is adequate insurance in place to cover your circumstances?
  • • If the surgeon acts negligently, who would you pursue to obtain compensation?

UK doctors have an ethical duty to take out adequate insurance or professional indemnity cover so that patients can be compensated for any negligent cosmetic treatment.

However outside the UK, patients' chances of being able to claim compensation depends on where they are being treated and on what basis. For example in Germany and France it is mandatory for doctors to have insurance, whereas in Italy and Estonia it is voluntary.

All of the above does not mean that surgery abroad should be completely avoided; it is just a case of highlighting the importance of carrying out careful research beforehand. Otherwise the saving of a few thousand pounds and a fortnight in the sun may not look like such a good deal.


About the author

Laura Reaney  photoLaura Reaney is a litigator within Spencers Solicitors Complex Injury team. Laura has extensive experience in dealing with claimants that have suffered serious injuries, and works on cases involving medical or cosmetic surgery negligence.

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Paralysed person 'to walk' at the Brazil World Cup

June 12, 2014 at 9:01 AM

As the mother of a son whose main aim in life is to score the winning goal in any football tournament, I can only begin to imagine how the family of a paralysed child would feel if their son or daughter were to be given the chance to take the first kick at this years World Cup.

While this may sound like a fantasy, over the last few months a crack team of scientists led by Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis have been working on achieving exactly this. At the World Cup opening ceremony in Sao Paulo and with the world watching, a paraplegic will leave behind their wheelchair and take to the pitch in a specially designed exoskeleton suit. 


robotic exoskeleton

Can a robotic exoskeleton help the paralysed walk again?

The World Cup opening ceremony will be the first public demonstration of the new exoskeleton technology and offers exciting prospects for the future of paralysis victims.

Exoskeletons - meaning 'outer skeleton' - are designed to enable those with lower limb disabilities to walk upright without using crutches.

The exoskeleton consists of a robotic suit which transmits brain signals from a cap worn on the patient's head to a computer which is contained in a backpack. The computer then decodes the signals and sends these to the legs. These are then translated into commands for the exoskeleton to start moving. A battery in the backpack allows for around two hours' use as the robotic suit is powered by hydraulics.

"If all goes as planned" wrote Alejandra Martins for the BBC, "the robotic suit will spring to life in front of almost 70,000 spectators and a global audience of billions of people."

Implications for the Injured

Working in a serious injury team, I see first hand the effect a catastrophic injury has on people. The injured person's life, and the lives of their family is rarely the same again and any medical technology that can provide some form of improvement to their quality of life should be encouraged.

The implications of the exoskeleton technology are vast. While Neuroprosthetics are beginning to show promise for people hampered by incapacitated or missing limbs, this technology will provide hope and possible self-reliance to stroke victims, car crash survivors, injured soldiers and many others.

Whilst the exoskeleton is still currently at the development stage, the hope is that with such a high profile launch further funding can be unlocked to advance the process of developing the technology for wider use.

"We want to galvanise people's imaginations" says Miguel Nicolelis, the Brazilian neuroscientist at Duke University who is leading the Walk Again Project's efforts to create the robotic suit. "With enough political will and investment, we could make wheelchairs obsolete".

Nicolesis has spent years of research developing the principle that the brain can rewire itself to adapt to new circumstances. The robotic suit works on the basis that the mind will treat the exoskeleton as an extension of the physical body.

Impression of robotic exoskeleton taking the first kick

 

Innovation on an International Stage

What better place is there to demonstrate the possibilities of the new technology than the World Cup? The finer details are not confirmed as yet but the speculation is that someone will be chosen from a group of around ten paraplegic men and women to perform the 'miracle' of walking and kicking the football. What a wonderful opportunity to be part of a historic step forward in the progression of innovative science.

I would lay odds on there being more than a few tears amongst the spectators. 


About the author

Carol Wildman  photoCarol Wildman is a Paralegal within Spencers complex injury department. Carol assists the serious injury team with catastrophic injury cases and medical negligence claims.

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