Monday 22 December 2014

Student who suffered brain injury in car accident on way to carol service settles case for €6.8m

Published 01/07/2014 | 12:33

A MUSIC student who suffered a devastating brain injury after her car was rear ended on the way to a school Christmas carol service has settled her High Court action for €6.8million.

Hazel McGarrigle, who was a masters student of the Cork School of Music five years after the accident still remains minimally conscious, cannot speak or walk and needs 24 hour care. Ms McGarrigle's visual perception is also restricted and she can only follow pictures, but her hearing is intact.

Approving the € 6.8million settlement Mr Justice Sean Ryan said it was a very satisfactory  settlement and he praised the "heroism" of her family in the way they have looked after her.

He said because the court had to concentrate on the money and figures did not mean it did not realise the huge impact of "a tragedy like  this"  on a family. He said Hazel had suffered and her career had been shattered, but the settlement was" a very satisfactory outcome to a terrible tragedy."

Ms McGarrigle now aged 30 of Drumstevlin House, Donegal town had sued through her father Noel McGarrigle the driver of the other car Breda Broderick of Sycamores, Classes Lake, Ovens, Co Cork as a result of the accident at Carrr's Hill, Carrigaline, Co Cork on December 15, 2009.

It was claimed that Ms McGarrigle was lawfully driving her car when the other car collided with the rear of the vehicle propelling Ms McGarrigle's car in to a vehicle directly in front. At the time Ms McGarrigle was second in line to turn out on to a main road when her car was hit from behind and pushed in to the car in front.

The case was before the court for assessment of damages only as liability was conceded.

Eugene Gleeson SC said Ms McGarrigle suffered devastating inter cranial injuries  and was taken to Cork University Hospital intensive care. A CT scan showed a right sided subdural haematoma with bleeding in the brain.  She was in 2010 airlifted to Letterkenny General Hosptial and her family began looking after at home after that. Counsel  said while Ms McGarrigle was unfortunate in the accident she has been singularly fortunate in the family she has. He said her devoted parents and two brothers have cared for Hazel ever since.

Hazel's mother Noeleen McGarrigle told the court during a four day hearing  her daughter was absorbed in music and and loved it from an early age. She planned to  to go on to do a PhD in music. At the time of the accident she was researching a contemporary French composer as part of her work.

Her mother told the court she had talked to Hazel one hour before the accident. She said her daughter worked with a primary school and was on the way there to conduct the carol service.

"It was a very different phonecall over an hour later . They did not give us many details. We gathered it was very bad and we drove to Cork, " she said.

The McGarrigle family stayed by Hazel's bedside and twice Mrs McGarrigle said they were told their daughter might not make it.

Hazel now she said turns her head when she hears a member of her family and recognises voices and smiles.

"We keep talking to her . She was totally absorbed in music . It was all she wanted to do," she added.

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