The family of a Carrick-on-Suir woman, who suffered “catastrophic” brain injuries in a road accident five years ago, have spoken of their relief that their daughter’s financial future has been secured thanks to the €7m High Court settlement she was awarded last week.
The settlement was approved to Valerie Bourke, aged 26, of Mill House, Ash Park, Carrick-on-Suir, who sustained irreparable brain damage following the collision with a truck on the Carrick-on-Suir to Waterford Road in 2006.
It was one of the highest personal injuries settlements every recorded.
Valerie is daughter of Catherine and Kieran Bourke, who is a Fianna Fail councillor on Carrick-on-Suir Town Council. Since the accident, she has required round-the-clock care.
Ms Bourke sued, through her mother, the driver of the truck, Patrick Holden of Sream, Aglish, Carrigeen, Co. Waterford and the truck’s owner, Stefan Gilchrist of Clonmore, Piltown, arising from the crash in May 13, 2006.
The settlement, which includes a €4 million award for care in the future, was against both defendants. Liability had been conceded and the case was before the High Court last Friday for assessment only. Ms Bourke was not in court.
Outlining the case before Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill, senior counsel Michael McGrath, for Ms Bourke, said she was born deaf but, despite her difficulties, had engaged fully with society and completed her applied Leaving Certificate and a one-year business plc course.
She was looking forward to her life as an independent young person, but all of that changed as a result of the crash, he said.
Ms Bourke was driving her red Nissan Micra when the truck driven by Mr Holden turned across her path at the Old Schoolhouse junction on the road between Carrick-on-Suir and Waterford, counsel said.
It was alleged the truck was driven in a dangerous manner and on to the incorrect side of the road into Ms Bourke’s car.
Ms Bourke suffered a catastrophic brain injury and remained in hospital for a year. As a result of her injuries, she lost all independence of living, was wheelchair-bound and would require total nursing care indefinitely, the court was told.
She could no longer use sign language to communicate and needed round the close care from her parents and carers in a purpose build extension to their home.
While she had made some progress, a clinical neuropsychologist had formed the opinion that her prospects for the future remain severely limited.
After the hearing, her father Kieran told reporters he was relieved his daughter’s financial future has been secured.
He said the family had to finance everything themselves up to the day of the High Court settlement was awarded and had found it very difficult. They had an excellent care system set up in their home and were lucky they were able to handle most of it. “I can die happy knowing that from a financial point of view she is going to be taken care of,” he said.
Mr Bourke said the end of the High Court case gave the family closure over what happened on May 13, 2006. “It means we can start getting on with things. We can get on with our lives,” he said.