It is always difficult to judge what general damages might be awarded in respect of an eye injury where there is still residual vision but a permanent disability.

In a recent case, a 26-year-old man suffered an injury to his left eye caused by a flying chip of metal. He was 29 years old at the date of the award.

After the accident, the eye was irrigated and subsequently he went home. The eye became increasingly red and felt uncomfortable. He attended hospital. Examination revealed a stellate full-thickness laceration to the central cornea measuring 5 mm x 2.5 mm. He underwent surgical repair under local anaesthetic. The wound was difficult to repair and nine sutures were inserted.

The wound healed and the stitches were removed after two months. Prior to the accident, the claimant had good vision in both eyes. Three months after the accident, his unaided vision in the left eye was such that he was only able to see to count his fingers, improving to 6/60 with a pinhole, while acuity in the right eye was 6/5. Ten months after the accident his unaided acuity in the left eye was 6/18. Contact lenses did not significantly improve his sight due to the significant central corneal scarring.

About two years after the accident he underwent full-thickness keratoplasty, although the claimant felt that the graft had not significantly improved his vision. Ten months later his unaided acuity in the left eye was 6/24 improving to 6/12 with a pinhole. A number of sutures remained in place and the claimant had astigmatism of four dioptres.

At the date of trial, the claimant wore spectacles of plain glass in the right eye. The sight of the left eye remained blurred and a few sutures remained in place. He had been away from work for thirty-two weeks and a further three weeks after surgery.

The prognosis was that it was expected that, once all the sutures had been removed, his uncorrected acuity would improve to between 6/9 and 6/12 depending on the residual stigmatism, which was expected to reduce to between one and three dioptres. His corrected acuity was expected to be good, at least 6/9.

The wound from the graft would remain a relatively weak area and as a result he was advised to wear eye protection when undertaking any contact or racquet sports. There was also a risk that he might suffer from spontaneous graft rejection, in which case he might need to be treated with steroids; but persistent corneal oedema and scarring would cause blurred vision and require regrafting. The risk of rejection was low and the graft was expected to remain clear for at least ten to fifteen years.

The award for general damages was £18,500.

Middlesbrough County Court

Fast work

Our Chelmsford office has just settled a case where the accident happened this February, we were instructed in March, made a claim, got an admission, sorted out specials, and settled the case by 10 June, 12 weeks after opening the file.