With more than 15 years’ experience winning personal injury cases, Gerard Stilliard is head of personal injury strategy and is based in Thompsons Solicitors’ London office.
His national responsibilities include developing policy on personal injury litigation strategy, working on campaign initiatives and ensuring best practice across Thompsons’ personal injury work. Gerard works closely with trade unions, industry groups and the teams of dedicated lawyers in Thompsons’ offices who specialise in handling accident and disease claims.
Before being appointed as head of personal injury strategy, Gerard dealt with many hundreds of successful accident at work claims and disease claims, working from several of Thompsons' offices. In particular, he ran high-value accident cases for victims of serious injuries and for bereaved families. He also ran many successful industrial disease claims including cases relating to industrial deafness, vibration injuries, work-related upper limb disorders, skin diseases, respiratory conditions and work-related stress injuries.
His main areas of expertise are in complex employers’ liability cases, especially those involving uniformed workers including firefighters, prison officers and paramedics.
The main injuries covered involve serious trauma including amputation, spinal and brain injury, disease including work-related neck and upper limb disorders (WRULDs), severe problems created by hand and arm vibration at work (HAVS) and severe psychiatric injury especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and work-related stress.
His main task is to ensure that, in every office and branch of Thompsons Solicitors, the firm maintains its fiercely proud tradition of the highest standard of litigation in defence of the rights of people injured at work and elsewhere.
Gerard achieves this by collaborating with colleagues, both in the firm and externally, to lead the development of Thompsons’ personal injury strategy, to ensure that the firm provides a service of the highest quality to clients and that Thompsons remains at the cutting edge of developments. This includes developing strategy as a claimant-side director of the Claims Portal.
Gerard says the best thing about working for Thompsons is knowing that the firm is “always on the right side of the argument!” He adds: “Unlike other firms, we refuse to compromise on our principles and we work only for those injured or mistreated at work. That allows you to feel that you are contributing to something special.”
In his spare time Gerard enjoys the theatre, literature, supporting Everton FC and spending time with his partner and three young sons.
GERARD’S CASE EXPERIENCE
Gerard is currently representing the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster of June 2017.
He has previously been involved in three major cases involving the deaths of firefighters. A particularly important victory was the case of Wembridge and others v ESFRS (2013), a claim for several injured firefighters and the widow of one fatally injured fire service worker which arose from the Marlie Farm explosives incident of 2006 (Wembridge and others v East Sussex FRS (“Marlie Farm”)).
He also represented the bereaved families in Shears and Bannon v Hampshire FRS (“Shirley Towers”). This case involved the deaths in 2010 of firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears who died tackling a tower block blaze.
In Gerard’s case of Faust v LFEPA (“Bethnal Green Road”) he represented the widow of Bill Faust, one of two firefighters who tragically died in 2004 fighting a basement fire.
In the case of Marrion and others (“The London 3” – firefighter pension judicial review case) - In this case the Court of Appeal ruled in 2009 that changes to guidance to the Firefighters Pension Scheme that enabled fire brigades to sack disabled and badly injured firefighters without a pension or redundancy payment, were unfair.
R v LFEPA ex parte Callaghan – Court of Appeal firefighter pension case.The FBU's legal challenge to the government over cases of age discrimination in the 2015 Firefighters' Pension Scheme passed a vital hurdle after a court ruled in May 2017 that there are grounds for an appeal.
Gerard also helped a railway worker, who was required to work in a dangerous location near a high speed line, after he slipped and fell under a train. He suffered serious injuries and underwent a below the knee amputation on one of his legs. The defendant’s insurers denied liability but, after High Court proceedings were issued, eventually settled the claim. Gerard recovered a significant six figure sum in compensation for this client to recognise his injuries and compensate him for loss of earnings and pension, and for the costs of care and home alterations.
Gerard also secured compensation for another railway worker who, while working on the track, was struck by a train and suffered a serious brain and head injury which caused him loss of function, memory lapses and a change of personality. Liability was denied by the two defendants but the claim was eventually settled for a seven figure sum, reduced for contributory negligence.
Gerard is accredited as an Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) senior litigator.
Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: “The POA has a long-standing relationship with Thompsons and Gerard Stilliard has been instrumental in driving the union’s work forward, providing technical advice, support and legal representation to our membership and national executive committee.
“In his capacity as folio holder, Gerard has been instrumental in dealing with the unprecedented increase in violence in the workplace, establishing protocols to deal with all aspects from prosecutions, access to justice and compensation. Furthermore, he has led on the issues dealing with the harmful effects of second hand smoke and more recently novel psychoactive substances (NPS). He drives Thompsons’ dedicated union teams to provide excellent service and representation, ensuring members are afforded the best possible representation.”
Les Smith, now retired member and rep for the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), said: “Gerard was supportive, professional and I always felt that he had my best interests at heart. Gerard kept me informed on how my claim was progressing. That was always reassuring.
“When the other side made an offer to settle, Gerard negotiated a higher figure in an 'out of court' settlement, which saved me the grief of having to endure a hearing. That worked in my best interest.
“Gerard was not only professional but he also had just the right level of humour in our regular conversations and communications.
“I was very happy with the service I had from all of the staff at Thompsons Solicitors. I would want to give particular thanks to Gerard for his help, support and professionalism. Great service from everyone. Highly recommended.”
Dave Green, national officer of Fire Brigades Union, said: “The FBU has used the expertise of Thompsons Solicitors for many years now. As the national officer with the legal remit, I am in constant contact with their solicitors working out of the regional offices and also Gerard Stilliard, who I have worked with for many years.
“Gerard has many years of experience working with me and has become very knowledgeable about all aspects of the Fire and Rescue Service. Along with other trusted Thompsons solicitors, Gerard is able to provide me with reliable and speedy responses to a whole range of legal enquiries - from membership queries to collective grievances. Gerard has a clear understanding of the politics of the FBU, and all advice is given with one eye on the wider political environment, which is often very hostile.”
Michael, an FBU member, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Thompsons Solicitors and Gerard Stilliard in particular for the help and support I received with my recent personal injury claim.
“Not only did Gerard secure me a decent out of court settlement but he was on hand on countless occasions throughout the process to offer support and advice in a friendly and patient manner. I can honestly say his help was invaluable.”