A disabled holidaymaker who suffered such severe crush injuries to her feet when they were trapped when using a wheelchair lift that she had to have a toe amputated has received compensation with the help of her husband’s trade union.

The 52-year-old from Kent had just embarked on a holiday with her husband and two sons on a narrow boat hired from an organisation which specialises in boating holidays for wheelchair users.

They were only 20 minutes into what was supposed to be a week-long holiday cruising from the River Severn to Stratford Upon Avon when the MS sufferer’s feet were crushed under the lip of the deck by the lift.

Toe had to be amputated after accident

Although her husband quickly lowered the lift, her injuries were so severe that her big toe on her right foot had to be amputated and she needed metal pins inserted in her left foot.

She also suffered injuries to her other toes meaning her mobility has been further affected.

The degenerative nature of MS means it is difficult for the woman to establish how much her mobility has been affected but since the accident she is no longer able to use a zimmer frame whilst she carries out voluntary work at a local school and instead must now use her wheelchair.

Following the accident, her husband, a Unite the Union member, instructed the union’s lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a claim for compensation.

Thompsons argued that the organisation should have ensured that the lift was safe for use.

The holiday operator admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for £20,000.

Safety checks should have been made

The woman said: “We were just a few minutes into our holiday when the unthinkable happened. We chose the holiday because of the organisation’s reputation in providing holidays for the disabled. The boats are specially adapted for wheelchair users, with lifts and hoists and other features. We trusted the organisation to ensure the lifts were safe to use and never imagined that something designed to assist me could result in me suffering such horrific injuries.”

Peter Kavanagh from Unite the Union added: “It is difficult to comprehend how an organisation that specialises in wheelchair accessible boats did not, apparently, test the lift to check it was fitted correctly. Although we would not have wanted our member’s wife to suffer such a serious injury in this way, Unite is pleased to have been able to support her in her claim for compensation, which shows the value of the union’s extended free legal service for members’ families.”

Dominique Garland from Thompsons Solicitors said: “This family were looking forward to a holiday cruising the River Avon but our client ended up hospitalised instead. This organisation would have found it substantially cheaper, both financially and in terms of its reputation, to make simple safety checks than to have to pay such a substantial sum of compensation.”