Firms To Watch: Personal injury and clinical negligence: claimant

A growing presence in Newcastle, the serious injury team at Slater and Gordon  is made up of experienced team members: John Davis and senior associate John Lowther, who came from Smith & Graham in January 2022.

Personal injury and clinical negligence: claimant in North

Armstrong Foulkes LLP

Armstrong Foulkes LLP is a boutique firm based in Middlesbrough exclusively focusing on claimant clinical negligence. Jointly led by the firm’s four key partners, the team supports claimants in a wide variety of claims including surgical and birth complications, medical misdiagnosis, incorrect prescriptions or breaches of duty in care homes. While Ashleigh Holt manages a substantial case load of challenging and high value cases, Joanne Davies was appointed to the AvMA Specialist Clinical Negligence Panel in 2023. Kathryn Watson has a solid post-issue caseload including high value complex medical negligence cases, often in a High Court setting. Drawing on deep experience, Hilton Armstrong consults on all matters.

Practice head(s):

Hilton Armstrong; Joanne Davies; Ashleigh Holt; Kathryn Watson


‘Armstrong Foulkes punches well above its weight. It may be a small team, but the quality of their work is well above the average. There is far more meaningful engagement and strategy input from this firm than most would give.’

‘Kathryn Watson is the consummate professional. She has worked tirelessly on our case and shows care and compassion to all our needs. Her communication with us has been timely and highly effective. She has helped guide and support us through a very difficult time. We have been much impressed by Kathryn’s expertise and the transparency she has shown throughout the process’.

‘Armstrong Foulkes is the pre-eminent firm in Middlesbrough and one of the leading clinical negligence firms in the Northeast. They have a unique service providing experience, empathy and dogged determination. They are well respected by their opponents. The solicitors practising this firm are true specialists in the field and deserve the recognition they receive.’

Work highlights

  • Representing a lady left with significant cognitive deficits following delayed diagnosis of meningo-encephalitis.
  • Representing a private client in high-value issued clinical negligence claim for £1.5m, for delayed diagnosis of subarachnoid haemorrhage, complicated by allegations of contributory negligence made by the Defendant.


Carlisle-based Spencer Knaggs heads up the team at Burnetts which supports claimants in the North from coast to coast with further offices in Cockermouth, Newcastle and Hexham. The team focuses on high value clinical negligence matters as well as serious personal injury cases such as brain and spinal injuries. With a background in midwifery, Michelle Armstrong is particularly well-placed to handle complex birth trauma cases. She is supported in this area by senior associate Jayne McCluskey. While legal director Lynne Hall leads the misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis of dancer sub-team, Paul Brown is the key partner for serious and brain injury claims. Legal director Mick Laffey joined from True Solicitors LLP in January 2023.

Practice head(s):

Spencer Knaggs

Other key lawyers:

Paul Brown; Michelle Armstrong; Lynne Hall; Mick Laffey; Jayne McCluskey


‘A very approachable, knowledgeable, and efficient team. This is the team to which clients seek advice when they have been failed elsewhere.’

‘I work frequently with Lynne Hall and Jayne McCluskey. Both are extremely pleasant to work with, and assiduous in preparing cases and following up on advice. I rate them both very highly.’

‘Burnetts Solicitors represented the family in medical negligence and were successful in winning our case. We were regularly kept up to date with the case throughout the entirety of the case, which arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. Communication was kept at a level that I could understand, and I always felt a strong level of support.’

Work highlights

  • Settled an extremely difficult claim for injuries caused to a mother during a traumatic forceps delivery where the Claimant suffered permanent urinary and bowel continence problems, nerve damage and a psychiatric injury, all of which have impeded her ability to work as a nurse, leading to her having to step down from a specialist practitioner role.
  • Secured judgment on liability for the claimant in a serious spinal injury case, currently valued at £13,000,000.

Hay & Kilner

The Newcastle-based team at Hay & Kilner provides a comprehensive negligence offering handling clinical, medical and dental claims. Practice head Clare Thompson is well-reputed in the region, most notably for her expertise in birth injury claims, involving children who have cerebral palsy as a result of delays in delivery or inadequate neonatal care. Drawing on long-standing experience, key figure David Bradshaw handles complex and substantial clinical negligence claims, with a specialism in acquired brain and spinal injury. While Helen Morland has substantial expertise in cases involving cancer, cerebral palsy, brain and spinal injury, associate Sophie Moss provides clinical dental and medical negligence expertise to her clients in an extensive range of cases. Lauren Hall joined the partner ranks in November 2022.

Practice head(s):

Clare Thompson

Other key lawyers:

Lauren Hall; David Bradshaw; Helen Morland; Sophie Moss


‘A super professional but friendly firm with an excellent reputation locally, I became a client because of a personal recommendation and I’ve not been disappointed.’

‘Helen Morland is reliable, experienced and organised. She is everything I would expect of a top lawyer but she is also supportive, kind and sympathetic. Her communication skills are very good, she was super at keeping me informed but she also listens. I felt valued and respected during the whole process. I can’t praise her enough.’

‘David Bradshaw: huge experience and good judgement in clinical negligence work combined with first-rate client care skills. He is strong on difficult catastrophic cases. Clare Thompson: a real fighter for her clients: she gets excellent results in difficult cases. Helen Morland: a knowledgeable and conscientious solicitor who builds good relationships with her clients.’

Work highlights

  • Advised on the late diagnosis of glaucoma by a hospital trust and optician leading to settlement by both defendants.

Irwin Mitchell

Irwin Mitchell developed a stellar reputation supporting claimants in complex and high-value serious personal injury and clinical negligence claims. While regional head Francesca Mayes continues to lead the personal and serious injury teams in Newcastle, Sarah Coles handles the clinical negligence team together with new partner Samuel Hill who was promoted in May 2022 and has particular expertise in high value Cerebral Palsy claims alongside group action work. The medical negligence team is well-placed to support its clients’ birth injury claims and Article 2 inquest cases. Work place injuries are dealt with by regional lead Ian Toft, supported by senior associate Emma Bell. Newly promoted partner Laura Mcilduff specialises in adult and paediatric cases involving life changing injuries including brain, spinal cord and amputation injuries. Kate Nicklin joined the practice from Slater and Gordon in mid-2024, and Justina Molloy moved to the firm's Newcastle office from it's Cambridge base.

Practice head(s):

Francesca Mayes; Sarah Coles; Samuel Hill; Ian Toft

Other key lawyers:

Emma Bell; Laura Mcilduff; Kate Nicklin; Justina Molloy


‘Samuel Hill has been a constant member of the team who has steered us moving forward to what we hope a successful outcome. He consistently gives his time helping my son understanding issues owing to him having a brain injury and complex orthopaedic surgery. Sam managed to get my son a Court of Protection order to help the family budgeting and expenses We have also been assisted completing complicated benefit forms to claim sickness entitlements for my son’.

‘The standout partner is Fran Mayes. I have been working with her for at least 15 years. She is hugely experienced and knows exactly how to approach a claim. She is very good at dealing with difficult defendants. She is empathetic with her clients. Understands their problems and ensures that their needs are met.’

‘Ian Toft, Helen Jones and Emma Bell combine a wealth of experience with enthusiasm and efficiency in pursuing claims for asbestos induced diseases. Their clients, who mostly have life threatening diseases, are handled sympathetically and are generally very satisfied with the service they receive.’

‘The Irwin Mitchell teams have been, and continue to be, exceptional in every dealing I have had with them over the past 16 years. The individuals to whom I would give special mention are Fran Mayes, Jane Pyrah and Rebecca Maddock from the personal Injury Team. They are dynamic lawyers who are beyond capable, straight talking, approachable, dependable and who ensure they develop quality human relationships with their clients’.

‘The Teams are dedicated to providing the very best outcomes for their clients in word and in practice. They provide support for their clients above and beyond what one could reasonably expect. They are undoubtedly a ‘people firm’, caring equally for their staff as well as clients. The specialist knowledge displayed by individuals is impressive and evident in every team. I can say that the majority of our beneficiaries with a legal claim have been represented and supported by Irwin Mitchell and what I have personally observed over the past 13 of leading the Charity is total satisfaction and praise, especially for Fran Mayes and Jane Pyrah.’

‘Irwin Mitchell Newcastle provide a one stop service for those who have suffered serious personal injury. They have expertise in all fields and a strong focus on rehabilitation. I have acted in several cases involving those with severe brain injury for IM Newcastle. They have managed to maximise each clients claim and turn their lives around. IM has the great advantage of being one of the largest providers of PI for claimants in the country. This gives them a level of expertise that is often not found in other firms.’

‘Sarah Coles, our main contact is always extremely professional, friendly, supportive, and patient in her approach.’

‘The team at Irwin Mitchell are not only very knowledgeable and experienced but they are all extremely client-centred. They strive to support rehabilitation to ensure that the client makes the best possible recovery in addition to accessing the finance that will support them for the rest of their life. They have a good working relationship with all the relevant providers who their clients can access selectively based on their specific needs.’

Sintons LLP

Sintons LLP has established a reputation for expertise in the field of high-value serious injury claims including brain and spinal cord injuries, polytrauma, amputation as well as pediatric injury claims. Andrew McGowan jointly heads up the neurotrauma team with Mark Quigley, supported by Kate Oliver who has recently been appointed as a Deputy District Judge. While Phil Davison is the key partner for general PI claims, supported by David Knipe, the occupational and environmental disease sub-team is led by Paul Woodford. Alistair Elliot was made partner in April 2023. The group continues to provide an extensive pro bono service.

Practice head(s):

Mark Quigley; Phil Davison; Andrew McGowan

Other key lawyers:

Kate Oliver; Alistair Elliot; David Knipe; Adam Burton


‘Sintons solicitors are in the very top bracket of solicitors for whom I work. Without exception their partners and associates are first-class. When I receive Instructions from Sintons I look forward to starting work on them. The work will be well-prepared, of good quality and the Instructions will be sensible. They have moved away from more basic personal injury work, and now concentrate on areas with more complexity and value. They truly are an excellent firm in every way.’  

‘This firm offers consistently excellent service across the board. Whichever fee earner I am instructed by, the case is always extremely well prepared and been maximised to its true potential. All of the fee earners are very knowledgeable, but to a person are approachable and have great communication with their clients. Sintons’ staff appear to have real empathy with their clients, which generates a real team feeling between lawyer and client. Strength and depth in the department is a real selling point. For legal knowledge, tactical acumen and approachable staff, I struggle to look past Sintons.’ 

‘Kate Oliver is a no-nonsense, fierce litigator but she manages to combine it with being empathetic and approachable to clients. She demonstrates a real skill for making the most out of a case, and always gives the impression that she is fighting tooth and nail for her client’s best interests. If I were seriously injured, I’d want Kate in my corner.’  

Work highlights

  • Secured early rehabilitation and interim payments to support claimants needs in a serious road traffic accident resulting in catastrophic injuries resulting in substantial settlement with periodical payments order.
  • Secured early rehabilitation in serious road traffic accident, involving substantial disputes in relation to medical evidence and ongoing symptoms, and allegations of fraud with disclosure of surveillance evidence, successfully challenged and settled at close to full value.
  • Obtained maximum rehabilitation and recovered high level of compensation in serious road traffic accident (hit-and-run) under the MIB untraced driver scheme.

Thompsons Solicitors LLP

Fiona Belgian heads up Thompsons Solicitors LLP’s personal injury and clinical negligence team based in Newcastle. Exclusively acting for claimants, most notably, trade union members, the team supports its clients in dedicated teams. While Clair Wilson handles clinical negligence claims, Trevor Hall is responsible for serious injury and accident claims. Industrial disease claims are handled by Tony Hood and asbestos lawyer Andrew Venn. Helen Cornforth is ‘pragmatic and sensible with a keen eye for detail.’ The team currently acts for the TUC in the Covid Inquiry.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Belgian

Other key lawyers:

Tony Hood; Andrew Venn; Trevor Hall; Clair Wilson; Helen Cornforth


‘The leading trades union firm nationally, Thompsons has a well-deserved reputation for fighting to secure the best outcomes for its clients.’

‘Thompsons North are driven by a real sense of fighting injustice. They will take on hard, borderline cases and run with them, giving clients the benefit of their very extensive experience, and resources. They are very personable and accessible. They do no give up on their clients.’

‘Trevor Hall: His modesty belies his tactical nous and litigation intelligence, which brings about many excellent results for his clients. He is very approachable and understanding of clients’ needs, particularly where there are complex injuries.’

‘Fiona Belgian: Fiona is totally committed to achieving the best results for every client. She cares deeply about how litigation is experienced by the client and will listen very carefully to what the client says, ensuring that this is properly reflected in the way the case is run.’

‘Given their union background, Thompsons have a caring attitude towards clients that is almost unique in the larger firms today. They really do prioritise the client over their own interests. They have a huge body of experience of fighting cutting edge claims that goes back many years which gives them real firepower in negotiations with insurers.’

‘Trevor Hall in Newcastle is top drawer. He marries an easy going manner with a steely core and a willingness to fight tooth and nail when the need arises. Clients like him and he manages difficult opponents really well. Fiona Belgium is hugely experienced and a very safe pair of hands. She knows catastrophic claims backwards and can be relied upon to give an excellent service.’

‘Clair Wilson in Newcastle has great empathy with clients, and a clear understanding of the challenges involved in pursuing a successful clinical negligence claim. She is currently handling a complex obstetric negligence claim, involving alleged delay in diagnosing ante-partum haemorrhage and failure to expedite delivery by caesarean section in the light of a worsening CTG trace, leading to severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy.’

‘Still the go to firm for client care. When asked by family, friends and colleagues for recommendations, this firm is one of the two I give.’

Browell Smith & Co Solicitors Ltd

Based between Newcastle and Annitsford, the ‘incredibly personable and knowledgeable’ personal injury team at Browell Smith & Co Solicitors Ltd ‘delivers a first-class service to clients with a sharp focus on results.’ The team is headed by experienced PI practitioner Dawn Bagley who ‘is bright and an astute tactician’ and is supported by Lindsey Henderson who ‘is hugely experienced in serious clinical negligence injury.’ The group attracts high value and complex clinical negligence work in the North East, assisting clients in matters relating to industrial disease cases, road traffic and workplace accidents.

Practice head(s):

Dawn Bagley

Other key lawyers:

Lindsey Henderson


‘Dawn Bagley is vastly experienced in clinical negligence, inquests and industrial injuries. She goes the extra mile forher clients and the service she and the team at Browells deliver is superb’

‘Very strong and experienced clinical negligence team under Dawn Bagley. Recently jointed by ex-Irwin Mitchell Lindsey Henderson. Competent, friendly and accessible.’

‘The team is incredibly personable and knowledgeable. They attract high value and complex clinical negligence work in the North East.’

Work highlights

  • Advising the parents of a child who died tragically during a surgical procedure due to failure to ensure appropriate equipment available in theatre, representation was also provided at Inquest and in civil proceedings brought against the trust.
  • Advising a family and providing representation at Inquest in relation to claim pursued under the Human Rights Act pertainting to a failure to undertake appropriate Mental Health assessments.
  • Advising Dependant and Estate in relation to a claim in relation to Mesothelioma against a former employer.

True Solicitors LLP

Newcastle-based True Solicitors LLP’s team services its clients out of separate specialist teams dedicated to catastrophic injury claims, RTAs and clinical negligence, that are led by Andrew Mayall and Stephen McCourt. Drawing on longstanding experience, associates Alix Walker who handles a caseload of serious injuries including birth injuries and fatal claims, and Helen Wainwright who specialises in high value claims, are key names. Associate Julian Clark is an APIL accredited senior litigator.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Mayall; Stephen McCourt

Other key lawyers:

Alix Walker; Helen Wainwright; Julian Clark


‘Julian Clark deals mainly with significant brain injury cases and he has significant knowledge of the problems which can be faced in such claims. I find that he is excellent at communicating in a sympathetic yet objective way with relatives of badly injured claimants, in circumstances where a good deal of tact and perhaps even empathy is needed.’

‘A strong team of highly motivated and competent lawyers. They are all enthusiastic and capable. I would feel that my claim would be in safe hands.’

‘Helen Wainwright is bright and experienced. She is a formidable operator. Alix Walker and Stephen Winn are both strong clinical negligence lawyers.’

Work highlights

  • Acted for a client who was seriously injured in an accident at work when a heavy weight fell on them, suffering severed injuries and required ongoing treatment over a number of years, damages of £375,0000 were awarded.
  • Acted for a client who experienced a delay in treatment following misdiagnosis of a testicular injury, leading to infertility.
  • Acting on behalf of a client (minor) who was hit by a car on the way to school and consequently suffered extremely severe injuries, namely bone fractures and a significant brain injury and now requires 24-hour care.

Winn Solicitors

Headed by David Dewar, Winn Solicitors' personal injury team provides the full spectrum of accident management, supporting its clients from providing legal advice to the arrangement of medical treatment, particularly in road traffic accidents, and the replacement of a damaged vehicle. As head of the litigation team, Adam Thorpe addresses technical points of law and advises on a range of issues affecting motor accident claims. While Naveen Sandhu specialises in employer liability, Catherine Walker is a point of reference for medically complicated cases.

Practice head(s):

David Dewar

Other key lawyers:

Adam Thorpe; Naveen Sandhu; Catherine Walker

Work highlights

  • Represented a claimant in a personal injury damages claim involving life changing injuries including transfemoral amputation, multiple orthopaedic injuries, severe scarring and psychological injuries arising from a road traffic accident which settled for the sum of £2.75 mio.
  • Effective use of claim triage to ensure the correct department is assigned to it as efficiently and swiftly as possible, thus reducing case duration time significantly.