Winifred's palace payout battle

PENSIONER Winifred Bucknall is today battling for compensation after a horrific fall at Buckingham Palace – even though the Queen's staff allegedly told her she was not entitled to make a claim.

By Georgina James

PENSIONER Winifred Bucknall is today battling for compensation after a horrific fall at Buckingham Palace – even though the Queen's staff allegedly told her she was not entitled to make a claim.

Mrs Bucknall, who is in her 80s, suffered severe bruising on the side of her face and could not cry because the pain was unbearable.

Palace officials allegedly told Mrs Bucknall, who spent three weeks in hospital, she could not claim against the palace because all royal premises were exempt from liability.

However, The Evening Star today brought a smile to the face of Mrs Bucknall, who lives in Old Felixstowe, when we told her she WAS entitled to claim compensation for her injuries.

A spokesman for Accident Line, personal liability specialists, said: "It is not true to simply say that a claim cannot be made against Buckingham Palace. This is a red herring.

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"Although liability in this case would be complicated, it could depend on whether the arrangements at the Palace were unsafe. But we confirm that Mrs Bucknall is at liberty to pursue her claim."

Mrs Bucknall said: "That is wonderful news and I will definitely take my case further now."

Once back at home, Mrs Bucknall telephoned a claims management company, who confirmed what the palace had allegedly told her.

Buckingham Palace did not wish to comment about the incident.

The accident happened in September 2000 while Mrs Bucknall was on a tour of Buckingham Palace, a visit she had been looking forward to for more than a year.

Mrs Bucknall was in the picture gallery when she was knocked over. She was admiring a portrait of King George V when someone grabbed the barrier rope, which keeps people back from the exhibits, and swung it with force. The rope crashed against the base of her spine, throwing her backwards.

She said: "The impact of the rope sent me tumbling backwards and my head hit the floor with an almighty bang. As I tried to get up, my heel became caught in the rope and pulled me backwards.

"My face smashed against a thick marble-topped cabinet and sent me crashing to the floor again.

"The pain was unbearable but I couldn't cry as my face hurt too much."

Mrs Bucknall was left severely shocked and traumatised by the fall, which left her face looking like a rainbow.

"I felt ashamed and my face felt dirty," she said. "One side was completely black and yellow.

"Even after three weeks I still felt embarrassed and was aware of people staring at me. The bruising came up straight away and it was five weeks before the last bruise disappeared."

Mrs Bucknall was taken to the Billiard Room, where two members of the St John Ambulance attended to her and offered to take her to hospital.

"I didn't want to go to hospital and cause my family any inconvenience, I just wanted to go home," she said.

"All I wanted was to lay down and rest my head on a pillow and protect it, but I was just placed on a bed upright.

"I had no pillow and wasn't even offered a drink – I had to ask for one.

"I had such a headache and couldn't see properly. I could hardly move and my backside was really sore."

Three weeks after the incident at Buckingham Palace, Mrs Bucknall collapsed in her home at Felixstowe and was taken to hospital, where she stayed for three weeks.

She said: "The doctors said there was no doubt that my condition had been a direct result of my fall.

"They said that my body was in a deep state of shock. My head had taken a severe blow and I was ordered to rest."

Mrs Bucknall believes that since the accident her health has not been the same and that her eyesight has deteriorated rapidly.

Although Mrs Bucknall's accident was recorded at the time and her details taken, she has never received a letter from Buckingham Palace asking her how she is.

She said: "I think they could have offered me some sort of help or at the very least an apology."

Accident Line advises

accident victims to go directly to specialist solicitors for advice not to unregulated claims companies.

Accident Line is the only scheme endorsed by the Law Society for referring the public direct to specialists, who will give an initial interview free of charge.