A TV presenter who volunteered to take the part of a human crash-test dummy while hosting a BBC science show is suing the broadcasters for £3.7m after he was badly injured.
Jem Stansfield claims he lost his “stellar” broadcast career after suffering life-changing injuries while filming BBC popular science show Bang Goes the Theory.
The presenter was strapped into a specially designed rig and catapulted along a track and into a metal pole to mimic the effect of hitting a lamppost in a car.
But claiming he suffered disabling whiplash, brain damage and psychological scars from the impact, he is now suing the BBC for £3.7m at the High Court.
The 46-year-old’s claim is mainly based on lost earnings as he says he could have gone on to earn as much as Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.
The BBC agree he is due a payout, but are still vigorously disputing the nature of Mr Stansfield’s injuries and the amount of damages claimed.
The court heard that the presenter’s lawyers say he was injured whilst filming an episode for series two of Bang Goes the Theory, as he and his co-hosts took a hands-on approach to “investigating the science behind the headlines”.
The BBC show stated that the episode feature “engineer Jem becomes a crash test dummy to discover how much g-force his body can take”.
In the broadcast footage of the crash test process, Mr Stansfield is heard saying he feels “a little nervous”, before adding: “Tests make me confident I will walk away, but what we don’t know is how my body will behave.”
His cart is then seen slamming into the metal pole and his head jerking back before he announces: “There’s definitely an impact.”
In court documents, his lawyers say the stunt left him with “soft tissue injury to the structures around the spine” as well as a “subtle brain injury” caused by the shock “the repeated acceleration/deceleration forces generated by the crash-tests”.
Other alleged effects of the accident include dizziness, psychological damage and a possible carotid or vascular injury, with medics describing his condition as “complex”.
In court documents, Mr Stansfield’s lawyers state his pre-accident medical history was “unremarkable” and the current chances of further significant recovery are “poor”.
They claim that without the effects of the crash testing he could now be earning up to £500,000 per year, and that he had dazzling prospects as his talents spanned creativity, writing, presenting and engineering.
The accident cost him the “stellar” future which lay ahead of him. But for the injury, he would have ended up carving out his own unique niche, breaking into the US market and developing lucrative roles as a “brand ambassador”.
His lawyers say he would have been earning at the same level as top TV stars, adding that “Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond…may provide a good source of comparison”.
But his crash testing injuries have taken a heavy toll on his energy and working life, London’s High Court heard.
The court heard that the issue of liability in the case has already been settled, with the BBC agreeing to pay Mr Stansfield two-thirds of the full value of his claim after a discount for his own “contributory negligence”.
However, the corporation is still vigorously disputing the impact and degree of Mr Stansfield’s injuries and how much he is due in compensation.
The BBC’s QC, Jonathan Watt-Pringle, said it contests Mr Stansfield’s case and “require him to prove that the unusual array of symptoms of which he complains arose from disabling organic brain damage, vestibular or whiplash injuries and/or disabling psychological injuries in the crash tests”.
In a brief pre-trial hearing this week, his barrister, Marcus Grant, told Judge Victoria McCloud that the presenter is still suffering badly from the injuries he sustained filming the stunt.
“Mr Stansfield struggled to fight on after the accident and then went off work and into a cycle of decline in 2014. There is acceptance on all sides that he is a very unwell man,” he said.
The case will return to court for a full trial of the damages claim at a later date.