Cerebral Palsy Claims
As natural as the process may be, childbirth carries a significant risk. Babies are incredibly fragile and so much can go wrong that can have devastating effects. Sometimes, despite regular monitoring, a baby’s brain does not develop during pregnancy or is damaged during a difficult birth, and there are occasions when this happens despite the best efforts of all medical staff involved. However, if you believe your baby developed cerebral palsy because of negligent care, you may be able to claim compensation for damages.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy (CP) s a condition which affects muscle development and coordination. In the majority of cases, it results from lack of oxygen reaching a baby’s brain while they are still in the womb or during birth. However, it can also result from developmental issues and, in very rare instances, flawed genes.
Cerebral Palsy affects everyone differently. Some may struggle with balance while others have severe muscle spasticity that prevents them from walking unaided, if at all. Although symptoms can be eased temporarily with treatments like physiotherapy, there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy and babies who develop Cerebral Palsy will need support and care in one form or other for the rest of their lives. Cerebral palsy is not progressive – once the brain is damaged, it does not deteriorate further, but symptoms can worsen or change over time.
There are four different types of CP. The most common is spastic, which affects around 70% of people with the condition. This type of CP is characterised by frequent and painful involuntary muscle movements that may show in an awkward way of walking, uncontrollable movements and stiff limbs. Spastic CP results from damage to the part of the brain which controls conscious movements, as well as damage to the pyramidal tracts that pass signals to muscles from the brain.
Athetoid CP is much less typical than spastic CP, affecting around only 10% of people with Cerebral Palsy. Muscles can be either rigid or floppy, and babies with this type of CP frequently have trouble with their feeding. Athetoid CP results from damage to the cerebellum, which affects balance and coordination, and the basal ganglia, which affects eye movements and voluntary motor function.
The third type of CP is Ataxic. This kind is probably the least common type of CP, and it happens when coordination and balance are affected by a damaged cerebellum. It shows in shaky limbs and problems speaking clearly.
The last Cerebral Palsy category is Mixed CP, occurring when more than one area of the brain is damaged, leading to a variety of these symptoms. CP can affect one limb, one side of the body, or all four limbs.
Managing the Risk of Cerebral Palsy
Some babies are at a higher risk of developing Cerebral Palsy. It is the responsibility of the midwife and other obstetric professionals to understand and manage this increased danger. Some babies are at a higher risk of developing Cerebral Palsy. It is the responsibility of the midwife and other obstetric professionals to understand and manage this increased danger.
Babies more at risk include:
- Those born to mothers over 40 and under 20 years old;
- Premature babies with low birth weights;
- A placental abruption, where the placenta separates before the baby is born and blocks the flow of oxygenated blood;
- Infections which are transferred from a mother to baby during birth, such as strep B infections;
- Those who have siblings who had difficult births;
- Those with very overweight mothers.
Negligence can occur when these risks are not monitored. For example, older mothers should be given the option of more frequent antenatal checks to ensure their baby is developing as expected. Babies should be monitored during labour so that any distress is identified quickly and steps can be taken to expedite the birth. Women who are at risk of a difficult birth, either because they have a history of it or a contributing condition such as obesity, should also be monitored more closely than what is typically considered normal in the UK.
The brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy can happen in utero and during delivery, but it can also happen if conditions such as hypoglycemia, meningitis or jaundice are not detected and treated quickly.
All of these risks are accepted by the medical profession. Some can be removed, but others must be managed to avoid negligence. For example, a mother with a strep B infection can take antibiotics so she does not pass the infection on to her baby during childbirth, but the symptoms of a placental abruption need to be investigated quickly and effectively to protect the health of the mother and baby.
Cerebral Palsy Medical Negligence Cases
Figures from the NHS Litigation Authority, the organisation which manages all claims for compensation brought against the NHS, show that although obstetrics accounts for only 10% of all types of claims, the money paid in compensation for pregnancy and birth negligence is more than 45% of all claim payments. This imbalance shows how serious obstetric negligence can be, causing injuries that require a lifetime of care.
Cerebral Palsy Compensation
There have been several recent high profile cases where compensation was awarded to children left with Cerebral Palsy as the result of medical negligence during her birth. A nine-year-old girl in Northern Ireland received a package of compensation that totalled around eight million pounds over the course of her lifetime.
Because the hospital trust accepted responsibility, the solicitor acting on behalf of the parents of the girl was able to secure an interim payment of half a million pounds followed by a lump sum of 1.6 million pounds, with the rest to be paid in instalments as she ages. This figure is extreme, taking into account her catastrophic brain damage and the extent of around-the-clock care she will always require. However high a compensation payment is, our medical solicitors know parents would infinitely prefer their child was healthy and normal.
Another significant compensation payment for cerebral palsy was made in Norfolk to a seven-year-old girl whose mother had a condition that gave her pregnancy a higher than normal risk – a condition which was ignored when test results late in her pregnancy were abnormal.
Compensation is not a “windfall” or a “lottery win” and claimants are not lucky for having been awarded significant sums of money. Compensation is legal and financial recognition that injustice has been done and that, because a trusted medical professional made a mistake or failed in their duty of care, an innocent person has been left with life-altering injuries. Compensation for Cerebral Palsy can cover the expense of:
- medical expenses including physiotherapy and occupational therapy;
- the support of a speech and language therapist;
- lost earnings if a parent has to reduce their working hours or stop work to become their child’s carer;
- mobility aids and the cost of adapting their home to suit their needs;
- special education requirements.
Compensation is carefully calculated to make sure the victim can afford all the specialist care and support they will need so that they can live as full and enjoyable life as possible.
Birth Injury Compensation Claims
In both of the examples given above took years to resolve, and the payments were a mixture of an initial lump sum followed by indexed payments over the course of the child’s life. Cerebral Palsy negligence claims take longer than the average medical negligence claim because of complex nature of the injuries and because the extent of the damage cannot be determined until the child grows and develops.
It is not unusual for complex CP claims to take five or more years. However, as seen in the Northern Ireland case, where the other party accepts liability, then the solicitor acting for the child can request an interim payment of compensation to cover the cost of their immediate needs.
Compensation payments for Cerebral Palsy claims are typically made in the form of a lump sum followed by instalments. The money is paid into a trust, the establishment of which is authorised by the court, and used to pay for expenses associated with the child’s disability. Future payments can be indexed to account for the cost of inflation.
The process for claiming compensation for Cerebral Palsy is the same as for other medical negligence claims. There are four criteria which need to be met for a claim to have legal grounds.
- The patient received negligent care. That is, there were failings by a professional or organisation to appropriately identify and manage risks.
- The negligence caused physical harm to the victim. The majority of successful claims relate to physical pain and suffering. It is difficult to prove mental anguish adequately, particular in a baby, but your solicitor will investigate this if appropriate.
- When compared to the standard of care provided by a similar group of professionals, the other party acted in a way which fell below acceptable standards in that area of medicine. Not only does the claimant have to prove other professionals would consider their level of care substandard, they also have to show that the professionals giving that opinion are being reasonable when they do so.
- The claim is made before the child turns 21 years old. A parent or guardian can start a claim on behalf of their child until that child turns 18. Once they reach their 18th birthday, that person then has until their 21st birthday to start a compensation claim for medical negligence.
Given the nature of disability Cerebral Palsy cases, and the potential requirement of other medical treatment, mobility aids or even alterations to the victim’s home so that they can continue to live there, most start when the child is very young.
Legal advice is to start your claim as early as possible, even if the implications of your child’s injury are not yet able to be diagnosed. The Medical Negligence Experts offers a free, no-obligation consultation with a legal advisor who specialises in this field of law, and who can help answer the initial questions you have about your right to make a Cerebral Palsy claim and how to do so.
Funding a Compensation Claim for Cerebral Palsy
There are several options parents and guardians have if they are claiming compensation on behalf of a child. Cerebral Palsy claims are one of the few types of medical negligence claims where it may be possible to obtain Legal Aid, although not all cases will qualify. Some parents have insurance that will cover the legal cost of their claim, while others may use their own money to pay their legal fees up front. This option is risky, as there is no guarantee of a successful outcome and you could lose your life savings.
More common is to claim using a No Win No Fee* agreement. If your claim qualifies, your solicitor will offer to represent you without accepting any money in advance of obtaining compensation. If you win, you pay them an agreed percentage of your total compensation award as well as a success fee. If your claim is not successful, then you do not have to pay them anything because they will waive their expenses. The other party may seek to reclaim their expenses from you, as is typical with compensation claims, but your solicitor will ensure you have adequate insurance in place to cover that outcome.
No Win, No Fee* claims, also called Conditional Fee Agreements or CFAs, are the most affordable way to claim compensation, particularly if you want to minimise any financial risk to yourself. Talk to us today to find out of you may be eligible to make a No Win, No Fee medical negligence claim.
The Medical Negligence Experts work with leading medical negligence solicitors around the country. Call or contact us online for advice about your circumstances and find out how we can help you. <a
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