Introduction

It is already an incredibly difficult time for every parent who has received a diagnosis of cerebral palsy for their child. Some parents may want to look at the reasons behind their child’s diagnosis, especially if there were complications or difficulties during the pregnancy or birth. It can be devastating to learn that an act or omission of treatment by the hospital has lead to significant and life changing injuries for a child. Where a child has been injured due to the negligence of the hospital, compensation can be obtained which can provide essential funds to ensure the child has the most meaningful life possible.

One option available to parents who have concerns about the treatment their child received, is to write a formal complaint letter to the relevant hospital or health authority. If you are not satisfied with the response, often the next step is to find a specialised, experienced and most importantly, an understanding medical negligence solicitor to advise you of your options. Often, the next step at this stage, will be to investigate whether it is possible to make a claim on behalf of the child.

The Test

In order to bring a successful claim for medical negligence, we have to be able to prove the following:

  1. That the medical professionals who treated the child owed them a duty of care and
  2. That they breached that duty of care by following a course of action that is not supported by a reasonable body of medical opinion (this is known as “breach of duty”); and
  3. That as a result of the breach of duty, the child suffered injury and loss (this is known as “causation”).

In practical terms, proving this will involve input from a number of experienced and qualified experts who will provide an opinion on whether the child’s injuries are the result of negligent treatment. With cerebral palsy cases, there can often be complex issues which arise and the cases can take years to reach a conclusion and you will need the guidance and support of an experienced and approachable solicitor to ensure you fully understand the process.

CerebralPalsy.org.uk summarise:

“Cerebral palsy claims need the touch of expert solicitors. The challenges dictate that only the experienced and dedicated will reach the successful conclusion. You and your family deserve the best possible outcome” [i]

Below, are some of the points you should consider when choosing a solicitor and what kind of service you should expect from your solicitor.

1. Experience

Brain injuries can manifest themselves in numerous different ways, ranging from cerebral palsy (which is a general term encompassing neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination) to behavioural, cognitive or emotional problems. Cerebral palsy claims for children in particular are especially complex as the extent of the injury may not yet be known until the child begins to develop and grow. It is important you choose a solicitor who has experience dealing with child brain injury claims and can understand fully the child’s injury and its effects as a whole so that they can ensure you receive the correct level of compensation to assist the child throughout their lifetime.

It may be helpful to consider the firm’s accreditation and awards. Bolt Burdon Kemp are recommended solicitors by the Child Brain Injury Trust and Headway (a charity supporting people affected by acquired brain injuries) and are accredited by both APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) and the Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme.

2. Client Care

As a minimum, you should expect excellent and practical legal advice as your child’s claim progresses. With child brain injury cases, the claims can often run for a number of years whilst expert evidence is gathered and your child grows up. Often, lots of information will also need to be gathered from the family. For example, evidence will be needed from the parents as to the amount and types of care they provide to the injured child. Often, bringing up a child with cerebral palsy can mean significant cost e.g. treatment/therapies/travel and it is important that evidence is obtained relating to the financial impact of looking after a child with a brain injury.

It is important to find a solicitor who you are able to build up a good rapport with and who you feel comfortable speaking to. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we understand that the types of information you may be asked to provide in pursuing a claim can be of a sensitive and personal nature and we abide by an ethos of friendliness and approachableness when dealing with our clients. Our dedicated child brain injury team will provide you with a direct email address, work and mobile number to ensure that we are always contactable whenever our clients need us.

3. Additional Services

The main goal of litigation is to obtain a compensation award so that the child is able to live a fulfilled and happy life as possible. However, there are also a number of important practical considerations along the way to obtaining compensation that your solicitor should be able to advise you on. The following are examples of the types of additional services that experienced cerebral palsy/child brain injury solicitors should be able to advise you on:

Education

As your child grows up and starts to attend nursery or school, you may need guidance and advice on the types of assistance available to your child within their educational setting. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, as part of your child’s claim, we are able to advise and assist parents on applying for Education and Health Care Plans (‘EHC Plans’). In summary, the plans are created with the assistance of the Local Authority to provide additional support to children with special educational needs. For example, the EHC Plan may provide for one to one tuition time during school or provide for the child to have a ‘buddy’ in place. For more information on EHC Plans, please read our blog: At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we have two qualified Special Educational Needs Advisors who are able to offer guidance and support to reduce the impact of your child’s brain injury on their ability to learn.

Deputyship 

Your solicitor should be able to advise you on your options should your child receive a large compensation award and not be in a position to manage their own financial affairs once they reach the age of 18. It is likely a Deputy will be appointed by the Court to take over responsibility of managing the funds and ensuring they are used appropriately to assist the child in the best way possible. For example, a Deputy may hire carers, be responsible for buying assistive equipment or seeking expert input. A Deputy may be either a family member or professional Deputy or a mixture of the two. 

Personal Injury Trust 

If your child is likely to be in a position to manage their own financial affairs at the age of 18, your solicitor should be able to advise you on setting up a Personal Injury Trust. In summary, the Trust is administered by either family members or professionals or a mixture of the two. The Trustees will be responsible for ensuring the Trust funds are used in the best interests of the child. The child may be able to revoke the Trust on turning 18. One benefit to having the Trust in place, is that the money contained in the Trust account will not be taken into consideration for the purposes of calculating means tested benefits. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we have successfully advised and set up numerous Personal Injury Trusts for our child brain injury clients.

Discovering your child has cerebral palsy can be life changing and finding out that this could have been avoided, can be devastating.  Where a child has been injured due to negligence, they are entitled to recover compensation to try as best as possible to put them back in a position they had been if the negligence had not occurred.