As solicitors who regularly act on behalf of children suffering from cerebral palsy, we are often asked by parents how a clinical negligence claim for their child might be funded. Understandably, this is an important issue for families who are already coping with their child’s additional needs and do not have the resources to fund a costly legal claim.
However, there can be great benefits to bringing a claim. In successful cases, the compensation typically provides the child with a measure of financial security together with access to privately funded specialist equipment, therapies and adapted accommodation.
Fortunately, Legal Aid funding can still be obtained for clinical negligence claims brought on behalf of children who have been severely disabled by neurological (brain) injury either before their birth or in the first 8 weeks of their life (if the child is born prematurely before 37 weeks gestation the 8 week period begins from the date of what would otherwise have been the 37th week of pregnancy). This encompasses the majority of cerebral palsy cases, which relate to brain damage sustained during a child’s birth or in the early neonatal period.
As a first step, parents are advised to establish whether their child is eligible for this Legal Aid funding. Firms of solicitors, such as Kingsley Napley, which are permitted by the Legal Aid Agency to undertake legal aid funded clinical negligence claims, are able to assist with checking the child’s eligibility and making an application for Legal Aid funding for the claim.
Sometimes, however, a child develops cerebral palsy as a result of a brain injury at a later stage; for example, as a result of a childhood illness or an infection such as meningitis. Parents may wish to bring a claim relating to the medical treatment that their child received, if they are concerned that negligence by a medical practitioner or hospital led to the brain injury. For these cases, Legal Aid funding is not usually available. This is because of changes to legal aid legislation which came into force in 2013.
Where Legal Aid funding is not available, solicitors may offer other forms of funding for a medical negligence claim including through a legal expenses insurance policy or a Conditional Fee Agreement (“CFA”).
Methods of funding for a clinical negligence claim can be complicated and it is important that parents are aware of the available options and get advice about the pros and cons of the different funding types at the outset.