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Your guide to cerebral palsy

Young boy with cerebral palsy

When your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy it is understandable that you want to know how this happened, if anyone was to blame, and what the future holds.

Cerebral Palsy may range from mild, causing some physical impairment, to severe resulting in both severe physical and cognitive difficulties.  We know that having a baby with a disability will have a life changing effect.  The life that your family now faces is not the one that you planned.

As experienced clinical negligence lawyers, we recognise this. We combine specialist knowledge and skills with a sympathetic and sensitive approach to investigating your child’s case.

Investigating a clinical negligence case can be a long, complex process as we will need to instruct experts including obstetricians, neonatologists, and paediatric neurologists to review the treatment that was given.  We will be with you throughout this process, making sure you understand what is being done and why.  Some families find this demanding but we will be there to support you.

A successful claim, however, would mean your family will be able to access the support you will need throughout your child’s life.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a condition of the nervous system affecting motor abilities such as balance, movement, posture and co-ordination, and which could also result in learning difficulties.

Some children can experience difficulties with verbal communication, eating and swallowing, display a curvature of the spine or muscle stiffness in one side of the body, or be unable to walk.

The causes of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a neurological injury which occurs when a baby suffers an injury to the brain. This can be before, during or shortly after birth.  Not all children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy will have had poor medical treatment.

However, there are a number of potential causes that may be due to sub-standard medical care, though identifying the precise cause of cerebral palsy can be challenging.

What are the common medical failings that result in cerebral palsy claims?

  • Lack of oxygen during the birth - caused by a delay in delivery
  • Failure to diagnose or treat low blood sugar (Hypoglycaemia)
  • Failure to diagnose or treat jaundice (Kernicterus)

Did you know....

  • 1,800 babies - or 1 in 400 - are born with cerebral palsy each year.             (Heel and Toe Charity)

  • 5,087 maternity claims for injury were made against the NHS between 2000 - 2010.

Of these, 10.65% – or 542 of all maternity-related compensation claim cases against the NHS - were for clinical negligence that led to cerebral palsy during  birth.               (NHS Litigation Authority report, “Ten Years of Maternity Claims.”)

  • Cerebral Palsy affects between 2 - 2.5 people in every 1,000 in the population.               (Scope Focusing On CP)

Cerebral palsy – do you have an actionable  claim?

To prove a clinical negligence claim has caused cerebral palsy, we must have evidence to show that actions taken by a doctor, nurse or midwife:

  • Were directly or indirectly responsible for harm or injury arising from complications before, during or after the birth, or
  • There was a failure to take action before, during or after the birth, which could have prevented birth complications.

A critical part of investigating your case is a rigorous examination of all medical records, investigations, scans and traces during your pregnancy, labour, delivery, and in the neonatal period.  We will listen carefully to you and take a detailed statement from you and your partner. The next step is to instruct independent medical experts to look at the treatment that was given, to review any other possible causes for the cerebral palsy, and to assess whether, with proper treatment, the brain injury could have been avoided.

What happens next...

If it can be clearly shown that there are good grounds for making a clinical negligence claim, we will send the doctor, trust or hospital involved a detailed letter setting out the basis of your case. They will have four months to respond to this. If they accept liability at the outset, we will seek to obtain an interim payment so you can get the help and support your family needs straightaway.  If they deny liability, we will prepare the case to go to court and trial if that is necessary.

Compensation...

If the defendant accepts responsibility or if your case is successful in court, the amount of compensation awarded is calculated based on the extent of your child’s disability, what your child’s needs will be for the rest of their life, the cost of care, equipment and accommodation and loss of earnings.

How Your Legal Friend can help you..

We know that it can be hard to take the decision to seek legal advice.   However as experienced clinical negligence specialists, we also know that families need to find answers and ensure that the people responsible are held to account. We can help you find out “why the system has failed you and what went wrong.”

From the first time we discuss your particular circumstances and throughout an often long process, Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring we protect the interests of you and your child, while diligently guiding and supporting you every step of the way.