Following the recent settlement of one of his cases – where a £9.5 million compensation settlement was agreed for a ten year old boy with Cerebral Palsy – specialist medical negligence solicitor, Alan Mendham, discusses birth injury claims.
What does compensation for a birth injury cover?
When a baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen at birth, the results can be life-changing. With every minute that passes without oxygen, the risk of irreversible brain damage and Cerebral Palsy, increases. For some babies who develop Cerebral Palsy, this can mean they require a lifetime of care, specially adapted accommodation and a host of aids and therapies.
If an injury at birth is caused by medical negligence, the law allows the family to make a claim for compensation. That compensation will include payments for equipment purchased and the care already provided, often by parents who have had to give up their jobs, but also to meet the needs of the child for the rest of their life.
In order to help the family claim the full amount that they are entitled to, we need to obtain a long-term prognosis for the child. This is to give the Court a picture of what the child will need as they grow older, and so that the future needs of the child can be anticipated and provided for.
The claim against Southend Hospital
In this case – against Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – the midwives caring for the mother during labour, did not adequately monitor the wellbeing of the baby. Because of this, they failed to appreciate that he needed to be delivered urgently in order to avoid injury. As a result of the delay in delivery, he suffered from oxygen starvation which caused him to develop Cerebral Palsy.
The settlement provided for a lump sum and annual payments for the rest of the boy’s life. This means that his parents, who had both given up their careers in order to care for him full-time, were paid for the care they had provided in the past and they are now able to purchase a home and have it adapted for all his needs. The lump sum also allows them to purchase the equipment and therapies which he requires. The annual payments mean that he has the security of an income to meet his care needs for life.
How we investigated the claim
In order to investigate the claim, we sought evidence from a number of expert medical professionals. These included a midwife and an obstetrician to determine whether the Hospital had failed to properly care for his mother and a neonatologist, paediatric neurologist and paediatric neuroradiologist to determine the level of disability that had been caused. This was followed by reports from experts in care needs, accommodation, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, assistive technology, educational psychology and physiotherapy to help us calculate how much was required to meet all of his needs throughout his life.
The claim was defended until September 2016 when the Hospital accepted liability for 70% of the full value of the claim. This meant that we were then able to negotiate interim payments to enable his parents to pay for care, buy equipment and introduce therapies whilst investigations and negotiations were ongoing.
Why can a birth injury claim take a long time to resolve?
By the time this claim was settled, the boy was ten years old. This is not unusual in birth injury cases. One of the key issues is that it can take years for the true extent of the injury and disability to appear. This means that, if you settle too early, the claim may be undersettled.
This is especially so with Cerebral Palsy as, in the early years, some of the symptoms can be masked because the child has not yet reached the stage of development where it becomes clear that there is a problem. Until the child starts missing the usual milestones for their age – such as talking or walking for example – it can be hard to obtain a full prognosis. In addition, some symptoms can resemble other disorders that may not have resulted from the birth itself so would not be relevant to the claim; therefore, the child may need to undergo tests and investigations, all of which takes time.
Hospitals need to learn from their mistakes
Throughout our work with people who have suffered because of medical negligence (including these clients) we hear the same plea over and again: they hope that their claim will lead to the hospital learning from their mistakes so that the same does not happen to anyone else.
I am delighted that, in addition to the compensation which means that their son can have his needs met, the Hospital also apologised. This was followed in court by the barrister for the Hospital paying tribute to the selfless dedication of his parents.
If your baby was injured because of a mishandled birth, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. Please speak to our specialists in confidence on 0800 321 3112 or click here to make an enquiry
To read a selection of our birth injury cases, please click here
For more information on Cerebral Palsy, see SCOPE
- Southend Hospital pays out £10 million after boy, ten, suffers cerebral palsy due to being starved of oxygen at birth [read article here]
- Southend Hospital pays £9.5 million in damages to boy’s family [read article here]