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Cerebral Palsy Claims

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the medical term used to cover a range of neurological conditions, which affect a person’s coordination, muscle control, reflexes, posture and balance. It is often caused by damage to a baby’s brain before, during or soon after birth.

If your child has cerebral palsy as the result of the negligent actions of medical practitioners you could be eligible to make a claim. Children with the condition often have complex medical needs, involving ongoing rehabilitation, treatment and sometimes the need for home adaptions and mobility aids. Compensation can be used to help pay for such treatment.

What causes cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy can develop whilst the baby is growing in the womb due to issues that affect the baby’s brain development, such as:

• An infection caught by the mother – such as rubella, chickenpox, cytomegalovirus (CMV) or toxoplasmosis.
• An injury to the unborn baby’s head which may have been caused due to the mother experiencing a fall.
• The baby experiences a stroke in the womb, due to bleeding on the brain or the blood supply to the brain being cut off.
• Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) – which is damage to the white matter of the brain, caused due to a reduction in blood or oxygen supply.

Causes of cerebral palsy during or after birth:

The condition can also develop as a consequence of complications during or soon after birth. Common causes include:

• Complications during labour which mean that the baby is temporarily deprived of oxygen. This can happen as a result of delays in delivery.
• A premature birth
• A bleed on the baby’s brain.
• Gene defects affecting the development of the brain.
• An infection of the brain, such as meningitis.
• The mother having extremely low or high blood pressure.
• Failure of medical practitioner to effectively monitor the baby’s heartbeat.
• Failure of a medical practitioner to diagnose and treat low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).

How could negligent medical treatment have caused cerebral palsy?

Negligent medical treatment may have been a contributing factor in a child developing cerebral palsy, if it can be proven that the medical practitioner made an avoidable error, or failed to treat or diagnose an illness or infection such as jaundice or meningitis, which caused the cerebral palsy. The most common causes through medical negligence include:

  • Delay in delivery causing the baby to be deprived of oxygen.
  • Delay in the diagnosis and treatment of meningitis.
  • Failure of the medical practitioner to effectively monitor the baby’s heartbeat.
  • Failure of a medical practitioner to diagnose and treat low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).
  • Failure to diagnose and treat jaundice that can lead to brain damage which can cause cerebral palsy.
  • Problems with the umbilical cord resulting in lack of oxygen to the baby.
  • Damage caused to the baby’s head or skull during delivery.

Can cerebral palsy be caused due to an instrumental delivery?

Many babies are delivered with the assistance of instruments such as forceps or ventouse. Instruments are needed to aid delivery in instances when the baby is not progressing down the birth canal as it should. Or in cases where there are concerns about the baby’s or the mother’s wellbeing.

If instruments are used incorrectly this can lead to skull fractures or brain damage which can lead to cerebral palsy.

What are the different types of cerebral palsy?

There are 3 different types of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy: This is where children suffer from muscle stiffness and weakness, affecting their range of movement. Limbs can be affected down just one side, or on both sides of the body.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: This causes children to make involuntary movements as it is not possible for them to control their muscles. Muscles change from floppy to tense and speech and hearing can also be affected.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy: This causes difficulty with speech, balance and coordination. Hand movements might also be shaky.

People with cerebral palsy might have a combination of two or more types of the condition.

What are the effects of cerebral palsy?

The effects of the condition differ from person to person. Some people with cerebral palsy grow up to live largely independent lives, whilst others will require every day assistance for the rest of their lives. Conditions associated with cerebral palsy include:

• Issues with mobility, muscle control, motor control and coordination
• Difficulty with feeding, swallowing and speech
• Learning difficulties
• Behavioural problems
• Epilepsy
• Lack of bladder and bowel control
• Sensory impairment
• Lack of spatial awareness

Is there a time limit for making a claim?

You can make a claim on your child’s behalf at any point up until they reach the age of 18. After your child has turned 18 they have 3 years to make a claim themselves.

The exception to this rule is if your child does not have the mental capacity to make the claim themselves once they reach adult age. In these circumstances there is no time limit to making a claim.

It is however recommended to start the claims process as soon as you are made aware that your child may have developed cerebral palsy due to negligent treatment.

How will making a claim help my child?

The compensation that you may receive from making a medical negligence claim for cerebral palsy can help to cover the additional needs faced by your child over their lifetime. The money can be used to pay for things like:

• Speech and language therapy (SALT)
• Occupational therapy
• Care
• Mobility aids and equipment
• Home and vehicle adaptations
• Loss of earnings
• Transport to and from medical appointments
• Physiotherapy

What is the time limit for making a clinical negligence claim?

The clinical negligence claims time limit is three years from the date you received the treatment, or three years from when you became aware that your illness or injury was caused due to the treatment you received. This means that you have to have either settled a claim for compensation or issued court proceedings within the three year limit.

There are exceptions such as cases involving children.  An appropriate adult (usually a parent) can bring a claim before they reach the age of 18, after which time they have three years from their 18th birthday in which to settle a claim for compensation or have court proceedings issued.

The other exception being where there is a lack of mental capacity and someone else brings a claim for the adult, in which case there is no time limit to make a claim. Read our guide on making a clinical negligence claim on the behalf of a child for more information.

If a loved one has died due to clinical negligence, the three-year time limit runs from the date of death (so long as the time limit has not already expired). We appreciate that it can be a very upsetting time and we will guide you through the process sympathetically.

What will it cost me to bring a claim?

We are no win, no fee clinical negligence solicitors. This simply means that should we not win your case, you will not need to pay us a penny to cover your legal fees.

If you win your case your opponent will pay most of your legal costs.

Any legal costs not paid by your opponent will be deducted from the compensation that you receive. These costs include:

  • The cost of your no win no fee insurance policy (After the Event Insurance)
  • Some of your basic legal costs which cannot be recovered from your opponent
  • A “success fee” which compensates us for the risk that if your claim was unsuccessful then we would not be paid at all.

Details of which will be discussed with you as the case progresses.

Read our guide on how personal injury claims are funded for more information.

How long will my claim take?

The length of clinical negligence claims depends on how long it takes to gather evidence, whether the other party admits fault, the severity of the injury and the extent of the claim for special damages. Straightforward clinical negligence claims may settle within 12-18 months, whereas complex cases may take several years.

How do I make a claim?

You can start the claims process by contacting our First Response Team on 0344 854 7000.

A member of our friendly team will ask you a series of questions to outline the details of your case. Your answers will be analysed by one of our clinical negligence solicitors who will determine if your case has good prospects or not.

Alternatively you can submit your details using our online enquiry form below and we will contact you at a time convenient for you.

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