03 April 2013

Cerebral Palsy compensation claims

Cerebral Palsy is a devastating injury which occurs at some point early in life, either while the baby is still growing in the womb or shortly afterwards when something disturbs the normal development of the brain or injures the brain tissues. The condition affects the nerve signals between the brain and the muscles and results in the baby or young child having difficulties with movement, posture and coordination. There are differences in severity, so some have only mild disabilities with others more severe.

Sadly it is relatively common, affecting as many as one in every 400 children; so as many as 2,000 babies are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy every year. Whilst there is no cure for the condition, there are many treatments and therapies that can be used to reduce the impact it has on an individual’s life.

Every year there are compensation claims taken against the NHS relating to Cerebral Palsy due to Medical Negligence and Clinical Negligence. Late last year the family of a young boy won a case against the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow after he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy following complications with his birth. The NHS has admitted liability, accepting that an earlier delivery of the baby would have avoided injury and Cerebral Palsy. The boy is likely to need 24-hour care for the rest of his life and his family has been granted an interim compensation payment of £150,000 while his care package is being worked out.

The amount that a successful claimant is likely to receive varies according to many different factors. These include previous financial settlements which bear similarities to the case in question, the extent of the disability, the pain and suffering already experienced and calculations on the level of care needed for the future. It is therefore an amount which is not an exact science. It is not directly calculable and involves the court, to some extent, looking ahead to see how the child will be affected in the near and distant future.

Damages or compensation are divided into two main categories named general and special. General damages are those items which are not exactly quantifiable, such as pain and suffering which we have already mentioned. No receipts or invoices can be produced to show how much the suffering is worth. Therefore the judge in the case has to assess the level of damages based on their previous experience and after listening to submissions from either side.

Special damages are those items that can be calculated exactly and for which receipts and invoices can be produced. So the cost of care, any special equipment that has to be purchased and loss of earnings all fall into this category. For this reason anyone wanting to make a claim would be well advised to keep any bills, receipts etc so they can claim for any outlay incurred.

Interest will be added in a Cerebral Palsy claim onto both general and special damages, though the rules are quite complex. Also, as we have seen in the Harlow case mentioned above, interim compensation may be awarded in some cases. This is where the defendants - in Cerebral Palsy cases usually an NHS trust - have admitted liability or have been found guilty but a compensation figure has not yet been agreed.

Therefore the claimant will get damages and usually a sizeable amount, but it has not yet been clarified. The interim figure will provide an amount to cover them until the case is brought back before the court. It is mainly applied in larger claims which can take some time for a final figure to be decided upon.