Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injury Claims

Birth injuries, which often result in Cerebral Palsy, can have a serious long-term impact on a child’s life, so compensation can be essential to ensure they have the best possible care and quality of life.

If a birth injury was caused by mistakes made by the medical professionals handling the birth, you are likely to be able to claim birth injury compensation. These claims can be complicated and difficult to resolve, so it is important to have the support of specialist birth injury solicitors at the earliest opportunity.

Wolferstans’ medical negligence solicitors have extensive experience in birth injury claims, having secured millions of pounds in compensation for our clients. Our expertise means we can make the process of claiming compensation for a birth injury as simple and effective as possible for you and your loved ones.

We have a strong track record of success in even the most complex and sensitive birth injury claims and are usually able to reach a settlement without the need for you to go to court. This means we can typically resolve your claim faster and at lower cost to you while allowing you to avoid the stress of attending a court hearing.

We offer a free initial no obligation consultation during which we will be able to tell you if you, your child or loved one has a claim worth pursuing.

To arrange your consultation please contact the new client team on 01752 648892.

Our cerebral palsy & birth injury compensation claims service

We regularly work on a wide range of birth injury and cerebral palsy claims for clients throughout England and Wales, including those related to:

  • Intrapartum hypoxia/asphyxia (lack of oxygen during labour and delivery)
  • Kernicterus (jaundice)
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
  • Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar)
  • Cardiac problems (congenital heart defects)
  • Infection (maternal and/or external)
  • Meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia
  • Group B Streptococcus
  • Brain haemorrhage and hydrocephalus
  • Birth trauma, such as the use of excessive force during forceps’ delivery
  • Erb’s palsy

Reasons why cerebral palsy and birth injuries occur

There are many reasons why birth injuries occur some of which are unavoidable, but many of them result from negligent medical treatment. We are often instructed to investigate claims resulting from:

  • Failure to monitor the baby properly during labour
  • Failure to respond to changes in the foetal heart rate potentially indicating a reduction in the oxygen supply to the baby
  • Failure to respond to the presence of meconium potentially indicating a reduction in the oxygen supply to the baby
  • Failure to respond to signs of foetal distress potentially indicating reduction in the oxygen supply to the baby
  • Failure to detect prolapsed umbilical cord reducing the oxygen supply to the baby
  • Failure to detect a placental abruption reducing the oxygen supply to the baby
  • Failure to perform an emergency caesarean section at all or to do so quickly enough
  • Failure to offer the mother the choice of having a caesarean section rather than proceeding with a natural birth, where there is a potentially large baby
  • Failure to monitor and/or treat the mother’s high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Failure to monitor and/or treat mother’s gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Failure to monitor and/or treat maternal infection during pregnancy
  • Use of excessive force to deliver the baby naturally, by forceps or by Ventouse

In addition, failures in medical treatment may occur after the baby has been born. Such failures include:

  • Failure to provide appropriate resuscitation for a baby born in distress
  • Failure to recognise and/or treat seizures
  • Failure to diagnose and/or treat jaundice
  • Failure to diagnose and/or treat meningitis, Strep B or other infections
  • Failure to diagnose and/or treat hypoglycaemia (low blood sugars)

How birth injury claims work

There are various steps included in making a birth injury claim. This typically involves:

  • Gathering evidence e.g. medical records, witness testimony, opinions of independent medical experts.
  • Notifying the relevant healthcare provider of your claim.
  • Waiting for the defendant’s response.
  • Assessing the defendant’s response.
  • Negotiation with the defendant if they do not accept responsibility for the birth injury or offer suitable compensation.
  • Valuing your claim e.g. obtaining details of your past financial losses and expenses and collecting witness evidence and consulting independent experts to quantify your need for future care, therapies, aids and equipment, transport and adapted accommodation, etc.
  • Alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation or arbitration, if negotiation does not produce a positive result.
  • A court hearing to resolve the matter if an acceptable settlement cannot be agreed voluntarily with the defendant.

Find out more about the process of making a clinical negligence claim.

Funding a birth injury compensation claim

Legal aid may be available to pursue a cerebral palsy and birth injury compensation claim that will assist in paying the legal costs.

The criteria that needs to be met is as follows:

  • Clinical negligence caused a “neurological injury” to the child and as a result the child is severely disabled (meaning physical or mental disability).
  • The clinical negligence occurred:
    • While the child was in his or her mother’s womb; or
    • During or after the child’s birth; and
      • If the child was born before the beginning of the 37th week of pregnancy, the period of eight weeks beginning with the first day of what would have been that week; or
      • If the child was born during or after the 37th week of pregnancy, the period of eight weeks beginning with the day of the child’s birth.

We will be happy to advise you on your eligibility and the process of applying for legal aid funding as Wolferstans are one of a limited number of firms who have a Legal Aid Contract and are able to offer Legal Aid funding in eligible cases.

If Legal Aid is not available we are able to represent many of our clients on the basis of conditional fee arrangements, commonly referred to as ‘no win, no fee’. This means that you pay us no legal fees at the outset and will only have to make a contribution to your legal costs if we secure a settlement for you. Our legal fees will be based on a pre-agreed percentage of any compensation you win, so you will never end up out of pocket.

The important thing is not to be put off by worries about funding your claim. If we believe you have a claim we will advise you and find a suitable method of funding to enable you to pursue the claim.

We will be happy to discuss your funding options when your first contact us so you can have complete confidence about how to proceed.

Find out more about funding a medical negligence claim.

Our expertise in birth injury claims

Wolferstans has achieved the Law Society’s Lexcel accreditation for excellence in legal practive management and client care and specific accreditation from the Law Society for Clinical Negligence due to our particular skill in this area.

Wolferstans recently recovered, what was then a record sum of damages, in excess of £33 million, for a client who has cerebral palsy as a result of mistakes that occurred shortly after his birth.

Our solicitors include members of various relevant organisations reflecting their exceptional expertise, such as:

  • Headway – the National Brain Injury Association
  • BIG -the Brain Injury Group
  • UKABIF – UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum
  • APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers)

Various members of our medical negligence team have been accredited by APIL as Clinical Negligence Specialists and Brain Injury Specialists and are also on the Law Society and AvMA (Action Against Medical Accidents) Specialist Clinical Negligence Panel.

Common questions about birth injury claims

Cerebral palsy is a serious lifelong condition with no cure that can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to live a full, independent life. If you, your child or loved one are living with cerebral palsy caused by a birth injury, claiming compensation can help to ensure all the necessary support is in place to achieve the best overall quality of life.

To be entitled to compensation you will need to be able to show that the birth injury leading to cerebral palsy was the result of medical negligence. This can be very challenging to prove, so it is essential to have the support of legal specialists with experience in cerebral palsy compensation claims.

While there is normally a three-year time limit to bring a claim for most types of medical negligence, the rules are different for birth injuries (or any injury to a child due to medical negligence).

If the birth injury your child suffered has left them without the mental capacity to bring a claim themselves e.g. due to serious brain damage, there will be no time limit for you to bring a claim on their behalf.

This would only change if they ever later gained the capacity to make a claim on their own behalf, in which case they would have until their 21st birthday or three-years from the date when they gained capacity, whichever is later.

In all other cases, the three-year time limit only comes into effect once the child in question turns 18. This means that they have until their 21st birthday to issue Court proceedings to bring a claim.

Exactly how much compensation you may be able to secure will depend on how serious the injury or injuries were and the long-term impact this has had or is likely to have on your child’s health.

The compensation you can claim will normally take the form of general damages and special damages, depending on the circumstances.

General damages – These cover non-financial losses e.g. compensation for pain and suffering and changes to your lifestyle, such as having to give up a favourite hobby and future financial losses that will be incurred as a result of the injury sustained.

Special damages – These cover specific financial losses which you have already incurred up to the date of settlement e.g. treatment costs, buying special equipment and loss of earnings as a result of having to give up work.

In many cases compensation will not be paid until the end of the case, when a settlement has been reached or damages have been awarded by the Court. Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injury claims often take sometime to conclude, so wherever possible, we actively seek to secure an interim payment of damages from the Defendant, on account of the compensation which will be paid at the end of the case. This is usually only possible after the Defendant has admitted responsibility for causing the injury.

Interim payments enable funds to be available, at an earlier time, to provide the care and support which the injured person requires, as well as the purchase of appropriate aids and equipment, appropriate transport and adapted accommodation.

If your child is severely disabled as a result of a birth injury, we will arrange for the appointment of a Brain Injury Case Manager, who will liaise with you and us to identify exactly what your child needs and then co-ordinate everything for you.

This will depend on various things, including how long it takes to gather the necessary evidence and whether the healthcare provider responsible is willing to admit fault and offer suitable compensation.

It typically takes a number of years to gather the necessary evidence for a birth injury claim, but can take longer, especially as it is sometimes necessary to wait to see exactly what long-term impact the birth injury has had on your child.

This is why it is so important, wherever possible, to obtain an interim payment of damages.

This will depend on whether the person who suffered the injury:

  • Is under the age of 18
  • Has the mental capacity to bring a claim on their own behalf

If they are under 18 and/or lack mental capacity to bring a claim themselves, then someone else will have to bring the claim on their behalf. This person is referred to as a ‘litigation friend’ and will have the legal authority to make decisions about the case on behalf of the injured party.

Most commonly a litigation friend will be the child’s parent or guardian, but they can be anyone, including a solicitor or other professional advocate.

In the past, most babies who suffered brain damage caused by a severe lack of oxygen at birth were later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Their mobility would be affected and they were often wheelchair dependent. In addition, they might also have learning difficulties and behavioural problems.

In recent years, however, with the introduction of controlled cooling, the outcome maybe very different for these babies. The idea is to cool the brain in the hope of slowing down the processes that cause brain damage.

Where controlled cooling is used the babies body is usually cooled using a special mattress filled with cold liquid. Sometimes just the head is cooled using a custom-made cap. It is usually started as soon as the baby has been resuscitated and will last for up to 72 hours. After the cooling period, the baby is warmed up gradually until their temperature has returned to normal.

The outcome for many babies, who undergo controlled cooling, is that they no longer develop the same degree of neurological impairment resulting in severe physical disability. Indeed, they may have very little, if any, physical disability at all.

What has been found, however, is that these babies may still develop learning difficulties and behavioural problems or be diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. These issues may not become apparent until the children are much older; often, not until after they have started at school. These children may have communication difficulties and find it difficult to interact with other children and adults or keep up with other children at school.

If you believe that your child has suffered a birth injury, as a result of medical negligence, but has not been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you may still be able to pursue a birth injury compensation claim.

If a mother is injured (physically or mentally) whilst giving birth due to medical negligence on the part of the team handling the birth, they may be able to claim birth injury compensation as well. They will usually have three-years to bring a claim from the date of the birth.

Further information about birth injury compensation claims

For more information about medical negligence claims, please take a look at our news, blogs and our series of helpful leaflets covering specific issues.

Start a birth injury claim with us today

To arrange a free initial no obligation consultation and find out more about starting a birth injury compensation claim please contact the new client team on 01752 648892