Cerebral Palsy Negligence Claims


Cerebral palsy affects approximately 1 in 400 children in the UK. When a child gets cerebral palsy because of the medical negligence of healthcare professionals, it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation against those responsible.


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What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the generic name for a group of lifelong neurological conditions which affect muscle movement and coordination. In most cases, CP is caused by a lack of oxygen reaching the baby's brain before, during, or shortly after birth.

Although medical negligence (mistakes made by medical professionals) is one cause of CP, there are others, including premature birth, infection, or head injury sustained either before or after birth.

This page focuses on cases of cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence. It aims to provide guidance for the family of a child with cerebral palsy on the legal advice they need if they believe they may have grounds to bring a cerebral palsy claim.

There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but neither is the condition progressive, i.e., the brain damage does not worsen. However, the symptoms of cerebral palsy can become more severe over time, and the condition can be life-limiting.

Cerebral palsy affects different people in different ways. The Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) is used to grade the severity of the condition and how it affects the individual.

The grading system starts at Level I, where the individual's balance or coordination may be limited and progresses to Level V, where the individual will always require a wheelchair and has difficulty maintaining their posture or control of their legs and arms.

A child who has cerebral palsy will have the condition for the rest of their life. Therapy and rehabilitation can help to relieve symptoms. However, many people with cerebral palsy will require some forms of care and assistance for the rest of their lives.

What are the different types of cerebral palsy?

There are four types of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of cerebral palsy. Some of the child's muscles are tighter and stiffer than they should be. The severity of muscle stiffness will vary from child to child.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy causes involuntary or uncontrolled movements due to the muscles suddenly becoming floppy after being stiff, and vice versa. A child with this form of CP may also get spasms and have speech and hearing difficulties.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy: The child has difficulty balancing with this type of CP. In addition, low muscle tone causes floppiness of the limbs and shakiness in the hands.
  • Mixed cerebral palsy: Many children with cerebral palsy have more than one type.

What are the most common medical negligence mistakes that lead to cerebral palsy?

As already noted, cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that occurs shortly before birth, during birth or postnatally due to:

  1. Oxygen failing to get through to the brain (hypoxia). There may have been a failure to adequately monitor progress during labour or to interpret and react to an abnormal fetal heart rate correctly.
  2. An urgent caesarean may be required if there are complications during delivery. Any delays in performing this emergency procedure, either because the medical team fails to spot the complications or act quickly enough, having become aware of the difficulties, can cause cerebral palsy.
  3. Infection during pregnancy or birth which causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  4. Trauma - for example, excessive or heavy-handed use of forceps.
  5. Delays in diagnosis of jaundice or a delay in treating it
  6. Untreated hypoglycaemia
  7. Untreated hydrocephalus (excess fluid build-up on the brain)

Medical negligence can occur due to failures to diagnose complications quickly enough or give the correct treatment or provide treatment at the right time.

A child with cerebral palsy caused by proven medical negligence has a right to seek compensation by making a cerebral palsy negligence claim.

The right to claim is that of the child. However, as the child is a minor, the parents or close family will bring the medical negligence claim against the hospital as the child's 'litigation friend'. In cases where this may not be possible or appropriate, a professional Litigation Friend may be appointed.

In some cases, where symptoms are relatively mild, it might take months or years before a formal diagnosis of cerebral palsy is made.

How will making a cerebral palsy compensation claim help my child?

Cerebral palsy is not a progressive illness, meaning the brain damage will not get worse. However, the symptoms of CP may worsen. In more serious cases, a child may have difficulties with swallowing, which can lead to problems feeding, communication difficulties and fits or seizures. A child may experience significant respiratory problems and require ventilation in the most severe cases.

There is no automatic right to compensation in the event of medical negligence, and therefore, a cerebral palsy compensation claim is the only way to recover substantial damages.

As well as compensation for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity the condition may cause, there may be claims for ongoing round the clock care, educational needs, occupational and physiotherapy, specialist aids, possible adaptations to the home and motor vehicles, plus a potentially substantial claim for loss of earnings potential.

Depending on the severity and complexity of the condition, successful claims for cerebral palsy compensation are often of a high value. The settlements reflect the lifelong nature of this medical condition and the significant costs associated with caring for someone with cerebral palsy.

Is there a time limit for bringing a cerebral palsy claim?

There is a three-year 'limitation period' in which to start a negligence compensation claim in most cases. This runs from the date of knowledge, i.e. when the individual affected (or their Litigation Friend) is aware of the negligence.

With cerebral palsy claims involving children, the 'limitation period' runs from their 18th birthday.

If a child reaches the age of 18 but lacks the mental capacity to pursue their own claim, they are treated as a Protected Party by the court. The limitation period will only start to run when they recover capacity.

Contact Spencers cerebral palsy solicitors to discuss the possibility of making a claim for compensation. Call us now on 08000 93 00 94 and ask to speak with one of our birth injury compensation solicitors.

Can I get a No Win No Fee agreement to fund a cerebral palsy compensation claim?

When you contact Spencers Solicitors, we will discuss all the possibilities available to you to fund a cerebral palsy claim. You may have legal expenses cover as part of an existing insurance policy that we can use to fund your claim.

If you don't have an existing legal expenses policy, we may be able to offer you the option of entering into a conditional fee agreement (a CFA). Often this type of funding is referred to as a No Win No Fee agreement.

We will also advise you on taking out an After the Event insurance policy, which, in the event of an unsuccessful claim, will cover any outstanding expenses such as medical reports or court fees.

With the benefit of a No Win No Fee agreement, should you lose your claim, you will have no legal fees to pay either to us or to the party defending the claim, which is usually the NHS in the case of cerebral palsy claims.

If your claim is successful, the other party pays the total amount of compensation and your legal fees. There will be a success fee payable by you at the conclusion of the claim, which will be deducted from the damages recovered.

The success fee will be agreed upon at the outset with you and will not exceed 25% of the damages recovered for pain and suffering and other past losses.

Call us on 08000 93 00 94 to discuss making a No Win No Fee cerebral palsy claim.

What steps do I need to take to start a cerebral palsy claim on behalf of my child?

The first step toward making a successful claim is to contact an experienced medical negligence solicitor. Spencers Solicitors medical negligence team has many years of experience successfully handling complex childbirth injury claims, including cerebral palsy claims.

We will initially take detailed instructions from you regarding the sequence of events and the impact it has had on your child. We will advise you whether there are reasonable prospects of pursuing a successful claim based on the information provided.

If you decide to proceed with the claim, we will then ensure the appropriate funding is in place.

We will then gather the necessary information, records and medical evidence to establish whether there has been any medical negligence or breach of duty in the care your child received; and whether there is a causative link between any negligence and your child developing cerebral palsy.

We will assess your child's and family's needs, both in the short and long term, and quantify their past and future losses to ensure the appropriate level of compensation is secured to protect your child and their future needs, rehabilitation, and requirements.

How long do cerebral palsy claims take?

Cerebral palsy claims are complex matters. Building the case and obtaining the necessary evidence takes a considerable amount of time.

If liability is admitted by the NHS representatives, we will seek appropriate interim payments to ensure your child's needs and your needs as a family are met, and any financial burden is eased.

The majority of cerebral palsy claims settle without the case going to court.

However, some cases go to court if the NHS will not admit liability or agree on a satisfactory amount of compensation. If your child's case goes to court, Spencers medical negligence team will be there to represent you.

The length of the claim will depend on the individual circumstances and facts of the case and the complexity of the issues involved.

How much will my child's cerebral palsy claim be worth?

It is impossible to value any personal injury or medical negligence claim accurately before a considerable amount of supporting evidence has been obtained.

With cerebral palsy claims, assessing the total value of a claim is even more challenging.

Children with cerebral palsy have different needs regarding the types of care, rehabilitation, and assistance they require.

The amount of evidence required to build the compensation claim is extensive and can take a long time to gather. As your medical negligence solicitors, our job is to build a case to ensure your child recovers the maximum compensation possible, however long that takes.

We will instruct and involve a team of experts to work with us and provide the necessary reports and evidence required.

For the reasons outlined above, getting interim payments as part of the ongoing claims process is essential once the NHS lawyers admit liability.

The final settlement of the claim will cover all expenses and costs incurred up to the date the claim concludes and, importantly, all future expenses such as care, rehabilitation needs and any accommodation costs.

The total amount awarded in cerebral palsy claims can exceed several million pounds, much of which will be paid in ongoing lump sums known as periodical payments.

The court's approval is required in any settlement involving children or protected parties. We will advise you and support you throughout this process.

We will ensure you are advised appropriately regarding the management of any compensation awarded and the establishment of a personal injury trust.

If you believe your child has a possible claim for cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence, contact Spencers Solicitors for legal advice and guidance on 08000 93 00 94.

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