Making a Claim for Cerebral Palsy Negligence
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy isn’t a single condition – it’s the general term for a number of complex neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination. Problems occur in the parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling muscles. There are a lot of different types of cerebral palsy with a variety of different symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Some different types of cerebral palsy include:
Spastic cerebral palsy – this is the most common type of cerebral palsy and affects about 80% of people with the condition. It is characterised by:
- Tight muscles
- An abnormal walk
- Tight joints
- Weak muscles
Ataxic cerebral palsy – this is the least common type, with only 5% of cerebral palsy sufferers having this type of condition. It is characterised by:
- Tremors or shaking
- Balance problems
- Weak muscles
- A wide stance or gait
Athetoid cerebral palsy – about 20% of children with cerebral palsy have athetoid cerebral palsy. It is characterised by:
- Involuntary movements
- Emotional stress
- Eye contact problems
- Speech problems
- Drooling and eating problems
What causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to a baby’s brain before, during or shortly after birth. It can be caused by:
- A difficult or premature birth
- Bleeding in the baby’s brain
- Changes in genes that affect brain development
- If a mother catches an infection during pregnancy
Cerebral palsy is not always caused by negligence during birth.
What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?
- Lack of muscle control resulting in abnormal, slow or writhing movements
- Abnormal reflexes
- Poor coordination and movement control including difficulties with walking
- Oral motor problems
How is it diagnosed?
If your child is displaying symptoms of cerebral palsy they will be referred to a physiotherapist by your GP, and possibly an educational psychologist to assess their intellectual development. There are a number of tests that can be used to rule out other problems that might seem similar to cerebral palsy, including various head scans and blood tests.
How is it treated?
There’s no cure for cerebral palsy, but it can be managed and symptoms can improve through a series of therapies including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and medications for muscle stiffness.
If a child has cerebral palsy, does it always mean that negligence has happened?
In the past it was assumed that cerebral palsy was caused during birth if a baby suffered from asphyxiation and did not get enough oxygen. Research in the 1980s proved that cerebral palsy can be caused by a number of factors, including those that happen during development inside the womb.
The cause of cerebral palsy isn’t always a mistake during birth, and even if the cause is linked to a lack of oxygen to the baby during labour, this won’t necessarily count as negligence.
Most causes of cerebral palsy that happen before the birth are not attributed to negligence. Usually negligence causes cerebral palsy when there is a delay in delivery, or immediately after birth when the child is not cared for properly. For example, if jaundice or meningitis isn’t diagnosed and treated then brain damage can occur. If the delivery is unnecessarily delayed and the baby is deprived of oxygen this too can cause brain damage.
In what circumstances would I have a claim?
Like all birth injury negligence claims, you have to be able to prove that:
- The medical practitioner failed to look after you in the way they were expected to
- Your child has been harmed because of this failure
If your child develops cerebral palsy as a result of a delay in delivery, but this delay was necessary for the safety of you and your child and would be the action that most medical practitioners would have taken, then negligence might not be found even if you think the doctor or midwife caused your child’s cerebral palsy.
However, in the above situation you could still have a case. Negligence claims work according to a very specific legal framework. Each case needs to be assessed on an individual basis by a qualified solicitor. If you want to find out whether you might be able to get compensation, give us a ring or fill in our contact form and we will be able to put you in touch with one of our specialist panel solicitors.
Why should I make a claim?
The cost of caring for a child with cerebral palsy can be considerable. Though you can use the NHS, social services and some state benefits to assist with cost, this money is often limited and won’t cover all costs or resources your child needs.
How much is a cerebral palsy claim worth?
A compensation claim is calculated based on the cost of care and other resources your child might need. The calculation also includes factors like loss of earnings if you need to care for your child, which state benefits might not compensate so generously. Compensation allows you to give your child every chance of having the best quality of life.
How does claiming on my child’s behalf work?
If your child has developed cerebral palsy as a result of clinical negligence, you can make a claim on their behalf. The three year limit restriction does not apply until they turn 18 years old. When they reach 18, they will have three years to make their claim.
Minors are considered to lack the capacity to sufficiently represent themselves in court so you act as their “litigation friend”. The court has to confirm that you are a suitable candidate for this role. To be suitable you must:
- Be able to fairly and competently conduct proceedings on behalf of your child
- Have no adverse interests to your child
- Act in the best interests of your child
How can I make a claim?
To make a claim for negligence related to cerebral palsy you need to get in contact with a solicitor or someone who can put you in touch with a solicitor to establish whether you have a case. Give us a ring or fill in our contact form and we can take your details and our friendly panel solicitors will tell you if you have a case, free of charge.
Are there any organisations that can give me further support?
There are lots of cerebral palsy charities that offer support to children and families living with this condition. There are charities that are focused on offering bespoke educational programmes for children with cerebral palsy, and the rainbow centre does some great campaign work with a huge range of different CP charities.
Cerebralpalsy.org.uk is a fantastic resource offering advice on everything from care options to benefits to negligence claims. Here are some other useful contacts to take a look at: