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£1.3m interim award for brain injured child

An 11 year old girl who suffered a catastrophic brain injury as a

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"Tim Spring heads the ‘assiduous’ team at Moore Blatch LLP."

Legal 500 2016

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Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder resulting in a neurological injury or injury to the brain which is said to occur in about 2.1 per 1,000 live births.

It is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls movement, balance and posture and can result in poor coordination, stiff and weak muscles, and tremors.  There may also be problems with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing and speaking.  There can also be cognitive impairment. No two cases are the same.

The NHS Resolution recently reviewed 5 years of cerebral palsy claims.  50 cases were reviewed where children developed cerebral palsy due to errors antenatally, during childbirth, and in the immediate postnatal period.  All 50 births took place between February 2012 and September 2015 and legal liability (breach of duty and causation of injury) has been admitted in each case. There was analysis of the quality of the Serious Incident Investigation Reports and clinical practice in these cases. Dr Mala Sidebottom comments on the review here.

Cerebral palsy can be caused during pregnancy, childbirth or shortly after birth. In some cases the cause can be unknown. Common causes include:

  • Abnormal brain development

  • A genetic cause

  • Restricted intrauterine growth

  • Prematurity

  • Infections during pregnancy

  • Events in labour or delivery resulting in a lack of oxygen to the brain

  • A neonatal stroke

  • Meningitis

  • Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia)

  • Jaundice

Cerebral palsy is classified by the type of motor impairment. There are three main types:.

  • Spastic cerebral palsy where there is muscle stiffness and weakness affecting the range of movement.

  • Ataxic cerebral palsy where motor skills can be affected as well as balance and visual and auditory processing.

  • Athetoid / Dyskinetic cerebral palsy resulting in mixed muscle tone often with involuntary movements, irregular speech and hearing.

Whilst only a small number of cases are actually caused by a lack of oxygen during birth, unfortunately damage can sometimes result from a lack of all appropriate skill or care in labour or delivery, often due to a failure to intervene in a timely fashion where there is clear evidence of fetal distress. If delivery is delayed then the baby may be deprived of oxygen resulting in permanent damage to the brain.

Caring for a child with cerebral palsy is inevitably challenging not only physically but also emotionally and financially.  It can be a struggle to obtain all appropriate support from Health and Social care. There can often be a failure to meet all of a child’s special needs and delays in the provision of essential equipment, assistance and services. 

A successful compensation claim will ensure that your child has the care and support that they need for their lifetime and will frequently include financial provision to cover the cost not only of care but also essential therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy.

It can also often help with requirements for assistive technology and equipment, aids and equipment, transport needs, provision for special education and even appropriate accommodation for both your child and the family. Compensation claims in catastrophic cases can result in awards in excess of £7 – 8 million. It is essential however to obtain specialist legal support and advice.

For more information please contact Tim Spring.

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