Making the call

02 October 2023

Jo from Bolt Burdon Kemp (BBK) explains the reasons to seek legal advice about a potential claim for compensation for a child with a brain injury or condition.

Making the call

02 October 2023

Jo from Bolt Burdon Kemp (BBK) explains the reasons to seek legal advice about a potential claim for compensation for a child with a brain injury or condition.

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Reasons to seek legal advice about a potential claim for compensation for a child with a brain injury or condition

I know from my many years of acting for children with neurodevelopmental conditions, whether caused by poor care at birth, stroke, illness or trauma, that the prospect of seeking legal advice about a potential claim for compensation, on top of the demands of caring for a child with complex needs, can feel overwhelming for you, as parents. After all, life is challenging enough without the added financial, practical, and emotional struggles to contend with in caring for your injured child, so sometimes even the thought of making a telephone call for legal advice can be too much.

I want to reassure parents who are in this situation that picking up the phone and making that call is the best thing they can do for themselves and, more importantly, for their child. Here’s why.

Advocating for your child and protecting their rights

By seeking advice from a solicitor specialising in child brain injury claims, you are taking steps to fulfil your responsibility to take care of and protect your child, and your child’s legal rights. A specialist solicitor will listen to your story, take time to understand your concerns and will investigate further if necessary. If your child has a claim for compensation a specialist solicitor will arrange funding for the legal costs and then guide you through all stages of the legal process. And, even if after investigating further, there are no prospects of succeeding in claim, you’ll know that you will have done everything you can to protect your child’s interests by exploring that option.

Reclaiming lives

Compensation can transform the lives of children with neurodevelopmental conditions and the lives of their families. It can pay for private medical treatment and therapy to enable your child to achieve maximum independence while avoiding reliance on overstretched and under resourced public services, freeing up those services for others. It can pay for equipment, adapted housing, and specialist vehicles, making a real practical difference on a day-to-day level. It can pay for educational support and assistive technology to ensure your child can access all aspects of the curriculum and reach their full potential.

Compensation can replace income lost due to caring for your child and reimburse the additional expenses you will have had in travelling to medical appointments, perhaps arranging urgent care for other children, as well as all those extra costs such as increased household bills for additional laundry, water, and heating.

Compensation can pay for professional care to meet the complex and ever-changing needs your child may have over and above those of children meeting their milestones, whether that involves help with personal care, care at night, mobility, daily activities, or social and leisure activities, or any combination of these. It can pay for a professional case manager to oversee and coordinate the care and therapy package, ensuring that everyone involved works together as a team, together with the statutory services, relieving you of the administrative burden of recruiting and employing carers, and chasing for things such as medical appointments and local authority support. The goal here is to free you to be a parent to your child and their siblings.

The sooner steps are taken to put in place the treatment, therapy, equipment and support your child needs, the better for your child and the better for you and for your family. As your child’s brain is not yet fully mature it has great capacity to change, adapt, reorganise, or grow neural networks, if given the opportunity. Exploiting that capacity as early as possible gives your child’s brain the best chance of rewiring itself in response to the stimulation of learning and experience and ultimately the best quality of life in the long term.

We acted for Julie (not her real name) who suffered a severe brain injury at birth leading to cerebral palsy. She had poor vision, was non-verbal and had limited hand control so it was difficult for her to communicate and difficult for others to know how much she understood. By the age of 11 she had taught herself to scroll through YouTube videos on her iPad, using the heels of her feet, and stop and replay specific scenes from different videos, such as Peppa Pig or Postman Pat, to express her thoughts and wishes. One day she explained that it was going to be her teacher’s birthday and she wanted to make her a card and bake her a cake. I can’t think of a more astonishing demonstration of child’s capacity to learn from experience.

We do not underestimate the emotional and financial toll that having a child with a neurodevelopmental condition can have on you, the parent. Often when parents first seek our advice, they are drained, physically, emotionally, and financially. Their courage and determination in dealing with intolerable stress is humbling. But even the most courageous and determined individuals have limits and the risk of family breakdown is high. The sooner we can obtain interim payments of compensation through the claim to help relieve the financial and practical pressures on you and provide you with psychological support, the greater the prospect of preserving not only your health and wellbeing, but also the health and wellbeing of your whole family.

We acted for Jamal (not his real name) who suffered a severe brain injury at birth leading to cerebral palsy.  He was unable to move independently and dependent on others for every aspect of his care. He and his family were living in a tiny first and second floor maisonette with no lift access. There was no room for any equipment and, as Jamal got older, he had to sleep and bathe in the living room with his mother as she could not carry him up the narrow stairs to the bedroom or the bathroom. We obtained a large interim payment early in the claim so that the family could move immediately into a large, rented house, adapted to create a wet-room, bedroom, and therapy room on the ground floor with space for wheelchairs, hoists and therapy equipment, and a team of carers to provide 2:1 round the clock care. Meanwhile, we continued with the claim and once it had concluded a permanent home was bought and adapted for Jamal, and his care team and his family.

Having support and guidance

It cannot be denied that a claim for compensation for a child with a brain injury can take a long time to resolve. There are good reasons for this. Such claims are often complex, medically, and legally, requiring experts from a range of disciplines to analyse the evidence and provide expert opinions on the cause of the injury, whether the medical care was poor, whether the injury could have been avoided with proper care, and what the impact of the injury is on all aspects of the child’s life. Nearly all claims for children who have a brain injury must wait until the child has reached an age where their future can be confidently predicted before they can be concluded. To conclude a claim prematurely would risk undercompensating the child. Any settlement for a child must be approved by the court and the court must be satisfied that the settlement is in the child’s best interests. If the court thinks it is too soon to determine what a child’s long-term needs are likely to be it will direct the lawyers to come back with further evidence when the future is more certain.

Our knowledgeable and experienced solicitors will guide and support you throughout the claim. Each child and their family are unique, and our solicitors will take their time to get to know you and your child, to learn what is important to you, to understand the challenges you face and work with you to develop a strategy for addressing these challenges. They will be alert to your and your child’s changing needs and the needs of the whole family. They will work closely with you to address those needs as soon as possible and as the claim continues and will act swiftly to find solutions to problems as they arise. They will communicate clearly and sensitively, appreciating that some things, such as how the injury happened and what hopes you had for your child had they not been injured, are extremely hard to talk about. They will keep you informed, talk through the evidence with you, explain the legal process, give you a realistic assessment of your child’s case and the potential outcomes and give you realistic time frames.

Giving peace of mind

It is understandably hard to think about what would happen to your disabled child should something happen to you. Although compensation can’t turn back the clock, its aim is to put a child that has suffered an avoidable brain injury in the position they would have been in had they not been injured. Compensation can ensure that your child goes on to live as fulfilling and meaningful life as possible, that they thrive and flourish to reach their full potential, that they are cared for throughout their lives by an appropriately qualified and dedicated care team, supervised by a specialist case manager, and that they have a safe, secure and suitable place to live, for as long as they live, no matter what happens to you. In my experience, this is what most motivates parents to seek legal advice, and compensation that achieves this gives peace of mind that is priceless.

We feel very privileged to get to know children and their families in this way and to be their guide and support through the transformative process of claiming compensation. I hope I’ve been able to reassure you, that if you believe your child may have suffered an avoidable injury, making that call can help.

About the author

This article was written by Jo Chapman. Jo is a Partner in the Child Brain Injury team at BBK, acting exclusively for children who have suffered serious brain injuries as a result of negligence, including clinical negligence.

Jo’s specialist expertise in child brain injuries has developed over the last 20 years. She is highly experienced in dealing with severe and complex claims involving birth related brain injuries, cerebral palsy and stroke, including children who are in a minimally conscious state or whose level of cognition is uncertain.

Jo is an IPSEA-qualified special educational needs advisor having completed training with Independent Parental Special Educational Needs Advice (IPSEA).

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Although we are grateful to receive support from a number of corporate sponsors, we do not endorse any specific organisation. If you are seeking legal advice, we encourage you to contact a number of experienced solicitors for an initial discussion before selecting a firm.

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