If your child has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and the condition has been caused by the negligent act or omission of a health professional, you may be able to claim compensation

Compensation payments for Cerebral Palsy can be significant, depending on the severity of the condition. In February 2017, a boy who suffered a serious brain injury due to clinical negligence at Wrexham hospital was awarded £3.6 million in compensation.The victim, now a teenager, was starved of oxygen at birth and has cerebral palsy, along with severe learning difficulties, and needs 24-hour care from his parents[1].

In another case, a boy born at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, the same hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to Prince George and Princess Charlotte, was awarded £10 million in compensation after being starved of oxygen at birth[2].Because of negligence by hospital staff, the child suffers from severe Cerebral Palsy and epilepsy. The payment comprised of a lump sum of £8.99 million and annual, index-linked, tax-free payments to cover the costs of his care for life.

How common is Cerebral Palsy?

It is estimated that 1 in 400 babies born in the UK have a type of cerebral palsy[3]. The condition is most commonly caused by:

  • a mutation in genes which leads to abnormal brain development
  • the mother or infant suffering an infection during pregnancy or delivery
  • a foetal stroke

In a small number of cases, Cerebral Palsy is caused by the baby suffering from a traumatic brain injury or being starved of oxygen at birth. If health professionals have been negligent and this has resulted in your baby developing Cerebral Palsy, there may be grounds to pursue a compensation claim.

Detecting Cerebral Palsy early

Receiving a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy is devastating news for any parent. In most cases, it is the parents who first notice that something is not quite right with their baby. Perhaps they are not meeting milestones such as sitting and weight-bearing on their feet or they are difficult to feed. Both mother and father may cautiously mention their concerns to each other, each trying to reassure themselves that everything is fine with their child.

The fear that grows in parents when they suspect there may be something wrong with their baby is hard to describe and impossible to imagine. But as scary as it may be, the earlier Cerebral Palsy is diagnosed, the better the chance of a positive outcome for the child.

Spotting the early signs of Cerebral Palsy can be difficult.Even when the condition is present at birth, signs may not become clear until the child is 1-3 years old. It is during this time that delays in the development of gross motor skills such as crawling and walking become glaringly apparent.

It is true that all children develop at different rates. However, there are certain clinical signs that your baby may have Cerebral Palsy.

Specific signs of Cerebral Palsy

  • When the baby is lifted the head is limp
  • When picked up, his or her legs stiffen and cross
  • Your child is described as a hard baby, has difficulty sleeping, and is difficult to handle
  • Poor visual attention
  • Excessive docility (the body doesn’t appropriately tense or stiffen)
  • Drooling
  • He or she has trouble feeding
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Cannot roll over
  • Stiffness
  • Floppiness
  • Shaky arms and legs
  • The baby reaches out with one hand only while keeping the other one in a fist, or the baby keeps both hands in fists continuously
  • Cannot bring the hands together
  • Inability to push up onto the hands when lying face-down
  • Struggles to bring the hands to his or her mouth
  • Lopsided crawling reflex (the baby pushes off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg)
  • Cannot sit without some support
  • Does not pull themselves up while holding on to support

Other general clinical signs of Cerebral Palsy

  • Your baby continues to show signs of primitive reflexes (rooting for example) well past the age they should have ceased
  • General stiffness in the limbs
  • Increased reflexes and involuntary contraction of the muscles
  • Stiffness in the fingers and toes
  • Abnormal mouth and tongue patterns, such as retracting and thrusting the tongue, biting hard and not letting go, an overly sensitive mouth and frequent grimacing

Severe Cerebral Palsy

If a new born baby has a severe case of Cerebral Palsy, doctors will pick up the signs soon after birth. These can include the inability to suck, a weak cry, seizures, floppiness or stiffness.

Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy

There is no one test that will diagnose Cerebral Palsy in an infant. Instead, doctors use a variety of methods and information gathering to make a diagnosis.

These can include:

  • Looking at the pregnancy and delivery notes
  • Physically examining the baby
  • Taking blood and urine samples
  • Review the baby’s APGAR score
  • Evaluating speech, movement, feeding, digestion, speech and hearing functions
  • Checking to see if there is brain damage

If a baby is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, then the doctors will evaluate the severity and extent of the condition. Doctors may suggest surgery to correct muscle contraction and medication to control spasms. Ongoing physical, occupational and speech therapy will also help to manage the condition.

Although there is no cure, with good treatment many suffers go on to lead normal, independent lives. However, good treatment costs money. Often one parent of a child suffering from Cerebral Palsy has to resign from work to care full-time for their baby and take them to various medical appointments.

In some cases, Cerebral Palsy is caused by negligence on behalf of medical staff before, during or after labour. If this is the case then claiming compensation can assist with funding rehabilitation, giving your child the best chance of an independent, healthy life.

To claiming compensation for Cerebral Palsy, you will need an experienced personal injury solicitor to advise and represent you. At Saracens Solicitors, we have years of experience managing complex medical negligence claims and provide sensitive, compassionate service to all our clients.

We understand that you may be experiencing a great deal of stress and trauma in your day-to-day life, simply caring for your baby. By instructing us, you can be confident that your claims process will run smoothly, and you will be kept up-to-date throughout the progress of your matter.

Saracens Solicitors is a multi-service law firm based in London’s West End. We have a dedicated and highly experienced personal injury law team who have the expertise to manage your Cerebral Palsy compensation claim. For more information, please call our office on 020 3588 3500.

Do you have any comments to make on this blog? Please feel free to add your thoughts below.

[1] http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/boy-left-brain-damaged-wrexham-12603924

[2] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/boy-wins-10m-compensation-hospital-10642960

[3] http://www.cerebralpalsy.org.uk/

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