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Cerebral Palsy: it costs nothing to ask 'was there medical negligence?'

Kate Rohde
07/04/2021
Around 1,700 new cases of cerebral palsy in children are diagnosed each year. A percentage of those children will have acquired cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence, but finding out if your child falls into this category can be a challenge.

Having worked with the families of many children with cerebral palsy, I see a number of triggers that encourage parents to approach a specialist lawyer. Often it’s the sense that something went wrong during labour; sometimes it's because social services provision is inadequate and, having battled for years for their child, parents decide to enquire if their child has a case.

I rarely ask why parents of a child with cerebral palsy would hesitate to contact a specialist firm such as Fieldfisher, but when I do, I am surprised to hear that what generally puts people off is the fear of being landed with a significant bill for legal fees.

Like most reputable specialist medical negligence firms, the team at Fieldfisher is happy to talk to families free of charge to explore whether they may be able to make a medical negligence claim. If there is something to investigate, we use the mechanism of a CFA (Conditional Fee Agreement, otherwise known as 'no win no fee' agreement) to explore the facts further, instruct specialist medical experts and advise if there is a case.

Some firms do still offer Legal Aid (available to children who sustained a brain injury at or around birth) but many do not, choosing instead to offer equivalent or better service using the CFA mechanism. We choose not to use Legal Aid funding, since the alternative allows our specialist clinical negligence legal team greater freedom to select experts without the restrictions of Legal Aid, which allows cases to progress smoothly and more quickly.

Once up and running, a successful claim can fundamentally improve the support a family can offer their child to help them fulfil their potential. In one of the team's current cases, where there was an admission of negligence but it was too early to predict exactly what future care the child would need, access to interim payments meant a property was purchased to be adapted to suit the child's needs.

Such accommodation can include provision of additional living space for carers, therapy and a larger floor area to accommodate a wheelchair, creating the right environment for the child to flourish. Interim funds also pay for specialist therapies that make a big difference to the child's life. A simple conversation with a lawyer can in many instances have a hugely positive impact on a family's future.

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