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Parents of a seriously ill child need to be reassured that their youngster is getting the best possible care, whether in hospital or at home. When children sustain serious injuries, it’s a worrying time for parents. When those injuries are inadvertently caused by the very people charged with looking after their health, it can be devastating.
However, the time to consider your legal options may come sooner than you think, since it might be necessary to get damages to fund some of the treatment and rehabilitation your child needs. You need to have supportive and knowledgeable lawyers who can guide you through the process.
Paediatric medicine can be very different from adult medicine because children may have congenital and inherited illnesses that may not affect adults in the same way. There can also be complex issues involving consent and legal responsibility that may not arise in cases involving adults.
Children who have suffered as the result of negligent medical treatment are not able to bring compensation claims themselves. The law doesn't allow anyone under 18 to deal with their own claim, but someone else (usually a parent) can be appointed to deal with things on their behalf as a ‘litigation friend’.
How do I make a claim for an injury to a child
This is a highly specialist area of law and there are time limits for starting a claim. You should contact Access Legal’s expert lawyers as soon as possible who can give you initial advice, usually without any cost or obligation to use our services.
Compensation claims can be brought on behalf of children under 18 who have suffered negligent medical treatment, but a child cannot bring a claim themselves as they are deemed too young to have legal capacity.
Claims must be brought on their behalf by a “litigation friend”. This is usually a parent although any other relative or a trusted family friend could act in this capacity. Their role is to instruct the solicitor, act in the best interests of the child and sign legal documents on behalf of the child.
At this difficult time the immediate concern will be your child’s health and well-being. Access Legal will be able to obtain records and investigate the avoidable errors or negligence that lead to your child being hurt. We will work with medical experts to establish your child’s immediate needs and, subject to establishing an admission of liability, seek to fund any immediate assistance they need by interim payments from the other side.
We aim to provide, practical and emotional help your family might need and build a case that accurately values the cost of any current and future support your child requires. This could be life-long and expensive if their injuries are severe.
How long will a medical negligence claim for a child take
There is no simple answer to this question. Where the injury is severe and your child requires continuing assistance, the claim cannot be resolved until your child’s long-term prognosis is known. It may not be possible to do that until your child is at least eight or nine years of age.
A compensation claim can still be started to determine liability. Once this has been established, interim payments may be obtained from the other side to meet your child’s ongoing needs. We'll need to access your child’s medical records and obtain medical evidence from independent experts initially to establish if there is a case to be answered but also to help determine your child’s long-term needs.
The claim may also take account of lost future earnings if the injury makes it unlikely your child could ever work and the cost of whatever help and support they may need, potentially for life. All this takes time, but is necessary to allow us to recover the maximum amount of damages to which your child is entitled.
How co-operative the other side chooses to be can also affect the time it takes to settle. Sometimes, they'll accept Access Legal's evidence and valuation or they may dispute it. We'll then enter into negotiations in order to try and reach a satisfactory settlement or we may need to ask a judge in Court to decide. The length of time spent to resolve your case can vary.
We will always aim to resolve your case as quickly as possible, but it will take time to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for you and your child.
When your child is ill medical professionals must be trusted to diagnose their symptoms and act upon them in a timely manner. Diagnosis in children can be difficult because the child may not have the language to describe exactly where their pain is. Indeed they may be too young to talk at all.
Parents are therefore reliant on doctors following the correct procedures in diagnosing exactly what is wrong with their child. Timely diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening illnesses such as meningitis can be crucial in avoiding serious problems or even death.
Failing to properly examine a child with fractures, either through misinterpreting the symptoms or not requesting an x-ray, can also lead to unnecessary and painful complications. Children with head injuries or abdominal pain can be mis-managed.
Failing to understand or correctly interpret the results of CTG equipment which indicate that a baby is in distress during delivery can result in oxygen starvation and an infant born with avoidable brain damage such as cerebral palsy. Failure to appropriately treat a new-born who may have suffered post-delivery injuries or needed resuscitation in the neo-natal period can also cause life-long damage.
If your child has suffered any of these injuries and we can prove, on the balance of probabilities, that negligent or sub-standard care was directly responsible for the harm they suffered, you may have a case for making a compensation claim.
More about child injury claims
Claims can be brought for any type of injury a child suffers as the result of negligent medical treatment. Access Legal has handled cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy claims on behalf of children, but claims can be made for any injury, large or small.
Where the injury is significant and your child is likely to require on-going long-term assistance, the case may not be able to be fully resolved until your son or daughter is old enough for a full prognosis to be established. In many instances it will not be possible for medical experts to make that prognosis until the child is perhaps seven or eight years old.
However, the compensation claim can still be brought earlier so that liability (fault) can be established early on. In the event liability has been admitted, interim payments can be obtained from the other side to meet your child’s immediate needs, until the full extent of what support and assistance they might require can be determined.
Among our experienced national team of child injury claim solicitors are members of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel, Action against Medical Accidents Panel and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Many are parents of young children themselves.
Access Legal knows how heart-wrenching it is if your child is injured and that you won't want to leave their side for a moment. Our solicitors are happy to talk over the phone or travel to meet with you at home, in hospital or wherever else is convenient for you.
'You need to have a legal team who are caring, who you absolutely trust and who will tell you the truth. Certainly from our point of view Denise Stephens from Access Legal has been absolutely amazing.'
Our team of expert clinical negligence lawyers has experience of dealing with all aspects of child injury claims including cases involving medical error that caused severe brain injuries.Why Access Legal