• We're proud to have secured over £114 MILLION in damages for our clients between 2018 & 2019!
  • Featured in the Times Best Law Firms 2020 guide under Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence
  • Rachel Rees wins Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award!

Cerebral Palsy Claims

Potter Rees Dolan’s team of specialist solicitors are here to help if mistakes made by midwives or doctors led to your child developing cerebral palsy, whether due to problems in antenatal care, birth injuries or problems in the neonatal period.

Because we work with people in similar situations every single day, we understand that you may feel your world has been turned upside down, and that it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. Sometimes you have not been given a diagnosis of cerebral palsy straight away and you may have noticed that your child is not reaching his or her milestones. By providing expert support and legal advice, our mission is to obtain answers for you and make your life that little bit easier.

We will strive to get you the compensation you deserve, because we see first-hand how big a difference it can make to a family’s quality of life. It can help you adapt your home for your child’s requirements, access 24/7 professional care, afford specialist equipment and give you peace of mind for the future, relieving the burden on you.

Our renowned clinical negligence team includes Helen Dolan, Helen Budge, Lesley Herbertson and Gill Edwards, who have more than 60 years of experience between them and all feature in the prestigious Legal 500 and Chambers guides. The team offers a highly personal service, striving to give their clients a voice when things have gone wrong and maintaining a strong commitment to improving standards in healthcare.

Speak to a member of our team about making a cerebral palsy claim today by calling 0800 027 2557; alternatively, if you’d like one of our solicitors to call you back, please fill in the contact form on the side of the page.

Testimonials

“Helen Dolan was very efficient and courteous and, in many areas exceeded, our expectations. All members of staff were very approachable and helped to make a very difficult situation more bearable.”

Mrs H, Birmingham

“I am delighted with the level of support I have received. In particular, Lesley's explanation of the Part 36 process and achievement of early settlement through informed recommendations. This experience is just what you need when you are left vulnerable.”

Ms Turner, Manchester

“Friendly, understanding, clear and accommodating. Took the time to explain rationale for decisions and legal processes. Exactly the right balance of direction and recommendation. Very personable service, can't fault the service. From receptionists to solicitors to specialist help.”

Mrs B, Turton

“Just want to say thank you very much for all you have done Lesley. ‎ Not only have you done a very good job but your support to my wife and me has been outstanding and it's not all been about our son. I was very impressed with the way you pushed that little bit further. ‎I thought you were a great team.

We are very pleased with outcome and I like the way you took nothing for granted always looking at detail. Look forward to working with you on the stages ahead.”

Mr W, Cheshire

Read more testimonials from our clients here.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by problems affecting the part of the brain that controls muscle tone, movement and motor skills. It affects an estimated one in 4,000 people in the UK.

This generally occurs when the brain develops abnormally before, during or shortly after birth, and it can occur as a result of complications during pregnancy or the birth process which leads to damage to the brain due to lack of oxygen (hypoxia).

How can medical negligence lead to cerebral palsy?

The most common examples of clinical negligence in the cerebral palsy cases we deal with include:

  • Delays in diagnosing or misdiagnosis of infections in the mother during pregnancy
  • Delays in diagnosing or misdiagnosis of bleeding in the baby’s brain
  • Poor monitoring of the foetus during labour or misinterpretation of a CTG trace, leading to delay in delivery that deprives the foetus of oxygen
  • Incorrect use of forceps and/or a failure to perform a caesarean section
  • Negligence in the neonatal period relating to monitoring and treatment of neonatal infection, jaundice or hypoglycaemia

If negligent medical care before, during or after birth led to your child developing cerebral palsy, you are entitled to make a claim for compensation.

How can I pursue a claim for cerebral palsy?

Our clinical negligence team has earned a reputation as one of the very best in the UK. Boasting a combined experience in serious injury law of over 60 years and comprehensive medical insight, the team has an unwavering dedication to helping families recover the compensation they deserve.

Our clinical negligence team is consistently ranked as leaders in the field by the independent legal guide Chambers, which describes them in 2019 as “a well-regarded team with an impressive caseload of complex clinical negligence work”.

About Helen Dolan, head of the department, Chambers 2020 says: “Helen regularly handles complex claims, such as those related to psychiatric care. She has further expertise in spinal injury, surgical negligence and cerebral palsy claims, as well as breach of duty cases.

One source states: 'Her attention to detail and knowledge of the case inside and out was exemplary.

The same publication said Lesley Herbertson “is very good on the complex details of the case and is able to translate this to clients”.

Meanwhile, Gill Edwards is described as being “incredibly good with clients - they really warm to her - and very good on the medical details”. Client feedback quoted by Chambers stated: “The way that she helped me is amazing. She is fantastic."

The Legal 500 describes both Helen Budge and Hannah Bottomley as "approachable, supportive, thorough and extremely knowledgeable. They are also happy to listen to our suggestions and together we have an excellent plan in place."

Our clients regularly tell us that it is the empathy and care with which we act that sets us apart. We specialise in serious and catastrophic injuries, so we understand the difficulties faced by someone with a severe disability. It is our aim, therefore, to make the claims process as stress-free for you and your family as we can.

Funding

Most clinical negligence cases are funded on the basis of a “no win, no fee” agreement, otherwise known as a Conditional Fee Agreement. We will investigate your potential claim, and you will not pay a penny if your case is not successful. We will explain how these agreements work at our very first meeting.

You may already have a legal expense insurance policy in place - we’ll always start by investigating whether you can use the same policy for your case, before considering whether a Conditional Fee Agreement may be more appropriate.

What happens next?

Firstly, we will discuss your circumstances and help you understand whether or not you have a case. If we are able to investigate, we will gather all the evidence required to build a strong case that will give you the best chance of recovering the right amount of compensation.

This will include obtaining the relevant medical records and going through them with you, as well as instructing independent medical experts in the appropriate areas of specialism to advise on whether the treatment was substandard, and whether this caused the injury. Once we have supportive expert evidence, we will put the case to the defendant to give them an opportunity to answer the allegations before commencing court proceedings. We will progress the claim as quickly as possible, while always looking for ways to properly settle the case early if appropriate.

While the case is ongoing, we will also work towards obtaining early interim payment awards where feasible, in order to fund the cost of accommodation, care, therapy and equipment including wheelchairs and adapted vehicles. Moving to a suitable home is often a priority, and we will do all that we can to make that happen at the earliest opportunity.

Contact us today

If you think you might be entitled to compensation, call us on 0800 027 2557. You can also arrange for us to get in touch with you by completing the online contact form on the side of this page or on our contact page. If you have someone specific in mind that you would like to speak to, visit their profile on our people page.

FAQs

How is cerebral palsy diagnosed?

To determine whether a child may have suffered a brain injury during the birth process, every newborn baby is assessed at birth and given an Apgar score.

This involves carrying out a test to determine the health of a baby, usually one minute after birth and again five minutes after birth. The name is derived from the criteria of the test: Appearance (skin colouration), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace (reflexes), Activity (muscle tone) and Respiration (breathing rate and effort)

Scores of between 0-2 are given for each of the criteria and then added together. Scores of 7 and above are considered healthy, while lower scores could indicate that the baby might have a hypoxic neurological injury and is at risk of developing cerebral palsy. A low Apgar score might result in a newborn being sent for cooling in order to limit the brain damage caused by hypoxia, which can reduce the severity of any subsequent cerebral palsy.

You can find out more on this topic through our dedicated Apgar score glossary page.

In many cases, however, the condition is not diagnosed immediately. Often, further investigation is only prompted by the parents’ instincts, or their anxiety that their baby is not developing healthily. Usually, these additional tests to reach a diagnosis will include:

  • MRI scans
  • Ultrasound scans
  • CT scans
  • Blood tests

What are the causes of cerebral palsy?

The condition occurs when the brain develops abnormally during, or shortly after, birth.

One known cause of the condition is periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which describes damage to the white matter of the baby’s brain. It is believed that this occurs because of a reduction in the child’s blood or oxygen supply. Experts have linked this to:

  • Premature or difficult birth
  • Infections caught by the mother during pregnancy
  • Abnormal blood pressure in the mother

It can also be caused by a stroke, which leads to bleeding in the baby’s brain. This could happen as a result of:

  • High blood pressure in the mother
  • Abnormalities in the baby’s blood vessels or mother’s placenta
  • Abnormal development of the baby’s brain due to mutations in key genes, an infection caught by the mother or an injury to the baby’s head
  • Temporary oxygen deprivation (asphyxiation)
  • Low blood sugar levels

What are the symptoms and complications of cerebral palsy?

Symptoms of cerebral palsy include:

Muscle stiffness or floppiness

Muscle weakness

Random and uncontrolled body movements

Balance and coordination problems

These symptoms usually become apparent during the first three years of a child's life, and can vary from person to person. The severity of the symptoms often differs, with some only experiencing mild problems, while others are left severely disabled.

The condition can also lead to a range of associated medical problems, including:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hearing loss
  • Visual impairment
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
  • Seizures or fits (epilepsy)
  • Constipation
  • Drooling and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
  • Hip dislocation or an abnormally curved spine (scoliosis)
  • Bladder control problems (urinary incontinence)
  • Learning difficulties (although intelligence is often unaffected)

Useful Information

Apgar Score

The Apgar Score, developed in 1952 by an anaesthesiologist called Victoria Apgar, is a quick check designed to determine the physical condition of a newborn baby immediately after birth.

The test is carried out by a doctor, midwife or nurse in the delivery room usually on two occasions: one minute after birth and then again five minutes after birth. Sometimes, if there are concerns about the baby's condition or the score at five minutes is low, the test may be taken for a third time 10 minutes after birth.

It is called the Apgar Score because it checks for Appearance (skin colouration), Pulse, Grimace (responsiveness), Activity (muscle tone), and Respiration (breathing rate and effort).

The scoring system

Each of the criteria is given a score of 0, 1 or 2 and then added together to generate a total score out of 10, which gives an idea of the overall health of the baby.

The scoring system works as follows:

Appearance:

  • Normal colour all over (hands and feet are pink) = 2 points
  • Normal colour (but hands and feet are blue-ish) = 1 point
  • Blue-ish-grey or pale all over = 0 points

Pulse:

  • Normal (above 100 beats per minute) = 2 points
  • Below 100 beats per minute = 1 point
  • Absent (no pulse) = 0 points
  • Grimace (responsiveness or ‘reflex irritability’):
  • Pulls away, sneezes, coughs or cries with stimulation = 2 points
  • Facial movement only (grimace) with stimulation = 1 point
  • Absent (no response to stimulation = 0 points

Activity:

  • Active, spontaneous movement = 2 points
  • Arms and legs flexed with little movement = 1 point
  • No movement - ‘floppy’ muscle tone = 0 points
  • Respiration:
  • Normal rate and effort, good cry = 2 points
  • Slow or irregular breathing, weak cry = 1 point
  • Absent (no breathing) = 0 points

The majority of newborns are scored between seven and 10, meaning they do not require any immediate treatment. Scores of 10 are unusual, because most newborns will lose a point for having blue hands and feet, which is typical after birth.

Scores lower than seven suggests the baby needs medical attention, and if the score remains low after multiple tests, then there is a risk that the child will suffer longer-term neurological damage.

Erb's Palsy

This condition is usually caused by a traumatic childbirth where the baby's arm is paralysed when the upper group of the arm's main nerves is injured.

Erb's Palsy, or otherwise known as brachial plexus paralysis, can occur if the infant's head and neck are pulled toward the side at the same time as the shoulders pass through the birth canal.

The condition can also be caused by excessive pulling on the shoulders during a cephalic presentation (head first delivery), or by pressure on the raised arms during a breech (feet first) delivery.

Other causes can include a raised BMI of the mother at time of baby's birth, a high weight at birth and a long second stage of labour.

The child is usually unable to abduct the arm from the shoulder, rotate the arm externally from the shoulder or supinate the forearm giving them a 'waiter's tip' appearance.

Hand grasp in children with Erb's Palsy is usually normal unless the lower part of the plexus is also damaged.

Some babies recover on their own but some need specialist treatment.

Emergency Caesarean Section

This procedure is usually carried out when a normal vaginal delivery would put the mother or the baby at risk.

However, an emergency caesarean is performed when circumstances before or during labour call for an unplanned procedure.

A caesarean section is usually carried out under an epidural or a spinal anaesthetic causing the lower part of the body to be numbed. The procedure usually takes 40-45 minutes but, during an emergency, can be performed quicker.

The risks to the mother in a caesarean section can include an infection of the wound or the womb lining, a blood clot (thrombosis) in the legs or excess bleeding.

Doctors now give the mother a dose of antibiotics before the operation to reduce the likelihood of any infections.

Risks to the baby during a caesarean, according to the NHS, are no greater than a normal vaginal delivery but the most common problem of babies delivered by caesarean is difficulty breathing, although this usually affects babies born prematurely.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

This brain injury occurs in newborn babies and is caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain, also known as intrapartum asphyxia.

Although a newborn's body can manage for brief periods of time with reduced oxygen, if it lasts too long then the brain tissue is destroyed.

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy due to fetal or neonatal asphyxia is a leading cause of death or severe impairment among infants.

Effects of this brain injury can include delays in neuro-development, cognitive impairment and epilepsy; the area of the brain injury can depend on the timing and severity of the asphyxia.

MRI scans are usually performed once hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is suspected to aid diagnosis.

Although there is no definite cure for HIE. any treatment includes helping the child adapt to symptoms of the brain injury and physical and occupational therapy is commonly used.

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