• Helen Dolan, specialist catastrophic medical negligence lawyer, recovered compensation in excess of £29million for clients with a brain injury (including cerebral palsy) in 2016
  • Hugh Potter secured a settlement figure of just under £13 million thanks to change in discount rate
  • Rachel Rees, expert personal injury lawyer, recovered over £15 million in compensation for clients with a brain injury last year

Spinal cord injuries caused by clinical negligence

Potter Rees Dolan is here to help you fight for the compensation you deserve if mistakes made by medical professionals have resulted in a spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injuries usually have a significant impact on the life of the injured individual. Some lead to a complete loss of movement and feeling below the point of injury, while others can result in partial loss of mobility and feeling. Either way, the consequences are normally life changing for the victim and their family.

We can’t begin to understand what you and your loved ones are going through right now, but our team at Potter Rees Dolan is made up of trained legal experts who have dealt with cases just like yours and will put you and your best interests first.

Our team understand the difference a successful claim can make to the victims of a spinal cord injury. A financial award can help with the costs of care and rehabilitation, contribute to any necessary equipment required and also go a long way to helping you adapt or purchase and adapt a more accessible home.

The clinical negligence team is made up of Helen Dolan, Lesley Herbertson and Gill Edwards, who all feature in the prestigious Legal 500 and Chambers 2017 guides. One of our guiding principles is to offer a personal service to every single person we work with, and put our clients’ interests first.

We’re ready to help you get the support you need. Speak to our sensitive and caring team on 0800 027 2557. If you’d like one of our solicitors to call you back, fill in the contact form on the side of the page and we’ll call at a time of your choosing.

[Recent case wins]

Elderly woman with undiagnosed abscess – £2.7 million

Significant and debilitating pain syndrome – £3.9 million

Failure to read spinal fracture on x-ray - £1.7 million

The spine and spinal cord

Known as the vertebral column (or spinal column) the spine is a fundamental part of the human body that houses and protects the spinal cord. The spine is comprised of protective bones called vertebrae, which start in the skull and make their way down to your lower back.

The vertebral column is divided into five distinct regions:

  • Cervical spine - there are seven vertebrae in this portion of the spine. They are located in the neck and allow for movement of the skull forwards and backwards
  • Thoracic spine - the area in parallel with the thorax (the area between the neck and the abdomen). The thoracic spine has twelve vertebrae in total
  • Lumbar spine - this part of the spine is located in the lower back and contains five vertebrae. Some of the largest unfused spinal discs are located in this section of the vertebral column. It is also worth noting that the spinal cord does not extend past this point of the spinal column
  • Sacral spine - located in the lower part of the back, these five vertebrae are typically fused together to form a solid structure
  • Coccyx - at the bottom of the spinal column is the coccyx, a part of the body commonly referred to as the ‘tailbone’. It is made up of four vertebrae

Humans rely on the spinal column for core internal support. It plays a key role when we stand, bend and turn, all the while protecting the spinal cord from serious injury.

Built into the spinal column is the spinal cord. It is a complex series of nerves that start at the bottom of your brain and run down the vertebral column, all the way to the backbone. The spinal cord, along with the brain, are a significant part of the central nervous system.

The spinal cord as part of the central nervous system has an important role to play in the following areas:

  • Walking - walking is a complex activity coordinated by your brain and the spinal cord. Groups of muscles in your legs have to coordinate to extend and contract repeatedly. Neurons called ‘central pattern generators’ send signals to muscles in your legs to make that happen.
  • Electrical communication - electrical signals are sent up and down the spinal cord, facilitating communication between the whole of the body and the brain
  • Reflexes - involuntary movements that are governed by external stimuli and your brain. For instance, your instinctive reaction to touching something very hot is to withdraw the part of the body affected immediately.

What is a spinal cord injury?

A spinal cord injury is when a portion of the spinal cord or the surrounding nerves at the base of the spine have been damaged. Generally, the closer the spinal cord injury is to the brain, the more severe the damage as more parts of the body will be affected.

Injuries to the spinal cord can severely impact many aspects for a person’s life. The victim may suffer from paralysis. The extent of their disability will be determined by the level of the spinal cord injury and whether it is complete or incomplete.

Types of spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injuries are categorised by where the injury has been sustained. As mentioned previously, the spinal column can be broken down into five distinct areas.

Each portion of the spine houses specific functions for the human body and sustaining an injury on a higher part of the spine, generally results in more serious consequences for the victim.

High-cervical nerves (Upper neck, C1 - C4)

  • Severe paralysis is often the result, with hands, legs and torso all paralysed
  • The victim may not be able to breathe independently
  • Requires assistance with routine daily activities, such as eating, dressing and getting in and out of bed

Low-cervical nerves (Lower neck C5-C8)

  • Responsible for nerves controlling arms and hands
  • Typically, people with this type of injury may be able to breathe independently and speak uninhibited
  • Many people with this type of spinal injury will have little or no control of their bowels and bladder
  • A moderate level of personal care is required for people with this type of injury

Thoracic nerves (Higher, T1 - T5)

  • Damage sustained here affects muscles, the upper chest, the mid-back and abdominal muscles
  • Injuries usually affect legs, resulting in paraplegia - the paralysis or loss of feeling of legs or the lower body
  • The victim can use braces or crutches to walk, as arm and hand function is typically normal
  • The patient is usually capable of using a wheelchair

Thoracic nerves (Lower, T6 - T12)

  • Damage to this area results in loss of function and feeling of the abdominal and back muscles, depending on the nature of the injury sustained
  • Upper body movement is usually unaffected
  • Many people with this type of spinal injury will have little or no control of their bowels and bladder
  • Injury to this area of the spinal cord can result in lower limb paraplegia

Lumbar nerves (L1 - L5)

  • Usually leads to a loss of function in the hips and legs
  • Results in very little or no control of the bowel and bladder, but the patient can use equipment to manage their condition without care
  • A wheelchair may be used if there is not enough strength in the legs, otherwise leg braces may be an option

Sacral nerves (S1 - S5)

  • Results in some loss of function in the hips and legs
  • Many people with this type of spinal injury will have little or no control of their bowels and bladder
  • In comparison to damage sustained in other areas of the spinal cord, people with an injury to this area will likely be able to walk

Medical negligence

Sometimes medical mistakes can lead to spinal cord damage. As spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis, incontinence, and loss of the ability to walk, the consequences can be far-reaching and devastating. Some examples of negligence include:

  • Complications during spinal surgery
  • Mistakes during spinal surgery, such as severing the spinal cord
  • Failing to diagnose fractures or breaks/fractures of the neck and back
  • Mistakes made when handling patients with spinal injuries
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed treatment

Life after spinal cord injuries

Suffering a spinal cord injury is life-changing for everyone concerned and the prospect of full recovery for the victim is often limited at best. For families, watching a loved one suffer and struggle with the consequences of a serious injury places enormous stresses and challenges on all concerned.

When planning for life after a spinal cord injury, you may have to think about:

  • Carers to assist with day-to-day tasks
  • Specialist equipment to assist with bodily functions such as breathing, urinating or defecating
  • Rehabilitation to retrain your body to perform tasks such as walking or holding an object
  • Making alterations to your home to improve access and comfort
  • Therapy to come to terms with nature of injuries sustained

How we can help

Potter Rees Dolan’s 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 help families recover the compensation they deserve.

About Helen Dolan, head of the department, Chambers 2017 says: “A source describes Helen Dolan as ‘formidable in her knowledge of the law and medicine,’ adding: ‘She's one of the best clinical negligence solicitors in Manchester.’”

Chambers 2017 says, Lesley Herbertson “plays a crucial role in many of the firm’s diverse clinical negligence cases. A commentator highlights her “understanding of cases and the way she moves cases forward," while another interviewee adds: ‘She is an extremely bright lawyer who is lovely with clients and keen to put them at ease’.”

Gill Edwards is described as being “well regarded for work on catastrophic injury in both adults and children. Her background as a registered general nurse aids her in issues of medical negligence. One source notes that ‘she is really lovely with clients, very thorough, and has a warm personality.’”

Our clients tell us it is the empathy and care with which we act that sets us apart. We specialise in serious and catastrophic injuries, so we know how difficult it can be to live with severe disability. It is our aim, therefore, to make the claim process as stress-free for you and your family.

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 can investigate your potential claim and you will not have to pay us a penny if your case is not successful. We will explain how a Conditional Fee Agreement works at our very first meeting.

You may already have a legal expense insurance policy. In the first instance, we’ll always start by investigating whether you can use the same policy for your case, before we consider whether a Conditional Fee Agreement is more appropriate.

What happens next?

First, we will discuss your circumstances in detail and help you understand whether you have a case or not. If we agree that you do, we will help you gather all of the necessary evidence to build a strong case. We do this to make sure we can give you the best chance to recover the right amount of compensation.

Your medical records are our first point of call - we will obtain them and go through them with you in depth.

We will then instruct independent experts to advise whether or not you or your family member has received substandard treatment. Once we have ascertained you have been a victim of clinical negligence, we will initiate court proceedings. We will progress the claim as quickly as possible, whilst always exploring opportunities to adequately settle the case early.

Where possible, we also work towards obtaining early interim awards. For spinal cord injuries, interim payments are a lifeline for our claimants because it can make a real difference. For some, it can mean the purchase of braces to enable walking, for others it can mean around the money for around the clock care, or expensive equipment to improve access around the home.

Contact us today

Our team is here for you and ready to get you the help and support you need. Please give us a call on 0800 027 2557.

If you’d like one of our solicitors to give you a call back, fill out form on the side of the page or visit our contact page. If there is someone specific at the firm you would like to speak to, visit their profile on our people page.

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