Clinical negligence can become harder and harder to prove as the years go by and that is why it makes sense to consult a solicitor as soon as possible. However, as a High Court case showed, expert personal injury lawyers are still capable of taking effective action years, even decades, after the event.
The case concerned a woman who had suffered developmental delay, cerebral palsy and visual impairment since her birth in 1992. She lacked, and would always lack, capacity to manage her own affairs. Years after the event, her family launched proceedings on her behalf against the Secretary of State for Health.
Whilst accepting that a brain haemorrhage she suffered prior to her birth was unavoidable, they claimed that negligent treatment she subsequently received was the primary cause of her brain damage. In particular, they alleged that there had been a delay of three to four weeks in inserting a shunt to relieve pressure on her brain.
The Secretary of State denied that there had been any breach of duty on the part of hospital staff. He submitted that the woman’s brain damage arose from the initial haemorrhage and that any delay in inserting a shunt made no difference to the outcome.
Following negotiations, however, the Secretary of State agreed to pay 55 per cent of the full value of her claim. Although the final amount of her compensation had yet to be assessed, the compromise guaranteed that she would receive a very substantial sum.
Approving the settlement in respect of liability, the Court noted that the case raised particularly complex medical issues. The compromise fairly reflected litigation risks and evidential problems arising from the passage of so many years. The Secretary of State also agreed to make a £200,000 interim payment to tide her over pending assessment of the full value of her claim.
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