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CPotential CEO Jo Honigmann interviews clinical negligence specialists Kate Rohde and Suzanne Farg of Kingsley Napley LLP on reasons for pursuing a clinical negligence claim and how to start the process.

Jo Kate, Suzanne, many thanks for joining me on this vodcast.  Kate, why should parents of children with cerebral palsy consider bringing a clinical negligence claim?
Kate Well Jo, as you will know, cerebral palsy is caused by many many different things. The main type of cerebral palsy that we see is where it has been caused by lack of oxygen at birth and sometimes that is something that we can prove was an avoidable occurrence and clearly it is going to have huge ramifications for the family and for the child and of course the medical profession do everything that they can to prevent these occurrences but when they do happen, then that is the moment that actually families quite often should think about contacting a clinical negligence lawyer.  Really because what our job is to look into the future for that child and understand what their needs are going to be and how those are best met.  So, a lot of people think our job is to blame the doctors.  It is not, our job is to prevent, through ensuring that these cases come to light, but far more important the individual case to the individual child, making sure that the safety net is there for them in the future which I hope in turn gives a degree of reassurance to the family that their child will be looked after in the future.
Jo Thank you, Kate. Suzanne can you elaborate on this idea of a safety net.  What in particular are the benefits of bringing a claim?
Suzanne The benefits can be very significant and the compensation that Kate has spoken about is intended to meet a child’s complex needs throughout their lifetime and that can include elements such as care, physio therapy, speech and language therapy, adapted accommodation, purchasing specialist equipment and being able to purchase those things privately and, purchasing those things give an individual a lot more control than having to battle for Social Services provision.  Parents will often have seen in the press stories about cases like this settling for millions of pounds and while that is true, there is a much bigger story that goes behind those headlines that involves every case having many experts often ten or more experts, giving evidence under each element of a child’s life and their needs in order to build up a complete picture of an individual child’s needs so that the compensation can meet those needs over their life.
Jo Kate, in your experience, what brings parents to your door?  Why do they bring a clinical negligence claim?
Kate Again, many many different reasons but sometimes parents will come to us perhaps because in the hospital the doctors have a duty of candour and on occasion somebody has said to them I am sorry something has gone wrong, you need to go and talk to a lawyer.  That in the past was vanishingly rare but it’s becoming something that we are seeing more and more.  Also, what quite often happens, we find, is that a child isn’t meeting the development milestones and that leads to questions and parents thinking that something happened at birth and wondering if there is more to be looked at here.  Parents who have been given the diagnosis of cerebral palsy will sometimes then think, okay what does that mean and they will look on the internet and they will see these enormous awards that Suzanne has been talking about and often where they are particularly battling with Social Services to get provision they think actually that may be that would help and parents quite often come to us saying I just don’t know, can you look at it and, of course, in that situation we can give them the benefit of our advice and guidance as to whether or not they are likely to be able to pursue a claim.  Sometimes you get much much later claims, so people come in when their child is much older just wanting questions answered really and perhaps they have had always had a sense that something didn’t quite add up and sometimes those claims, although often difficult, are possible to pursue as well, so lots of different of reasons is the not so simple answer to that question.
Jo Thank you.  It sounds as though there are many different points at which people contact you.  When is the optimum time to contact a clinical negligence lawyer, Suzanne?
Suzanne In a cerebral palsy case usually the closer to birth the better. But, that having been said, we’ve investigated many cases in which the child is already between 10 and 20 years old.  The important thing to remember is the limitation period.  Which simply means that if the child has intellectual ability to instruct lawyers and bring a claim as an adult then the claim must be brought by the time they are 21.  If they have a cognitive impairment though there is not usually a time limit for bringing the claim but older cases can be much more difficult to bring simply because documents may not be available, witnesses and people’s memories inevitably fade over time.
Jo Thank you. I think a lot of parents may not know where to start, so how should parents start the process, Suzanne?
Suzanne Well, at Kingsley Napley, it usually starts with a parent making a phone call to us or sending an email. They will then be offered an appointment with specialist clinical negligence lawyer who will go through and explain the process to them. That appointment with Kingsley Napley is free of charge and they’ll be able to then make that decision about whether or not to go ahead and pursue a claim.
Jo How soon after the process has started can a child expect to receive compensation? 
Suzanne It is not easy to give a particular timescale because it varies from case to case but, as soon as it has been determined that negligence was the cause of the child’s disability, they would be able to get some damages.  So, as soon as that has been determined, the child will usually receive an interim payment of damages which is a part payment to fund the needs that they have immediately while the rest of the case is ongoing just in order to quantify all of the compensation.
Kate In my experience, often that initial paid money can make a huge difference to the quality of life of those families because it is not that unusual to use that to adapt a property, as Suzanne says, to purchase care.
Jo Obviously bringing any form of court case is very time-consuming and stressful.  Kate, what would it feel like to pursue a clinical negligence case?
Kate Well, I suppose that is a question far more for the parents of these children and the families of these children than the lawyer but what I would say is that it is a very protracted process.  It takes a long time, it’s very detailed.  I would be misleading if I said it isn’t stressful for families because it does require a lot of input.  It requires them to face certain issues when you are reading experts’ reports for example, that can be quite difficult and painful reading.  But it’s also a collaborative process, very collaborative, and your lawyer should be supporting you all the way through so, I think probably what it requires, what it feels like, is as I say, a matter for the family but what it requires is quite of lot of persistence and patience, a willingness to share a lot of detail with your lawyer so actually it needs to be a very trusting relationship because the lawyer will spend a lot of time with the family and delve quite deeply into the way that that particular family works and that particular child’s needs, which is how you get back to the safety net principle, how you get the best safety net for that child and that family in the future.
Jo Thank you Kate and Suzanne. That was illuminating.  Thank you very much for making this vodcast with us and we look forward to welcoming you back on further vodcasts.