Amid the positivity of sharing information and experience at the NAIDEX event, it's important to acknowledge the challenges and associated stress of living with disability, supporting a disabled family member or helping someone come to terms with serious injury and learning to move forward with their life.
Where medical negligence has contributed to catastrophic injury resulting in permanent disability the impact of a financial settlement obviously transforms the quality of life of someone who has been injured and helps them fulfil their potential, often beyond their dreams.
But, almost as importantly, the ensuing financial stability relieves the tremendous and sometimes overwhelming worry of family members, such as parents raising a disabled child, about how to support and protect them for life.
This is certainly true for the parents of an amazing teenage client who suffered a severe birth injury resulting in cerebral palsy. Despite this injury, at the age of 15 she has become an incredible role model. Her father said that, following the hearing in court where the judge approved an interim settlement, for the first time since she was born he could relax and enjoy her amazing resilience and achievements and look forward to her future.
Our client's first objective – as someone who loves to chat - was to update her eye-gaze technology so that her voice fitted her personality.
Other practical support provided by interim payments and then final payment to those injured as a result of medical negligence can be tailored to individual needs and will likely include hands-on therapies, such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, as well as care and support. Where appropriate, treatment for psychological or psychiatric injuries can be offered, in the form of neuropsychological therapy, psychiatric or psychological support, including CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) or counselling to help improve mental wellbeing and adjustment to the impact of the injury suffered.
In certain cases, where a disability is suffered in adulthood, the provision of vocational rehabilitation can be invaluable in helping support a return to work or to support access back into the workplace. For example, I worked with a working mother who suffered a brain injury after the local hospital failed to diagnose and treat a brain haemorrhage. This caused severe and irreversible memory problems, change in personality and ongoing difficulties in making decisions and managing tasks. She was unable to return to her original full-time job because of these difficulties but with vocational support she was helped to maintain alternative structured employment within the workplace which, understandably, was invaluable in improving her self-esteem by enabling her to make a valuable contribution. This type of therapeutic support can also help people get back to previous leisure activities they’ve enjoyed or to take up new hobbies.
I've learnt over the years that each case is unique, but describing an individual case often best illustrates the impact of litigation.
A child I'll call Jane suffered severe cerebral palsy as a result of a delay in delivering her at birth. Tragically, she was unable to communicate, was wheelchair dependent and completely reliant on her family for all aspects of her care.
Securing an interim payment from the defendant, in this case a hospital trust, which admitted liability early on, enabled a case manager to be employed, who was able to oversee the implementation of speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy as well as neuropsychology.
This input allowed Jane to source and access a hi-tech communication aid to allow her to communicate more freely not only with family members but at school and with the people she met. Occupational therapy provided advice on the best types of equipment to allow her greater independence in being mobile and in accessing everyday activities such as taking a bath and helping with cooking and feeding herself.
Jane was also able to take part in one of her loves, horse riding, via physiotherapy and hippotherapy and swimming with hydrotherapy. Support was also provided to the family as a whole. It hardly needs saying that disability within a family impacts not just the individual person, but the whole family. Carers were recruited to provide support day and night to allow her parents much needed respite from providing 24/7 care. Last but not least, it was possible to fund alternative accommodation that provides enough space for Jane to freely use her wheelchairs and mobility equipment, and to provide up to the minute facilities for care and therapies at home.
Name: Jenny Urwin
Telephone: 0161 268 8595