Removing the mystery of legal claims involving hydrocephalus in children and babies

Mother and child
6 minute read

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At Enable Law, we put our clients first and do our best to make the legal process as easy for them as possible. It is important to us that as well as being approachable, we adapt our way of working to best suit our clients.

If you have worries and concerns about whether your child has suffered an injury because something went wrong in the care they received, investigating whether there is a claim can help you to get answers. It’s important to understand that getting in touch with us is not going to cost money. We are here to provide anyone considering whether their child may have a potential claim free initial advice to help them understand their options and explain the process of bringing a claim to them.

In these cases where someone has a claim we can help with, we very much focus on their wants and needs and work around them. A claim is a detailed process that if successful, can provide your child with additional resources to ensure their care, aids and equipment as well as therapy needs are met for life.

Deciding to contact a Solicitor for advice on a claim on behalf of you or your child can seem daunting. To help remove the mystery of what happens, we’ve set out below the initial steps we take when investigating claims and some brief information about hydrocephalus.

What is hydrocephalus?

A condition causing excessive fluid in or around the brain, caused by either:

  • A lack of absorption,
  • A blockage of flow, or
  • Overproduction of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that is made inside the ventricles.

Claims involving hydrocephalus can include misdiagnosis or late diagnosis, surgical errors and failure to diagnose and promptly treat a blocked shunt, amongst many others.

Babies/children and hydrocephalus

In babies, hydrocephalus can cause the bones of their skulls to separate and expand making them larger than normal. This will be visible either by looking at the baby, or by measuring their head circumference.

If hydrocephalus occurs, it can affect a baby’s brain and development. This is why early recognition, proper treatment and infection prevention are all crucial. With a timely diagnosis it is possible to:

  • Remove the obstruction
  • Drain excess fluid
  • Use a ‘shunt’ device to keep CSF away from the brain
  • Operate to create a new pathway for fluid


Initial steps in a legal claim

When someone in your family is diagnosed with a serious medical condition, such as hydrocephalus, it can often feel like you suddenly have to get to grips with an entirely new vocabulary and set of skills. When contacting us, we will take initial information from you. We will listen to the story and based on the information you give us, we will tell you whether we think making a claim is likely to be successful and bring you the results you want. From the outset, we understand the importance of fully informing our clients on the likely timescales for a claim, as this can be many years, especially if the claim is on behalf of a child who is still young.

In some cases even though a medical professional may not have been able to prevent your child’s injury, they may have done everything possible to try to. Even if you don’t have a claim we completely understand the level of support you will need from additional services and will reach out to our network of trusted professionals and charities to try to help you get this support through them.

If based on the information you give us we think your child may have a claim we will continue with investigations. At this stage what this means is that we will request a full set of the mother’s and child’s medical records. It is important that we also get copies of any hospital investigation reports, complaints documentation and relevant hospital guidelines and protocols. We will then work with you, the parents, to prepare witness statements setting out exactly what happened. We can prepare statements for both mum and dad, depending on your preferences.

Once we have a full copy of the medical records and a draft witness statement, we will identify and instruct suitable independent medical experts to give their advice on the standard of care provided to your child. This is called ‘breach of duty’.

The types of experts we may need for this usually include:

  • Paediatric Neurosurgeon
  • GP expert (depending on who committed the potential breach of duty)
  • Paediatrician (as above)
  • If the substandard care occurred during pregnancy, we may also need an obstetrician or midwifery expert

If the initial experts think that the care provided was substandard, we then need to instruct other experts, usually a paediatric neurologist and paediatric neuroradiologist to advise whether the substandard care has caused the injuries your child suffers from.

If the experts’ reports are supportive, we will then send a letter to the hospital or GP surgery (Letter of Claim) setting out the allegations of negligence, i.e. what aspects of their care fell below the reasonable standard expected of a clinician and what injury this substandard care has caused on the balance of probabilities. We don’t have to show as a matter of certainty that the substandard care caused our client’s injuries, just that there is over a 50% chance it did.

Depending on the response from the hospital, we may be able to come to a settlement of the claim at that stage. This will involve getting some more  experts to comment on the future needs i.e. how your child’s injuries will develop, what will the prognosis be and what help, therapies and support will be needed to give both you as the carer and them the best possible chance at leading an as close to normal life as possible. Through a claim we try to ensure that your child’s needs will be met for the rest of their life to the same level they would have been if the medical negligence had not happened and they did not suffer an injury.  That is why when a child is very young we often have to wait for them to grow up a bit before we can fully understand what their needs are going to be when they get older. That does not mean that during this time you will not receive support if you need it. If the defendant (the person or hospital that is responsible for the negligence) accepts liability (that they are at least partially at fault) we will try to secure interim payments (immediately available money to cover urgent needs) to help you with any such urgent needs. That can include early years support through therapies, rehabilitation, nursing and caring or even in some cases relocating your family if your child’s physical needs are not being met in the current family home.

If after we complete all our investigations and get into discussions with the defendant’s solicitors your child’s case can’t be settled,  we may need to go through the formal court process.

At every step of the way, we explain clearly what’s going to happen in the claim, the timescales involved and try our best to take the stress out of an already stressful situation. No matter what we do, the process is difficult, but our aim is to hold your hand and guide and support you every step of the way.

It is important to note that you will not be asked to pay for any of the work we do or expert reports we get on your behalf if your child’s claim is not successful. We will also support your decisions every step of the way and help you get additional help and support any way we can.

If you want to get in touch with us for a free and confidential initial discussion please call us on 0800 0448488 or fill in the form here so we can give you a call back Contact Us – Enable Law

Read more on hydrocephalus:

Hydrocephalus, head circumference and health visitor negligence – Enable Law
Your baby’s head measurements and Hydrocephalus – Enable Law

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