News article(s) pulled through to homepage.

New Scheme to Settle Maternity Claims.

We recently tweeted news of the Government’s plans for maternity claims against the NHS. Here’s more detail about the proposals and how it might affect some of our clients.

Cerebral Palsy Cases Now

If you think that your baby has been injured because of poor medical care during the pregnancy or in labour, you can have a long wait before any compensation is awarded. Medical experts take  years just to report, which means several years before the case is  ready for court proceedings to begin.

The Courts in England are also under more pressure with less money spent. This means it can take a long time to get hearings and for a trial date to be set.

If you have a successful claim, most often a child’s condition, such as cerebral palsy, cannot be fully assessed until they are older. We do make claims for some money in advance to meet immediate needs, like housing, care and equipment. However, the case will not finally settle until the child’s full prognosis can be identified. This can be over 10 years from the family 1st making contact with a solicitor.

Background To A New Redress Scheme

The Government have recognised the cost of birth injury cases is rising and the number of cases which should have been preventable is also on the rise. To resolve this, professionals were contacted to see if there was a better way to stop medical negligence birth claims.

More than 200 unique responses were received to a consultation held earlier this year on the issue, almost half from midwives and 33 from legal professionals.

The vast majority of respondents agreed the scheme should include early investigations, conducted by professionals independent of the trust involved.

The proposals also asked professionals about who should run the scheme. Many lawyers, ourselves included, said the NHS ought not to run the scheme. We felt there was a real conflict when the same organisation would be paying the compensation bill.

Another part of the scheme will consider NHS Trusts paying less money if their maternity and neonatal safety records improves. Coroners will most likely now investigate deaths of babies stillborn at 37 weeks or more. This should give a better picture of cases nationally which can identify general problems at a Trust or around England.

The New Scheme

From April 2019, the new scheme for maternity compensation will be in place. Whilst details are not yet available, when introduced it will speed up payments to the child. By agreeing fault much sooner, a child will have earlier access to money; this can be used to rehouse the client as well as pay for much needed therapy. This has to be a good thing; we all know that children benefit from early intervention and this is certainly the case for our young disabled clients.

Most importantly, the new scheme should look more closely into outcomes during labour. For far too long, the same mistakes are repeated and long term, life changing damage occurs. This devastates the whole family. Improving patient safety must be top of the list.

The rapid redress scheme is considering admitting fault sooner which also has an impact on legal costs. Cerebral palsy cases are expensive and some of the highest cost cases to pursue. If some of those costs reduce,because liability should be admitted, more money can go back into the NHS to further improve patient safety.

An early upfront payment, likely to be between £50,000 and £100,000,when avoidability can be established, has been considered. We have seen many clients who need significantly more than £100,000 to meet immediate needs. We hope this figure will increase.

Jeremy Hunt MP stated “‘Really when people go to the law, we have failed. If we get this right – if we can be more open, honest and transparent with families earlier on – it will, I hope, mean many fewer legal cases”. We do not think it will mean fewer legal cases because children with cerebral palsy,or other injuries sustained at birth, will always need legal advice. It does, in our view, mean that clients will have access to compensation sooner. We also hope it will mean fewer injuries by preventing more claims which would reduce the number of legal claims.

Conclusion

All our clients, without fail, want to stop others being injured.  A scheme which genuinely prevents negligence and injury is in everyone’s interest. We hope the new scheme will live up to our expectations.

The government has set an ambitious target to halve the rates of  stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths by 2025, having brought forward this target by five years.

 

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) state they support promises of early investigations, apologies, and shared learning in the proposed rapid resolution and redress scheme for severe birth injury, but the approach to damages is crude when compared to the proper assessment of a child’s needs which comes with litigation.

‘The original proposed scheme would only pay 90% of an average court settlement. ” We agree that full compensation is needed to care long term for severely damaged babies.

Why The Law On Bereavement Compensation Needed to Change

Ed Myers has been helping clients for over 30 years who have been injured through no fault of their ow. This has included cases where a client has died. It has been argued by claimant lawyers for many years that couples who were not married, when their partner died, should not face the added trauma of being told the loss of their relationship is compensated differently to a married couple.

Finally we now have something to celebrate, as Ed reports in more detail on the recent case which we mentioned in social media last week.

 

Congratulations and thanks to Jakki Smith from Chorley in Lancashire who has successfully changed a law which allowed only the survivor of a married couple to claim a bereavement allowance after their partner died.

Despite recommendations from committed law firms, such as Barratts, and the Independent Law Commission, no Government has been prepared to change a law which reflected society’s values in 1917 rather than 2017.  When Jakki claimed a bereavement allowance of £12,980.00 this was refused by the High Court and she therefore took her case to the Court of Appeal.  Claiming that the English law was in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, she was able to persuade the court that the previous law was wrong and that it discriminated against unmarried couples.  The court accepted her argument and this has now opened the way for other unmarried partners to claim such damages when their partner dies.

The result is a testimony to Jakki’s willingness to take on, and defeat, a clearly unfair law. All that is now needed is for the Government to introduce new legislation so this decision can be implemented  as soon as possible. We hope the wait will not be too long.

Interview with a skydiver!

Debra Morris, specialist brain injury solicitor at Barratts and Chair of Headway Derby, has spent the last few weeks recovering after she went skydiving on 26th October. Debra gave us this interview:

Where did the idea to skydive come from?

  • My daughter, Katie, had it on her bucket list. I foolishly said I would join Katie and skydive if it was for a really good cause. I never really thought it would ever happen!

Who did the skydive?

  • Alison Wright is a case manager who works with patients who have suffered a brain injury. Alison was intending to skydive for her 50th birthday; she told one of my clients whom she helps with care and support, they told me and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why did you decide to skydive?

  • Alison Wright had already agreed to skydive to raise funds for Headway, the national brain injury charity. My work involves helping injured clients with brain injury to secure compensation to help improve their lives. However, I also see many people who cannot claim compensation and rely on the services of brain injury charities. This was the reason I became Chair of Headway Derby. The chance to raise a lot of money for Headway Derby was too good to miss.

What was it like to skydive?

  • I was very nervous on the day. We had decided to skydive in September when the weather would be better but we were cancelled 3 times before we got the go ahead. By then I was even more scared but we hardly had time to worry as we got the call on the same day that the plane could take off. I was relieved not to have another sleepless night!
  • I have posted my video to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lhcg5l_z_Y
  • Katie and Alison really enjoyed themselves but my experience was not the same! Hanging out a plane thousands of feet above the ground has to be the scariest thing I have ever faced.
  • Whilst I did survive it in one piece (with no aches or pains afterwards) I absolutely hated every moment.  I knew it would be scary but didn’t realise how bad until the moment I stepped out of the airplane into a void below – going face down at 120 m.p.h.  We were 13,000 feet up and as it was a cloudy day we couldn’t see anything until the parachute opened (fortunately!).

How will Headway Derby Benefit?

  • We are almost at our £3,000 target and there is a possibility we might even raise more money. The funds will be used to set up mobile support and advice hubs around Derbyshire to broaden our area of support to those with a head injury.

What’s your next adventure?

  • My feet are staying firmly on the ground. I am working hard with staff at Headway Derby and we continually look for ways to improve the service.
  •  We have been on  Headway’s list of solicitors for Nottingham for many years. This involves independent evidence that the solicitor’s firm has experience acting for clients with brain injury. Since the skydive I have been told that we have also now been accepted for the Derby area. As I head up Barratt’s Derby office, this will keep me busy.

Any Last Words?

I would encourage anyone thinking about an activity to give a thought to the many charities around the UK who support those most in need. Whilst my skydiving days are definitely numbered, I do not regret my decision. I have been passionate about helping clients with head injury since I began my legal career, which makes it all the more satisfying to raise money for Headway Derby.

Why Choose Barratts Solicitors?

We recently announced our top ranking in Legal 500, an independent legal guide, which described us as “one of the best” law firms in the country. Less than a month later Chambers Legal Guide has been published. This places both our Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence teams at the top for our litigation work. Our 5 partners are all “notable practitioners”, an accolade that is limited to only a few solicitors in the UK.

What Chambers Say About Our Personal Injury Department In 2017:

Why Is A Review By Chambers Important?

Chambers is a legal guide which asks clients, barristers, solicitors in other firms, medical experts and other professionals to provide a confidential analysis of the best law firms around the world. Only a small percentage of law firms are named each year. The ranking is based on the feedback from these referees; this means it is the most reliable source to find the best solicitors in the UK.

Barratts have consistently been named as one of the best Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Solicitor firms since appearing in Chambers. The fact that  our 5 partners are also ranked as “notable” means that within the best firms all of our partners are at the top of their profession. We are extremely proud to have retained our number 1 ranking; clients can instruct us knowing that our reputation is built on independent reviews by those who truly know how we work.

Barratts are “one of the best in the country”

Excellence shown on a compass

The Legal 500 is an independent guide which ranks the best legal firms in the UK. Barratts Solicitors are proud that the firm is not only ranked by Legal 500 but is consistently placed in the top 1st tier every year. To achieve this accolade every year is testament to the firm’s commitment to have experienced lawyers handling compensation claims.

The Legal 500 entry gives more information about our lawyers and some examples of cases that we have been involved in for 2016/17:

Fantastic niche firm’ Barratts Solicitors is ‘one of the best in the country’, advising solely on personal injury and clinical negligence cases of maximum severity, such as cerebral palsy and birth injury, spinal and brain injury, and delayed diagnosis and treatment. The clinical negligence department, led by Alison Brooks, is currently investigating quantum of a wrongful birth claim for a child born with severe microcephaly and suffering from cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other health complications. In Peppard v Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the team claimed damages for paraplegia resulting from delayed diagnosis and treatment of cord compression and venous thrombophlebitis. Emma Zukowska represented a patient of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in a trial contested on liability arising from delayed diagnosis of appendicitis followed by peritonitis. The ‘intelligent, tactically astute and hardworking’ Julie Hardy, praised as a ‘model solicitor’, settled claims for delayed diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension, glaucoma and ectopic pregnancy. Court of Protection specialist Julie Greenwood is claiming delay in delivery and resuscitation resulting in dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Personal injury practice head Ed Myers handled litigation proceedings arising from a fatal road traffic accident of a British citizen in France and represented two healthcare workers claiming assault in the workplace against their employer. Other work on the personal injury side included serious road traffic accidents and asbestosis claims. David Tomlinson is also recommended, as is associate Debra Morris, who heads the Derby office. Malcolm Goff has retired.

All our lawyers who were working at Barratts in 2016-17 are personally named.  We think this is unique to our firm. We know that our clients need advice they can trust from lawyers who know what they are talking about. The 8 lawyers share nearly 200 years expertise between them.

Our commitment to helping injured clients was praised by other solicitors, medical experts, barristers, professionals working with those affected by spinal or brain injury, and, last but not least, our clients.

Ed Myers was also named as a leading individual. We could not be more proud of our latest entry in Legal 500.

To find out more about Legal 500, you can also go to their website at http://www.legal500.com.

Insurer Profits Remain High

Three insurance companies have posted healthy profits in their 2017 first half interim results. Has this also led to a reduction in the cost of car insurance premiums charged to drivers?

The Results

Aviva’s half year results for 2017 show that its overall operating profit rose by 11%, and that UK motor insurance premiums increased by 9% (from £530 million to £580 million). The dividend paid out to shareholders went up by 13%.

AXA also reported strong half year performance with a 4% increase in underlying earnings, and a 6% growth in revenue from UK motor insurance.

Direct Line reported a 9.5% increase in operating profits in its interim half year results for 2017. In early 2017, Direct Line increased its motor insurance prices to its customers by 6.6%, compared with the same time in 2016, blaming the increase on proposed plans to adjust the Discount Rate and on an “anticipated increase in claims inflation”.

However, in its interim results paper, the Direct Line Group has said that “bodily injury claims continued to trend more favourably than expected”, meaning that it has paid out less than expected. The insurer also said that its motor line continued to grow gross written premiums, which was up 10%, with Direct Line driving the growth.

Do Drivers Benefit from Insurer’s Profits?

Claimant lawyers have asked insurers to justify profits  at a time when the average cost of comprehensive car insurance cover is at a record high of £690 – an increase of 19.6% in a year. Insurers do not detail how they calculate premiums but a need to be more transparent is gaining momentum; in particular The Daily Telegraph investigation eerlier this month revealed that repair costs were being inflated by insurers as much as 100%. Their report showed that some insurers were doubling the actual cost of car repairs in exchange for financial kickbacks.

The Government  is under pressure from insurers to change the law to make it more difficult for those injured on the roads or at work to make a claim for damages. They  argue that this was the only way to lower prices for motorists, but behind the scenes insurers are not passing on profits to car drivers.

We know that last year road accident claims dropped by 7% and workplace accident and disease claims by 21%. Insurers have stated that a recent increase in the way that future damages are calculated will impact their profits and suggest that savings will be passed on to drivers. We wait to see if this will happen, especially as the Government are set to again reduce the calculations for future damages for injured clients. Will this saving be passed on to drivers if that happens?

 

Top Tips for Personal Budgets

Many of our clients rely on support from the Government to pay for care. The system of Personal Budgets allows parents or carers to apply for financial help from their local council. The procedures and criteria for each council are not the same which makes the whole process confusing and inconsistent.

Alison Brooks recently attended a talk, given by Nottingham City Council  (“NCC”). They gave helpful advice about how to apply for a personal budget (“PB”) and what is covered. Here are some tips you might find useful but please note that every case is decided individually and another council may be different.

What are PBs

  1. Personal budgets cover education, health or social care. They are used to meet the additional needs of a disabled child. They do not cover the usual costs of bringing up a child. This means they do not include costs for childcare so a carer or parent can go to work, even though we know some families struggle to find suitable care for a disabled child.
  2. There is no minimum age limit but councils are reluctant to pay a PB for babies and young children as they would need more help than an older child. Direct payments will stop at age 18 unless the child is in a special school when payments continue to the end of the next school year at age 19.
  3. Payments are usually made direct to the parent who can use the funds to provide respite care or extra help for their child.
  4. Some payments are made to the provider, for example education payments to a school or social and health payments to a care agency.

What Can You Claim?

  1. NCC will pay up to £1,600 if your child has a diagnosed disability, without needing another assessment.
  2. You can also claim up to £6,000 without an assessment but your child will need evidence from a multi agency assessment to show more help is needed.
  3. Your needs will usually be assessed by a social worker if you need a higher budget, for example, overnight short breaks for respite. NCC will fund up to £9,000 per annum.
  4. For those families with very complex needs, a budget over £9,000 can be paid. This is available to children with exceptional health care needs and usually also involves a specialist nurse assessing your child.
  5. Please note this criteria is only applied by NCC. Find out from your own council about their pathways for claiming.

Applying for a Personal Budget

It can be time consuming applying for help. Consider if a close relative or friend can assist; they may have noticed when help is needed that you have not thought about.

Here are some items to think about including in your application

  • Keep a note of extra time you spend in the day and at night for your disabled child compared to one of their siblings.
  • Keep a diary or take photos of times when you have needed someone to help your child access social events.
  • Are you a single parent? Councils are more likely to increase help if you are coping alone.
  • Are there other circumstances at home which might affect your child’s needs, for example, looking after an elderly relative or another child with special needs.
  • What about your own health? It is vital that parents and carers remain healthy and often we see families struggling to look after their own health needs.
  • Keep details of payments and a record of activities which were not covered by the PB plan. You may want to consider adding these to the PB when you apply the next year.
  • If your child’s needs increase, let the council know. The council is able to review PB plans before the annual review takes place.
  • If you need to employ a carer, include the cost of an agency to set up payroll.
  • If your carer may need training, for example, how to move a disabled child safely, then include the costs for manual handling training courses.

If you are not getting enough to help your child, the more evidence you have, the more likely the council will be able to help.

Using Personal Budget Payments

You will need to set up a separate bank account to keep a record of payments. Most councils, including NCC, will monitor paments to make sure you use the money for the needs identified in the support plan. The PB must be used for specific care needs but can include help for your child to mix with their peer group and to achieve as much independance as possible. Accessing social and leisure activities can be included in your plan so make a note of the cost for a carer coming with you.

NCC require 3 monthly monitoring of bank statements and documents. Check what your council needs so you can make sure you have the right information for them. NCC make it easier by setting up an account which they can monitor. This is a good option for busy families and saves you time

If you need to employ carers, make use of the help councils provide to put you in touch with an agency to set up payment. They will include DBS checks as well as making sure pension and payroll and properly set up. YOu will need to keep a record of time spent emplying the carer. Whilst the cost of using an agency will come out of your PB, if you include it in your plan, the money will be there for you to use.

Carers may also want to attend courses on safeguarding (which is usally free to attend) and you may want to ask for money in your PB to cover manual handling courses.

Summary

Working your way through direct payments for Personal Budgets is hard when you are coping with a child with special needs. Do contact your local council to get as much help as possible. It is regrettable that PBs are still a postcode lottery and what one council will pay may vary from each area. We can only suggest you get as much informaton as possible to support your application and ask the council for advice before you send it in.

The council can also tell you about any other services yo might use. We know that NCC has a “Max Card” which families can use for free or discounted access to an event or venue; see www.mymaxcard.co.uk

Get advice from your local doctors and therapists. If you have a social worker, ask them what you can claim and ask other families about their experience – knowledge is power!

 

 

How To Recognise Subtle Brain Injury

Debra Morris, Chair of Headway Derby, has written about Subtle Brain Injury (SBI) in the latest addition to our website pages. Check out the details on our Personal Injury section, with guidance and advice about the signs of SBI.

Debra shares her knowledge of clients who had SBI yet their diagnosis was often missed by medical professionals. This is because SBI can often involve concussion without  losing consciousness and is therefore treated as a minor injury. It is vital to look out for signs of SBI, for example, dizziness or changes in behaviour.

There are experts who can determine if a client has suffered a SBI and this can make all the difference to clients. If you have SBI it can affect your future, including getting back to work. It is therefore essential that clients get the right advice to secure the right amount of compensation.  Debra specialises in SBI which means she knows who to turn to for the right medical assessments and can support clients during their fight for compensation. Don’t leave your future in the hands of a solicitor if they do not specialise in SBI.

Please read Debra’s page on SBI for more information or call Debra for free and impartial advice.

“Absolutely fantastic” service

This was the response from our client, Rae Scudder, who sent a note to Ed Myers and his assistant, Sue, after her road traffic claim settled.

On the evening of 16 November 2015, Rae was travelling home from her late shift,on on her moped, when she was hit by a vehicle which turned directly into her path.  Rae, a keen and talented dancer, sustained serious injury to both legs requiring intensive hospital treatment.  She underwent extensive physiotherapy, but was unable to either dance or teach dancing for many months.  Gradually however, through determination and commitment, she was able to resume her passion for dancing.

Ed Myers lawyer at Barratts Legal

How Did We Help Rae?

At Barratts we prioritise rehabilitation; Ed was able to assist Rae by persuading the insurers of the car driver to agree to an urgent initial assessment of Rae’s needs. This enabled us to get a payment to fund rehabilitation. This meant Rae could recover more quickly from her injuries meaning she could also get back to dancing much sooner.

Rae describes Ed’s advice as “straightforward, honest and trustworthy”. We pride ourselves that clients are recommended to come to Barratts for a personal, specialist service. That is why it’s great news to hear Rae tell us that “You made a difficult time much easier and I felt treated with dignity and respect throughout.”

Sue helped Rae by communicating direct with the Vehicle recovery company, making “complicated and confusing” jargon understandable. Indeed, Rae says that Sue remained “calm and collected” and she had”incredible support and service” from our Personal Injury team.

After lengthy negotiations, Ed persuaded the insurers to accept responsibility for the accident. They paid compensation for Rae’s physical and psychological injuries. The insurers also compensated Rae for her future losses because her injuries were likely to affect her career as a dancer.

We ask clients to tell us how we can improve our service. Rae said there was nothing – she thinks we are “efficient, professional and welcoming- I can’t praise them enough”.

Spinal Injury Association Survey Revealed

The Spinal Injury Association (the “SIA”) polled 136  people with spinal cord injury (“SCI”) to seek their views about litigation. The results show that the current system is too slow but, more importantly, the experience of their lawyer had a significant impact on the person’s compensation. Why are Clients With SCI Unhappy With Their Lawyers? […]