Following on from our guide to brain injury claims, our senior Medical Negligence Solicitor, Daniel Comerford, takes a detailed look at a successful NHS medical negligence claim relating to brain injury to demonstrate:
- How a medical negligence brain injury claim works
- The possible amounts of compensation that can be awarded for pain, suffering, loss of amenity, and for past and future care needs of the person who continues to suffer.
The Case of Mrs T
Mrs T was 72 years old and was on Warfarin therapy (to decrease the blood's tendency to clot). One day whilst out walking her dog, she slipped and struck her head on the ground.
Mrs T was taken to her local A&E department. The medical notes taken recorded that she was alert and had a small cut to her head. As no abnormalities were found she was discharged home with a head injury advice sheet.
Once she got home, Mrs T rested. Later that evening she began to feel worse and then vomited. As vomiting was one of the warning signs listed on the head injury advice sheet, Mr T, her husband, called 999. Mrs T was then taken back to A&E by ambulance.
Mrs T arrived at A&E around 50 minutes after Mr T had called 999. She was seen by a doctor around 35 minutes after her arrival. The doctor recorded a history of headache (for the last 3 hours), nausea and vomiting.
Around 20 minutes after the consultation with the doctor, Mrs T began complaining of increased nausea and vomiting. She then became very drowsy.
Mrs T was taken to the resuscitation area where she suffered a sudden further deterioration. An urgent CT scan was then performed which showed a large right-sided subdural haematoma (a serious condition where blood collects between the skull and the surface of the brain). The prognosis was believed to be so poor that Mrs T was transferred to a ward for palliative care (end of life care) only.
However, during the course of that evening, Mrs T gradually improved to the extent that she was transferred to a specialist hospital for a craniotomy with evacuation of the subdural haematoma (a surgical procedure where the surgeon can access and remove the collection of blood).
Mrs T subsequently underwent extensive rehabilitation and made excellent progress. She was left with a right-sided hemiparesis (weakness of one entire side of the body) which affected her quality of life and reduced her independence. She required assistance with the majority of the activities of daily living. Care was provided to Mrs T by her husband and then later by a resident carer, when her husband became ill.
Investigating the Claim
Mrs T instructed Medical Negligence Solicitors to bring a NHS medical negligence claim. Her Solicitors investigated the claim by obtaining her medical records and concluded that independent medical experts were needed to prepare reports in her claim. As is often the case in medical negligence claims, her Solicitors instructed different types of medical experts:
- An Accident & Emergency Consultant
- A Consultant Neurosurgeon
- A Neuroradiologist
- A Neurologist.
Independent Medical Experts’ Evidence
The independent medical experts advised that:
- A CT scan should have been arranged at the time of the first attendance at the hospital
- Mrs T should not have been discharged home without a CT scan
- A CT scan should have been performed before a decision was made whether or not to admit her into hospital
- Even if a CT scan could not have been performed immediately, Mrs T should have been admitted and a scan carried out as soon as possible
- An earlier CT scan would have led to earlier surgery. Earlier surgery would have avoided any long-term brain damage.
Admissions Made by the Defendant
Mrs T’s Medical Negligence Solicitors wrote to the Defendant setting out the details of her case and the findings of the independent medical experts. The defendants admitted they were in breach of their duty of care to Mrs T by failing to admit her for observation on her initial attendance at the Accident & Emergency Department.
Subsequently, it was admitted that Mrs T suffered some neurological deficit as a result of their negligence but the Defendant argued that even with appropriate treatment she would have suffered some neurological damage.
The parties were able to agree a total compensation settlement of £900,000 of which it was estimated that £600,000 was in respect of the past and future care Mrs T required (she was expected to live for another 10 years) and £100,000 was for the pain suffering and loss of amenity suffered by Mrs T.
For more detailed information on how the medical claims process works see Medical Negligence Claims explained.