On 8th October the Daily Telegraph reported that a six-year old boy treated at a Hospital in Watford had made a successful clinical negligence claim directed to a Hertfordshire NHS Trust and been awarded £37 million in compensation.

Full news story – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/08/boy-6-awarded-record-37m-nhs-compensation-catastrophic-brain.

This is a record sum for a claim of this kind and will inevitably excite a good deal of comment. Although this was not one of my cases I am familiar with the way these awards are calculated.

“How can such a sum be justified?” some may ask. The little boy in question was not injured at birth as a – happily – very small number of babies are injured. One assumes that in terms of his generally health and brain function he was well before he was admitted to a Watford Hospital for treatment. Whilst there he contracted an infection with the Herpes Simplex virus. It caused him catastrophic brain injury.

One only has to think for a few moments to work out the devastating impact this has had and will continue to have on this little boy. His sight is limited. He has very significant brain damage. His ability to move is very limited. He can do nothing for himself. He will always be reliant upon others to dress and undress him, to feed him, to wash and bathe him, to put him to bed, to place him and remove him from a wheelchair. One assumes there will be lifelong health problems. He will be unable to work, to live independently, to drive or to do any of things – some delightful, some boring and tedious – the rest of us more fortunate can do for ourselves and take for granted.

But why so much money? Think of the cost of specially adapted housing. Think of the need for a complex care and nursing regime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for the remainder of his life. Think of the cost of special treatment, carers to help him deal with all of life’s challenges the rest of us can do for ourselves. Think of the cost of specially adopted vehicles to transport him to and from medical and other appointments.

Oh and let us not forget his parents or guardians. Think about their lives and how they have been affected. I am sure they love their little boy and will care for him. But it cannot be denied their lives will have been changed for ever. The claim was one made by their son but he was no doubt able to claim compensation for the enormous amount of time they have already devoted to his care and welfare and will continue to provide for the rest of his life, perhaps theirs.

Why £37 million? Is it a figure plucked out the air? Certainly not. It is a figure which calculated with enormous precision. Almost certainly it won’t be paid “up front” in one lump sum. It will probably be paid in a series of annual instalments or “Periodical payments” which will continue for the remainder of the child’s life. So the little boy’s parents or guardians and carers don’t have to make complex and dicey investment decisions over the course of boy’s life. He will be financially safe and secure and that is the very least he is entitled to.

It goes without saying that his solicitors will be specialist clinical negligence lawyers familiar with the mechanism of claims of this kind and what needed to be done. if you have the misfortune to suffer injury and loss as a result of a medical accident your first port of call should be to a clinical negligence specialist; a Member of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel or the Action Against Medical Accidents Solicitors’ Panel.

Richard Blair, Partner WBW and Member of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.