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We act for adults and children who have suffered injury to the spine in an accident or through medical negligence.
Spinal injury can be catastrophic. It may include damage to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves (a neurological injury) or to the spinal vertebra (an orthopaedic injury). Compression of the nerves at the base of the spine (known as cauda equina syndrome) can also cause long-term problems, if not treated appropriately.
The location and nature of the spinal injury determines its effects. In the most serious cases, it can cause paraplegia or tetraplegia. Many people with spinal injuries have long-term difficulties with mobility, bladder and bowel management or sexual function.
We believe that people with spinal injuries should be able to live fulfilling and enjoyable lives. Our expertise is recognised in our partnership with the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) and by the legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers UK. We are signatories to the Serious Injury Guide.
We support you through the process of bringing a claim, to enable you to obtain much needed compensation to adapt to life with a spinal injury.
If you or a family member has suffered spinal injury through an accident, or an unexpectedly poor outcome from medical treatment, please contact us to discuss how we can help.
Situations in which we often assist
Some ways in which a spinal injury claim might arise include:
- Road traffic accidents
- Spinal injuries which happen in the workplace or other places outside of the home
- Delayed medical treatment of cauda equina syndrome
- Inadequate treatment of conditions such as disc degeneration or scoliosis
- Failure to treat a spinal abscess
- Errors during spinal surgery
Every case is investigated by our specialist lawyers, led by a partner. This typically involves working with experienced experts (such as neurologists, spinal and orthopaedic surgeons, accident investigators, physiotherapists and occupational therapists) to understand the injury. We consider how the injury was caused and its impact.
We also calculate the amount of funds required to put in place an individualised package of high quality care and support; as well as compensation for losses resulting from the injury, such as lost earnings or pension.
Spinal injury is an area in which there are rapid developments, such as specialist wheelchairs and exoskeleton technology. Claims for compensation may include funding for state of the art technology adapted to meet your individual needs.
For further information about compensation we have secured for clients with spinal injury, see spinal injury cases we have acted in.
SPINAL INJURIES FAQS
What are the effects of spinal injury?
Damage to any part of the spinal cord, or nerves at the end of the spinal canal, can cause permanent changes in sensation, movement, and function below the level of the injury, including paralysis (paraplegia or tetraplegia).
Symptoms can include a change in motor (ability to move) and sensory (ability to feel) function, loss of movement, inability to feel heat or cold, loss of bladder or bowel sensation and sexual dysfunction.
What is cauda equina syndrome?
The collection of nerves at the base of the spine is referred to as the 'cauda equina'. It consists of nerves which control the bladder, bowel and movement in the legs.
Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) describes a condition in which nerves in the lower back become compressed. If the pressure is not treated quickly enough, CES can result in permanent nerve damage. CES should be treated as a medical emergency.
How is spinal cord injury classified?
Spinal cord injuries are classified as 'complete' or 'incomplete'. A complete spinal cord injury means that the spinal cord is totally damaged at that level. By contrast, an incomplete injury is one where the spinal cord is partially, but not fully, damaged at the level of the injury.
Spinal injuries are graded using the ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association) scale. This is an international standardised scale for the classification of spinal cord injuries. The grading ranges from 'A' in which there is a complete loss of sensory and motor function to 'E' where function has returned to normal.
How long do I have to bring a spinal injury claim?
There are strict time limits for bringing a negligence claim for injury in England and Wales. This is called the limitation period.
For adults, the usual rule is that a claim must be formally started at Court within three years of the date on which the negligence occurred, or the date on which the injured person should reasonably have been aware that there might be grounds to bring a claim (if that date is later).
If a child is injured by negligence, they usually have until their 21st birthday to formally start their claim at Court.
There are circumstances in which the rules differ; for example, where the claim is for someone who does not have mental capacity to bring a legal claim.
It takes time to investigate a claim, so you should contact us as soon as possible.
Can I bring a claim on behalf of a child or a family member who is not able to do it themselves?
If a claim relates to injuries suffered by a child or an adult who does not have ‘mental capacity’; a family member (or other trusted person) can act as a ‘Litigation Friend’ and bring the claim on their behalf.
If you are unsure about whether you can bring a claim on someone else’s behalf, we will be able to advise you.
What is the process for bringing a claim?
We start by obtaining evidence such as medical records, accident reports, witness statements, and expert evidence to prove that your injury was caused by negligence.
We also calculate the amount of compensation that can be claimed. Typically this involves instructing experienced experts to advise on the injured person’s needs, in order to maximise the level of compensation. We then try to reach a financial settlement with the Defendant (the individual or organisation legally responsible for the injury) or their insurer.
In some cases settlement is agreed at an early stage. In other circumstances, it may be necessary to begin Court proceedings.
For further information on this process, read our Guide to Making a Claim.
Will my case be decided by the Court?
Probably not. The vast majority of personal injury and medical negligence claims are not decided by the Court.
Successful claims are usually resolved by agreement of a settlement either before or during formal Court proceedings.
Occasionally, the Court will decide a case, if it cannot be resolved any other way.
How is the amount of compensation decided?
Compensation should be tailored to meet the needs of the injured person.
The first step is to consider how your spinal injury has affected your life and whether that will change in the future. We then calculate the amount of funds required to meet your additional needs and compensate you. Depending upon your circumstances, this may include funds for:
- Private care
- Private therapies and medical care
- Specialist equipment and mobility aids (including wheelchairs)
- Adapted vehicles
- Adapted accommodation
- Support with education or work (if that is possible for you)
- Compensation for loss of earnings and pension
- Compensation for losses in self-employment
We regularly use leading experts and barristers to assist in identifying all aspects of an injured person’s needs.
I am struggling with the effects of spinal injury. Will it take a long time before my case is concluded?
Medical negligence and personal injury claims typically involve detailed investigation and expert evidence. They often take several years to resolve.
Our approach is to seek an admission of liability (i.e. confirmation that negligence occurred and caused injury) as early as possible in the process.
When liability is established the Defendant usually has to pay part of the compensation immediately. This allows your needs to begin to be met while the work to quantify the full amount of compensation continues.
How do I access medical records?
Medical records are usually the starting point for our investigation of a claim. With your permission; we request these records directly from the treatment provider(s).
Our clients sometimes wish to obtain copies of their records themselves before deciding whether to begin a claim. Please see our Guide to Accessing Medical Records for further information on how to request records.
Other organisations and resources that may help
- Spinal Injuries Association
- Back Up
- AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents)
- APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers)
- Serious Injury Guide
- DEMAND (Design and Manufacture for Disability)
- Riding for the Disabled
Partner and Head of Department
Eurydice Cote (Français)
"They're really well prepared, very down-to-earth and their work ethic is top-notch
Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession
Latest blogs & news
Many people who contact us for advice have experienced life-changing events. Our clients include people who have suffered medical negligence and been involved in cases of sexual abuse.
In my blog on 21 April 2022, I summarised the decision of the Court in the case of Natasha Colley, a contempt of Court committed by the Claimant’s mother and Litigation Friend. This blog focuses on a further judgment for contempt: North Bristol NHS Trust -v- White. The case concerns a claim for clinical negligence for Cauda Equina Syndrome where the Claimant exaggerated the extent of her injuries.
This blog summarises the position when a Defendant submits an application to commit a Claimant’s Litigation Friend for contempt of Court for false statements made in a document verified by a statement of truth.
On 2 February 2022 Mr Justice Richie gave Judgment on Cojanu, a clinical negligence claim where the Defendant advanced a defence of fundamental dishonesty.
Losing a loved one when you think it may be because they received poor medical care is incredibly stressful at a time when family and friends are grieving their loss. Often, people want to see a written record of the final days of their loved one and what happened to them, or they might want to go through years of records to ascertain whether there was diagnosis that may have been missed, such as cancer.
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When a loved one dies, grief is difficult and there can be a lot to deal with. If someone dies as a result of medical negligence or personal injury, then it’s important to consider who can bring a claim.
Whether the claimant or defendant, successful parties to civil litigation can be disappointed to hear that they are highly unlikely to recover all of their legal spend. The losing party is only required to pay what is considered reasonable and proportionate. A key feature in what is recovered is the reasonableness of the hourly rates charged by the successful litigant’s solicitors.
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Much has been said about the 2020 Court of Appeal judgment in Swift dealing with the disputed method by which claims for the cost of special accommodation following severe injuries are calculated, and rightly so; it was a privilege for one of the authors of this article to work on a case of such wide application and with such benefit for so many Claimants.
The recent decision in the case of Malik -v- St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust provides a further example of this approach. Mr Malik required emergency spinal surgery in the form of a laminectomy and discectomy at T10/11. No criticism was made of the performance of the surgery. Post-operatively Mr Malik experienced ongoing numbness and weakness in his left leg. His surgeon recommended further revision decompression surgery which unfortunately left Mr Malik with an incomplete paraparesis. He was classified as a T7 ASIA D paraplegic.
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