Clinical negligence lawyers warned ministers that the financial damages regime remains “crude” and inadequate for children seriously injured during birth.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, told MPs yesterday that independent maternity safety investigations starting next April “will involve families from the outset, and they will have an explicit remit not just to get to the bottom of what happened in an individual instance, but to spread knowledge around the system so that mistakes are not repeated”. The scheme is set to be expanded across the UK over 2018, and specialists lawyers welcomed the development.
“Bereaved parents and the parents of injured children are often desperate for answers above all else,” Brett Dixon, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said. “So independent investigations which involve families from the outset are most welcome. Early investigations into birth injuries should also help to encourage early admissions of liability and rehabilitation, both of which are essential for families to move forward after needless injury.”
Dixon, who is a lawyer at the Lancashire and Warwickshire law firm Smith Jones, went on to say that his organisation supported “promises of early investigations, apologies, and shared learning in the proposed rapid resolution and redress scheme for severe birth injury”.
However, Dixon criticised the approach to damages as “crude when compared to the proper assessment of a child’s needs which comes with litigation”. He said the government’s proposed scheme would only pay 90 per cent of an average court settlement. “When damages for long-term need must be calculated carefully to meet their purpose, 90 per cent of the average settlement would be far away from the correct level of compensation for most families”.