Modern methods of compensating clinical negligence victims mean that they can rest assured that, however long their lives may be, the costs of their care will always be met. In a case on point, a nine-year-old girl who was born facing a lifetime of severe disability was awarded compensation worth almost £20 million.
The girl suffered a short period of acute oxygen starvation before her birth and it was not until 12 minutes after her delivery that medical staff were able to detect a sustainable heartbeat. NHS lawyers accepted that, had it not been for a negligent delay in her delivery, she would have been born uninjured.
Suffering from dyskinetic cerebral palsy, she is seriously physically disabled. Her intelligence was, however, mercifully spared and her learning difficulties are only mild. Doing well at school, she is a joy to her family and friends and is able to use an iPad and operate her electric wheelchair.
After action was taken on her behalf, the NHS trust that ran the hospital where she was born admitted liability for her injuries in full and agreed to a settlement of her claim which has a capitalised value of £19.75 million. Together with a lump sum of £7.3 million, she will, throughout her life, receive annual payments to cover the costs of her care. Starting at £108,440 a year, those index-linked payments will rise in stages to £324,760 a year when she reaches the age of 38.
In approving the settlement, the court noted that, although her life expectancy has been estimated to the age of 53, it is hoped that she will live much longer than that. The advantage of the negotiated settlement is that she will continue to receive the annual payments however long her lifespan proves to be. She and her family can feel secure in the knowledge that she will always receive the care she needs and that the money will never run out.