Head injuries in children are, unfortunately, a common part of childhood.
Head injuries in children can range in severity from being quite superficial (for example, a cut to the head), to causing a degree of traumatic brain injury (TBI) from very subtle to catastrophic. Both extremes of brain injury can result in a lifetime of ongoing neurological consequences.
Head injuries in children can be sustained in a variety of ways: a fall, a sport injury, a road traffic accident (as a passenger or pedestrian), or as a result of medical negligence to name but a few.
When a child suffers a head injury, they often fully recover over the following weeks however, there is a small proportion of these children who will have sustained a traumatic brain injury and will experience physical, cognitive and behavioural symptoms which are not always obviously apparent where a child’s brain is still developing.
What is a head injury?
The term head injury covers a wide spectrum of injuries affecting the scalp, skull and/or brain and includes:
- Impacts to the head. For example in a road traffic accident when a pedestrian may be hit by a car, or where the head knocks into the ground when tripping over an obstruction;
- A hypoxic event, where the brain is starved of oxygen, for example when a baby is being delivered;
- Indirect trauma, such as whiplash.
Post-accident: What to look for?
From the immediate aftermath of a head injury and in the weeks following, it is important to monitor the child for signs of a traumatic brain injury. Symptoms of traumatic brain injury include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Unequal or unusually large pupils and blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Problems with balancing, co-ordination and/or walking
- Persistent or worsening headaches
- Bleeding or discharge from the ear or nose
- Abnormal eye movements and/or inability to focus the eyes
- Unusual or confused behavior
- Loss of muscle control
Assessing whether a child has suffered from a head injury is determined on a case-by-case basis. No two injuries are ever the same. In some cases, it can take years for a brain injury to be realised and often they can go undiagnosed.
A subtle head injury can gradually worsen and the results are sometimes unclear until the child has reached adulthood.
Symptoms of traumatic brain injury in children
As a child’s brain is still developing, there are also signs and symptoms to look out for over the following years to indicate whether a traumatic brain injury has been sustained. These can include:
- Weakness or paralysis or dyspraxia
- Sensory problems
- Processing speed
- Planning and Organising
- Social behaviour
This is a non-exhaustive list and there are many signs and symptoms that a child has suffered and is continuing to suffer from a head injury.
Making a claim
Where your child has sustained a head injury whether through an accident or medical negligence, after instructing Burnetts we will initially:
- Obtain records such as the child’s medical records (sometimes the mother’s records are also required for example where medical negligence at birth is alleged), and education records.
- Obtain independent, medical expert evidence on whether there was negligence, the injuries caused, the treatment required, and the long-term prognosis including any care package that may be required. This will usually involve a number of experts preparing reports to ensure that all aspects of the injury and future care are appropriately addressed, whether just simple aids to make life that little bit easier or round the clock carers.
- Where the medical evidence is supportive, we will then progress the claim seeking, in the first instance, to settle the claim and explaining each stage to you so that you are always of what is happening in your child’s claim.
If compensation is awarded, a personal injury trust will be set up for the child for when they reach 18, if they have capacity. Some funds are available before 18 to a parent or guardian to assist with the child’s care needs before they reach the age of 18 years.
Conditional Fee Agreements
Conditional Fee Agreements are most commonly known as ‘no win, no fee’ agreements. This means that if your claim is unsuccessful you will not have to pay our legal fees. If the claim is successful we would generally deduct our success fee (capped at 25% of general damages) from your general damages and the Defendant would be responsible for our costs.
Whilst legal aid has been greatly restricted in recent years, one of the common head injury claims is of birth injury and this does have the potential to be covered by legal aid. This is something that we would look into and complete the necessary applications for.
If legal aid was unavailable, which is likely if your child has sustained a head injury through an accident, then we would most likely sign you up to a Conditional Fee Agreement.
If you think your child has suffered a head injury as a result of an accident or negligent medical treatment then please contact a member of our Medical Negligence and Serious Injury team on 0191 300 1833 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.