Families could be pressurised out of pursuing funds they need for long-term care of injured and brain damaged babies if a proposed redress scheme is adopted by the next Government.
The warning has come from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) which has described the scheme as “crude” in it response to a consultation on the matter.
Under the voluntary ‘rapid resolution and redress scheme’ – designed to provide compensation for children injured during childbirth because of failures in care – parents will be expected to attend initial meetings about their baby’s injuries without any independent advice or support. If they change their minds later and opt to pursue compensation through the courts, rehabilitation and therapies already in place will be withdrawn.
The scheme will pay 90% of an average court settlement. APIL has said that a court settlement is calculated very carefully to ensure the child’s needs are funded sufficiently for the rest of his or her life and that 90% of the average settlement would be “far away” from the correct level of compensation for most families.
“It is the most heartbreaking of circumstances for new parents to discover their baby girl or boy has sustained catastrophic injuries from which he or she will never recover, and which could and should have been avoided,” said Brett Dixon, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
“Amid all the emotion, parents must think about the future and how their child will be cared for. It is understandable that a supposed rapid payment scheme, which promises resolution, might be appealing for families when faced with the often-daunting prospect of litigation.
“But while we support promises of early investigations, apologies, and shared learning in the scheme, the approach to damages is crude when compared to the proper assessment of a child’s needs which comes with litigation,” said Dixon.
“The scheme will apply a factory-style process to dealing with injured children, putting their futures on a metaphorical conveyor belt. And once parents have bought into the scheme they will be held hostage by the terms,” he added.
“APIL met with the Department of Health in the early stages of these proposals and we are very disappointed that our concerns had not been taken on board in the consultation.”