A birth injury lawsuit can provide the opportunity to seek financial compensation to address the future needs of caring for a child who has suffered life-altering injuries. Children with cerebral palsy, for example, will have significant lifelong needs that in most instances are inadequately compensated for through public sources. As the child grows and matures into adulthood, these needs will change and evolve over time.
Some important areas to consider in identifying the amount of compensation for future needs, often referred to as future care costs, includes adaptive equipment, transportation, and housing costs. These needs and the associated costs are typically assessed in the course of a lawsuit by retaining an expert specialized in the area of life care planning, who will be able to identify the various supports and resources required for the child for the balance of his or her life. When considering housing costs, it can also be useful to engage an expert inaccessible housing and design.
A child that has suffered a hypoxic injury at birth, will often have complex needs that involve both physical and cognitive components. In terms of physical limitations, as parents with such children will know all too well, the affected child may have impairments of movement, tone, and posture for which a variety of aids and equipment can assist. Often there will be cognitive limitations or learning disabilities of varying severity that can be further aided by adaptive aids and devices.
Adaptive Equipment needs
Adaptive equipment can be very important in terms of aiding with impairments or limitations of mobility caused by a birth injury. This can include items such as manual and motorized wheelchairs, walkers, standing frames, postural devices, gait trainers, adapted bicycles, and the related seats, wedges, trays and positioning aids. It may also include adaptive seating supports, specialized chairs, positioning beds, and fitness devices. The type, size, and form of such mobility aids will change as the injured person ages, grows, and their needs evolve. Consideration should also be given to orthotic devices, such as limb braces, ankle-foot orthoses (AFO), and trunk supports.
Adaptive aids can also include items to aid with the everyday activities of life such as toileting, bathing and hygiene, as well as for clothing, dressing, and laundry. Depending on the nature and degree of injury, it may include equipment for when the child matures to aid in such simple activities as feeding, food preparing, writing, drawing, book holding, and other past times that may bring comfort for the child.
In addition, there are many forms of assistive technology and sensory adaptive equipment that can aid in learning, communicating, social interaction, and leisure activities. These can be simple low-tech items such as switches, joysticks, and jelly bean twists, to more high-tech items such as interactive touch screen devices, ipads and computers, voice recognition software, optical pointing software, or augmentative communication devices.
It is also important to give consideration to the transportation needs of the injured child. When there is a need for a wheelchair or other large mobility aids, it will likely be necessary to include the cost of a van modified to safely transport a wheelchair along with the associated additional costs of insurance, gas, and parking for such a larger vehicle. When the injured person matures, consideration may also be given to the costs of handi-transit or related transport costs for a person with a disability.
The housing needs for an injured child should also be addressed in any assessment of compensation for future needs. Most homes will require significant modifications to make the home properly accessible for the person with mobility impairments and also to provide for further adaptive equipment to aid in their care. This can include universal access modifications such as ramps, lifts, expanding doorways and room sizes, environmental technology adaptations, and changes to bathrooms and kitchens. It can include additional equipment connected to the home such as Hoyer lifts, ceiling track systems, bath lifts, and dressing tables.
These are just some of the adaptive equipment, transportation and housing needs that should be considered as part of any damages compensation sought in a birth injury claim. The circumstances, injuries, and needs of the particular child will of course vary from case to case but we hope that this article provides you with some information on the types of equipment, modifications, and aids that are typically included and sought through a birth injury claim.
The Birth Injury Lawyers’ Alliance of Canada (BILA) was formed in 2016 by a group of lawyers from across Canada with considerable experience in birth injury cases to promote the effective representation of children and families affected by avoidable injuries occurring at or around the time of birth.