As discussed in earlier articles on adaptive equipment, housing and transportation needs, a birth injury lawsuit provides the opportunity to seek financial birth injury compensation to address the challenges in caring for a child who has suffered a preventable birth injury. A hypoxic event at birth may result in injuries that require complex care for the balance of the child’s life. Without compensation, parents of children with severe disabilities will often serve as the primary caregivers at great personal expense and sacrifice.
Life Care Plan
One of the aims of a birth injury claim is to identify the future care needs of the injured child and seek compensation to assist in paying for those needs over the balance of his or her lifetime. These needs are typically assessed in the course of a lawsuit through retaining an expert specialized in the area of life care planning, whose role is to identify the various needs and resources required for future care along with the associated costs. The details of a life care plan are usually supported and supplemented by assessments performed by other qualified experts such as a pediatric neuropsychologist, pediatric neurologist, and occupational, physiotherapy and speech-language therapists.
As the nature and degree of injury can vary greatly from case to case, each life care plan must be individually tailored to the particular child and caregiver situation. The purpose of this article is to provide some examples of future care needs that arise in birth injury cases involving serious physical and cognitive impairments for the child.
Attendant Care and Respite Care
An important consideration for any caregiver of a seriously injured child is the need for attendant care. This addresses the cost to hire extra support workers, including, in some cases, nursing care, to provide additional care and support in caring for the child during various hours of the day, night, or weekends. Respite care is another important need for caregivers to provide them with some much-needed relief from their caregiving obligations and to provide the opportunity for rest or travel.
Future care needs can also include support with home maintenance services and housework to permit caregivers to otherwise deal with the extraordinary care needs of their child. As well, where family members are providing extraordinary care for the injured child themselves, a claim for compensation for those services, at fair market value, can often be included in the compensation sought in a claim.
Therapy and Counselling Needs
Future needs should also take into account various therapy and counseling costs. There are various forms of therapy that a child with severe and complex disabilities may require to aid with the child’s health and wellbeing. These can support physical, cognitive, psychological, and emotional issues.
Children with significant physical limitations, as is often the case for a child with cerebral palsy, will typically require regular care from an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, and speech-language therapist. In addition, there can often be benefit from additional therapies such as hippotherapy, hydro-aqua therapy, music therapy, or other osteopathic care.
Consideration should also be given to treatments involving psychological counseling and other emotional counseling and supports for the family and disabled child. Vocational counseling and supports may also be useful for the disabled child when he or she becomes an adult if there may be some opportunity for employment or other productivity in adulthood.
Caregivers may also consider educational conferences, associations, and support groups as additional resources to aid in caring for an injured child, which costs may be included as part of the compensation sought for future care needs.
Particularly where there are complex needs to manage as a result of the child’s disability, engaging a case manager, typically a nurse or occupational therapist, to assist in coordinating and planning the various supports and services is also an effective approach to managing the future care needs.
Ultimately, the future needs of the disabled child ought to be carefully considered in any birth injury claim and included as part of the future care costs when quantifying the compensation being sought.
An experienced birth injury lawyer will be able to assist in identifying and developing the compensation claim on a birth injury case.
Susanne Raab is a lawyer at Pacific Medical Law, and an advocate for people living with disabilities. She has been selected for inclusion by her peers in Best Lawyers in Canada in the area of Medical Negligence and is recognized as a leading practitioner in the Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory in medical malpractice. Susanne is also a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, an honorary trial lawyer society whose membership is limited to less than one-half of one percent of North American lawyers, judges and scholars.