Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Meningitis and the Law

As part of our series throughout Meningitis Awareness Week, we take a look at how Meningitis and the law come face to face and what support Clarke Willmott may be able to offer you when your treatment for Meningitis has not been quite right.

Meningitis often develops through bacterial or viral infection and it is rarely anybody’s fault when a patient initially develops the disease. The law tends to become involved when clinicians fail to spot the signs of Meningitis and provide patients with proper treatment before the disease leads to long term physical or cognitive disabilities.

Clarke Willmott’s specialist lawyers are highly experienced in bringing clinical negligence claims on behalf of victims of delay in treatment of diagnosis. There are endless ways in which a claim may arise, but here are the common errors and effects that we come across on a regular basis:

The problem with Meningitis …

It has many symptoms which can easily lead a less vigilant doctor down the wrong path. These symptoms include:

  • Fever and/or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Photosensitivity
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Fitting

It would be unusual for a patient to present with all of these symptoms, but one would normally have at least a couple at any one time. The danger is that fever and headache could be just a normal viral infection, and a rash could be indicative of an allergy. Doctors are expected to look beyond this ask the right questions to establish if Meningitis could be a possibility, in which case immediate transfer to hospital is required. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes get this wrong.

A patient’s condition can rapidly deteriorate and delays of minutes and hours can be the difference between full recovery, life changing disabilities and even death. With Meningitis, time is of the essence.

Examples of how things can go wrong …

  •  Failure to diagnose infection in a new-born baby which leads to Meningitis;
  • Failure to recognise early symptoms leading to delay in treatment;
  • Delay in an ambulance transferring patients for emergency treatment can lead to avoidable death;
  • Prescription of the wrong type of antibiotics which do not stop the infection and lead to Sepsis and other injury;
  • Failure to take any action at all.

What types of injuries can Meningitis lead to?

  • Brain injury – leading? speech, memory and learning disability;
  • Amputation of limbs;
  • Loss or changes in sight and hearing;
  • Epilepsy and seizures;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Organ failure;

How can a legal claim help a Meningitis sufferer?

A legal claim will allow the victim to claim compensation which will ensure that they can purchase the care and support needed to regain their independence as much as possible, and support their family. That money could pay for the following:

  • A care or support package at home or elsewhere;
  • Equipment, aids and other technology;
  • Home adaptations or a move to a larger property suitable for the victims’ new needs;
  • Medication that may not be freely available on the NHS;
  • Compensation for loss of earnings if the injured party is the main bread winner.

Compensation awards for Meningitis claims can range from anywhere between a few thousand pounds to multi-million pound settlement, depending on the nature of the disability and the age of the victim.

What should you do if you think you have a claim?

Contact one of our specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892 to discuss your circumstances.

The Meningitis Research Foundation is also able to provide advice and support to this wishing to make a hospital complaint. Please visit their website for more information – http://www.meningitis.org/healthcare-problems.

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