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Brain and spinal cord injury specialists gather

Brain and spinal cord injury specialists are to gather to share knowledge and best practice.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) will be hosting its annual Brain and Spinal Cord Injury conference on 19 and 20 May, at Celtic Manor.

The conference brings together leading practitioners, specialist medical consultants and expert witnesses, who share their expertise and provide a valuable insight into dealing with catastrophic injury cases.

Atherton Godfrey is well placed to deal with these complex injury cases. The firm has a highly experienced team, led by John McQuater, partner and head of litigation, who is himself an accredited specialist in recovering brain injury compensation, as well as compensation for spine injuries and fatal accidents.

John will open the conference on 19 May and then chair the morning session. On 20 May, in his role of deputy digest editor, John will be on the panel for the Journal of Personal Injury Lawyers case and comment session.

The conference, which is back after 2 years, is running as a hybrid event allowing for virtual or in person attendance.

Specialist subjects

Topics covered will include the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as transverse myelitis and spinal stroke. Also covered will be best practice in dealing with potential breaches of duty and issues of causation. Specialists will share practical tips on addressing the issue of dealing with pre-existing medical conditions when handling brain and spinal cord injury claims.

To ensure there is a well-rounded and informative programme, there will also be a discussion on dementia and the potential links with brain injury, assessing cognitive impairment and life after injury.

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Childhood acquired brain injury (ABI)

As we continue with Action for Brain Injury Week, we look at childhood acquired brain injury (ABI).

When a child acquires a brain injury at birth it can have a devastating effect on the entire family.

The injury will most likely occur for reasons that are beyond the control of medical staff, such as the baby being born from a breach position or being born too early.

In other cases though, the child’s injury is an acquired brain injury (ABI) as it is the direct result of medical negligence and could have been avoided.

The injury caused by medical negligence can result in the baby suffering from cerebral palsy or Erbs Palsy – both with serious lifelong implications.

In these cases, families are often left without any support and have no idea where to turn for help.

They need to know what’s happened and how to cope.

There will be uncertain and often expensive times ahead – adaptations and equipment are not always available on the NHS.

Our team appreciates what you’re going through and will be there to help you in the most difficult of times.

How we can help

Firstly, keep in mind that you can talk to us about your options, with absolutely no obligation to take the matter any further – that will always be your choice.

If you do decide to go forward, and we think it’s something we can help with, as a first stage, we will help you get those all-important answers about why and how your child was injured.

If we can prove there was negligence, we will be able to help you get the medical and practical support you need to make life a little easier.

We will also work towards securing the financial support you need to safeguard your child’s future. As part of this, we can often negotiate interim compensation payments to help with your ongoing costs, including moving to a more suitable home, if necessary.

Families affected by childhood acquired brain injury

These are real families that we have worked with. Hopefully, these cases will help you see that whatever difficulty you are facing, however desperate you feel, you are not alone.

Child A had suffered from Athetoid, or dyskinetic cerebral palsy since birth. Her parents had always accepted her condition and so had never investigated the cause. But Child A often wondered about it and as she approached her 20th birthday, she decided that she wanted to know why she had the condition. With the help of a litigation friend, she turned to solicitors to help her investigate. Despite the incident taking place over 20 years ago, our medical negligence experts were able to establish that the likely cause of her condition was negligent failure to intubate in the early minutes of life.

Child B was born by a normal delivery at 37 weeks, following an uneventful 3rd pregnancy. At one month of age, the child was diagnosed with apnoea and hydrocephalus. Later, meningitis was diagnosis and an EVD was inserted to drain the fluid from her brain. The allegations are that the delayed diagnosis of meningitis along with the incorrect fitting of the EVD has led to permanent brain damage.

Child C was born with severe and permanent physical and mental disabilities. Allegations are that failure to interpret a pathological CTG and failure to provide any obstetric review at any time during labour resulted in a grossly prolonged labour which led to the child suffering severe brain damage and cerebral palsy.

Child D – A mismanaged caesarean delivery resulted in the child suffering major trauma to their head, including a fractured skull. As a result of the injuries the child sustained during the delivery, they now have cerebral palsy, which has grave and permanent consequences.

More cases can be found on our website 

Support Organisations

Deciding to speak to a solicitor can be a difficult decision. If you would like more information before you take that step, the following websites might help give you peace of mind:

Child Brain Injury Trust



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Action for brain injury survivors

As part of Action for Brain Injury Week 2021, we look at the support available for brain injury survivors.

Brain injuries in both adults and children can be acquired in a number of ways and to varying degrees.

Dramatic advances in neurosurgery mean that more people are not only able to survive serious head injuries now, but they are also able to live much longer too. This can mean that complex care and support is needed, often for long periods of time.

Where the brain injury is due to the negligence of another person, perhaps through a road accident, an accident at work or medical negligence, our highly skilled legal team works hard to make sure the injured is property compensated, not just for now but for the long-term too.

How we can help

In addition to securing compensation, we work closely with experienced case managers who understand the rehabilitation approach and can set up individually tailored personal care support schemes.

Further support can be provided by helping to appoint professionals who can make financial and welfare decisions if there are issues around mental capacity.

Atherton Godfrey is also a member of Headway, the brain injury association that works tirelessly to provide information and support for brain injury survivors and their families.

Promoting understanding

Understanding the effects of brain injury and knowing how to best support survivors is the focus of annual Headway campaigns.

This year’s campaign, which runs from 17 to 23 May, is A Life of Lockdown? Focusing on the social isolation brain injury suffers endure day in and day out.

Headway said: “Covid-19 has been tough on everyone. Repeated lockdowns have left people isolated and lonely, often harming their mental wellbeing.

“But imagine living every day of your life in isolation. The effects of brain injury, such as problems with memory, information processing or speech, compounded by a lack of understanding of this often hidden disability, can leave survivors lacking the confidence to interact with society.”

For more details about the support Headway provides, visit their website:

Legal support

If you need legal support following a brain injury, please call us on 01302 320621 or email

Peace of mind

You can talk to us about your options, in complete confidence and with absolutely no obligation to take the matter further, that will always be your choice.

Legal aid is available for children who are injured at birth and no win-no fee agreements are available.

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Headway accredited brain injury solicitors

If you suffer broken bones in an accident you can see the impact the accident had. But what if you sustain a brain injury?

While the injury may not be apparent, brain injury survivors and their families often have significant, permanent life-style changes to deal with.

If you decide to pursue compensation to help get your life back on track, you want to know that the solicitor you choose to work with is fully capable of providing the entire support needed.

Atherton Godfrey is an accredited member of Headway, the brain injury association, something that can only be achieved by specialist solicitors with extensive experience of handling brain injury cases.

Accreditation is awarded on an annual basis, following a rigorous assessment of the solicitor’s skills, experience and ability to provide comprehensive support to brain injury survivors.

Brain injury survivors need support in ways that others may not even think about. For example, recalling important details can be difficult, or even impossible.

Survivors may need extensive support from family members or specialist carers to enable them to attend medical or legal appointments. These difficulties, along with the frustration often felt, are well understood by our team of accredited experts.

In addition to the specialist solicitors, we also have qualified nursing staff on the team and have access to an extensive network of medical and support professionals.

Do you need legal support?

Brain injury is a highly complex subject and the claim will probably take time to settle, so you need to be comfortable working with the solicitor. If you would like to speak to us, on a no obligation basis, call 01302 320621 or email

If you want to do a little research first, have a look at the Head Injury Solicitors Directory  There you will find a full list of accredited legal experts. You will also find important advice on what to ask solicitors to help you make your choice.

Headway is a charity that works to improve life after a brain injury, by providing vital support and information services. You can find more information on their website –

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Are we heading towards a stroke crisis?

A stroke occurs when blood supply to a person’s brain is compromised resulting to damage to the brain. The damage can affect how that person’s body works and how they think and feel.

Symptoms of a stroke can include a sudden numbness or weakness down one side of the body, difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences, sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one eye, sudden memory loss or confusion and a sudden and severe headache.

Recovery rates from strokes differ from case to case but generally the quicker a person receives treatment the better chances are of a good recovery.

But what happens if you attend hospital showing the signs of a stroke but there isn’t a doctor with the correct expertise to identify that you are in fact suffering a stroke and treat it quickly?

According to figures published by King’s College London’s Ssnap (Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme) 48% of hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have had at least one stroke consultant vacancy for 12 months for more. This figure has increased significantly in the past few years; it being 40% in 2016 and 26% in 2014.

The practical implications of this are that the UK has less stroke consultants now than it had 6 years ago and as a result strokes are going undiagnosed and patients are losing the opportunity to receive vital treatment.

If a patient’s stroke is diagnosed quickly they are more likely to be eligible for a thrombectomy procedure which removes the clot from the brain. The treatment can help prevent the lasting damage that results in paralysis and speech problems.

The NHS has said that it is looking to modernise its stroke workforce and is training more clinicians to carry out the thrombectomy procedures. However this will only be effective if staff are trained to recognise the stroke.

In 2016 Alison Brown attended different hospitals and was repeatedly told she did not have a serious health condition. Ten months later she suffered a bilateral artery dissection which is a stroke caused by a tear in a blood vessel that impedes blood supply to the brain. She was admitted to hospital but, despite a junior doctor identifying an issue with blood flow, was diagnosed with a migraine. It was only when she collapsed days later that she received the care she needed.

If you think you have suffered a delay in diagnosing a stroke and suffered further injury as a result please contact our medical negligence team for a no obligation chat about your options. Call 01302 320621 or email

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Council fined £1.4m as child suffers serious head injury

A six-year old child has been left with life-changing injuries after a string of failures by Hampshire County Council.

The girl was visiting Lymington with her family when she climbed on a cast iron bollard on a cobbled pedestrianised street. The bollard, which weighed around 69kg, fell over, taking the child with it, causing her head injuries, which were initially thought to be life-threatening.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the bollard was damaged and had not been secured properly. The fault had been reported to the council but a series of failures in information sharing, training and instruction meant that the highway’s department only carried out ad-hoc inspections in the area and the repair was missed.

HSE inspector, Angela Sirianni, said: “Councils have a duty to adequately assess and control risks to members of the public from street furniture.

A child has been left with life-changing injuries as a result of what was an easily preventable incident. Council inspections failed to identify this risk over a long period of time and then, when alerted to the damage to the bollard, failed to take the urgent action required to prevent injury.”

Hampshire County Council was found guilty of breaching Health and Safety regulations and was fined £1.4m and ordered to pay costs of over £130,000.

In addition, there could also be substantial personal injury compensation payable.

Personal injury solicitor, Diane Parker, commented on the case: “This is a tragic incident that really should not have happened. The council had been made aware that the bollard was not properly secured and systematic failures meant that repairs were not carried out. As a result, this little girl suffered a brain injury, the extent of which will not be properly known for several years yet.”

In cases such as this, medical and educational experts will be required to assess the extent of the injuries and the impact these will have on the child’s future. These cases are inevitably lengthy as it is necessary to wait for the condition to settle to be able to gain a full appreciation of the injury.

Image: HSE press release


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Seven year old boy wins £30 million compensation

What a great headline grabbing sum of money that is – but what about the people behind the headline?

First of all, let’s look at the word “wins” – he hasn’t WON anything. This is a child who will never get to live the life he was entitled to.

Instead of having an exciting adventure starting school, he was labelled naughty and disruptive and spent most of the time excluded because of his ‘grossly abnormal behaviour’.

He’s only 7 years old, but already needs the help of two support workers just to get through the day.

Then there are the parents who, day in and day out, were subject to intense scrutiny by social services, who blamed their ‘bad parenting’ and lack of discipline for their son’s unruly behaviour.

Throughout all this, his parents have had to fight to prove that their son’s behaviour is a result of medical negligence during his birth.

Following his birth by emergency caesarean at University College Hospital in London in July 2012, the boy had to be resuscitated and suffered seizures.

The hospital had not recognised the pregnancy as high risk and as a result, there had been a delay in calling a doctor.

Lawyers working with the family detailed how the outcome could have been very much different had the boy been born just 10 minutes earlier.

Besides the seizures, he also suffered from encephalopathy, hypoglycaemia, sepsis and high blood pressure that affected his lungs. He has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

The hospital only accepted liability after independent medical experts proved that the negligent treatment during his birth was the cause of his severe cognitive and behavioural problems.

Barts Health NHS Trust said it was “deeply sorry” and “pleased to have reached a settlement with the family.”

The settlement will be used to fund a support care programme to make sure that the child has the best life possible, for what is likely to be many years to come.

The boy’s mother said: “We are finally able to turn the page of one of the most difficult chapters of our lives.

I draw strength from my son, who has taught me forgiveness, patience and resilience. My son came into this world fighting for his life and so we shall embrace the warrior he is as the journey continues.”

If you have been affected in the same way as this family, call and see how we can help. We may be able to offer no win no fee or legal aid.

For a no obligation chat about your options, call 01302 320621.

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Brain Injury Legal Specialist

We are delighted to announce that John McQuater, a partner and the head of our litigation department, has been accredited as a Brain Injury Specialist. He is one of only 23 solicitors in England, and the only one in South Yorkshire, to receive this accolade.

The accreditation, awarded by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), follows a rigorous assessment of his knowledge, skills, experience and success in managing and progressing traumatic brain injury compensation claims.

Mr McQuater, who has been handling personal injury cases for over 30 years, and has a vast amount of experience in handling traumatic brain injury cases, which involve severe and often life changing injuries.

He recommended by both the Legal 500 and Chambers UK. He holds APIL accreditation as a Senior Fellow and is an assessor for lawyers aspiring to become accredited personal injury or clinical negligence experts.

Commenting on the accreditation, Mr McQuater said: “I am delighted to receive the accreditation. It is further reassurance to those who need specialist legal advice that this is the right place to come.

No two cases are the same. Each person will need varying levels of care, treatment and rehabilitation. Clients can be assured that we will assert and enforce their rights and recover the highest possible amount of compensation for them.”

Mr McQuater is now also an Assessor for the brain injury specialist accreditation scheme where he will use his expertise to assess the capabilities of lawyers aiming to specialise in this highly complex field.


Media contact: Gail Harris

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Action needed to reduce number of preventable birth injuries

Author: Gail Harris

A recent report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has called for urgent improvements in maternity care reporting as inconsistencies are leaving babies vulnerable.

The report was based on research carried out on more than 2,500 expert assessments that had been prepared following brain injuries, neonatal deaths and stillbirths occurring during full-term labour in 2015.

However, as much as 25 per cent of local reporting was found to be inadequate and some reviews had not even been started. Even more concerning was that some of the incidents had not been investigated at all and where assessments had been carried out, over a third of them had not involved the parents.

John McQuater, partner and head of litigation at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “These findings are very concerning. Investigations must be robust and consistent so that proper conclusions can be drawn about the quality of care that the mothers and babies have received. Involving parents in the reviews is absolutely essential if the findings are to be accurate and meaningful.”

During 2015, of the 723,251 term babies born in the UK, 1136 were injured. This includes 854 severe brain injuries, 156 neonatal deaths and 126 stillborn intrapartum deaths.

The research programme, called “Every Baby Counts” aims, to be a ground breaking long-term inquiry that will help deliver improvements in maternity care. The overall aim of the programme is to halve the number of babies that die or are left severely disabled as a result of preventable incidents during labour, within the next three years.

Following the research an interim report was published in June 2016 that made a number of recommendations on how to ensure a consistent approach was taken to investigating preventable incidents.

The recommendations include introducing mandatory documented evidence of annual training for all staff interpreting continuous cardiotocography (CTG) results, data sharing tools to help easily identify risks and timely and consistent information about risk factors that have been identified.

In addition, the report recommends there must be a senior member of staff who retains an overview of what’s happening in the delivery suite to prevent important details or new information from being overlooked.