How Much Compensation Can I Claim For Misdiagnosed Cauda Equina Syndrome?20th Apr 2018
If you’ve been diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome (CES), it’s likely you are suffering.
The condition occurs when the nerves at the base of the spine become compressed, often through trauma or injury. This can cause significant symptoms, including severe lower back pain, loss of mobility, and problems with bowel and bladder function.
Onset of the condition can be very rapid, and if the nerves are not decompressed via surgery within 24-48 hours, the damage can be – unfortunately – irreversible.
The ensuing problems can be as severe as lower body paralysis or permanent incontinence. It’s therefore not surprising that a diagnosis can mean victims often need to give up work completely, or even employ a full-time carer.
As a result, many sufferers will seek to claim compensation to help manage their lives moving forwards.
Can I Make A Claim?
The first thing you will need to determine is if you’re actually eligible to make a claim.
You will only be able to claim compensation if you have received negligent medical treatment.
In cauda equina cases, because the condition is so rare, it is regularly either misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late, meaning the time window for effective medical treatment has already passed.
The common symptoms – such as lower back pain, numbness in the legs, sensory loss and loss of bladder or bowel control – can often be confused with other back conditions.
Doctors often fail to refer patients quickly enough for the tests required to make a successful diagnosis because they don’t recognise the so-called ‘red flag symptoms’ as indicators of CES.
In some cases, cauda equina syndrome can actually be caused by a surgical error, for example, a mistake during spinal surgery.
You must be able to prove that the medical investigations or treatment fell below the level that is reasonably expected, and that your treating doctor is therefore responsible for your condition not being diagnosed correctly and treated in good time.
You will also need to be aware of certain time limits that apply.
Generally, there is a 3-year time limit to make a claim; from either when the incident happened, or when you first realised you had suffered a significant injury due to potential negligence. An exception to this is if you were under the age of 18 at the time – in which case the 3-year limit begins when you turn 18.
What Can I Claim For?
Any medical negligence compensation settlement is calculated based on two types of awards: general damages and special damages.
These damages are awarded to compensate for any pain, suffering and loss of amenity endured as a result of negligent treatment.
The injuries caused by cauda equina syndrome can often be extremely serious; chronic pain, incontinence, loss of lower limb sensation and even paralysis are not uncommon. The psychological impact of the condition will also be significant.
These symptoms can have a devastating impact on your everyday life, often turning your world upside down. They can affect your ability to continue with your normal employment, take part in hobbies and sporting activities, look after your family or socialise with your friends. Your loss of amenity is likely to be substantial.
The damages awarded will reflect how long you suffered (if you are recovering) or will suffer (if the damage is permanent) from these symptoms.
These are designed to recompense for any financial losses you have incurred because of your injuries.
The largest part of these is likely to be your loss of earnings; both while you were recovering, and future loss of earnings if your injuries are likely to affect your ability to work for the foreseeable future.
Other financial losses you might incur include: medical treatment costs, travel costs for treatment, the costs for any specialist medical equipment purchased to help with your daily life, and the cost of care.
Whilst compensation can’t undo the damage that has occurred, it can recompense you for your suffering, and help you to cope with your new circumstances.
How Much Will My Claim Be Worth?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to estimate the value of your potential claim without speaking with you about your individual circumstances. They differ in every case of CES, so every claim is different.
Generally, the sum of compensation is linked to your medical prognosis; how much you have already suffered, and how long you are likely to suffer and possibly be out of work due to that prognosis.
Due to the often severe and sometimes lifelong symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, your total settlement figure is likely to be substantial when all your general and special damages awards are considered.
In the most devastating cases the figure can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Coles Miller’s cauda equina specialist and Head of the Medical Negligence department David Simpson successfully secured £600,000 compensation for one cauda equina syndrome victim.
For a free and confidential chat about your case, please get in touch today.