Coffin Mew’s Clinical Negligence specialists

Posted on: May 27th, 2015

Coffin Mew has a diverse range of expert lawyers acting for businesses and individuals. One of the jewels in the firm’s crown is its dedicated team of clinical negligence lawyers, led by Sue Bowler and Douglas Miller.

We hope that you never need to call upon their expertise, but if disaster strikes they are there to pick up the pieces to ensure that your personal care needs are covered, whilst trying to discover what happened.

Sue Bowler and Douglas Miller’s team of clinical negligence and personal injury lawyers is recognised as one the leading teams in the country for advising people that have suffered serious and life-limiting injuries. Its reputation in acting for children and adults that have suffered brain injuries is unrivalled.

It is a complex area of law that combines the emotional and physical trauma the individual and his or her family are facing, determining the long-term care needs that individual
might require, and the lengthy forensic analysis needed to discover what actually happened. It is not unusual for a case to involve many millions in compensation.

Clinical negligence cases, such as brain damage caused at birth or incorrectly diagnosed illness, are not, however, usually about the money, as Sue explains.

Our work essentially gives piece of mind. Did something go wrong, and if so what? Parents or family members want to discover what happened, where the mistakes were made, and ultimately who is responsible. Compensation paid is to cover the often complex and expensive long-term care needs an individual will need. All of my clients would swap that compensation in return for their health or that of their children in an instant.

Douglas agrees:

Our work essentially gives piece of mind. Did something go wrong, and if so what? In successful cases we can provide financial security for the effected individual. That compensation may cover things like lost future earnings, but is also used for things like converting a home to make it wheelchair friendly, rehabilitation therapies, and 24-hour
nursing care.

 

With settlements often between £5 million and £10 million, it is understandable that there is a high benchmark to meet to bring a successful claim. It is necessary to prove that the medical practitioner failed to demonstrate a reasonable level of care or treatment in the relevant medical field, and that no responsible practitioner would have acted in the way that happened. The number of claims is on the increase. The NHS has this year allocated over £16bn to fighting and settling claims.

“We will work alongside our clients for long periods of time, sometimes their entire lives” Sue says, “If more was done to improve patient safety then the NHS spend on claims would be reduced. It is not for any of us to judge the parents of a child born with severe cerebral palsy if they wish to investigate a claim. None of us can imagine what it would be like to have to care for a seriously disabled child 24/7 for their whole life, maybe never
sleeping through the night and rendering the parents unable to work.”

“Everyone is aware that the NHS is under financial pressure, and it is fighting every claim,” says Douglas. “This makes cases much longer and an already expensive process even more so. The NHS is also not particularly transparent, making it difficult to ascertain what happened, when and who was involved.”

It is accepted that some cases will take many years to settle. Take, for example, a child with a brain injury received at birth. The full extent of his or her injuries and future care needs often cannot be fully accessed until seven or eight years of age, or longer in some particularly complex cases. Injuries received by adults will generally be concluded more quickly.

“It can be frustrating,” says Douglas.  “In many cases a far better outcome could often be achieved for a patient if a case was settled quicker. Early admission of fault by the NHS where a mistake has been made would be far better for everyone involved.”

One aspect of the team’s work that sets it above its peer group is its experience and work with the Court of Protection, the body that takes decisions over an individual’s financial affairs if they lack the capacity to do so themselves.

“This often means that we will work alongside our clients for very long periods of time,” says Sue, “and sometimes for their entire lives. Ours is not a nine to five job.”

It is a job that extends well beyond their Portsmouth offices and the courtroom.

Sue is Chair of the Board of Trustees for Headway Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, the regional office of the national brain injury charity, and Douglas is a Trustee of the Road Rose Association in Southampton.

Each year the firm raises significant amounts of money for brain injury charities and supports the work they do, including the popular Rose Road Triathlon.

It is the understanding and the empathy that Sue, Douglas and the team bring to each case that their clients’ appreciate and comment upon.

As one of the team’s clients said, following mistakes made by medical professionals at the birth of their child resulting in severe life-long disabilities, “No one could have done better. Superb service and the clear way everything has been explained has made what could have been a difficult time very easy.”

Coffin Mew’s clinical negligence team will, thankfully, not be needed by the large majority of people, but for those that do suffer serious and life changing injury it really is the fourth emergency service.