East London-based law firm granted new Legal Aid franchise for neurological injuries at birth

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An east London-based law firm has been granted a new UK-wide Legal Aid franchise for cases of neurological injury at birth that are caused by clinical negligence.

Wiseman Lee, which has offices in East Ham, Walthamstow and Wanstead, has yet again been successful in being awarded one of a limited number of franchises by the Legal Aid Agency following a tendering process.

The firm was first awarded a five-year franchise under the new Legal Aid rules in 2015. However, along with all other firms, it had to bid again this year because of a change in Government policy requiring Legal Aid franchises for all matters to start and finish on the same dates.

The franchise means that neurological injury sustained during pregnancy, at birth or in the first eight weeks of life that is caused by clinical negligence can be investigated by the firm and litigation proceedings can be instigated when it is appropriate to do so.

The potential complexity of establishing whether, when and how a neurological injury has occurred means that claims can be very expensive to bring. A large number of experts will often need to be consulted, so proceedings would usually be beyond the means of most parents without legal aid.

Julie Aldred, a Partner at Wiseman Lee and head of the firm’s Clinical Negligence team said: “A neurological injury to a child at or around birth will have a profound effect on that child and their family, both physically, emotionally and financially, making day-to-day life far more challenging and the future of grave concern.

“One of the challenges that families face is the additional financial cost of raising a child who has a permanent neurological disability. Depending on the nature of the injury, this can include paying for around-the-clock specialist care packages, making major alterations to the family home or moving to a new home.

“Bringing a clinical negligence claim can help families meet these costs, which they are likely to incur over the course of decades ensuring that their children are able to enjoy the best possible quality of life.”

While eligibility for Legal Aid in these circumstances is means tested, it is the financial means of the child that are assessed, rather than those of the parents. This means that most cases where there are sufficient grounds to begin an investigation will be eligible for funding.

Where an individual is not eligible for Legal Aid other options may be available, such as legal expenses insurance.

“I am pleased that we have been re-awarded a Legal Aid franchise. This will enable us to continue helping families improve the lives of children who have sustained permanent neurological injury,” added Julie Aldred.

In exceptional circumstances, Legal Aid can be granted for representation at inquests, irrespective of the age of the person who has died or how they have died.

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