Welcome to Holland… and the bravery of parents with disabled children.

Arti Shah of our London office – Eclipse Proclaim Personal Injury Awards ‘Young Achiever’ of 2011 – never ceases to be amazed by the resilience of parents with disabled children…

I’ve recently been to several brain injury conferences, and one anecdote has struck a chord.

The poem “Welcome to Holland“, by Emily Perl Kingsley, is often used to describe one family’s experiences of learning that their child suffered a disability. The overwhelming message that comes across is that although different to what was expected, the journey they are going through brings with it its own experiences and rewards.

Clients often come to Pattinson & Brewer enquiring about birth injury cases. These are difficult to prove, involving reports from various medical specialties. But – if they’re successful –  they can result in compensation figures of millions of pounds. Newspaper reports often focus on the settlement figure whilst overlooking the true cost of bringing up a brain-damaged child. And the fact that no amount of compensation will ever compensate for such a life-changing event.

There are two types of damages that are recoverable:

a) general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity

b) special damages, to cover the cost of additional expenses incurred. For example, therapies and accommodation.

Other considerations such as appropriate schools, speech and language therapy, and physiotherapy must also be factored in. The point of any damages award is to put the person in the position they would have been in had the negligence not occurred. That’s not easy when damage has occurred from birth, and certainly not something that can ever be compensated for wholly.

It’s easy to see how the cost of special damages can quickly mount up. It’s to cover the lifetime of the child, and often provision will be made for there to be periodical payments of a set amount each year. Costs can include things such as the need for an additional carer to assist in the day to day activities of looking after a child. Or having to purchase a specially adapted property.

What strikes me in every case like this that I deal with is the bravery, resilience and tenacity of parents in dealing with a situation which they never expected. It’s a steep learning curve for all involved but, as the poem concludes,

“… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.*

* (from “Welcome to Holland“, by Emily Perl Kingsley)

Accidents and Disease, Marcus Weatherby,
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