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        Delayed diagnosis and the role of the ‘Litigation Friend’

        It is a sad fact of life that accidents happen. This is especially true when we are children running and playing with our friends in the playground.

        However, when injuries go beyond scraped knees and bruised egos, we rely on health professionals to manage those injuries professionally and effectively.

        Unfortunately, this expected level of care is not always achieved, as solicitors at the Specter Partnership recently found when managing the case of a young client who had fallen over in the playground. The client was rushed to Accident & Emergency with a suspected fracture to his left arm. When his mother arrived at the hospital, her son, teary eyed, had already been fitted with a plaster cast and was preparing to be discharged. X rays had been taken and a diagnosis of a simple fracture around the elbow joint was made. Hospital procedure recommended a follow up appointment to be arranged in the Fracture Clinic in 10 days time.

        Things did not improve for our client. His elbow remained heavily swollen and painful. At the follow up appointment, his plaster cast was removed and he was recommended to refrain from contact sport and arrange some physiotherapy sessions. No X-ray was taken nor further hospital appointments recommended. Over the coming weeks, the injury did not appear to be improving.
        His mother, justifiably worried, contacted their GP. The GP initially dismissed the injury as a simple fracture that would heal, but was somewhat concerned that no x ray had been taken after the cast had been removed.  Eventually, almost 2 months after the initial injury was sustained and with little improvement, the client returned to hospital. After being examined, the family was told that the injury was much more serious than initially thought and an operation was needed.

        Over the next year, the client required two further open reduction operations, which on both occasions involved breaking the bone again. The delay in treatment had seen the arm heal in the wrong position and a K wire was inserted to stabilize the bone. This caused the client and his family enormous pain and upset. Not only that, the elbow joint could see a possibly permanent limitation in the client’s range of movement.

        Had the seriousness of the injury, an anterior dislocation of the radial head, been properly diagnosed, either on the initial or follow-up appointment dates, the client would have still have likely required an operation. However, this would have been a closed reduction surgery, meaning the bone itself would not have needed to be exposed, limiting risks and future scarring. Moreover, the arm would not have needed to be rebroken, which reduced the client’s prognosis and caused significant pain and suffering.

        The Specter Partnership worked closely with the client and his family to get the compensation they deserved for the misdiagnosis. Due to the client’s young age and to spare any undue stress, his mother would take the leading role in the case, acting in the role of the ‘Litigation Friend’. This is a well recognised and important role in the litigation procedure. Where a client is too young or otherwise unfit to engage in a claim, the court can appoint a representative to act on their behalf. Through the concerted efforts of the Specter Partnership and the Litigation Friend, the case was settled for a significant 5 sum figure.