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At Boyes Turner we specialise in helping families whose babies have suffered severe brain injury, either through avoidable birth trauma or medical negligence during their neonatal care.

The jaundice-related injuries that we see arise from damage to the brain in newborn babies whose high bilirubin levels were not correctly monitored and treated, leading to long term brain damage from a condition called kernicterus.

We are a leading specialist brain injury law firm. The partners each have 20 years’ experience of working for clients with severe brain and head injuries. Our dedicated team of injury lawyers are able to provide advice and assistance through our high levels of legal expertise and links with brain injury associations and those providing brain injury rehabilitation and support.

How can Boyes Turner help?

Our brain injury lawyers are specialists in achieving high value compensation awards for children with brain damage whether they have kernicterus through jaundice, cerebral palsy, disability from birth trauma, neonatal injury or permanent neurological damage caused by negligent medical treatment.

Our experienced lawyers have made many successful kernicterus brain injury claims for children and their families, whether that injury arose from negligent treatment in hospital, on the neonatal unit, or at home (following home birth or discharge from the community midwives).

We aim to achieve early admissions of liability and interim payments to alleviate the financial hardship that often follows a family member’s brain injury. This helps our client families to meet their child’s immediate needs for specialist equipment, therapies, adapted accommodation, special educational support and care. Each settlement is calculated and negotiated following detailed, expert assessment of the child’s condition to ensure the best provision for their present and future needs.

What is kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a dangerous, but preventable, complication of jaundice in which the baby suffers brain damage. Kernicterus occurs when the baby’s bilirubin levels have been allowed to rise to dangerous levels through inadequate monitoring or delayed treatment of hyperbilirubinaemia.

If the liver is struggling to metabolise all the bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream, the unprocessed or unconjugated bilirubin can travel through the blood-brain barrier where it causes irreversible damage to the brain and spinal cord, permanent neurological disability and dysfunction. This is known as bilirubin encephalopathy. The pattern of damage and its characteristic yellow staining of the brain is known as kernicterus.

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Who is at risk of kernicterus?

  • Premature babies

  • Full term babies with excessive levels of bilirubin in their blood (hyperbilirubinaemia)

  • Babies whose bilirubin levels are above the treatment threshold and are rising rapidly

Increased risk factors for hyperbilirubinaemia include:

  • Newborn babies who develop jaundice within the first 24 hours

  • Babies whose siblings have suffered from hyperbilirubinaemia

  • Babies who are solely breast-fed

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How can kernicterus be prevented?

Kernicterus can be prevented by:

  • awareness of the risks

  • early recognition of the signs of jaundice

  • careful monitoring of the condition including, if in a home setting, advising parents to call for help if they notice any deterioration

  • if the bilirubin reaches threshold levels for treatment, the baby will need phototherapy treatment or an exchange transfusion.

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What is jaundice?

Jaundice is a common condition which is closely related to kernicterus and is the name that is given to the initial signs of excess bilirubin in the blood. These signs can include:

  • yellow discolouration of the baby’s skin

  • yellow discolouration of the whites of the baby’s eyes

  • dark stained urine which is visible in the nappy

  • stools which are pale and chalky rather than the usual yellowish brown

Jaundice affects 60% of full term babies and 80% of premature babies in their first week of life.  It is often harmless and usually lasts up to two weeks. Babies who are exclusively breast fed are at greater risk, with 10% still having jaundice at one month of age.

Even though jaundice is usually transient and harmless, babies with jaundice must be diagnosed, carefully monitored and properly treated to avoid the development of kernicterus.

Jaundice can also be a sign that the baby is suffering from another serious condition which is affecting the liver’s ability to process the bilirubin, such as:

  • liver disease

  • infection

  • sepsis

  • metabolic disorder

  • sickle cell anaemia

  • enzyme deficiencies

  • rhesus disease (incompatibility between the mother’s and baby’s blood groups)

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What are the signs of kernicterus brain damage?

Some of the early signs that the baby’s brain is being damaged include:

  • the baby doesn’t respond to stimulus, e.g. hands clapping in front of them

  • poor feeding

  • floppiness (decreased muscle tone)

  • fits (seizures)

  • arching of the spine

Longer term permanently disabling effects of kernicterus brain damage include:

  • cerebral palsy

  • learning disability

  • impaired hearing

  • impaired eye movements

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Is Legal Aid available for kernicterus brain damage claims?

If your child suffered severe neurological injury, such as kernicterus brain damage or cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence before birth, at birth or during the first eight weeks of life, they may be eligible for Legal Aid, depending on our assessment of the strength of each individual case.

Legal Aid is often available for kernicterus brain damage cases as they usually arise from negligent management of the baby’s bilirubin levels in the early neonatal period. 

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What shall I do now?

Call us on the number below, get in touch using our quick contact form or email us at mednegclaims@boyesturner.com for quick, friendly advice with no obligation.

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Meet your team

Susan Brown

Partner

Richard Money-Kyrle

Partner

Julie Marsh

Senior associate - solicitor

Vanessa Wand

Senior associate - solicitor

Nicola Anderson

Associate - solicitor

Rachel Makore

Associate - solicitor

Alpa Rana

Associate - solicitor

Fran Rothwell

Associate solicitor

Sita Soni

Associate - solicitor

Tara Byrne

Solicitor

Ben Ireland

Solicitor

Audrey Elmore

Medical records coordinator

Nicky Melville

Professional support assistant

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Kernicterus cases

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"Successfully negotiated a full and fair compensation"

Boyes Turner staff were always helpful and quick to respond. Communicating from the other side of the world presented no problems. Boyes Turner secured generous early interim payments that allowed me to continue my (non-funded) medical treatment that otherwise I could never have afforded. My Boyes Turner solicitor successfully negotiated a full and fair compensation and continuation of funding for future medical treatment and associated costs giving me great peace of mind. Thank you so much Annabelle! I would recommend Boyes Turner solicitors. They are professional, courteous and helpful. 

Brian

"More compensation than expected"

"Boyes Turner provided us really great support and the staff are very professional & supportive. They kept us up to date at all stages and helped us win the case. We got more compensation than expected. We will definitely recommend them to our friends". 

Boyes Turner client

"Clear and understandable advice"

Your explanations and advice were clear and understandable and seemed eminently sensible. Clearly they were, with the result achieved. 

Eddie West

"Fantastic and invaluable support"

The advice and support I had from the team was fantastic and invaluable. They put mine and my wife's mind at rest on many occasions and got a great result for us. Thank you from all of us. 

Mr Horne

"No hesitation in recommending "

Your easy and friendly manner has made a difficult situation much more tolerable. We shall have no hesitation in recommending Boyes Turner to anyone who might need your help. 

Mr & Mrs Smith