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Written on 24th August 2015 by Julie Marsh

We recently recovered £400,000 in medical negligence compensation for our client, Alice*, following a delay in diagnosis of her cauda equina syndrome which has left her with persistent and permanent urinary and faecal incontinence, a permanent loss of sexual sensation, altered sensation in the left perianal region, left gluteal area and the back of her left thigh, and a psychological reaction to her injuries.

Following the successful conclusion of her claim Alice discussed her experience of the negligence claims process.

“After I was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome, I went online to try to find out more about the condition. I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of information available online but there was a complete absence of local support. 

I initially contacted a firm of solicitors who were based in Yorkshire, and who appeared to have a lot of experience with cases involving cauda equina syndrome from the content on their website. However, when I actually contacted the solicitors, they were very cold and didn’t appear to understand the condition very well at all. It very much concerned me that they were based in Yorkshire and I really wanted to look for a local firm of solicitors.

A friend of mine referred me to Boyes Turner. Someone she knew had instructed Boyes Turner in relation to a birth injury claim, and she suggested that I speak to one of the specialist medical negligence solicitors there about making a cauda equina negligence claim.

I spoke to Julie Marsh first, and she was instantly understanding of my condition and the warmth of her response and her reassuring nature immediately put me at ease. 

Everything else I had seen online about bringing a claim felt gimmicky and disconcerting but I was reassured as soon as I spoke to Julie.  When I had the chance to meet her she was very down-to-earth, and I never felt awkward discussing immensely personal issues with her.

Being diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome was very scary, and every day I faced a new challenge. It was so important to me that I felt I could ask Julie anything about the negligence claims process, or what would happen next, and I knew she would always make the time to listen to my concerns and reassure me that the case was progressing as it should. It was one less thing I needed to worry about.

I think I had this glamorous idea of the legal process which I must have got from watching TV.  I didn’t have any idea until I spoken to Julie how long the process could be, or the steps involved.

My parents were quite concerned that I was pursuing a medical negligence claim, and didn’t feel that I really needed to. They thought I just had a bad back. It was when my treating surgeon at Royal Berkshire Hospital said that I should have been operated on six weeks before he saw me that I began to feel angry about the delay in diagnosis of my cauda equina syndrome. It was the trigger for me to seek legal advice.

I found it very frustrating to think that nobody had taken me seriously, and my GP and the hospital had ignored the symptoms that I had reported to them. I am not the type of person who wants to make a fuss and I am not sure if I would have decided to pursue a negligence claim if I hadn’t been supported by a local solicitor. I didn’t want to talk to somebody who was remote from the entire situation or from me.

The initial part of the claim was quite easy, talking about what had happened with Julie and getting updates about the obtaining of my medical records. It wasn’t until I saw the reports of the medical experts that I realised how complicated the case was. 

I knew that the claim wasn’t going to be a quick process but Julie always kept me up to date as matters progressed, and I felt I always knew what stage of the process I was at. I was terrified about the possibility of going to Court, but Julie explained the process thoroughly and I felt entirely supported by our Barrister, Clodagh Bradley.

There was a delay in receiving the response to my case from both the GP and the hospital and it got really frustrating waiting to hear what they were going to say. It meant I was always replaying what had happened in my head, and I was always worried that I was forgetting some vital piece of information. It was difficult because I was still trying to juggle work and life and my ongoing symptoms at the same time.

I was regularly involved in meetings with our Barrister about the case. It was terrifying the first time I went to see her because I had to talk to somebody else about very personal issues. She was very thorough and approachable though and I was grateful that she was on our side.

I remember the telephone call from Julie telling me that the hospital had formally admitted the mistakes that they made in my treatment. It wasn’t until then that I had allowed myself to even think about compensation and what a settlement might mean in terms of getting my life back. I was just so relieved that they had admitted it was their fault.

Julie and her colleagues carefully counselled me about the next steps of the case, even though liability had been admitted, and I had to understand that there was still a possibility I would have to go to Court. I still had to attend a number of meetings with medical experts, and I found that very tough, having to regularly talk about my ongoing symptoms.

When I received the first offer in settlement of the claim, it was my knee jerk reaction just to want to take it and run away from the whole process. I was ready to see an end to it but Julie helped me understand that we needed to talk this through with the Barrister. After a detailed discussion I was advised that further negotiations should take place to try to achieve an increase in the level of compensation that I would be awarded.

I am so relieved that the matter has settled now, and that I didn’t need to go to Court, but strangely it feels like a bit of a void and I keep expecting post to drop through the door from Julie.

No amount of money will change the symptoms that I have or the difficulties that I face managing them now and will have in the future. However the compensation that I have received means that I have some financial security for the future, and that I can provide for my daughter. I am still trying to come to terms with what has happened and the challenges I face day to day, but now I can do so without the added financial pressure.  

I am so glad that I found Boyes Turner and Julie Marsh to bring the claim on my behalf”.