How Does the Process Begin?
Once a law firm has agreed to take your case, they will hire a Life Care Planner to help determine the amount of compensation the lawsuit will seek to care for your child. A law firm that specializes in birth injuries will have contacts with Life Care Planners, usually professionals with medical backgrounds and credentials, who specialize in special needs children.
What will the Planner Do?
The goal of a Life Care Plan is to specify the long-term medical, psychological, and rehabilitation needs of an individual throughout his/her lifetime. To do this, the Life Care Planner will interview you and obtain documents as to your financial situation. They will review medical records and may seek additional medical evaluations of your child’s condition. They will provide the law firm with a detailed report that describes and documents:
- Nature and extent of your child’s injuries
- Extent of care needed, including types of care and hours of care, from childhood through adulthood
- Previous and future medical expenses, including drugs, surgeries, therapy, supplies and equipment
- Other associated expenses, such as transportation, and costs related to adapting your home to accommodate a wheelchair or other equipment.
- Projected life expectancy for the child
- Expected rises in health care costs and other costs over the life of the child
What Happens to this Report?
This report is included in court documents as the basis for what your attorneys are seeking in compensation for your child. As part of the legal process, the defendant (the doctor or hospital, usually) will hire its own Life Care Planner to challenge the assumptions contained in the plaintiff’s report. The defendants may argue that your child is not as injured or will not require as much care as your Life Care Planner contends. Often a point of contention is how much daily care the parents should be expected to provide the child, especially as the child ages.
What Happens to the Money if It’s Awarded?
The law requires that money awarded to care for a special needs child goes into a Special Needs Trust with a court-approved administrator. The money is disbursed over the life of the child based on anticipated needs as outlined in the Life Care Plan.
Is Any Other Money Available?
Your lawyer may also seek compensation for your pain and suffering related to giving birth and caring for a child for the rest of the child’s life. Known as non-economic damages, this money is available to parents to spend however they wish.