Children with cerebral palsy (CP) will likely need assistance for a lifetime. That makes a Life Care Plan an important tool, because it details the unique physical and financial needs of your child’s situation.

Before we received our verdict or settlement for birth injuries, a judge ordered the creation of a life care plan. This helps the judge or jury decide how much money your family should receive to take care of your child for life, whether it’s for everyday needs like diapers and wheelchairs or for long-term needs such as education and major surgeries.

Find a Certified Life Care Planner Outside a Lawsuit

Even if a lawsuit is not involved, Life Care Planning is still a valuable tool for CP families. The social worker at the hospital where your child was born, or your family attorney, should be able to refer you to a qualified Life Care Planner. Be aware that while your insurance company employs Life Care Planners, it would be best that you find your own. Make sure whoever you use is a Certified Life Care Planner. This person must be knowledgeable about your child’s injury, understand the long-term effects of that injury and know your financial situation. He or she works with your child’s doctors, nurses and rehabilitation specialists to create a plan that is specific to your child.

Plan if Parents Can No Longer Be Primary Caregivers

All parents of special needs children also need to work with an attorney to have legal documents in place for when the parents may no longer be able to serve as the primary care givers. These documents, such as advance directives and durable powers of attorney, designate who will take over guardianship of the child or adult and what kind of financial resources have been set aside for their care.

Building Your Child's Life Care Plan

Our birth injury attorneys have worked with several Life Care Planners throughout the years and gave our families good recommendations. If you’re looking for one on your own, here are a few suggestions:

Check Professional Qualifications

Your life care planner should be certified. Generally accepted certifications include:

Check Educational Degrees

Your planner should have a medical background, such as a degree in medicine, nursing or physical therapy.

Check Experience

Preferably, your planner should have experience in dealing with cerebral palsy.

Check References

Your planner should be happy to provide you with references, such as law firms or national disability organizations, where you can obtain information about the quality of their work and their reputation in the field.

Ask About Billing

Your planner should provide you with written documents about how they intend to charge you.

Here are some of the needs a Certified Life Care Planner will consider in developing your specific plan. If you cannot afford a Life Care Planner, this checklist can still help you plan for your child’s needs.

Medical Care/ Routine

Is there a need for an annual exam? Which specialists need to be seen and how often?

Future Medical Care/Surgical Intervention or Aggressive Treatment

Are there plans for aggressive treatment or additional surgeries, such as reconstruction?

Home Care/Facility Care

Can the child live at home or will a facility be needed? What about specialty programs such as annual camps? What level of care will the child require?

Evaluations

How often and what type of non-physician evaluations will be required? For example, physical, speech, recreational, occupational and music therapy; dietary assessment, vision, hearing and swallowing studies, etc.

Therapies

What therapies will be needed? Will these require professional case management? Will behavioral, rehabilitation, or pastoral counseling or family education be needed?

Diagnostic Testing/Educational Assessment

What testing is necessary and how often?

Drug/Supply Needs

All prescription and non-prescription drugs, their dosages, quantities and frequency of use; all other supplies such as bladder and bowel program, skin care, etc.

Home Furnishings and Accessories

Will the child need a specialty bed? Portable ramps? Lifts?

Transportation

Will the family need a special van for transportation? Will the child be able to drive at some point and if so, are hand controls sufficient or is a specialty vehicle needed? Can local transportation companies be used?

Wheelchair Needs

What types and configuration of wheelchairs will the child require as he/she ages? Power? Shower? Manual? Specialty? Ventilator? Reclining? Quad pegs? Recreational? What about maintenance and accessories?

Aids for Independent Functioning

What types of equipment can the child use to function as independently as possible?

Orthotics/Prosthetics

Will the child need braces? What about replacement and maintenance?

Health and Strength Maintenance

What specialty recreation is needed, such as adapted games or equipment?

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.

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