Kernicterus/jaundice claims

Where jaundice is not effectively managed by medical staff, families may be able to make a kernicterus claim if this more serious condition develops as a result. Expert legal advice will be required to make a successful kernicterus claim.

Whilst jaundice is fairly common in newborn babies (affecting roughly 6 out of every 10), the condition usually corrects itself within a couple of weeks as the baby’s body continues to develop and more effectively regulate the breakdown of red blood cells. In roughly 1 out of 100,000 cases however excessive levels of bilirubin in the blood can lead the baby to develop Kernicterus, and where this is left untreated it can become a serious and potentially life-changing condition.

Where it can be shown that medical staff did not take appropriate action to diagnose and treat kernicterus, expert legal advice should be sought from Blackwater Law medical negligence solicitors in order to determine whether or not you are entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Making a Claim for Kernicterus Compensation

Medical staff are well trained in how to deal with jaundice, and how to prevent it from worsening. As such, cases of kernicterus should not be allowed to happen – and where they do you may be entitled to claim medical negligence compensation.

There are a number of instances where failures on the part of medical staff may have led to poor care and therefore provide grounds to make a jaundice (kernicterus) claim:

  • Where babies thought to be at higher risk of the condition – namely those born prematurely – are not effectively monitored following birth.
  • Where insufficient attention is paid to a surge in the baby’s bilirubin blood levels.
  • Where appropriate treatment is not administered following a realisation that your baby has abnormally high or rapidly-rising bilirubin blood levels.

Whilst these circumstances represent some of the most common reasons for making medical negligence compensation claim relating to jaundice and kernicterus, it is not an exhaustive list of all potential scenarios. If you think your baby could have developed kernicterus as a result of medical negligence, or they have suffered due to poor care relating to the condition, it’s important to speak to an expert legal advisor as soon as possible.

Get expert advice

Call today and speak to Zoe Diss, specialist birth injury solicitor. Find out if you can claim compensation.

CALL 0800 083 5500

Expert birth injury solicitors

Blackwater Law has a national team of specialist medical negligence solicitors that represent individuals and families across the country in making a birth injury claim. Our team advise on cases involving birth injuries to mother and birth injuries to babies.

Recognised by the Legal 500 as one of the leading medical negligence teams in the South East, Blackwater Law solicitors can offer the expert knowledge and experience needed to help you secure the maximum award possible for your Kernicterus compensation claim. Call 0800 083 5500 today and receive free initial advice and support from a specialist lawyer.


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  • No win no fee claims
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Blackwater Law successfully represented the family of baby Blake in making a midwife negligence claim after the community midwife failed to notice a severe medical abnormality.

No Win, No Fee Kernicterus Compensation Claims

The distress associated with caring for a baby that suffers Kernicterus understandably leaves many family members distraught. At Blackwater Law our aim is secure you the maximum possible compensation available in your case – without introducing any additional risk or stress. That’s why we undertake all medical negligence claims – including claims for Kernicterus – on a no win, no fee basis; none of your own money will ever be at risk.


The Impact of a Kernicterus Diagnosis

Should your baby suffer from kernicterus, there are a number of short and long term effects they may face:

  • Displaying a poor awareness of the world around them, perhaps not responding to audio-visual stimulus.
  • Your child’s muscles may be abnormally floppy or ineffective.
  • You may experience difficulties in feeding your child.
  • As the condition develops your child may begin to experience seizures, and show an arching of the neck and / or spine.
  • Kernicterus can lead to bilirubin encephalopathy; resulting in your baby’s head remaining abnormally small and leading to significant cognitive impairment.
  • Where excess bilirubin is allowed to damage the spinal cord and cause a spinal injury, kernicterus can be fatal.
  • Where treatment is not administered promptly, your baby may suffer brain injury leading to associated conditions such as cerebral palsy.
  • Your child may experience hearing loss, which can be mild to severe.
  • He or she may exhibit involuntary twitching or uncontrollable movements throughout the body.
  • Problems associated with maintaining eye contact or remaining focused on a particular area – children with kernicterus have been known to gaze upwards or to one side, rather than to maintain steady forward-focus.
  • Your child may experience learning difficulties.
  • Many children with kernicterus have also been known to experience dental development issues.

The presence and severity of symptoms can vary, often according to how quickly the condition is diagnosed and treated by medical staff. Where medical negligence can be shown to have contributed to or exacerbated the effects of kernicterus it can have a significant influence on your compensation claim.

Blackwater Law represents clients across the country in making successful claims for medical negligence compensation.

What is Kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a very severe form of jaundice, which in itself is a fairly common affliction for newborn babies. The underlying cause is a surplus of bilirubin in the baby’s blood as a result of the high number of red blood cells in their system, and the limited function of a still-developing liver in processing their breakdown.

In rare cases, babies can experience exceptionally high levels of bilirubin in their bloodstream – known as hyperbilirubinemia. In these cases there is a risk that bilirubin can cross the thin layer of tissue known as the blood-brain barrier, and go on to cause damage to the brain or to the central nervous system.

Kernicterus is now extremely rare in the UK, and largely preventable when medical staff observe appropriate safety guidelines and procedures. If your child has developed the condition, it may be that medical negligence on the part of healthcare professionals could have played a role, and you should contact a legal expert for advice as soon as possible.

Treatment of Jaundice and Kernicterus

Whilst it is true that the majority of cases of newborn jaundice do not require treatment, babies should always be monitored to ensure that symptoms do not persist beyond the usual 10-14 day period. Premature babies are at greater risk of developing kernicterus and warrant even closure supervision.

Where testing shows that your baby has abnormally high levels of bilirubin, two primary treatment methods could and should be employed to prevent Kernicterus:

  • Phototherapy: This is where a special form of light is shone on the baby’s skin, prompting the bilirubin their system to change and become more-easily broken down by the liver.
  • Performing an Exchange Transfusion: Where a matching donor can be sourced, a small amount of blood may be removed from your baby’s system and exchanged for an equivalent amount with lower levels of bilirubin.

Babies are known to respond well to these forms of treatment in the vast majority of cases, allowing for them to be discharged from hospital within a few days. In light of this, cases of kernicterus are considered largely preventable – meaning the likelihood of medical negligence having occurred where it is discovered is elevated. This will likely have a bearing on any prospective compensation claim made by the families of babies who suffer from the condition.

What Happens When I Make a Claim For Kernicterus?

When you make a claim for Kernicterus compensation, your claim will be directed to the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA). Only a very small proportion (around 2%) of cases will ever be heard in court, as most are resolved through negotiations between your medical negligence solicitor and the NHSLA.

When you make a claim for Kernicterus compensation with Blackwater Law medical negligence solicitors our legal experts will compile evidence in support of your case and submit a legal argument to the NHSLA, before negotiating a settlement on your behalf. Our legal experts will seek to obtain an admission of liability from the NHS, and subsequently the maximum possible amount of clinical negligence compensation. Every case is different, and because circumstances can vary greatly there is no set amount or limit placed on the amount you can receive for a successful kernicterus compensation claim. However, ensuring you seek advice and representation from a specialist birth injury solicitor will give your case the best chances of success and of the maximum compensation amount being received.

Get expert advice

Call and speak with Zoe Diss, specialist medical negligence solicitor, today. Find out if you can claim compensation.

CALL 0800 083 5500

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