Meningitis is a very serious infectious disease, especially in young children. If meningitis is not quickly diagnosed and treated it can lead to serious brain damage causing lifelong disability. If you, your child or someone you know has suffered from meningitis they may be entitled to substantial NHS Compensation if the medical treatment received fell below a reasonable standard. Our team of experienced Meningitis lawyers are here to help and speak to you directly about a negligence case.
This page focuses solely on Meningitis. Click here for information about other Infectious Diseases.
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes (the meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord. The resulting inflammation from infection can cause damage to the brain and nerves.
What are the different types of Meningitis?
The infection that causes meningitis can be viral or bacterial. The more common cause is viral. For example, before vaccinations were available, mumps and measles caused a lot of meningitis outbreaks. It is now usually caused by enteroviruses, responsible for sore throats, colds and flu-like illnesses. Children, who are the main transmitters of enteroviruses, and people with weakened immune systems, are most likely to be affected but, thankfully, usually make full recoveries.
Bacterial meningitis is usually a lot more severe and dangerous than viral meningitis and occurs when bacteria enters the blood stream and travels to the brain and spinal column. For example:
- Streptococcus pneumonia, the most common cause of bacterial meningitis (known as pneumococcal meningitis) which can also cause ear infections and pneumonia; and
- Neisseria meningitides, another leading cause of bacterial meningitis (known as meningococcal meningitis) which occurs when bacteria from an upper respiratory infection enters the bloodstream.
What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis?
The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are not always easy to identify and can be mistaken for other illnesses, such as flu. There are also different symptoms depending on the age of the patient.
For babies and children under the age of 5, the symptoms, in no specific order, may include:
- A high fever with cold hands and feet
- Vomiting and poor feeding
- Agitation and reluctance to be handled
- Drowsy, floppy and unresponsive
- Grunting or rapid breathing
- High-pitched or moaning cry
- Pale blotchy skin and, sometimes, a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it
- Tense, bulging fontanelle
- Stiff neck and dislike to bright lights
- Convulsions or seizures
In older children and adults the symptoms, in no specific order, may include:
- A high fever with cold hands and feet
- Drowsiness and difficulty waking up
- Confusion and irritability
- Severe muscle pain
- Drowsy, floppy and unresponsive
- Pale, blotchy skin and possibly, although not always, a distinctive rash
- A severe headache
- A stiff neck
- Sensitivity to light
- Convulsions or seizures
A lot of these symptoms are caused because of the increased pressure in the brain as a result of the inflammation and swelling in the meninges and the brain tissue due to the infection.
How is Meningitis Treated?
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial meningitis. It is crucial that these are given early on in order to try and stop and reduce the inflammation and swelling and minimise any injury to the brain. Doctors will carry out tests to diagnose meningitis including blood tests and possibly a lumbar puncture. A lumbar puncture is useful and important because it tests the content of the fluid that fills the meninges (cerebrospinal fluid) which is designed to bathe and cushion the brain. This test can determine which germ in this fluid is causing the illness and, therefore, the best antibiotics to try and combat this. Steroids may also be given to try and help reduce the inflammation in the brain.
Antibiotics are not used to treat viral meningitis because they do not have any effect on viruses. Because viral meningitis is usually less severe, rest and fluids is often sufficient treatment.
Are there vaccinations against Meningitis?
Yes, vaccinations against common types of meningitis are routinely offered under the NHS childhood vaccination programme; however, vaccinations will not protect against new infection strains, which may also be more resistant to antibiotic treatment.
What type of Injuries does Meningitis Cause?
If treatment is not given promptly, bacterial meningitis can be fatal, at any age.
Hearing loss is the most common physical after effect, particularly in children who have suffered from pneumococcal meningitis. This type of injury occurs early in the inflammation process and cannot always be prevented, even with prompt diagnosis and treatment. Brain damage is another possibility that can result in cerebral palsy, paralysis, learning difficulties and behavioural and emotional difficulties. Psychological problems often present very subtly in young children (temper tantrums and being clingy, for example), which then develop and become more apparent with age.
Viral meningitis is usually a lot less severe and does not typically lead to long term injuries.
Click here for information about cerebral palsy negligence claims and here for birth injury claims.
Clinical Negligence Claims for delay in diagnosis of Meningitis
Clinical negligence claims for Meningitis Compensation usually focus on delay in diagnosing bacterial meningitis resulting in a lost window of opportunity to effectively treat it with antibiotics. Because the symptoms are similar to other illnesses, doctors may not take the investigative steps required to rule out meningitis; for example, a GP may not refer a child to Hospital for paediatric review and, instead, take a wait and see approach. A paediatrician may also not carry out blood tests, a lumbar puncture or chest x-ray (if pneumonia is suspected) if they do not consider meningitis a risk.
In our experience, the key is for doctors to listen to the parent’s concerns about the history of the child’s illness; particularly, the chronology of onset of the more subtle symptoms, such as grunting, poor feeding and drowsiness and, as the infection takes hold, distressing high pitched crying.
Doctors should always have an index of suspicion of meningitis, especially if parents report ongoing and prolonged possible meningitis symptoms because of the severity of injuries if it is not diagnosed and treated quickly. Our team of leading lawyers have considerable experience in investigating and successfully pursuing NHS Compensation claims where there has been a delay diagnosing Meningitis.
Click here to read some of our Case Studies on Meningitis Compensation Claims.
Is Meningitis Common?
Statistics show that medical negligence claims for delayed diagnosis of bacterial meningitis are on the increase, especially against GPs. New strains of bacterial meningitis need to be balanced against new vaccinations but meningitis does still frequently occur especially as 10% of the population carry the bacterial infection (which remains harmless for them) and can pass this onto others.
How much Compensation would be received if a Meningitis Claim were successful?
Each case is different but Meningitis claims usually result in medical negligence compensation in excess of £1 million pounds, typically, somewhere in the region of £2 – £15 million pounds. The level of compensation is, however, increasing and claims in the region of £30 million are now pursued.
When assessing the level of compensation we usually look at the following needs of the child/family:
- Professional Care (Past and Future)
- Occupational Therapy Needs
- Physiotherapy Needs.
- Speech and Language Therapy Needs.
- Accommodation (whether the family home needs adaption or a complete new house).
- Transport Needs (adapted vehicle, for example).
- Assisted Technology Needs (computers for communication, for example).
- Future medical treatment.
- The child’s loss of earnings.
- Court of Protection Costs.
- Case Management Costs.
A lifetime of much needed extensive professional input, care and treatment like that described above underlines why Meningitis claims result in such high value compensation claims.
Click here for more information about Infectious Diseases and here for Meningitis Case Studies.
Why pursue a Meningitis injury claim for compensation?
A child that has suffered a delayed diagnosis of Meningitis may well be diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy or another devastating brain injury and therefore require considerable support throughout their life. The cost of private 24 hour care, for example, can be hugely expensive so it is crucial that the child’s needs are fully met. Compensation claims are specifically aimed at funding these needs.
Click here to read our dedicated page on Cerebral Palsy and pursuing these claims.
How will I pay for my child’s medical negligence case?
Children with severe neurological brain injuries sustained at birth may be eligible for Legal Aid Agency funding. There are other forms of funding, including No Win, No Fee, available for children suffering from other types of injuries. We have a dedicated page on funding found by clicking here.
Why we can help you?
When medical treatment goes wrong and causes injury and loss it is crucial to speak with a professional, experienced and specialist medical negligence solicitor to help you and your child.
The medical negligence team at Minton Morrill has this experience and its team of solicitors specialise solely in this complex area of law. Our team have more accredited panel members (5) on the AvMA and Law Society clinical negligence scheme than any other law firm handling clinical negligence claims in Leeds or surrounding area as well as a national presence acting for clients across the country such as Kent, Hampshire and Cumbria.
[Hyperlink to Avma panel membership on the word: AvMA + same for Law Society membership. AVMA: https://www.avma.org.uk/help-advice/find-a-solicitor/choosing-a-solicitor/ Law Society: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/accreditation/clinical-negligence/]
Our medical negligence team is top ranked in the Tier 1 category in the prestigious Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners annual reviews in recognition of their medical negligence work. The department is described as ‘One of the market leaders’ noted for ‘achieving high-value settlements’ in birth injury claims and also for its ‘superb reputation for handling a wide range of clinical negligence claims’.
The department is led by Simon Minton. Simon and Julia Morrill are both recognised as the only two Leading Individuals for clinical negligence in the Leeds area. The other department members: Susan Bartfield, Charles Gillott, Sahida Patal and Guy Pomphrey all have a wealth of experience. Speak to our team today to work towards succeeding with your claim.
Over the past year our team of lawyers have settled a range of cases. Examples include:
- Settling four different £5 million pound plus birth injury cerebral palsy claims.
- Settling a birth injury cerebral palsy claimed in excess of £8 million.
- Working on settling a birth injury claim valued at just under £12.5 million.
- Settling a range of other claims including fatal claims for in excess of £275,000.
Click here for case studies for more information about the types of cases we have settled.
A Complete Service
Our medical negligence team work closely with the highly regarded Minton Morrill Inquest team who represent families of individuals who have died before a Coroner at Inquest. Civil claims for damages may then sometimes be pursued following the conclusion of the Inquest.
Minton Morrill also has a Court of Protection department (led by Julia Morrill) to assist injured children and their families manage and access compensation money held by the Courts.
Medical negligence is extremely distressing for those directly affected and their families. We offer a bespoke and personal service to all of our clients because we recognise and understand how important it is for your case to be handled in a sensitive manner. We are not a “claims processing factory” and our team of solicitors only take on a smaller number of total cases in order to be able to meet the high standards we set for ourselves.
Click here to read some external client reviews about our medical negligence legal team.
How to contact us?
If you or your child have suffered an injury because of Meningitis and you have concerns about the standard of medical care provided, please contact our team of expert solicitors today on 0113 245 8549 or complete the Ask Us a Question or Get in Touch Forms.