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Encephalitis claims lawyers

Encephalitis is a serious condition but those of any age with weaker immune systems tend to be most at risk.


Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain caused either by the body’s immune system (our natural defence against infection and illness) attacking healthy brain tissue by mistake or an infection (usually viral) introduced into the brain via the nerves or bloodstream.

Encephalitis can result from misdiagnosed or untreated illnesses or infections resulting from post-operative sepsis that pass through the blood-brain barrier to infect the brain tissue. Once an infection has penetrated the blood-brain barrier, it can enter brain cells and damage them.  Further brain damage can occur as the brain swells and presses against the inside of the skull.

The Encephalitis Society estimates that there are 6,000 cases of encephalitis in the UK each year (based on Grenerod et al 2013). Vaccination is the best way to protect children. Indeed before the introduction of the MMR vaccine, measles, mumps and rubella were the leading causes of encephalitis in children.

Even if successfully treated, encephalitis can cause long-term ongoing complications such as memory loss, epilepsy, behavioural and personality changes or irreversible brain damage, all of which will have an impact on the future quality of life.

If clinical negligence can be shown to be the root cause of contracting encephalitis, it is possible to claim compensation that will help pay for the support a victim will require, possibly for the rest of their life. Our expert lawyers at Shoosmiths can not only help you get the compensation you deserve, but can also assist in preserving your entitlement to state benefits, fight your corner if special educational provision is required and will be there for you as long as you need us.

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What causes encephalitis?

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, caused either by an infection invading the brain or through the immune system attacking the brain in error. It is broadly divided into four main categories or types:

Infectious encephalitis

Inflammation that occurs as a direct and almost immediate result of an infection – usually viral. No apparent cause can be identified in over half of all cases of infectious encephalitis.

Post-infectious encephalitis

When the immune system reacts to a previous infection and starts to produce antibodies which, instead of fighting an infection that may not be present, are sent to the brain where they cause inflammation. Precisely why the immune system malfunctions like this is not known.

Autoimmune encephalitis

When the immune system mistakes a non-infectious agent inside the brain as a threat and starts attacking it with antibodies this causes otherwise ‘normal’ brain tissue to inflame and swell. The reason for the immune system attacking healthy brain tissue in this way remains a mystery.

Chronic encephalitis

There are two main types of chronic encephalitis: Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis and Progressive Multifocal Leukodystrophy (PML).  Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis is usually a complication of measles and extremely rare. PML is equally rare and normally affects only those people with a severely weakened immune system.

Whatever its cause, encephalitis is a serious condition, which if left untreated or undiagnosed can be life-threatening and have severe long-term complications.

Who is at risk of contracting encephalitis and what are the symptoms?

Anyone can get encephalitis at any age and at any time. Encephalitis tends to be more prevalent in the very old or the very young because their immune systems are relatively weak. Aside from those at risk of picking up an infection (whether on a hospital ward or care home or post operatively) encephalitis can also be a consequence of a ‘common illness’ being misdiagnosed or untreated.

The symptoms of encephalitis and meningitis are very similar and before swelling becomes obvious one can often be mistakenly diagnosed for the other. The tell-tale signs of encephalitis in the early stages are sudden fever, severe headaches, seizures, stupor or coma.

In more severe cases, neurological symptoms may include problems with speech or hearing, double vision, hallucinations, personality changes, loss of consciousness, loss of sensation in some parts of the body, muscle weakness, partial paralysis in the arms and legs, sudden severe dementia, impaired judgment, seizures and memory loss.

Symptoms of encephalitis to watch for in an infant include vomiting, body stiffness or constant crying that may become worse when the child is picked up. These symptoms may be seen before the more obvious sign of a bulging fontanel (the soft spot on the top of the infant’s head) becomes apparent.

If I have an encephalitis case

Establishing whether you have a case for making an encephalitis claim requires exactly the same effort and evidence as any other claim for medical negligence. Shoosmiths expert lawyers need to show that it was the breach of the duty of care owed to you which directly caused the injury you suffered.

Claims in these cases are potentially very high value and are defended very aggressively. An overwhelming case has been built and presented to ensure a successful conclusion. Thorough investigation of all your circumstances is essential in order to decide whether to bring a claim.

Expert opinion may be needed to confirm the circumstances if the condition arose from an infection acquired while in hospital or after an operation for example and If not already performed,  detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may have to be arranged to confirm the precise location and nature of the brain injury.

If you have suffered any of the possible complications of encephalitis it will affect how you manage your day-to-day life and your ability to work and very likely means that you will require some support for the rest of your life. If our expert encephalitis solicitors are  able to prove that 'on the balance of probability' (i.e. a greater than 50% likelihood) it was a failure to diagnose or treat or sub- standard care which caused or aggravated the injuries you or a loved one suffered, an encephalitis compensation claim is likely to succeed.

Our Experts

'Shoosmiths got me the rehab I needed and really helped with my family. They were fantastic throughout.'

Nicola Cooper, who suffered a serious brain injury after a seemingly trivial car accident.

Encephalitis Claims

Our senior medical negligence specialists are nationally respected. We have offices around the country or can visit you at home. We'll explain what can be done, how long your encephalitis claim will take and we’ll be there to support you through the years ahead.

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