Kernicterus Compensation Claims

Kernicterus is a serious condition that affects newborn babies who experience severe jaundice when not treated properly or quickly enough by doctors, midwives or nurses. Families affected by kernicterus can make a claim to help them better understand what has happened and why, and to win the compensation essential for helping them deal with such devastating circumstances. JMW has developed a fantastic reputation for birth injury claims and we have successfully won several multi-million-pound kernicterus claims. 

If you would like to speak to an experienced lawyer regarding a potential kernicterus compensation claim, or would like some clear, easy-to-understand advice from our team, call 0800 054 6512 or contact us using our online enquiry form.

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Vasili Kalisperas' Story

What Our Clients Say
  • Liz Davies thanked for speed and efficiency

    ‘Once again I would like to thank you for the speed with which you have expedited this claim.  You have only been involved for a short while but you have moved things along so quickly and smoothly.

    'It means such a lot to me that this has now been settled, I can put it behind me now and move forward.

    Your involvement has been very much appreciated.’


  • Facebook comment praises Nick Young

    It has taken quite a while but they kept me informed at every stage, were always professional, positive and took over control of everything so that I didn't need to do anything. Thanks again to you all, I woudln't hesitate on recommedning JMW. 

  • Sally Leonards thanked for her support

    'You have helped us both through an extremely hard and stressful time by removing as much pressure as you could . The communication has been brilliant informing us of every stage . H has come out of this ordeal with a very positive outlook and a future to look forward to.' 

    Following this lovely note, the client herslef noted: 'I can’t thank you guys enough for everything you have done for me'. 

  • A huge thank you to Nick Young.

    I was made to feel very important to him. He kept me informed about what was happening at all times and  was always helpful and polite.  My matter was dealt with leaving it with the people who knew best how to deal with these things. I was proved right and the outcome was far better than I could ever imagined.

    Thank you for everything Nick I would recommend you to anyone who requires medical negligence help"


  • Sophie received thanks from a grateful client

    Sending our sincere thanks for all your hard work in obtaining a successful outcome in our clinical negligence case.

  • Nick and Sally have received some great feedback from their client LH

    “You’re doing so amazing and [also to] Nick with helping me. I’m happy to have you guys as my solicitors thank you so so much.”

  • Nick Young praised for professionalism

    'This would not have happened without you and your very professional and patient style, I will be forever grateful to you as the only person listened to me, and stuck with me, when many would not have.'


  • Excellent service

    "I would like to thank JMW for all the excellent service I received on my clinical negligence case. They took me through every step and kept me fully informed throughout. I would certainly recommend JMW Solicitors."

    Mrs S, Greater Manchester

  • Brighter future

    "Thank you again for helping us with the hardest time in our life and fighting for our son's right to have a better life. We are really looking forward a brighter future for our son and all of us."

    Mrs I London

  • I could not have asked for a better solicitor

    "Thank you so much for all your hard work and support over the last five years. I am so glad I chose JMW and had you. Your commitment, patience and super organised approach have been wonderful. I could not have asked for a better solicitor"


    Miss J

Case Studies
  • More than £8 million awarded to boy with kernicterus due to failures

    Read More
  • Vasili Kalisperas’ story

    Read More
  • Kernicterus Case Study: Nashae Prendegast-Coote's Story

    Read More
  • Kernicterus Case Study: Dilraj Singh's Story

    Read More
  • Jaudaan Bapu's Story

    Read More
  • Failure to Treat Kernicterus Bilirubinaemia - £5,500,000

    Read More

Kernicterus Explained

Kernicterus is a potentially fatal form of brain damage that can also lead to various other complications, including:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Dental problems
  • Speech and language issues
  • Learning difficulties

The meaning of kernicterus is 'yellow kern' and though this translation may make it sound harmless and quaint, the reality of kernicterus is far more sinister. Kernicterus occurs when jaundice in a newborn baby becomes so severe that bilirubin crosses the membrane of the brain, causing permanent damage. Bilirubin is the substance responsible for the yellow appearance of skin and eyeballs associated with jaundice.

Jaundice in newborn babies is very common and in most cases harmless. However, in rare cases, it can spiral out of control and become a significant risk to the child's health, so it must be monitored and treated.

Medical professionals can check bilirubin levels with a simple heel prick blood test. Babies should have their levels checked at regular intervals thereafter in order to begin treatment as quickly as possible should bilirubin levels begin to increase or become dangerously high. Treatments include phototherapy or a blood transfusion.

With adequate treatment, bilirubin can be brought under control, however regular monitoring is key. Generally speaking, JMW has found that the failures in kernicterus cases primarily stem from a lack of awareness of the risks of newborn jaundice and the need for prompt and regular checks and treatment.

Kernicterus Development and Prevention

Kernicterus develops in newborn babies with high levels of bilirubin in their blood that goes untreated. Bilirubin is the yellow substance that causes the characteristic yellowing of the skin associated with jaundice and is produced when red blood cells break down. When high levels of bilirubin (or hyperbilirubinaemia) cross the membrane protecting the brain, problems including brain damage, hearing loss and even death can occur.

Medical professionals can prevent kernicterus by taking immediate action when a baby displays the first signs of kernicterus - in particular, jaundice. Light therapy or an exchange blood transfusion can reduce high bilirubin levels.

Once an infant has developed kernicterus, the effects are usually irreversible, so it is imperative that doctors take fast action when warning signs occur. Despite this, healthcare professionals do not have enough awareness of the dangers of severe jaundice in babies and we continue to see many cases of kernicterus at JMW.

Hyperbilirubinemia and Neonatal Jaundice

Hyperbilirubinemia is a severe form of jaundice that, if left untreated or if treatment is delayed due to a delay in diagnosis, can lead to the development of kernicterus. Although rare, hyperbilirubinemia is a very serious condition in newborn babies. Jaundice - caused by an accumulation of bilirubin - in newborn babies is common and normally resolves without treatment.

However, in some babies, particularly premature babies, the condition can develop as the liver is unable to clear the bilirubin adequately. Neonatal units should carefully monitor babies who are at 'high risk' and should review blood levels of bilirubin if they have any suspicion of hyperbilirubinemia.

Phototherapy is the usual treatment for hyperbilirubinemia; however advanced cases may require a blood transfusion. 

Making Kernicterus a Never Event

The specialist solicitors at JMW currently represent numerous children from across England and Wales who have kernicterus due to failures in care. These children were born perfectly healthy, but after suffering kernicterus brain damage in the first few days of their life are now severely disabled and in need of specialist care for the rest of their lives.

JMW is calling for kernicterus to be added to the NHS never event list, a register of serious but largely avoidable patient safety incidents that should never happen if medical staff have taken adequate preventative measures.

Adding kernicterus to the NHS never events list would raise its profile both within the NHS and externally. This, in turn, could help to ensure that there is greater awareness and put firmer emphasis on the NHS to ensure neonatal care providers receive the training and guidance they need on the treatment of newborn jaundice.

NHS trusts need to diligently record incidences of never events and occurrences are frequently reported by the national and regional media and their prevention is a key focus of the NHS and government.

Furthermore, whole families find the consequences of kernicterus are absolutely devastating. Coming to terms with and coping with the severe disabilities it causes is extremely hard, more so because the child was born without disability and with their whole life ahead of them. Kernicterus has a huge financial and emotional toll on victims' families. Care, equipment and accommodation costs can run into the millions while families are put under unimaginable pressure.

Medical Negligence and Kernicterus

Although jaundice in babies is common, kernicterus is rare. Jaundice that appears in the first 24 hours of life may be a sign of an underlying problem, however, and needs urgent investigation.

We have come across several cases where midwives have failed to appreciate that early signs of jaundice can lead to kernicterus. Instead of checking the baby’s bilirubin levels, midwives have told parents to put the baby in the window to get some sunlight. This action has no benefit to babies with hyperbilirubinaemia at all.

Early recognition of the problem, with testing of bilirubin levels, is crucial. If the baby has a rising bilirubin level, this can be quickly treated with phototherapy, or if necessary, a blood transfusion.

If you think your baby may have been affected by kernicterus due to medical negligence, our experienced solicitors may be able to help you make a claim for compensation. 

  1. What Are the Symptoms of Kernicterus?

    In the short-term, babies suffering with kernicterus can appear lethargic and irritable, their body may seem rigid or floppy due to changes in their muscle tone, and they can suffer temporary breathing interruptions and fits or seizures. Their skin is yellow, and this can also affect the whites of their eyes.

    In the longer term, signs a baby is suffering from kernicterus are more prominent and can include:

    • Cerebral palsy - brain damage that causes learning difficulties and mobility and coordination problems
    • Loss of hearing
    • Eyesight issues
    • Dental problems

  2. What Failures Are Commonly Associated With Kernicterus?

    Some of the failures that have occurred in the kernicterus cases JMW has handled or is currently handling include:

    • Failure to appreciate the significance of newborn jaundice
    • Failure to test bilirubin levels when the jaundice first manifests
    • Failure to monitor bilirubin regularly, allowing levels to rise again
    • Failure to refer the child for hospital for treatment
    • Failure to heed concerns about a baby's deterioration voiced by families
    • Inaccurate advice provided to families, including to place jaundiced baby in sunlight (which would have no action at all and is contrary to NICE guidelines)
    • Failure to advise families to take the child to hospital urgently if they deteriorate

Why Choose JMW?

The specialist solicitors at JMW have successfully managed numerous multi-million-pound claims for compensation for the families of young children who developed kernicterus due to negligence. We have built a reputation as leading specialists in claims for birth injuries, thanks to our wealth of experience, which is crucial for bringing a successful case.

As with other neonatal injuries, kernicterus cases are often strongly contested so it is essential that a legal challenge is brought by a lawyer with experience in this field. Making a successful claim increases the chances of improving a child's quality of life by providing help with the cost of transport, care and adaptations to the home, among other expenses.

Our team is headed by leading solicitor Eddie Jones and is widely recognised as one of the best clinical negligence departments in England and Wales. Several of our solicitors form part of the Law Society's specialist panel for clinical negligence, while a number are also members of the Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) solicitor's panel.

JMW has supported CBIT since 2012 and in March 2015 we started a three-year project as the charity's Legal Support Service Provider in the North West.

Talk to Us

If you think your baby may have been affected by kernicterus due to medical negligence, our experienced solicitors may be able to help you make a claim for compensation.

Getting in touch with us could not be easier, simply call us on 0800 054 6512 or complete our online enquiry form and we will get back to you at a convenient time. We understand how difficult it can be to go through something as traumatic as this, and our expert assistance can provide the guidance and support you need.

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