Birth injuries sometimes result in permanent physical and mental disabilities. Children with cerebral palsy, HIE, and similar conditions will require a lifetime of medical care, therapy, and support services.
The extent of care and support services each child will need varies based on the type and severity of their condition.
A life care plan can help establish the anticipated long-term financial impact of caring for a child with a birth injury has a disability.
Life care plans have been generating more substantial cost projections because rising costs of medical care and the rise in inflation which allows a life care planner to reasonably project larger numbrs.
What is a Life Care Plan?
A life care plan is a comprehensive legal report that (a) analyzes and evaluates the child’s specific injuries, (b) outlines all of the future medical care and services that the child will need throughout his life, and (c) estimates the total cost of providing that care. A life care plan outlines everything the disabled child will need and how much it will cost.
Life care plans are created based on input and formal opinions from medical experts and other specialists. The medical experts develop a medical treatment plan outlining the necessary care and services the child should receive in light of his specific injuries and condition.
This typically includes medical treatment (e.g., surgery, medications, etc.), educational support, rehabilitative therapy, mobility aids, and other support services. The plan also includes a detailed cost estimate for each treatment, service, medication, etc.
In birth injury lawsuits, life care plans give plaintiffs and their lawyers a definitive estimate of economic damages. A life care plan gives the plaintiff a comprehensive summary of the impact of the birth injury on their family.
In a birth injury lawsuit, a good life care plan can be used in settlement negotiations and at trial as evidence of damages. Expert cost projections offer parties a knowledgeable initial reference point for facilitating a suitable resolution through negotiations.
Components of a Life Care Plan
There is no required format for a life care plan. However, you will find specific critical components in any life care plan.
- Introduction/Summary: Most life care plans start with a summary or introduction section. The introduction basically just describes the child’s injuries and outlines how the life care plan was prepared.
- Medical History: You will find this in any life care plan. The medical history section provides a detailed narrative of the child’s initial injury, diagnosis, and subsequent course of treatment. This section is often very detailed and is drafted based on a review of the available medical records. The medical history section is crucial because it sets the table for estimating what treatment and services will be required and how much they will cost. The future medical needs and support services a child will require can vary significantly depending on the unique nature of the child’s injury. The medical history section thoroughly explains the specific type of injury and the resulting physical and/or mental impact of the injury.
- Summary of Costs: This section is usually just an outline list of all the various types of medical care and/or services the child will require in light of his injury. The total estimated costs of medical care and other services are usually provided along with an itemized statement of costs by type and time frame. For example, the summary of costs section may begin with a total overall cost estimate, followed by a cost breakdown of various categories (e.g., medications, testing, therapy, counseling, etc.). Some plans provide further itemized costs estimates for each category (e.g., for “medications,” a detailed list of each separate medication and its cost).
- Explanation of Costs: This report section offers another level of detail for each cost item. The explanation of costs section goes through each treatment, medication, or service in all the categories. For each item, the report briefly explains what it is, why it is necessary, and how much it will cost.
- Sources & References: At the end of the life care plan, there is usually a section similar to an index that lists the source used for the cost estimates in the report. This usually includes current pricing and fees from providers showing the costs of medications or diagnostic tests. It can also include healthcare cost estimates in 3>rd party studies, reports, and/or previous expenses from prior treatments. Finally, most reports end with a list of all the medical records and other documents reviewed to prepare the life care plan.
What Types of Things are Including the Care Plan?
Life care plans aim to be comprehensive and generally include all reasonably necessary medical treatments, services, and other items. Cost items often seen in life care reports can include:
- Medical treatments, procedures, or surgeries
- Required medications
- Mobility aids and adaptive equipment (wheelchairs, learning aids, etc.)
- Mobility modifications to the home (wheelchair ramps, lifts, handrails)
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Educational assistance or support services (speech therapy, tutoring)
- In-home medical care/assistance
- Transportation expenses (wheelchair van, etc.)
- Lost lifetime wages / income
Do You Need an Economist If You Have a Life Care Planner?
The way it works is a life care plan expert is tasked with projecting the annual life care plan costs, while an economist adjusts these cost projections to account for anticipated future inflation on an annual basis.
The economist’s expertise in determining the appropriate inflation rate – which is higher than it has been in years right now – and calculating future annual costs to provide accurate and competent annual life care plan costs to adequately compensate the victim. So the economist must present credible evidence of the discount rate used to determine the present value of the future damages.
How Do Economist Determine the Appropriate Discount Rate?
Historical medical inflation data is reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical inflation is a component of the overall inflation rate reported in the United States and contributes to approximately 6.5 percent of the overall inflation rate.
Medical inflation comprises two main cost components: (1) medical care services (MCS), accounting for roughly 75 percent of medical inflation, including physician services, hospitalization, and non-physician services, and (2) medical care commodities (MCC), making up the remaining 25 percent, including prescription and non-prescription medicine, durable medical equipment, and supplies.
This stuff matters. Because sub-components within MCS and MCC may experience significantly varied historical inflation rates. This is a crucial consideration for economic experts projecting future life care plan costs with inflation and it requires some judgment. The inflation rate assumption should align with the types and weighting of different costs included in the life care plan and should not be based solely on either the overall inflation rate or the overall medical inflation rate, which do not consider the mix of costs in the life care plan.
Contact Miller & Zois About Your Child’s Birth Injuries
If a birth injury has disabled your child, contact the lawyers at Miller & Zois for a free investigation and evaluation of your case. We can explain whether you have a malpractice claim and, if necessary, prepare a life care plan for your child.
Call us at 800-553-8082 today or get a free online consultation.