Laura joined the clinical negligence department at Stephensons in 2010 and is one of the many solicitors in the experienced team. She is recognised by the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme. Besides the interest Laura has in the medical issues involved, for Laura this area of law is all about making a real difference to people’s lives.
Laura deals with a wide range of negligence cases from surgical errors to misdiagnoses to birth injuries. Regardless of the type of medical negligence, or the value of a claim, the consequences can be catastrophic, not just to the injured person, but to their families as well. Laura's priority is to help those people through what can be one of the most difficult times of their lives.
Making a claim for compensation can be a daunting and stressful process but Laura's role is to make it as easy and as simple as possible. Clients are in a difficult position when they come to her as they have to put their trust in what she does. They have to trust that she will do what is best for them and get them the compensation that they deserve. Laura believes that the key to building that trust is to communicate well and to work together from the outset, to develop a good relationship. She always ensures her clients feel at ease so they are comfortable talking to her as many of the issues they discuss are sensitive and require tact.
Laura also appreciates that clients want different things from their claims. They can have objectives other than just to seek financial compensation. She therefore listens to her client’s needs throughout a claim and ensures that she acts on them.
Laura always talk openly, honestly and ensures her client’s expectations are managed appropriately. She provides straightforward advice and guides and supports her clients throughout the whole claims process, specific to their needs and situation. Most clients want to avoid going to court so she ensures their claim is dealt with as quickly as possible and with as little dispute as possible.
Laura has recovered a significant amount of compensation for her clients, in excess of £5million.
Cases of interest
The claimant began suffering with problems in her joints in the 1990s. Her rheumatologist diagnosed her with ankylosing spondylitis and failed to review the diagnosis over the years. During this time, the claimant’s condition deteriorated, she became less mobile, had to give up work and she started to spasm sporadically breaking various bones. During a hospital admission in 2008 to repair a fractured hip, and through lack of care, the claimant slipped into a diabetic coma and all her medication was withdrawn. As a result the claimant’s spasms increased in severity and she re-broke the repaired hip. She spent a significant time in hospital recovering and lost the last bit of mobility she had. She suffered contractures and would never walk again. Tests were carried out which revealed the claimant had stiff person syndrome, a condition she had suffered with since the 90s and a condition which when diagnosed, treatment halts the progress of it to prevent a patient’s deterioration. The claimant required 24 hour care, adapted ground floor accommodation and suffered daily, painful spasms. She could only leave the house with the assistance of others and a bespoke electric wheelchair which kept her in a semi-reclined position. The claimant’s quality of life was significantly reduced when a diagnosis in the 90s would have meant she led a mobile, independent life. The claimant recovered £2.4million.
The claimant had previously suffered bowel cancer and had a permanent colostomy. He’d had this for a number of years and lived a normal life, working and raising a family. In 2009, the claimant developed a parastomal hernia which required treatment with surgery. He underwent the surgery and afterwards complained to the doctor that the stoma did not look right. He was reassured and discharged only to return a matter of days later with life threatening sepsis. He required emergency surgery where ischemic bowel was removed with the infection and the stoma was re-sited. Due to the shortening of his bowel and position of the stoma, it leaked regularly and without warning. The claimant was unable to work, became a recluse and depressed. There was no treatment to improve his situation. The claimant recovered compensation of £227,519.25 at trial. The defendant appealed the Judge’s decision and the claim went to the Court of Appeal. The defendant’s appeal was dismissed and the claimant recovered substantial interest on his compensation.
The claimant attended on her dentist on a number of occasions complaining of a hole in the roof of her mouth which would not heal. She was referred to hospital on a number of occasions and even underwent imaging following which she was reassured. A year later, the claimant was diagnosed with cancer in its latest stage and she required 20 hour surgery to dissect her neck, remove her nose and part of her jaw. She was left completely disfigured despite several painful attempts at reconstructive surgery. She underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and suffered a cardiac arrest. She was fed by a tube into her stomach, had problems breathing and swallowing and became a recluse. The claimant recovered £900,000.
The claimant went into hospital in order to have a cancerous lump removed from her breast. During the surgery however, the surgeon wrongly performed a mastectomy before being advised of her mistake and attempting to stitch the breast back on to the chest wall. The claimant developed complications following this and the breast was removed. The claimant was very traumatised, suffered psychological distress and required reconstructive surgery.The claimant recovered £90,000.
The claimant went into hospital for investigation and treatment of a perianal abscess. Unfortunately the surgeon that carried out the operation did not have the expertise and significant damage was caused to the claimant’s anal sphincter resulting in faecal incontinence. A colostomy was required which caused daily and ongoing problems and the claimant suffered psychological injury as a result.The claimant recovered £200,000.
What others say
"Laura Sheehan is lauded for her ‘ability to master complex cases and to concentrate on the key issues’." - Legal 500 2018
“My initial complaint was in relation to a minor negligent surgical oversight. However after my medical records were analysed, Laura identified that I may have undergone numerous unnecessary surgical procedures. Had it not been for Laura’s hard work and attention to detail, I would never have known that the Trust were also negligent in this regard.”
“I was kept fully updated at all times, each process was explained in detail, in a clear, friendly, practical manner. I cannot thank Laura enough. Due to the excellent service I received, I would have no hesitation in recommending Stephensons to my colleagues, friends or family.”
“My case was handled very professionally but also with care, compassion and understanding. Everything was explained carefully at each process and I felt at ease despite my initial uncertainty.”
Laura settled a claim for £350,000 for a client who suffered a delay in diagnosing throat cancer. His voice box was removed and he has been left with a severely impaired quality of life which will be permanent. The claim settled at a mediation enabling early resolution for the client.
Laura settled a claim for £8.4 million for negligently performed weight loss surgery. The client suffered a severe infection which was inappropriately treated, causing damage to her brain and resulting in impaired mobility and the need for life long care for the client.
Laura settled a claim for £940,000 due to a delay in diagnosing and treating a TIA (mini-stroke). The client went on to suffer a stroke and chronic fatigue syndrome which severely impacted her everyday life.