If you or your child have suffered an injury due to a breach in the duty of care at the time your child was born, you may be able to make a compensation claim for childbirth medical negligence. Not every injury that is suffered before, during or after childbirth is avoidable, and sometime medical negligence undoubtedly occurs without their being any injury.
This article aims to provide a few examples of when it may be possible to claim compensation for medical negligence at childbirth and the process for claiming compensation. However, no two childbirth injuries or their consequences are exactly alike, and it is always in your best interests to discuss the specific circumstances of your or your child´s injury with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity.
What is Medical Negligence at Childbirth?
Medical negligence is generally defined as any act or omission by a healthcare professional that deviates from the accepted standard of care in the medical community. In a childbirth scenario, there are many examples in which a healthcare professional may have deviated from the accepted standard of care.
Before your child is born, the failure to treat diabetes or thyroid problems could result in your baby suffering an injury in the womb. Being prescribed or administered a medication to which you or your child suffer an adverse reaction could also be interpreted as medical negligence if there was prior reason to believe there may be a risk of injury.
The failure to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome would be considered medical negligence; as would the failure to adequately monitor your child in the womb – or act within a reasonable time if your child shows signs of distress and was subsequently born with a brain injury due to being deprived of oxygen.
During childbirth, there are many more things that can go wrong due to an act or omission by a healthcare professional.
Claim for Cerebral Palsy due to Medical Negligence
When a child is deprived of oxygen in the womb or during their delivery, it may be possible to claim for cerebral palsy due to medical negligence if it can be shown that your child´s injury was avoidable “at the time and in the circumstances”. Oxygen deprivation can have many causes, but when asphyxiation occurs due to an error by a healthcare professional, you will be entitled to pursue compensation for medical negligence at childbirth.
Claim for Erb´s Palsy due to Medical Negligence
Erb´s Palsy often results from a medical emergency known as shoulder dystocia – when a child´s shoulder gets lodged behind the mother´s pelvic bone. The stretching and tearing of the nerves in the brachial plexus often results in severe impairment to the function of the child´s upper arm; and, when excessive force has been used to manoeuvre your child past the pelvic bone – resulting in a permanent or long-term injury – you should be eligible to claim for Erb´s Palsy due to medical negligence on behalf of your child.
Claim for a Spinal Cord Injury due to Medical Negligence
The misuse of forceps or vacuum delivery tools can result in excessive traction during the delivery process, causing your child to suffer a spinal cord injury. When you child´s injury could have been avoided with greater care – or when the size of your child suggested that a C-Section delivery would have been a better option – you will be entitled to make a compensation claim for a spinal cord injury due to medical negligence.
Claim for a Broken Bone at Childbirth due to Medical Negligence
Broken bones at childbirth do not necessarily have to be attributable to medical negligence. A child can break a bone while in the womb, and there may be justifiable reasons for force being used during childbirth that results in a fractured or broken bone. However, when an injury to your child could have been avoided with greater care, you should qualify to claim for a broken bone at childbirth due to medical negligence.
Claim for Injuries to a Mother due to Medical Negligence during Childbirth
It is also possible to claim for injuries to a mother due to medical negligence during childbirth if you suffer any avoidable injury. You should be eligible to make a claim for childbirth medical negligence if you – as a mother – have suffered abnormal bleeding due to a uterine rupture or placental abruption, sustained broken bones, been extensively bruised, developed an infection or suffered excessive vaginal tears.
Making a Claim for Childbirth Medical Negligence
Once you have spoken with a solicitor and granted authorisation for him or her to access your medical records, your solicitor will arrange for your medical records to be reviewed by an independent medical expert. If the medical expert finds evidence of negligence, your solicitor will discuss your options with you.
The usual course of action is to send a “Letter of Claim” to the NHS Trust responsible for the standard of healthcare at the venue where your child was delivered. The NHS Trust will conduct its own investigation and then either accept liability for your child´s injuries or contest your claim with evidence of its own.
If liability is accepted, you solicitor will start negotiations with the NHS Litigation Authority to resolve your claim for childbirth medical negligence for the maximum amount possible. If liability is contested, your solicitor will consider the strength of the NHS Trust´s evidence against the strength of your case and discuss with you whether court proceedings should be issued.
If this latter option is chosen, it does not necessarily mean that you will have to endure the anguish of a full court hearing. Often, claims for compensation for medical negligence at childbirth are resolved “out-of-court”; although you will have to make a court appearance if your claim for childbirth medical negligence is made on behalf of your child, as settlements of compensation claims made on behalf of minors have to be approved by a judge to make sure they are in your child´s best interests.
How Much Compensation for Medical Negligence at Childbirth?
How much compensation for medical negligence at childbirth you or your child will be entitled to depends on a number of factors. The nature and extent of the injury is usually given the highest profile, but a lifetime of lost income and the cost of care and support your child will need could be your highest priority.
You may be able to claim for your child´s “loss of amenity” or recover compensation for your own emotional trauma if you have been diagnosed with any psychological injury since the birth of your child. You solicitor will guide you through the factors included in settlements of compensation for childbirth medical negligence and ensure that each one is accounted for comprehensively.
Further Information about Childbirth Medical Negligence Claims
If you would like to speak with a solicitor before making a decision about claiming compensation for medical negligence at childbirth, you are invited to call our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau. Our solicitor will be able to provide practical and helpful advice about making a claim for childbirth medical negligence and instigating an investigation into whether your child´s injury could have been prevented with greater care “at the time and in the circumstances”.
You are under no obligation to proceed with a claim for childbirth medical negligence when you call us and all calls to our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau are completely confidential. You can call us at any time to get further information about childbirth medical negligence claims, and then focus on looking after your injured child while we investigate whether there is a compensation claim for childbirth medical negligence which may be worth your while to pursue.