Your eligibility to make compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth depends on whether or not the injuries were avoidable “in the circumstances and at the time”, and then whether they were attributable to medical negligence – medical negligence being defined as any act or omission by a healthcare professional that deviates from the accepted standard of care in the medical community.
Proving child birth injuries due to medical negligence in the UK can be exceptionally complicated. The medical profession has a culture of “defend and deny” against compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth; and, even when negligence is acknowledged, it can still be a struggle to obtain an appropriate settlement of your claim from the NHS Litigation Authority.
This article highlights some of the processes for making claims for child birth injuries due to medical negligence. However, no two compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth are the same. For this reason it is always in your best interests to seek professional legal advice that is relevant to your particular circumstances from a medical negligence solicitor.
Examples of Child Birth Injuries due to Medical Negligence
The term “child birth injuries” covers many different scenarios. Many children suffer minor injuries during their birth, and most birth injuries resolve themselves naturally without any need for medical treatment. However, there are times when more serious injuries are sustained that have permanent health consequences or that lead to the underdevelopment of a child.
The most high profile child birth injuries due to medical negligence one reads about actually occur while the child in still in the womb. Child “birth” injuries such as cerebral palsy can be attributable to a failure to monitor the foetal heartbeat prior to delivery, or due to a failure to act on a recorded deceleration of the foetal heartbeat.
Other examples of child birth injuries due to medical negligence can include nerve damage caused by the misuse of forceps, broken bones due to mishandling your child, or a birth defect caused by an adverse reaction to drugs administered during the mother´s pregnancy. When these injuries could have been prevented with greater care, it may be possible to make compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth.
How to Commence Compensation Claims for Injuries to a Child during Birth
The first stage of making compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth is to speak with a solicitor. The solicitor will ask you to describe the injuries sustained by your child and explain how you believe they might have been avoided. If the solicitor feels that you have a claim for child birth injuries due to medical negligence that is worth your while to pursue, he or she will ask you to sign a form of authority to obtain copies of your child´s medical records.
The medical records will be reviewed by an independent medical expert, who will advise your solicitor on the strength of your claim. Depending on the nature of the injuries sustained by your child, your solicitor may engage the services of a “causation expert” to establish how your child´s injuries occurred, and a “liability expert” to determine whether the injuries were due to a breach of duty. Evidence of child birth injuries due to medical negligence will be compiled and a “Letter of Claim” sent to the hospital in which the injuries were sustained.
The Letter of Claim describes your child´s injuries and sets out why they are considered attributable to medical negligence. The hospital – or, in most cases, the NHS Trust to which the hospital is attached – has twenty-one days in which to acknowledge receipt of the Letter of Claim and a further ninety days in which to respond to it. What happens next depends on the response to the Letter of Claim.
Court Proceedings or a Negotiated Settlement?
If liability for your child´s birth injuries is accepted when the Letter of Claim is sent, your solicitor will enter into settlement negotiations to resolve your claim for the maximum amount possible. Settlements of compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth should take into account the child´s pain and suffering, his or her future loss of income, the deterioration in their quality of life, and the expenses that you have incurred or may incur in the future.
If liability for your child´s birth injuries is denied, your solicitor may recommend that court proceedings are issued depending on the strength of the evidence supporting your claim and the strength of the hospital´s defence. The issuing of court proceedings does not necessarily mean that you will have to go through the stress of a court hearing to determine liability. Often liability is admitted by the NHS Litigation Authority at the eleventh hour when your solicitor will enter into settlement negotiations.
Irrespective of whether liability is admitted immediately or not, it will be necessary for you to make a court appearance when your claim for child birth injuries due to medical negligence is settled. All settlements of compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth have to be approved by a court to ensure that they are in the child´s best interests. Settlement hearings are often accompanied by an apology read to the court by a representative of the negligence hospital authority.
For more Information, Call our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau
It was mentioned earlier that no two compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth are the same, and that it is in your best interests to seek professional legal advice. For this reason we have established a Medical Negligence Advice Bureau that you are invited to call at any time to discuss the injuries that your child sustained before, during or immediately after their birth.
The service provided by our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau is free of charge and there is no obligation on you to proceed with a claim for child birth injuries due to medical negligence once you have spoken with us. Our service is there to help you understand the legal process of making compensation claims for injuries to a child during birth and therefore we promise not to overawe you with legal jargon.
Giving birth to a child that has suffered an avoidable injury is always difficult to come to terms with. Let us attend to the legal issues surrounding negligence and compensation, while you provide the best possible care for your child.