Birth Injury Claims
Obstetrics is the area of medical care which relates to pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal care. You may need to seek legal advice from birth injury claim solicitors if you suspect any of these have not been properly managed, causing harm to you, your child or both.
Birth injuries can be caused by substandard care by consultants, junior doctors, midwives, nurses or other medical professionals. There could be a problem that was not assessed properly during pregnancy or an issue that was not correctly acted upon during the baby’s delivery.
Our clinical negligence solicitors are highly experienced in getting compensation for birth injuries, so will maximise any compensation you or your child are entitled to.
Common Birth Injuries
Injuries to the Child at Birth
Obstetric negligence can result in a baby being born with a variety of injuries including cerebral palsy Erb’s palsy, limb fractures and serious infection.
The most common type of birth injury leading to litigation is Cerebral palsy, a condition involving impaired muscle coordination and other disabilities typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth. The cause can be:
- Anoxia: complete deprivation of oxygen. Just a few minutes without oxygen can be enough to cause serious brain injury
- Fractures: decreased flow of oxygen to the brain. A baby can withstand this for longer but it can still lead to serious injury if not detected and treated quickly enough
The reasons for reduced or absent oxygen during or immediately after birth include:
- Placental abruption (where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before birth)
- Obstruction of blood flow through the umbilical cord (because it prolapses through the cervix before the head or because the baby is in breech (bottom first) position
- Aspiration of meconium (a thick, green, tar-like substance that lines the baby’s intestines during pregnancy) due to stress
- Inadequate resuscitation of a baby after birth
Other Injuries to the Child at Birth
Examples of other injuries that can be sustained by a baby during childbirth are:
- Erb’s Palsy (damage to the brachial plexus, a network of the nerves on each side of the upper body, leading to paralysis of the arm). This is often caused by shoulder dystocia which is where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck above the mother’s pubic bone after the head has been delivered
- Nerve damage (When nerves are stretched, compressed, or severed during delivery, the resulting damage can seriously impact the baby’s life)
- Bone fractures (Babies’ bones have a higher cartilage content than adult bones, making them more flexible but prone to fractures during a rough delivery)
Birthing Injuries to the Baby Caused by Negligence
Examples of clinical negligence during and immediately after childbirth causing injury to the baby include:
- Failure to identify signs that a baby is in distress before and during labour
- Failure to correctly monitor and record a baby’s heart rate
- Failure to differentiate between a normal and an abnormal situation
- Delay in requesting assistance from senior obstetric staff or not requesting assistance at all
- Failure to carry out a caesarean section soon enough to prevent injury
- Repeated attempts at forceps delivery especially by junior doctors
- Mothers being turned away from maternity units despite reporting a potentially serious issue
- Failure to give corticosteroids in cases of premature labour to prevent respiratory distress syndrome
Failure to follow correct protocols and procedures can be useful evidence of negligence in these circumstances.
Birth Injuries to the Mother
If a mother receives negligent care during or after delivery and problems are not identified or properly treated in good time, she may be left with lifelong symptoms. Such injuries, if caused negligently, can also be the subject of a claim through our team of specialist medical negligence lawyers.
Birth injuries to the mother can include:
- Vaginal tears (third degree and fourth degree tears)
- Bladder or bowel damage
- Damage to the cervix and vagina (often by instrumental delivery)
- Anal sphincter injury
- Uterine rupture leading to hysterectomy
- Pre-eclampsia or other infections
- Haemorrhage or injury to the bladder during caesarean section
- Ureter damage
Causes of Birthing Injuries to the Mother Caused by NegligenceExamples of clinical negligence during and immediately after childbirth causing injury to the mother include:
- Delay in resolving complications during delivery
- Delay in diagnosing and treating infection
- Retained swabs
- Anaesthetic errors
- Failure to recognise or properly repair serious tears
- Incorrect suturing (stitching) following an episiotomy or a Caesarean section
Birth Injury Consequences
Obstetric negligence which affects a foetus or a newborn can cause can cause lifelong disability and have catastrophic consequences for both the baby and their family. Some injuries to babies can be devastating to the parents, not just physically and mentally, but financially too. The parents may no longer be able to work and the family will need help to make ends meet. The cost the child’s care, therapy and equipment needs can be huge. A successful compensation claim can provide enough money to look after the child for his or her entire life time.
Obstetric negligence causing injury to the mother can also have devastating, sometimes permanent physical and psychological effects. Injuries can cause bladder, bowel, sexual and fertility problems.
Women affected by bowel issues caused by tears during childbirth may find support through a new organisation called the MASIC Foundation.
Claiming for Birth Negligence
If the baby’s injury is one that could have been prevented by proper care before, during or immediately after the labour and delivery, then the child may have a claim for compensation.
There is plenty of time to bring such a claim. An injured child can bring court proceedings at any time until his or her 21st birthday. If the event that a brain injury at birth is so severe that the person is rendered incapable of managing their own affairs in adulthood, then there is effectively no time limit within which to bring a legal case. However, it is always best to investigate a case when matters are fresh within everybody’s minds and memories have not faded.
Serious birth injury claims can take many years to settle. However, this is often because it is necessary to wait and see what problems develop throughout childhood. Some of the effects of a birth injury may not become obvious until the child is several years old, even into their teens, when they fail to achieve his or her expected milestones.
Once liability for the child’s injury is established, it is possible to claim interim payments of compensation to provide the child and his or her family with the resources to provide the best possible quality of life. This may involve round the clock care or a new fully adapted home.
When final settlement is reached, it may be that, as well as a lump sum, an annual amount is agreed to ensure there will always be enough money to give the injured person what he or she needs for as long as he or she lives.
Because these claims are so costly, they are often vigorously defended so it is vital that the lawyers involved have a lot of experience in the field and can instruct the right barristers and medical experts to maximise the chance of a succeeding and achieving the highest possible compensation level.
You do not need to worry about paying up front legal costs if your child was negligently injured at birth as it may be possible to pursue a claim using legal aid funding or a Conditional Fee Agreement (otherwise known as a “no win no fee” agreement).
The type of obstetric claims that we have dealt with at Barlow Robbins have involved:
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Bladder laceration during a caesarean section
- Significant perineal tears during delivery which may have been overlooked and/or not repaired properly and as a result, the mother is left with incontinence of bladder or bowel or both
- Failure to recognise the signs of cord prolapse during delivery
- Negligent technique during forceps or ventouse delivery causing trauma to the mother or baby
- Misinterpretation of the Cardiotocograph (CTG) reading (designed to tell the doctors and midwives if the baby is in distress)
- Delay in recognising sepsis with significant and/or catastrophic consequences for the mother or baby
- Delay or failure to recognise symptoms of pre-eclampsia or eclampsia
- Failure to properly treat severe asthma in pregnancy
- Negligent failure to manage the birth of twins
- Failure to avoid severe blood loss following caesarean section
- Failure to diagnose and treat an ectopic pregnancy
- Neonatal death
- Retained swab after childbirth