Medical Negligence:  Birth Injury Claims*

What is a Birth Injury Claim*?        

Childbirth may not always go according to the birth plan. Unfortunately, complications can occur before, during, and after the birth. These are not always due to medical negligence. In some cases, birth injuries cannot be avoided despite the best efforts and competency of the medical professionals involved in your care.

However, if you are a mother and harm has been caused to you and/or your baby that could reasonably have been avoided were it not for substandard medical care, you may be entitled to make a claim for medical negligence.

Birth Injury Vs. Birth Defect

A birth injury differs from a birth defect. A birth defect is also called a congenital disorder, i.e. a condition or illness that develops while the infant is still in the womb. Birth defects may result in physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities. These disabilities can range from mild to severe. Birth defects and birth injuries can sometimes result in the same disabilities.

A mother and/or her baby can suffer injury during pregnancy, labour and delivery, and in the neonatal period. Birth injuries can result in temporary or permanent damage.

The following are some common birth injury claims that can occur during antenatal care, labour, delivery, and post-natal care:

Antenatal Care

  • Failure to provide regular check-ups and tests
  • Failure to recognise potential risks of injury during antennal examinations
  • Missed symptoms or misinterpreted test results during check-ups
  • Failure to refer you to a consultant if your test results were unusual/abnormal
  • Poorly managed gestational diabetes
  • Injury to the baby due to antenatal problems such as pre-eclampsia
  • Injury to the baby due to placental abruption that is not properly  managed

Labour

  • Injury to the baby due to uterine rupture that is not properly managed
  • Failure of medical personnel to deal competently with an abnormal CGT trace that shows the baby’s heart rate and mother’s contractions
  • Misuse of medication used to induce or accelerate labour
  • Failure to treat Group B Streptococcus infection
  • Injuries arising due to prolonged labour

Delivery

  • Failure to provide a caesarean section or episiotomy in suitable situations
  • Unnecessary caesarean section
  • Epidural injuries
  • A poorly repaired episiotomy
  • Missed third- and fourth-degree perinatal tears
  • Internal organ damage during a caesarean section, e.g. bowel or bladder
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Erb’s Palsy/brachial plexus (nerve damage to signals sent from spinal cord to your shoulder, arm, and hand)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Birth Asphyxia (new-born baby does not receive enough oxygen)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Stillbirth
  • Wrongful death of the mother
  • Problems caused to the baby following attempted instrumental delivery by forceps or vacuum

Postnatal Care

  • Undiagnosed/untreated hypoglycaemia in the new-born baby
  • Untreated jaundice in the newborn baby
  • Incompetently managed ventilation of a sick newborn baby

How Long Do You Have to Make a Birth Injury Claim?

As a mother who has been injured as a result of a birth injury, you have only two years from the time of the alleged medical negligence to make a claim. Therefore, it is important to obtain independent legal advice without delay and contact one of our medical negligence solicitors at HOMS Assist.

If who wish to make a claim as a parent, acting as a “next friend” on behalf of your child who has been injured, you can make a claim any time before their 18th birthday. Once your child turns 18, if a claim has not been made on their behalf, they must make a claim before their 20th birthday. However, we recommend you seek legal advice sooner rather than later, if you wish to investigate a claim. Again, our team of medical negligence solicitors at HOMS Assist can help.

If you wish to make a claim for a child who has passed away as a result of a birth injury, you have two years from the date of death to make a claim. Our medical negligence solicitors at HOMS Assist can advise you on whether you can make a legal claim.

What Steps Are Involved in Making a Birth Injury Claim?

  1. Consult with a medical negligence solicitor to investigate your claim. We have a dedicated team here at HOMS Assist.
  2. Once you instruct a medical negligence solicitor at HOMS Assist, we will obtain copies of all the relevant medical records.
  3. We will then engage an appropriate medical expert, usually from the United Kingdom, to furnish a written opinion as to whether the medical care provided to you and/or your baby fell below an acceptable reasonable standard, resulting in a breach of duty of care.
  4. We will also obtain a written opinion from the same medical expert, or from another appropriate expert to confirm that there is a causal connection between the breach of duty and the injury you or your baby sustained.
  5. If the independent medical expert(s) conclude(s) that medical negligence has occurred, your medical negligence solicitor will draft a Letter of Claim outlining the nature of your case and inviting the responsible medical practitioner(s)/hospital to settle your case. It is usually necessary to initiate court proceedings, given the tight timelines involved in bringing a medical negligence case. What happens next depends on the response to the Letter of Claim.

It is natural to have concerns about the process. However, we at HOMS Assist will be there to guide you through every step of the way.

 

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

Rachael O'Shaughnessy, Solicitor
Rachael O'Shaughnessy, Solicitor
Contact Rachael

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