Euphoria to a Nightmare in a Heartbeat – Claiming Compensation for Birth Injury Negligence
Birth injuries can catastrophically change the life course of the person affected before it has even begun. Such incidents are traumatic for all involved, including the family of the baby and the medical team overseeing the care. A baby that was healthy in all respects can tragically have their faculties taken away in the blink of an eye during birth.
Clinicians and allied health practitioners involved in the care of a newborn baby and mother work extremely hard to ensure their safety and well-being; however, sometimes things do go wrong.
Record claims for birth injuries
The volume and cost of claims are on the rise. In mid-2017, NHS Resolution, which manages litigation on behalf the NHS stated that its expenditure is highest in the area of birth injuries. It reported that there were 232 claims for birth injuries in 2016/17 which had resulted in the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, a 23% rise from the previous year, at a total cost of £2 billion. The cost of paying for the ‘complex life-long care needs’ of such children affected is in the region of £20 million per child.
Given the rise in litigation, the Department of Health (DoH) commenced a consultation process into the concept of a ‘Rapid Resolution and Redress Scheme’ for severe avoidable birth injuries, to streamline the process of claiming compensation. While the outcome of this is not expected until spring 2018, it is understood that if brought in, this might mandate an investigation or even resolution within 90 days. It is also possible that such a scheme will heavily encourage the involvement of the families concerned, require an early apology, and ensure that any learning is disseminated at all levels to avoid future occurrences.
Footing the high cost of care
In October 2017, the mother of a five-year-old child with blindness, global development delay, four-limb cerebral palsy, moderate to severe hearing impairment and severe epilepsy, which had all resulted from medical negligence during birth, sought a second interim payment of £500,000 (a payment of £900,000 had already been made) from Lewisham & Greenwich Trust. The payment was to fund the cost of a property and required modifications, which would mitigate the difficulties of caring for the child. The family, who were Travellers, had been living in a local authority caravan, however, this was considered wholly unsuitable. This case highlights the extremely high cost of even just interim awards in such cases, to ensure that those impacted by medical negligence during birth are provided with the care and environment they require.
What is a birth injury?
Birth injuries occur as a direct result of physical trauma during birth. The most common injuries include:
Brain injury – such injuries are likely to be life-changing for the child affected. This can occur when the brain is temporarily starved of oxygen during birth (birth asphyxia), or blood flow is decreased to the brain (ischemia). Other causes of brain damage include physical trauma (perhaps due to the incorrect use of delivery devices/tools), infections, and jaundice (which can lead to kernicterus, and a more serious condition called acute bilirubin encephalopathy). Cerebral Palsy is a common condition that results from damage to the brain during birth, which impairs the motor control and coordination of the individual. The condition does not itself reduce life expectancy, and it is not progressive. However, it can severely limit the ability of the person to carry out even the smallest of daily functions.
Brachial Plexus Injury – the brachial plexus is an important bundle of nerves in the neck and back that carries the signals to control arm and hand movement. During birth, in rare cases, these nerves can be damaged, which can mean that the individual lacks full control of their shoulder, arm or hand.
Bone fractures – Due to the high physical forces experienced during birth, occasionally bones become fractured – most frequently the clavicle (collar-bone).
Can I claim compensation for a birth injury?
To successfully bring a birth injury compensation claim, it will be necessary to establish that the medical staff who were overseeing the delivery of your baby were negligent. This means that a member of the clinical team did not apply the necessary level of clinical judgement that would be expected of them; perhaps by:
- ignoring an important sign or symptom
- using the wrong delivery approach or device
- using a delivery assistance device in an unsafe manner
- not being supervised when necessary
- being too inexperienced for the procedure they were undertaking
- not responding correctly or promptly to a problem during birth
- making an incorrect diagnosis
- providing incorrect medication (or the wrong dose)
- not reading the medical notes fully, or;
- not observing the monitoring output correctly
If you are unsure if you have a valid claim for compensation, we will arrange for you to speak to one of our recommended expert medical negligence solicitors. Each is chosen for their high levels of experience and success in clinical negligence cases. You can be assured that the solicitor we recommend will provide the highest level of care, treating you with the utmost empathy during this difficult time. Most cases are undertaken on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, which means that your solicitor has a high degree of confidence of winning your case, and you will not be required to pay if it is not.
You should not have to struggle financially because of the negligence of a health professional. Birth injuries can affect you and your child for life. As such the compensation you receive will ensure you can pay your bills and provide the level of care that is needed, now and in the future.
At Mayiclaim we work with many experienced personal injury solicitors and are therefore able to choose the most appropriate solicitor for you based on your specific set of circumstances. Each of our recommended solicitors works on a no win, no fee basis. Please contact Mayiclaim on 0800 756 7774 or fill out the simple form on this page.