Birth Injury Solicitors
Birth injuries to babies can sadly occur for a number of different reasons. The information on this page focuses on the predominant causes of birth injuries to babies and, at the bottom of the page, injuries to Mothers at births, in medical negligence claims.
If you or your child has suffered a birth injury you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Our team of expert birth injury medical negligence solicitors can help and advise you about this.
What is a birth Injury?
A birth injury is usually caused when a baby is delivered. A claim for compensation will only succeed if it can be shown that the baby suffered an avoidable injury because of sub-standard medical care, for example, a mishandled birth. If this can be established, a claim against the NHS may be pursued.
Erb’s palsy, for example, is caused when a baby is stuck in the birth canal. Medical staff can damage a baby’s delicate nerves and muscles around the neck and shoulder if they pull too hard during an assisted delivery, such as with forceps.
What causes birth injuries?
Birth injuries can be caused in a number of different ways. Erb’s palsy and physical injuries to a baby’s face and body may be caused by over-zealous assisted delivery with forceps or ventouse. If a baby is starved of oxygen (for example, if the umbilical cord becomes stuck around their neck before delivery) they may suffer a very serious loss of oxygen to the brain causing permanent brain damage.
Brain damage caused by oxygen starvation or, as discussed below, a serious infection, may lead to a baby or child being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a very serious condition and children who suffer from this because of sub-standard medical care often receive very substantial compensation for clinical negligence in order to provide them with a lifetime of care and assistance.
Types of Birth Injuries:
Cerebral palsy is a condition that covers a wide range of symptoms stemming from an injury to a baby’s brain resulting in disorders in their movements. Click here to read our dedicated page on Cerebral Palsy with information about how this is caused and the different types of Cerebral Palsy.
The most common (but not all) causes of cerebral palsy are:
- Oxygen starvation of the brain at birth:
This can happen for a number of different reasons; for example, a baby becoming stuck and squeezed in the pelvis just before delivery or the umbilical cord becoming twisted and wrapped around a baby’s neck. Monitoring of a baby’s heart rate should detect any distress associated with oxygen starvation of the brain. If this is identified, delivery of the child may be brought forward with an assisted delivery (forceps) or caesarean section.
If the mother of a baby is suffering from an infection (Group B Streptococcal or Herpes, for example) this can be passed onto to a child before or during the labour. If infection is suspected, the mother may be given antibiotics to try and stop the baby acquiring the infection. If, after the delivery, a baby has contracted the infection it is crucial that this is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Without early treatment the infection is likely to worsen and cause serious inflammation and damage to a baby’s vulnerable brain. Click here for more information about infections and here for detail about meningitis.
Birth injury claims resulting in cerebral palsy are often complex. Minton Morrill has a team of specialist medical negligence solicitors experienced in these types of cases and have secured very high settlements for children that have suffered from avoidable injuries.
Brachial Plexus injuries occur when the nerve fibres in a baby’s spine, neck and arms are excessively stretched during their delivery. This network of nerves is responsible for feeling and movement within the shoulder, arms, hands and fingers. If it is damaged, it can cause weakness and loss of movement/feeling, which can result in lifelong disability, especially without intensive physiotherapy.
There are different types of brachial plexus injuries. We have a dedicated page dealing with the most well known, Erb’s Pasly, found by clicking here as well as other types of Brachial Plexus injuries including Klumpke’s Palsy, Neuroma and Neurapraxia found by clicking here.
Brachial Plexus injuries are usually caused when the baby is stuck in the birth canal and attempts are made to deliver the baby with forceps or vacuum extraction (Ventouse). Pulling, with force, from one end, can cause considerable damage to a delicate baby. Prolonged and/or difficult deliveries are also seen in brachial plexus medical negligence compensation cases but other factors include:
· A breech delivery:
This is where a baby moves position in the womb and is delivered bottom or feet first, rather than head first, resulting in a greater chance of the baby’s typically wider upper body (particularly the shoulders) becoming stuck and injured in the mother’s birth canal.
· Large birth weight and size:
Larger babies are most at risk of becoming stuck in their mother’s birth canal.
Like cerebral palsy, brachial plexus medical negligence childbirth claims are often complicated. They are potentially very high value claims because children with such injuries may require lifelong care and support. Minton Morrill’s team of leading medical negligence lawyers have experience investigating whether the care provided was appropriate and, if not, obtaining damages for clients for Medical Negligence Birth Injuries. Click here to see examples of cases we have won for clients.
Stillbirths (a baby being born dead) are generally rare in the United Kingdom. Advanced antenatal screening and monitoring are in place to assess a baby’s development throughout the pregnancy. If, however, this monitoring is not properly performed and/or investigations into a problem are not carried out, a baby’s condition can deteriorate. If this is not appropriately dealt with the baby is likely to become weaker and susceptible to other problems, which may sadly lead to a stillbirth.
The causes of stillbirth can be varied but one more typical feature is a failure to appropriately plot and review a baby’s development in accordance with national fetal growth rates. Falling below growth rates (in particular, a rapid drop) indicates something maybe wrong and the baby may be susceptible to further problems unless treatment is provided or the delivery brought forward.
If negligence can be established, the mother is likely to be able to obtain compensation. Psychiatric injury claims for a Mother (and often the father of the baby) are also regularly pursued here.
Wrongful birth is a Court derived description of the delicate situation when a baby is born either with a disability that should have been identified through appropriate tests in the antenatal period or as a result of a parent’s failed sterilisation or vasectomy resulting in an unintended pregnancy.
The failure to provide the baby’s parents with information about a disability and not allowing them the opportunity to decide whether or not to continue with the pregnancy is key. Examples include conditions routinely screened for such as Downs Syndrome and Spina Bifida. If this type of claim can be established, significant compensation for the child’s future treatment needs will be pursued.
When a healthy baby is born as a result of sub-standard sterilisation or vasectomy, the award of damages is limited to compensation to the parents for the distress of having an unwanted child (and potentially of undergoing a termination of the pregnancy) together with any financial losses incurred as a result, such as loss of earnings. The cost of raising a healthy child cannot be pursued.
Other injuries to a Baby or Child
Babies can of course suffer other injuries during their birth. Forceps deliveries, in particular, increase the risk of avoidable facial scarring and, in some cases, injuries to nerves in the face. Our solicitors at Minton Morrill have a wealth of experience in this area and will be able to advise whether there is a medical negligence claim to investigate with a view to obtaining compensation.
How much Compensation will a child receive?
Each case is different but Cerebral Palsy claims usually result in medical negligence compensation in excess of £1 million pounds, typically, somewhere in the region of £2 – £15 million pounds. The level of compensation is, however, increasing. Our specialist team are currently working on a circa £30 million claim where the child has a very high level of disability coupled with a long life expectancy.
When assessing the level of compensation we usually look at the following needs of the child/family:
- Professional Care (Past and Future)
- Occupational Therapy Needs
- Physiotherapy Needs.
- Speech and Language Therapy Needs.
- Accommodation (whether the family home needs adaption or a complete new house).
- Transport Needs (adapted vehicle, for example).
- Assisted Technology Needs (computers for communication, for example).
- Future medical treatment.
- The child’s loss of earnings.
- Court of Protection Costs.
- Case Management Costs.
A lifetime of much needed extensive professional input, care and treatment like that described above underlines why Cerebral Palsy claims result in such high value compensation claims.
Other less severe avoidable injuries to a baby may result in more modest compensation awards.
Click here to read our case studies highlighting Birth Injury compensation claims.
Why should we pursue a birth injury claim for compensation?
A child with Cerebral Palsy or another serious birth injury is likely to require intensive support for the duration of their life. Sadly, this level of professional care is often unavailable through the NHS and many parents are unable to provide this level of care indefinitely, especially when they have work and have other family commitments. There is also the delicate question of who cares for a child when parents get older and are unable to provide the same level of intensive care to their child.
With successful birth injury claims, there will be a system of care in place to help the child as they grow up. This network will be extensive and is likely to be run by a professional Case Manager who will liaise with all of the health care and other professionals in the network (rather than the child or their parents) to set up and organise treatment and therapy appointments. A Court of Protection deputy may also be involved to manage the compensation money received for the benefit of the child. This again takes the burden away from the family (if they prefer) from this task. Click here to read more information about our specialist Court of Protection department at Minton Morrill.
Making sure that the injured child has every opportunity to enjoy their life, pursue their goals and effectively manage their disability is crucial. Compensation can help them achieve this.
Finally, obtaining the truth about a medical error and making sure lessons are learnt from it is often one of the key objectives for pursuing a negligence Cerebral Palsy claim. Doctors and Hospitals need to be held accountable to prevent the same avoidable mistakes happening to someone else.
How will I pay for my child’s medical negligence case?
Children with severe neurological brain injuries sustained at birth may be eligible for Legal Aid Agency funding. There are other forms of funding, including No Win, No Fee, available for children suffering from other types of injuries. We have a dedicated page on funding found by clicking here.
Birth Injuries to Mothers
Birth injuries sustained by Mothers can be varied. This section deals with the most common injuries but not all of them. Please contact our team of lawyers who will sensitively look at your concerns.
What is a birth injury to a Mother?
A birth injury to a mother occurs during her labour and, specifically, the delivery of her baby.
What are the types of birth Injuries Mother’s sustain?
When a mother dies during or shortly after childbirth it is described as a maternal or wrongful death. This is very rare (only 10 out of every 100,000 women in the UK) but sadly does happen. Haemorrhages (blood-loss), pre-eclampsia (explained below), infection and surgical and anaesthetic mistakes are the more common causes but it is, of course, important to find out the exact cause of a loved one’s death. In these cases, if there is negligent care, an Inquest before a Coroner is likely to be heard and there may be grounds to pursue a Fatal Accidents claim for compensation.
Tears or lacerations can often be sustained during child-birth. These are commonly but not always to the mother’s perineum. They range from 1st to 4th degree in their severity:
- 1st degree: superficial and small tear of skin and surrounding tissue. Will heal on own.
- 2nd degree: deeper tear to the muscle. Require stitches in order to heal.
- 3rd degree: more serious tear of tissue, skin and muscle extending to anal sphincter.
- 4th degree: the most serious tear that goes right through the anal sphincter.
3rd and 4th degree tears are the most serious and require careful surgical repair. The standard of surgical repair (including the competency of the doctor performing it) is often examined in medical negligence claims of this nature as is the manner in which the tear was sustained; for example, whether an episiotomy should have been performed to help the mother deliver her baby without tearing and, when an episiotomy is performed (usually prior to a forceps delivery), whether this was done competently. The most serious 3rd and 4th degree tears, if not repaired appropriately, can lead to lifelong and chronic problems with pain and controlling both the bladder and the bowels.
Our team of experts have secured substantial compensation for mother’s suffering serious tear injuries and we have a number of on-going cases with compensation expected in excess of £350,000.
Pre-Eclampsia causes a marked increase in blood pressure during pregnancy and can cause damage to a Mother’s internal organs (and the baby) if not promptly treated. It is thought to affect 10% of mothers and sometimes presents with symptoms like shortness of breath, swelling, nausea, headaches and blurred vision. If pre-eclampsia is suspected it can be diagnosed by checking blood pressure levels and taking urine samples (urine will be high in protein with the condition). These tests should be carried out in the antenatal period and the labour, especially if there is suspicion of pre-eclampsia. A caesarean section may be offered in such circumstances. Failure to diagnose the condition can lead to fatal consequences and/or severe lifelong injuries to the Mother and baby.
How much Compensation will a Mother receive for a Birth Injury?
The amount of compensation a woman will receive for an avoidable birth injury caused by negligent medical treatment will depend on the type and severity of the injury. Minton Morrill’s specialist team of solicitors have however recovered significant sums of compensation in recent years and know that injuries of this nature require the upmost sensitivity and discretion.
Funding a Mother’s birth injury claim?
Click here for a dedicated page on the different ways of funding your birth injury claim.
How to Contact Us?
If you or your child have suffered a birth related injury because of suspected sub-standard medical care please contact our team of expert solicitors today on 0113 245 8549 or complete the Ask Us a Question or Get in Touch Forms.
Our Experience of Birth Injury Claims