Birth Injury to Mothers
Childbirth injuries to mothers can be very traumatic, leaving lasting physical and emotional harm. The sooner you can access the right support, the better chance you have of achieving a positive outcome for you and your family. Our specialists can support you through making a birth injury to mother compensation claim with empathy and sensitivity. Pursuing a birth injury claim can help you obtain justice, compensation and answers about why you suffered an injury. It is often a key step in being able to move on and have the best possible quality of life.
Minton Morrill’s team of experienced medical negligence lawyers are compassionate and understand how important it is for your case to be handled in a sensitive manner. We can offer you:
- A free initial consultation to discuss your claim
- Close, personal support from a team who cares about you and your family
- Decades of specialist expertise with birth injuries to mothers
- A track record of millions of pounds in compensation secured for our clients
- No win, no fee funding for birth injury to mother compensation (so you don’t have to worry about costs)
- Specialist lawyers who hold a clinical negligence accreditation by the Law Society
- Specialist lawyers who hold the gold standard AVMA clinical negligence accreditation
- Specialist solicitors with high rankings in leading client guides the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners
- Reassurance with our skills in alternative dispute resolution. This means that most claims for childbirth injuries to mothers we handle are settled out of court.
Book a free consultation about a maternal injury claim
What are maternal birth injuries?
A birth injury to a mother can occur during labour and during the delivery of her baby. Injuries sustained can lead to devastating physical and psychological injuries which can have a lasting impact on your life. Examples include maternal deaths, tears (1st to 4th degree) and pre-eclampsia.
Some maternal birth injuries are caused as a result of sub-standard medical care and treatment, for example, by medical professionals (doctors and midwives) failing to recognise potential risks or failing to take the necessary precautions or preventative measures to reduce the risk of injury. This is sometimes referred to as ‘pregnancy negligence’ or ‘maternity negligence’.
Types of birth injuries to mothers
Tears or lacerations are one of the most common childbirth injuries to mothers. They range from 1st to 4th degree in their severity:
- 1st degree: small, skin deep tear. Usually heal naturally.
- 2nd degree: deeper tear, affecting the muscle. Usually 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.
The most serious (3rd and 4th degree tears) require surgical repair. A claim could potentially arise where the tear happened due to medical negligence or where there were avoidable errors in the way tears were surgically repaired.
An example of a situation where there may be grounds for a claim include where an episiotomy should have been performed to help the mother deliver her baby without tearing. It may also be possible to claim if an episiotomy was not done competently, leading to tears. 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 bowels.
Pre-eclampsia is a relatively common issue in pregnant women which causes a significant increase in blood pressure. This can result in the mother’s internal organs becoming damaged, as well as harm to the baby if appropriate treatment is not given promptly.
Pre-eclampsia usually affects women during the second half of pregnancy (from approximately 20 weeks) or shortly after the baby is delivered. It presents with symptoms like swelling, headaches and blurred vision.
The condition is relatively straightforward to diagnose by checking mothers’ blood pressure and the levels of protein in their urine. This should be checked during the antenatal period and the labour, particularly where a mother is at higher risk of pre-eclampsia. Where pre-eclampsia is diagnosed, caesarean sections can be offered to minimise the risk of birth injuries to mothers.
Failure to diagnose pre-eclampsia and/or failure to take appropriate action where it has been diagnosed could both potentially be classed as medical negligence. This would then likely be grounds to claim birth injury to mother compensation.
When a mother dies during or shortly after childbirth, it is described as a maternal death. This is rare but sadly does happen. Complications such as haemorrhages, pre-eclampsia, infection and surgical and anaesthetic mistakes are some of the most common causes of maternal death during childbirth.
Where negligent medical care is suspected in a case of maternal death, then an Inquest before a Coroner is likely to be required. There may be grounds for the family of the mother to seek compensation to help deal with the impact of the death.
Time limits for birth injury to mother compensation claims
In NHS clinical negligence compensation claims, the general rule is that a Claimant has 3 years to start a civil claim for compensation arising from negligent medical treatment. This applies to birth injuries to mothers.
If a Claim Form is not formally issued at Court within the 3-year limitation period, then a claim is usually time barred. Expiry of the limitation period is a defence which can be used by a Defendant to prevent a clinical negligence claim from succeeding.
Time is, therefore, of the essence in claims for childbirth injuries to mothers and we encourage prospective clients to contact us sooner rather than later so that the chance to obtain compensation is not barred by the strict limitation periods.
How maternal birth injury claims work
Free initial telephone consultation
We are happy to provide a free initial telephone consultation to discuss any concerns you have regarding your medical treatment which may have led to you suffering a maternal birth injury. You are, of course, under no obligation to proceed with a claim following the consultation.
Our team of solicitors would be able to give you a preliminary view on the legal aspects of your case and what next steps they may recommend for birth injuries to mothers.
No win, no fee birth injury to mother claims
Clinical negligence litigation funding can be complex, and we understand why you may be concerned about the costs of pursuing a claim. We can discuss with you a range of funding options including Conditional Fee Agreements (also known as no win no fee agreements), Legal Expenses Insurance, Trade Union Membership or Private Funding.
Minton Morrill are able to offer no win no fee agreements if we believe that there are reasonable prospects that your case will succeed. If we are able to take your case on under a no win no fee agreement, then our legal fees only become payable if your compensation claim is successful. If your claim is unsuccessful, you do not pay us anything.
Investigating your claim for an injury to a mother during childbirth
The first step is to speak with you to find out exactly what has happened with your medical care and treatment. This can involve reviewing any letters or other communications you have had with the hospital or GP surgery, for example, a complaint response and/or investigation report.
Following a review of your potential claim, we will assess whether you have a case that is likely to succeed in establishing NHS negligence. We will carefully and clearly discuss funding options with you.
Once funding is in place, we usually obtain copies of your medical records. On receipt, these are then reviewed, chronologies prepared and a detailed witness statement will likely be taken from you.
Once we have a full set of medical records and witness statements are complete, we will likely instruct a medical expert which may be an obstetrician, gynaecologist or midwife.
The medical expert will prepare an independent report assessing the standard of care you have received. We may then decide to hold a conference with a barrister and the expert(s) to test the medical expert evidence and advise on the prospects of a case.
It is important our preliminary investigations are as thorough as possible as this will be the foundation for the case going forwards. It can take up to 2 years for these preliminary investigations, particularly in very complex clinical negligence cases, where lots of independent expert evidence is needed.
Valuing your claim
We investigate how much compensation is payable to you by carefully examining the impact of an injury on your life. This is done by liaising with you to prepare a detailed quantum witness statement (setting out the pain and distress an injury has caused and how this has affected your life) and we may also instruct independent medical experts to assist with the quantification process.
The types of different damages awards are determined by the nature of an injury. You may, for example, be able to claim for a number of losses including:
- General damages (for pain, suffering and loss of amenity)
- Loss of earnings (past and future)
- Therapy or counselling costs
- Medical treatment costs
- Equipment costs
- Care costs (gratuitous or commercial)
Out-of-court settlements for maternal birth injury compensation claims
It is generally uncommon for clinical negligence claims for maternal birth injuries to go to a Court Trial. This is because the majority of successful cases settle before on an “Out of Court” basis given that there is a risk on both sides of losing a case at Trial before a Judge. A few cases do, however, go to trial, so it is important clients are aware of this possibility.
Minton Morrill have a track record for successfully settling cases out of court but can also ensure you have the very best representation if court proceedings are needed.
Court proceedings for birth injury to mother compensation claims
If the Defendant disputes liability under the Pre-Action Protocol, we will need to carefully assess the reasons they have put forward for this. If the independent medical experts maintain their position and continue to be supportive of a claim, then it may be necessary to issue proceedings at Court for birth injuries to mothers.
Once a claim is issued at Court, we have 4 months to send the Defendant specific legal pleadings setting out the allegations of negligence. The Defendant then usually has 28 days to consider and respond to the allegations by admitting liability or disputing it by sending through a Defence. If the Defendant continues to dispute liability, the claim will continue down a set Court path and timetable.
Courts encourage parties to try and narrow down any disputed issues as far as is possible and encourage parties to try to settle and resolve a case out of court, typically, at settlement meetings.
The Court process can, of course, be daunting but our experienced team will be there to support and guide you through the claims process and carefully explain each step.
Common questions about maternal birth injury claims
What causes birth injuries to mothers?
A birth injury to a mother occurs during labour or during the delivery of her baby. An injury may be caused by medical professionals failing to recognise potential risks or failing to take the necessary precautions or preventative measures to reduce risk of injury.
What help is available for mothers injured when giving birth?
Sustaining an injury during childbirth can lead to both physical and psychological injuries. The hospital where you gave birth may be able to recommend or provide a counselling service to ensure you have access to the help you need. Your GP may also be able to recommend or refer you to a suitable support service.
How long does a maternal birth injury claim take?
The length of time it takes to investigate maternal birth injury claims depends on the individual circumstances of each case. For example, if an early admission of liability is made, the claim will proceed on what is called a ‘quantum only’ basis. This is where the focus of the investigation will be on assessing how much compensation should be paid to you by the Defendant. In such cases, it may be possible to resolve the claim within approximately 15 – 18 months.
However, if a full investigation is required for birth injury to the mother claims, then preliminary investigations alone, including obtaining independent expert evidence, can take between 9 – 12 months. Complex investigations may take longer, for example, up to 2 years. Each case is very different, so there is no general set timeframe.
Can you claim compensation for someone who died during childbirth?
There is legislation in place which enables a claim to be pursued on behalf of a mother who has sadly died during or shortly after childbirth as a result of substandard care.
The time limit for pursuing a claim on behalf of a patient who has passed away is three years from the date of their death.
Will compensation affect my benefits?
It is possible to protect your entitlement to means tested benefits following a medical negligence compensation payment by placing your compensation in a Personal Injury Trust. This can help families to avoid losing out on benefits following claims for birth injuries to mothers.
Can you claim medical negligence from birth after 20 years?
For birth injuries to mothers, you will normally have 3 years to make a claim. This time limit will be counted from the date on which you were aware that an injury occurred and that medical negligence may have been a factor. This is known as the ‘date of knowledge’.
In some cases, the date of knowledge will be the date the injury occurred, but it could also be much later. As such, it may be possible to make a claim many years after the injury occurred, but only if you could not reasonably have been expected to know sooner about the injury or that medical negligence may have been involved.
Claiming for maternal birth injuries that happened a long time ago can be challenging, so it is particularly important to have the best possible legal support for these types of claims.
Book a free consultation about maternal birth injuries