Birth Injury to Mother Compensation Claims
A birth injury to a mother occurs 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.
Pursuing a birth injury claim can help you obtain justice, compensation and answers about why you suffered an injury. 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.
Our team of experts offer clients a bespoke and personal legal service.
Do you have a claim for a maternal birth injury?
Types of maternal birth injuries
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 (explained below), infection and surgical and anaesthetic mistakes are 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 suspected 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 childbirth. 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.
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 well as 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 bowels.
Pre-Eclampsia causes a marked increase in blood pressure during pregnancy and can cause damage to a mother’s internal organs, and baby, if not promptly treated. It 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.
If pre-eclampsia is suspected it can be diagnosed by checking blood pressure levels and the levels of protein in a mother’s urine. 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 both the mother and baby.
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.
Children are exempt from the 3 year limitation period until they reach the age of 18. The three year period will start to run from the date of their 18th birthday.
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 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.
Minton Morrill’s experience with claiming compensation for birth injuries to mothers
Our medical negligence solicitors specialise in birth injury cases and can offer empathetic, clear and practical support to help you get answers under the most challenging of circumstances.
Click here to read more about our accreditations.
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.
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.
Click here for a dedicated page on the different ways of funding your maternal birth injury claim.
Investigating your claim
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 obtained 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 obtained 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 a clinical negligence claim to go to a Court Trial 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 but most cases do settle beforehand and there is some reassurance in this.
Minton Morrill have a track record for successfully settling cases out of court. Click here to read about some of our successful clinical negligence case studies.
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.
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 settle and resolve a case out of court, typically, at settlement meetings.
The Court process can, of course, be a daunting but our experienced team will be there to support and guide you through the claims process and carefully explain each step.
Maternal birth injury claims FAQs
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 (where the focus of the investigation will be on assessing how much compensation should be paid to you by the Defendant) and it may be possible to resolve the claim within approximately 15 – 18 months.
However, if a full investigation is required 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.
Our insights into birth injuries to mothers
To read about birth injuries to new born babies, click here.