Medical Negligence

Birth Injury Lawyers & Long-Term Care 

February 9, 2024
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Injuries caused during delivery and labour can affect your child’s entire life. If an injury resulted from negligence or malpractice, compensation may be available to help you cover short and long-term costs and recompense your undue suffering. 

Figures on how many babies and mothers suffer from birth injuries in the UK are hard to find because they’re not routinely recorded. But what we do know is that the last major report from 2016 found that 4.3 babies per 1,000 births suffered a severe and permanent injury that will affect them for the rest of their lives.  

With over 600,000 live births in England and Wales each year, that means that there could be over 2,500 life-changing injuries to newborns every year, that occur during labour and delivery. 

If this has happened to you, we understand this experience may have been traumatic for you. We’ve worked with hundreds of families to help them discover whether a medical error caused injury to their baby, and to compensate them for that injury. 

In this article, we share with you what a birth injury lawyer does, how we handle birth injury cases and the types of cases we take on for parents and families. 

The role of a birth injury lawyer 

The role of a birth injury solicitor is to provide expert legal representation to families who have been affected by a birth injury.  

A birth injury is a physical or medical harm caused to a newborn baby or a mother during labour and delivery. Sometimes, these injuries are, unfortunately, the result of complications, negligence or medical errors during childbirth. 

To find out what happened, a birth injuries lawyer and their team will investigate the events that led up to the birth injury. Their goal is to uncover any negligence, malpractice, or poor decision-making that might have contributed to the injury. They gather detailed medical and expert evidence and build a timeline of what happened by examining medical records and consulting with experts.  

At each stage of your case, your birth injury solicitor and their team will keep you informed, so you always know what’s happening.  

Working with you and your family, your solicitor will build your unique case for compensation. We will work closely with any third-party experts such as case managers, professional careers, therapists etc that might be relevant to your case; such as independent medical specialists and child developmental specialists, in order to calculate a reasonable monetary figure that reflects your needs as a family. Our objective is to build a package that best supports your child and helps secure their future. We then negotiate a final settlement with the medical establishment responsible for the birth injury based on that figure. 

How we handle your case 

When you first approach us with a birth injury case, our first step is to carefully understand the nature of the injury and its severity, determine why the injury happened in the first place and identify where the responsibility lies. 

We determine who was at fault and why 

First, we look to establish liability – or fault. To determine this, we examine the negligent actions, or inactions of an individual (or even a series of individuals!). We will also investigate the processes and procedures of the healthcare facility and healthcare providers in the case.  While we do focus on the actions and decisions of individuals, we also look more closely at the chain of medical care and how it was delivered at this stage. 

We ask questions like: 

  • Who was there during the prenatal care and delivery process? We establish a complete list of all medical personnel, including doctors, nurses, and midwives, to build a complete picture of the events leading up to the injury. 
  • Were the staff involved suitably trained and qualified? Giving birth is never a straightforward process – so it’s important that you and your baby are monitored carefully throughout the process. We assess whether the medical staff looking after you has the necessary knowledge and experience in handling an emerging complex birth scenario. It may be that one or more of the staff were not adequately trained or lack of experience played a part. 
  • Was there effective communication between medical staff? During complicated births, effective communication between medical staff is critical. We establish whether all team members were aware of what condition both mother and child were in during the procedure. For example, if there was a significant change to a baby’s heartbeat during childbirth, did the midwife convey this to the senior midwife/midwife co-ordinator or escalate it to the obstetrician quickly enough? And did the obstetrician act quickly and appropriately to the change. 

By asking these questions, we can build an accurate picture of the events surrounding the birth, and understand what actions were taken at each stage. This helps us see the situation in the broader context, meaning we don’t miss any potential instances of negligence. 

We assess the extent of negligence that occurred 

Now we have a detailed timeline of what happened when you gave birth, we can now more clearly see where the delivery of care to you and your baby might have been negligent or fell below a reasonable standard.  

At each of these crucial points, we need to understand the impact of the medical staff’s actions and decisions. To find this out, we ask questions like: 

  • Were expected medical protocols followed and standards observed? We review the medical records related to your childbirth and then consult with experts who can tell us whether the care you received met the standards expected. For example, a delay in a C-section can put a baby at greater risk of hypoxia. In cases like that, we check to see if any deviation from local and national protocols caused the delay. 
  • How did the team respond to emergencies and complications during childbirth? Complicated childbirths put medical staff under pressure, but, as patients, we put our trust in medical staff to take proper care of us under all circumstances. We ask our experts to review the timeline of events to compare the actions and decisions of staff against what you should reasonably have expected as a patient. Delays and incorrect decisions can make a birth injury worse. 
  • Were there any misjudgements or oversights in decision-making? This could be your medical team missing signs of distress in the mother and baby. It could also be a failure to consider patient history in care delivery. For example, if your medical history suggests that yours was a high-risk pregnancy, we check to see that this was factored into your care plan. 

We detail what has been lost and what must be provided for 

After our solicitors and medical experts have thoroughly analysed the decision-making process and how medical staff responded at different stages of your childbirth, we can see the full extent of the negligence or maltreatment you experienced.  

We can now link that directly to the birth injury and make a strong case. The next stage of the process is to consider what level of financial compensation you and your family need. If the medical and expert evidence can demonstrate that the standard of care that you and therefore your baby received fell below a reasonable standard of care and that has caused or materially contributed to a birth injury, then you will be entitled to compensation (damages). We cannot guarantee that you will obtain an apology from the defendant Trust or a change in their policy/guidelines but what we can help you with is obtaining compensation so that we can ensure a birth injured child has the necessary care package in place, access to necessary aid/equipment, therapy, case management etc.  

In order to quantify the likely value of the claim, there are several factors we consider which include: 

  • Life expectancy: Working with medical experts, we assess how the injury your child has will affect how long they live and the quality of their life. These costs will also include any emotional and psychological support you and your family need to access and any end-of-life care costs that apply to your situation. 
  • Future earnings: We assess how your child’s injury may affect their potential future earnings. We examine how their injury will affect their education and employment choices. Suppose you or your partner need to become a full-time caregiver. In that case, this is also considered, as well as any losses you experience from interruptions to your career progression and pension contributions. If giving up work is impossible, you may request that the settlement include a provision for third-party professional caregiving. 
  • Long-term care needs: Your compensation award should also reflect the cost of care for your child when you and your family can no longer look after them. This may include costs for residency in a long-term care facility or professional caregiving within the family home. For long-term care of non-fatal injuries, your award should include social care costs and treatments not covered by the NHS. 

If your child passes away as a result of their birth injury, the focus of the compensation awards shifts to your emotional loss and distress, as there will be no long-term care costs. We understand how sensitive this is and handle it with the utmost care and respect for your family’s emotions and well-being. 

The types of birth injury claims we deal with 

The types of serious birth injury claims we handle include: 

  • Neurological and developmental disorders: This includes claims for conditions like hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, and Klumpke’s Palsy. These conditions often arise as a result of a birth injury and affect a child’s physical development and neurological system. 
  • Medical and surgical errors: These include situations where there has been a medical oversight or a surgical mistake during childbirth. This could include the wrong selection of surgical procedures, errors in performing a C-section, and mishandling of surgical tools.  
  • Wrongful birth claims: A wrongful birth claim can occur when parents are not told of a significant genetic or congenital condition during pregnancy that would have led to them terminating the pregnancy. 
  • Trauma and physical injuries to mothers: We represent mothers who have suffered a physical injury during childbirth. 
  • Pregnancy and birth-related complications: We handle cases where complications like hypoglycaemia, pre-eclampsia, hypotension, intrauterine growth restriction, placental abruption and placenta previa have occurred. 

Birth injury cases we’ve handled 

Below, read three recent cases where we’ve worked with parents seeking redress for birth injury cases. 

Inadequate medical oversight 

In a distressing case, the parents of a baby boy approached us after he had suffered serious birth injuries, which included deafness and cognitive impairments. A combination of prolonged umbilical cord compression and hypoxia caused his disabilities.  

We took the case to the High Court, where it was revealed that midwives at Royal Preston Hospital did not accurately monitor the baby’s heart rate. They were also found to have altered medical notes.  

Had these issues been spotted, the delivery of the child would have been brought forward, meaning that he would have avoided the injury to his brain. 

Injury caused by the use of forceps 

In another critical case, a baby girl was delivered at North Middlesex University NHS Trust with the assistance of forceps. This use of forceps unfortunately resulted in a left-side Brachial Plexus Palsy, commonly known as Erb’s Palsy.  

Born in otherwise good condition, her left arm was noticeably weak and limp. The family reached out to us in May 2014 for help. The case could not be settled immediately because the girl hadn’t reached full skeletal maturity. However, our team’s detailed medical record analysis and consultation with experts over the next four years led the Trust to acknowledge their part in causing the injury. 

The impact on the girl’s life has been profound, affecting her ability to engage in normal childhood activities. She requires ongoing assistance for basic daily tasks. In May 2021, the court approved a settlement of £320,000, which she can access when she turns 18. 

Brain damage at birth led to death 

In a profoundly sad case, the parents of a newborn boy lost their child only a week after his birth at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The cause of death was determined as Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy, where the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen and blood flow. 

Our investigation highlighted a critical failing in childbirth care. The child’s parents believe that, had their boy been delivered a day earlier, his brain injury may have been averted. They argued that CTG (cardiotocography) traces, used to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and uterine contractions, were not only abnormal but that the medical staff had misinterpreted the readings. 

Had they been correctly interpreted, the medical team would have been alert to their child’s foetal distress, which would have resulted in an immediate emergency caesarean section. They received a £30,000 settlement, but they achieved their true goal – understanding the real reason for their loss and the ability to move one step nearer towards closure. 

How Fletchers handles birth injury claims 

Parenting is one of life’s greatest gifts and most demanding challenges. Birth injuries present families and carers with an additional set of enduring challenges. Their lives will be forever affected by it, as will the life of their child. 

Our team of experienced birth injury solicitors will perform a detailed and forensic analysis of what happened when your child was born. We’ll investigate medical records, assess the performance and decision-making of the midwifery obstetric and paediatric staff and record your recollection of events.  

Our solicitors also work with some of the country’s leading medical experts to establish the facts in your case. We’ll exhaust every avenue to ensure the truth is established and that you and your family will be compensated if there was a fault. We’ll also take every step to ensure that the agreed-upon settlement covers your child’s long-term care needs. 

Fletchers provides families with help that extends beyond the courtroom. We connect you to medical specialists from paediatric physiotherapists and speech and language therapists. We introduce you to some of the country’s leading occupational therapists who will help your child to recover and grow. 

Our service is provided on a no-win, no-fee basis. You pay nothing at any time, and all your expenses are covered. You’re in safe hands. Contact us on 0330 013 0251 or click on our contact form to speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer. 

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