The UK is one of the safest countries in the world in which to give birth and the rates of stillbirths and injuries are decreasing year-on-year. Yet despite the advances in medicine and technology, childbirth is a complicated process and unfortunately, cannot always be without risk.

One of our medical negligence solicitors, Claire Evans, spent many years working as a midwife across the UK, and the Middle East, before re-training in medical law. As RHL Solicitors’s expert on high value birth injury claims and gynaecological surgical injury, she writes about the common birth injury claims, how to know when you or your baby have been a victim of medical negligence and guidance for new mothers on making a claim. Claire says that while it is impossible to eliminate all birth injury and trauma, there are some which are avoidable because they are caused by either a negligent act or failure to act by the medical staff involved. It is these types of avoidable trauma cases which would form the basis of a compensation claim.

Most common birth injuries

The highest value cases in medical negligence involve cerebral palsy and shoulder dystocia (complications caused by the shoulders becoming stuck during delivery). Cerebral palsy (CP), a condition caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain, can be related to a difficult labour or delivery in some cases. Most CP conditions can be shown on brain scans (MRI) to have developed before or during pregnancy, as a result of pre-existing or genetic factors.

Shoulder dystocia can become an emergency if not treated. Risk of bone fractures and nerve damage like Erb’s Palsy are rare, and according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, shoulder dystocia occurs in 0.2 – 3% of pregnancies.

How would a mother know the damage was avoidable?

You may suspect early on that you or your baby has been a victim of a birth injury if you had a labour which did not go to plan or required emergency intervention. Afterwards, you notice symptoms such as bruises, swelling, seizures, difficulty breathing and stiff joints. Signs that may develop later can include your child not reaching its milestones, having trouble performing basic movements or learning difficulties. CP cases can be particularly complex because symptoms do not often become obvious until the child is up to 7 years old.

In England and Wales, mothers have 3 years from their delivery date to make a claim for any injury caused to themselves but for the child, the 3-year limitation period starts from their 18th birthday. In what is a very distressing time for parents, it is crucial that legal advice is sought as soon as possible to determine whether an injury to you or your baby was due to negligence and a lack of care at birth. This enables evidence to be gathered before memories fade, documents become unavailable or witnesses move away and of course, this all needs to be done within the 3-year limitation period.

What is the legal process when bringing a birth injury medical negligence claim?

A birth injury medical negligence case follows the same process as any personal injury claim, so clear evidence of a medical body or professional negligence and/or breach of duty must be established to make a case. So parents should look for early signs of potential harm caused, arrange the appropriate immediate medical needs and then consult a legal expert. Often an appointment and/or pain and symptom diary can help records events or problems during the years before compensation is paid and be essential evidence of associated financial losses which can be added to the claim which can easily be overlooked.

A legal birth injury solicitor can help to gather the relevant medical records, witness statements and expert reports when establishing your claim. Childbirth negligence and injury claims can take a long time and a specialist medical negligence solicitor will help to support you with claiming interim payments to cover school fees, housing transport, speech and language therapy and special equipment, if required. It is imperative to keep receipts and documentation of all expenditures to show your case manager when it comes to managing compensation payments.

How can RHL Solicitors help a me bring a claim in what is a very distressing time?

Our medical negligence team are highly experienced senior solicitors who will be available to speak to you right away. RHL Solicitors will have no delays or waiting times in advising potential clients on their situation and will be quick to get you the support you deserve.

It’s crucial that you don’t delay in seeking advice, even for some peace of mind. If you or your baby is unwell, or you suspect your delivery went wrong, the earlier you seek support the better.

Phone or email Claire or Lucy, our medical negligence solicitors, who will help evaluate your situation and advise whether you have a case to make a claim.