Birth injury claims

mother and new born baby holding hands

Making a birth injury compensation claim

During pregnancy, you will rely heavily on a range of medical professionals for advice and guidance. This will include your GP, midwife, nurses, and hospital doctors. If the advice or care you receive at any stage during your pregnancy or labour falls below what should be reasonably expected, you may be entitled to make a traumatic birth compensation claim.

  • Specialist birth injury solicitors
  • No Win, No Fee claims
  • Independently recognised as experts

What is a birth injury?

A birth injury is any physical injury that can occur before, during or after childbirth. Birth injuries can affect both the mother and the baby. They happen when something goes wrong during the natural process of childbirth, or can occur as a result of negligence on the part of the medical professionals.

What causes birth injuries?

A variety of factors can contribute to the risk of birth injuries being suffered by the mother and/or her child(ren) before, during and immediately after the delivery process.

The following circumstances generally arise when improper care is exercised by maternity staff with regard to babies’ safety:

  • When a conventional, “natural” birth is deemed too risky or even impossible, forceps or a ventouse device may be used to extract the child. Skilled application of these devices is imperative to the safety of the child(ren). Where staff use either or both improperly, it can lead to injuries to the head, limbs and/or nervous system and long-term disability or damage to quality of life.
  • When children sustain injuries to the part of the brain responsible for muscle control, it can lead to a condition called cerebral palsy. There are many potential causes for the development of this lifelong condition, including medical staff’s failure to observe and treat infections or internal bleeding in the mother during the pregnancy. It can also be caused by cutting off the blood supply to the baby’s brain at any point during the delivery process via improper handling of the child.
  • Likewise, Erb’s palsy can occur when the baby’s shoulders become stuck after the initial emergence of the head during the delivery, and maternity staff do not exercise sufficient care to prevent injury to the nervous system whilst attempting to extricate them.
  • In rare circumstances where medical staff do not appropriately monitor levels of bilirubin in the child’s blood following the initial observance of jaundice post-birth, this relatively common condition can lead to a significantly worse one known as kernicterus. This largely preventable condition can result in brain damage and lifelong disabilities, including cerebral palsy.
  • Developing maternal diabetes, otherwise known as gestational diabetes, can present significant distress and health hazards to mothers (and their children). Medical staff are trained extensively in how to recognise and treat the symptoms associated with the condition, so failure to do so can be considered grounds for making a birth injury claim.
  • Similarly, failure to promptly diagnose and effectively treat a condition known as Pre-Eclampsia – which can cause dizziness, headaches, vomiting and visual impairment, is potentially indicative of medical negligence. This is especially true if the condition is allowed to progress and become full Eclampsia, which puts mothers at risk of life-threatening seizures and even miscarriage.
  • During the birthing process, doctors can at their discretion perform episiotomies – small surgical incisions to the opening of the vagina – to ease the passing of the baby in circumstances where they envisage difficulties with a conventional birth. This measure is taken to prevent unnecessary tissue tearing and resulting pain/incontinence issues. Where doctors fail to perform this measure in circumstances where it could have predictably proven effective and safe, or where they botch the procedure in any way, birth injuries can occur.
  • C-section or caesarean births are usually the next best option available to doctors when episiotomies are not sufficient to reduce the risks faced by the mother and child. They come with their own set of risks, including the likes of surgical error and resultant injury, infection and severe bleeding, so must be performed with a high degree of skill and precision to avoid inflicting birth injuries.
Get expert legal advice

Call today and speak to our specialist birth injury solicitors. Find out if you can claim compensation.

CALL 0800 083 5500

How do I know if I have received poor maternity care?

Poor maternity care can lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety and helplessness. However, if you believe you have suffered poor care, there are steps you can take which may help in providing answers.

What constitutes poor maternity care?

There is almost an inexhaustible list of things that can construe poor or negligent maternity care. Examples include:

  • Failure to listen or act on a mother’s concern for her baby – such as reduced fetal movements
  • A shortage of staff impacting on the care being provided, for example, delaying a baby’s induction due to a lack of consultant availability
  • Failure to act in accordance with published guidelines or policy, i.e. insisting on a ‘normal vaginal’ birth without allowing a mother the chance to have an elective c-section
  • Incorrect use of assisted birth instruments such as forceps or a ventouse cup, causing injuries to your baby
  • Failure to diagnose dangerous conditions such as pre-eclampsia or jaundice.
  • Mistakes in delivery leading to your baby suffering oxygen deprivation.

In some instances, it will be evident that poor care has taken place and the hospital or NHS Trust may even notify you directly. This could be through a letter of apology or may result in a Serious Incident report being issued.

However, more commonly, parents are unsure whether their experience was due to poor or negligent care and can feel confused and helpless.

Poor maternity care doesn’t just occur during labour

Often there is a misconception that poor maternity care relates only to labour and giving birth, however, maternity care relates to the care you receive from the moment you find out you are pregnant through to after the birth.

Poor maternity care can relate to midwife appointments, ultrasound scans, the care provided at hospitals by consultants, obstetricians and midwives, as well as appointments post-birth.

It is also likely that poor care may relate to multiple elements, for example, the failure of a midwife to refer for additional scans, and the failure of the sonographer to identify a condition relating to either mother or baby.

Maternity scandals across the NHS

It is well-publicised that NHS maternity wards are under increasing pressure and NHS England has committed an additional £95 million in funding for maternity services to improve safety and increase the number of midwives. A lack of funding increased staff turnover and other pressures, including the allocation of resources during the Coronavirus pandemic, have led to a rising number of NHS scandals and investigations including:

If your maternity care was provided by one of these NHS Trusts you understandably may have questions or concerns as to whether you were also affected by substandard care. However, the frequency of published maternity scandals paints a picture that unfortunately poor maternity care can occur anywhere.

Latest Maternity News

The maternity units at Peterborough City Hospital and Hinchingbrooke Hospital are currently the only two maternity units in the entirety of the East of England that are rated as ‘good’. More
Following an unannounced inspection in January, inspectors found serious problems with the care provided at the hospitals. More
Following a previous inspection in 2021, the maternity services have again been graded as ‘requires improvement' by the CQC. More

Blackwater Law successfully represented the family of baby Blake in making a midwife negligence claim after the community midwife failed to notice a severe medical abnormality.

New-born baby in hospital

What is the birth injury claim process and how long does it take?

Before making a birth injury claim you must be aware that there is a time limit for when you can make a claim. Generally, you have 3 years from the date of the injury to make a claim. If the injury is to a child, you have until their 18th birthday.

Establishing liability in birth injury claims

The first step in any successful birth injury compensation claim is establishing who is liable for the harm suffered by the mother and/or baby. The process can prove complex, as your birth injury solicitor will need to gather and assess all the available evidence, including:

  • Medical records detailing any pre-existing conditions or diagnoses in relation to the parent or child(ren).
  • Witness statements from personnel involved in the delivery of allegedly substandard care, including doctors, nurses, administrative staff, and patients.
  • Evaluations are carried out by health regulators of the facilities responsible for administering the care in question.
  • Assessments from experts are required to clarify exactly how and why the standard medical practice was not followed and the potential results.

Once liability is provisionally established, the claims process can be progressed to the next stage. Establishing liability in complex cases where multiple parties may be at fault for birth injuries can take years.

Acceptance or refutation of liability

When the responsible parties are identified, your birth injury solicitor will send a Letter of Claim detailing the lawsuit against them, providing the opportunity to either accept or deny liability.

Should they choose to accept liability for your birth injury compensation claim, the case can progress swiftly to the settlement stage. In the event they deny responsibility, their solicitors will need to arrange a Court hearing to contest liability. This process can again take years to conclude.

Calculating damages in a birth injury case

Finally, once liability has been determined, the Court can proceed to calculate the damages to be awarded to the claimant. This stage of the birth injury compensation claim will likely again require input from medical specialists qualified to identify the nature and severity of the harm suffered by the defendant, and how long it is likely to persist.

Depending on the injuries sustained by the mother and/or baby, input may be required from paediatric, neurological, psychologist and long-term care specialists whose availability may be restricted. It’s worth also mentioning that this stage of the proceedings may also be contested, with the defending party bringing their own experts to Court to counter the claims made by your birth injury solicitor.

The Court will weigh the testimonies submitted by the various experts up against each other to determine what level of compensation is required to ensure the claimant can go on to enjoy as much quality of life as possible. It will need to consider any corrective surgery, medication and home-environment modifications required by the claimant to achieve this.

Unsurprisingly, the complexity of the claims being examined, and the availability of the experts required to do so can again mean that this stage of the case can require years to conclude.

How long does a birth injury lawsuit take?

It is impossible to say before a case gets underway how long a birth injury compensation claim will take. With each of the aforementioned stages potentially requiring years to conclude, it is not unreasonable to expect a timeline of around five years from the point of submitting your claim.

  • Specialist birth injury solicitors
  • No Win, No Fee claims
  • Independently recognised as experts

How much compensation could I receive for birth trauma?

Establishing how much compensation you could receive in a birth injury claim is often difficult. Each claim is different and each family that is affected will be in different circumstances and require varying degrees of future assistance. All of this will be factored in when it comes to calculating the compensation awarded in your claim.

The level of compensation will be greatly affected by the severity of the injury, the effect it has on your life currently, and the effect that it will continue to have in the future. For example, a child who develops cerebral palsy due to negligence will likely receive significant compensation, sometimes in the millions of pounds.

This is due to the fact that the ongoing cost of care for the rest of the child’s life will be expensive, and therefore have to be factored into the compensation that is awarded.

Related Articles

Shoulder dystocia is a birth complication that occurs when one or both of the baby's shoulders get stuck behind the mother's pelvic bone during a vaginal delivery. More
In some cases, lack of oxygen at birth can constitute medical negligence on the part of the personnel responsible for both the mother and the baby’s care. More
If you have suffered an injury because of poor care, you may want to sue the NHS for negligence. This complete guide can help you make the best decision for you and your family. More

How long do I have to make a birth injury claim?

Like all other cases of medical negligence, in most circumstances, you will have three years from the date of the incident to bring forward a birth injury claim. If you were not aware that any negligent act had occurred until a later date, the three-year time limit begins once you have become aware of negligence. Trying to bring a claim forward after the limitation period has been reached will be extremely difficult.

There are some exceptions to the limitation period which can apply in cases of birth injury. If the injury is to a baby, then you will have until the child’s 18th birthday to start a claim. Once the child turns 18 the three-year limitation period begins.

There is another exception where if the person concerned does not have what is called ‘mental capacity’ then there is no limitation period to bring a claim unless they regain capacity at a later stage.

Limitation periods can be difficult to establish in cases, so if you’re unsure speak to one of our team today who can help you with your claim.

Client testimonial

It seemed like we were the only case that Jason was working on, and that can’t be true, but that’s how he made us feel.

Mr Shaw, as featured in video above.

Specialist no win no fee birth injury solicitors

Blackwater Law medical negligence solicitors are experienced in advising clients in relation to claiming compensation for injuries and ailments sustained during birth. This includes injuries to the mother or baby or negligence caused by a midwife.

The experience and reputation of the team at Blackwater Law mean they are approached for advice by families across the country. Our team is accredited by the Legal 500. It is recognised as one of the leading teams of medical negligence lawyers in the South East.

When you call us and receive free initial advice, if we believe you or your baby may be entitled to compensation, we will agree to represent you in your claim on a no-win, no-fee basis.

This means that there is no risk to you. If your claim is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay any legal fees. Blackwater Law undertakes all medical negligence claims on a no-win, no-fee basis.

Get Expert Legal Advice

Call today and speak to our specialist birth injury solicitors. Find out if you can claim compensation.

CALL 0800 083 5500