When is it possible to claim compensation for a neonatal death?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

In order to claim compensation for a neonatal death, it has to be established that the death occurred due to the negligence of one or more medical practitioners who failed in their duty of care to provide an adequate level of care to mother and child. Quite often the circumstances of a neonatal death may be revealed in a coroner´s report, but it will still be necessary to go through the full claims procedure in order to make a compensation claim for the death of a baby in hospital.

The first step you should take when you intend to claim compensation for the avoidable death of a child is to speak with a solicitor. The most common reasons for a neonatal death are premature birth and birth defects and, after listening to the circumstances of your baby´s death, the first thing a solicitor will do is to identify whether the trigger which caused the neonatal fatality occurred while you were still pregnant or after your child was born.

In order to do this, your solicitor will write a ‘Letter of Complaint’ to the hospital responsible for the management of your delivery (if you have not formally complained already) and obtain the medical notes of everybody associated with your pregnancy and neonatal care. The solicitor will engage the services of an independent medical expert to review the notes and establish whether you received sub-standard treatment and at which stage of your baby´s life it occurred.

The areas that the independent medical expert will be most focused on are:-

  • if you received a poor standard of care during your pregnancy, the birth of your child or during the neonatal period (28 days after the birth of your child)
  • if a medical condition during your pregnancy was misdiagnosed or there was a failure to treat in respect of diagnosed condition
  • if a pre-existing maternal health problem, which could have potentially led to complications during the pregnancy, were ignored

Any other areas of potentially sub-standard care which you have advised your solicitor about will naturally also be investigated.

If it is established that you have a viable claim for the death of a baby in hospital, your solicitor will write a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the medical facility where the negligent party is contracted or employed, advising the hospital that you are claiming compensation for a neonatal death and supporting the letter with the evidence of negligence compiled by the independent medical expert.

Provided that your solicitor has constructed a strong claim for compensation for the avoidable death of a child, the hospital or clinic should not take long to acknowledge their liability for the tragic mistake made by one of their medical practitioners, and a settlement of compensation for a neonatal death will be negotiated without the need for court action.

The whole process of making a claim for the death of a baby in hospital should be straightforward once it is established that your sad loss was due to the negligence of a medical practitioner who owed you a duty of care. However, because of the delicate nature of a claim for compensation for the avoidable death of a child, each procedure will have to be completed diligently to ensure that you receive your maximum entitlement to compensation for a neonatal death.