Birth Injury Medical Negligence

Eligibility to Claim Compensation for Injuries to a Child During Birth

Doctors and nurses may make errors of judgement during the delivery of a child which may amount to birth injury medical negligence, yet be able to react to any problems that result without any injury being sustained. In such cases birth injury claims would not be justified, as an injury must have been sustained in order to claim compensation.

When birth injury medical negligence causes a serious injury to a child or the mother, compensation for birth injuries can be claimed. If your baby (or the mother) has suffered an injury during birth, you deserve an explanation into how the mistake was made. By writing a ‘letter of complaint’ to the HSE (or a private hospital) the injury will be investigated and you will get answers to your questions.

However, in order to make a birth injury compensation claim, the cause of the injury must be investigated by a medical negligence solicitor, and it has to be proven – on the balance of probabilities – that the injury was preventable under the circumstances, that a medical professional caused that injury through negligence, a duty of care was owed and breached, and an injury was sustained as a direct result.

Claiming Compensation for Permanent Brain Damage at Birth

Claiming compensation for permanent brain damage at birth is rarely a choice that parents have the luxury of making. A birth injury compensation claim is often critical to ensure that medical care can be afforded and a lifetime of care provided for the child.

It is essential that any case of brain damage in a baby is fully investigated by both the HSE/hospital as well as independently by a specialist medical negligence solicitor. The HSE/hospital may be able to provide answers as to how the injury during birth was sustained, but a solicitor will look more closely for evidence of birth injury medical negligence.

If birth injury claims are not possible under the circumstances, there are charities and support groups that can offer assistance. However, if it can be proven that brain damage was suffered due to the negligence of a medical professional during the birth process (or even due to a lack of pre-natal care), a solicitor will ensure that the full entitlement to compensation for birth injuries is claimed.

Claims for Cerebral Palsy at Birth

Birth injury medical negligence resulting in a child developing cerebral palsy requires specialist representation from a highly skilled medical negligence solicitor. A birth injury compensation claim for cerebral palsy can be highly complicated, as this devastating medical condition is not always caused by medical negligence. Cerebral palsy is always considered to be an injury during birth, and it can be caused during early pregnancy when a duty of care would not have been owed to the mother or baby.

Building a case against a hospital or the HSE can be a slow process, so it is vital that legal advice is sought promptly to ensure that birth injury claims can be commenced as quickly as possible. When compensation can be recovered quickly, the considerable financial burden on the parents can be eased and the child can receive the best possible medical care.

Claims for Asphyxia at Birth

Asphyxia at birth can often be prevented if the vital signs of a baby are properly monitored prior to delivery, and an emergency c-section conducted before oxygen deprivation occurs. Although it may not be possible to claim birth injury medical negligence for some causes of birth asphyxia – some cases cannot be foreseen or prevented – birth injury claims can be made for the mismanagement of the birth process.

It is not possible to establish whether compensation for birth injuries resulting from asphyxia can be made without detailed medical information of the case. If a medical negligence solicitor is allowed to investigate how birth asphyxia occurred, and it can be established and proven that the hospital staff failed to react in time to prevent an injury during birth, a birth injury compensation claim should be possible.

Erb’s Palsy Birth Injury Claims

Erb’s palsy is a complication from shoulder dystocia involving an injury during birth to the brachial plexus nerves. Birth injury medical negligence is not always the cause, although Erb’s palsy certainly warrants investigation to establish if it resulted from medical negligence. If you had an assisted or forceps delivery there is a higher probability that damage to the brachial plexus nerves was caused by the midwife or obstetrician. If it can be proven that excessive force was used to deliver the baby or there was a negligent use of forceps, this would certainly be grounds to make a birth injury compensation claim.

Whether it will be worth while making birth injury claims for Erb’s palsy will depend on the severity of the symptoms and if a full recovery is made. Since this often cannot be predicted until months or even years after birth, claiming compensation for birth injuries involving brachial plexus nerve damage can take a considerable amount of time to resolve.

Since Erb’s palsy is not always preventable and can develop due to natural causes, you will need to use a solicitor to investigate the case before the right to claim compensation can be confirmed.

Shoulder Dystocia at Birth Compensation

Shoulder dystocia can cause potentially serious injuries to a baby, one of the most devastating being Erb’s palsy. However the mismanagement of shoulder dystocia can also cause the mother to sustain birth injuries.

Although birth injury medical negligence is most commonly associated with the injuries sustained to newborn babies, birth injury claims can also be made for maternal injuries (provided they were suffered as a result of medical negligence). Since close monitoring of the mother prior to delivery can help to prevent shoulder dystocia from occurring, there may be a case for compensation on the grounds of inadequate pre-natal care being provided, although a claim made solely on these grounds is likely to be highly complicated.

Compensation for birth injuries to the mother due to mismanaged births is most frequently claimed for injuries relating to excessive blood loss or for extensive lacerations to the vagina, cervix and vulva. Although maternal injuries may not be preventable under the circumstances, a birth injury compensation claim may be possible if the injuries can be proven to have been avoidable under the circumstances. It is worthwhile seeking legal advice from a medical negligence solicitor about a maternal injury during birth, to determine whether compensation can be recovered.

Claiming for Umbilical Cord Strangulation at Birth

Although umbilical cord strangulation is not caused by birth injury medical negligence, a failure to rapidly diagnose this condition may be classed as medical negligence. If an emergency c-section is not arranged, the consequences for the baby can be severe. Birth injury claims involving umbilical cord strangulation are commonly made for a failure of a doctor to identify that the umbilical cord has become wrapped around a baby’s neck or has moved into a dangerous position or act upon it.

Claims for compensation for birth injuries resulting from umbilical cord strangulation can be complex, and can only be resolved by obtaining medical opinions about whether the failure to identify the risk to health more quickly constituted medical negligence. If it can be proven that this medical emergency should have been seen quicker, and this would have – on the balance of probabilities – prevented an injury during birth, it should be possible to make a successful birth injury compensation claim for umbilical cord strangulation.

Can a Claim be Made for a Fractured Bone or Broken Bone at Birth?

A fractured or broken bone at birth does not necessarily involve birth injury medical negligence. While such a major injury may appear to have involved the negligence of an obstetrician or midwife during an assisted delivery, newborn babies can be born with bone fractures from the stress exerted on the baby by the mother’s contractions.

The success of birth injury claims depends on whether it can be established and proven that the injury was sustained by the incorrect use of forceps or suffered due to a mismanaged birth.

Bone fractures in babies often heal quickly and the pain and suffering caused may not warrant a claim for compensation for birth injuries being made. However, if the fracture is severe or if multiple fractures are suffered, a birth injury compensation claim is likely to be worth while pursuing.

Any bone injury during birth warrants an investigation into the cause, and the decision to claim compensation can be made after negligence has been established and compensation amounts have been calculated.

When Infant Haematoma Can Result in Compensation

Infant haematomas are injuries involving blood clots that form in the subdural space. Haematomas are commonly associated with a head injury during birth. While they are rarely caused by medical negligence, birth injury medical negligence compensation can be claimed if they are not diagnosed promptly and if immediate medical attention is not provided.

An operation is usually required to disperse the haematomas to prevent health complications from being suffered; such as weakness in the muscles and limbs, and problems with speech or memory. Birth injury claims are possible if a doctor fails to identify clear signs of a haematoma (or latterly an infant haematoma), and a CT scan is not arranged to diagnose the condition.

When treatment is provided, no adverse effects of the health are usually suffered, but the effectiveness of treatment depends on the speed of diagnosis. If it can be established and proven that a doctor was negligent for failing to diagnose the condition in time for treatment to be effective, a birth injury compensation claim may be possible. The amount of compensation for birth injuries that could be recovered would be dictated by the level of disability that has been suffered.

Since all medical negligence claims for children will require the involvement of the courts, the services of a solicitor will be required, and prompt involvement in a case involving negligence in the diagnosis of an infant haematoma can increase the probability of a claim being successful.

Are Claims for a Soft Tissue Injury to a Baby During Birth Worth While Pursuing?

A soft tissue injury to a baby is often a consequence of a mismanaged birth, and can be caused by negligent use of forceps. If negligence can be proven as the cause of a soft tissue injury during birth, it should be possible to make birth injury claims; however whether it will be worthwhile claiming birth injury medical negligence compensation will depend on the severity of the injuries sustained.

The amount of compensation for birth injuries for soft tissue injuries is unlikely to be substantial, as soft tissue injuries heal quickly and rarely cause much pain and suffering (depending on the exact nature of the injury).

The decision to make a birth injury compensation claim should therefore be made only after a solicitor has assessed the severity of the injury sustained – with assistance from an independent paediatric doctor – and the maximum entitlement to compensation has been calculated. A decision can then be made about whether a claim can be justified.

Making a Claim for a Baby Spinal Cord Injury at Birth as a Next Friend

Although birth injury claims for spinal cord injuries can be pursued personally by a child once the age of consent has been reached, it is usually recommended for the case to be pursued by a parent or legal guardian as soon as possible after negligence has been established.

After a solicitor (and the HSE) has investigated a claim for a spinal cord injury, and it is established that birth injury medical negligence was the most likely cause, the next step is for an application to be made to the courts for a parent or guardian to be accepted as a ‘Next Friend’.

The Next Friend must then instruct the solicitor to write a letter of claim to the HSE/hospital to start the claim process. If liability for the injury during birth is accepted, negotiations on the amount of compensation for birth injuries can commence. If the birth injury compensation claim cannot be resolved through negotiation, or if liability for the spinal cord injury is denied, proceedings need to be issued and the claim would be settled by litigation. If the case is successful, compensation would be awarded to the child but held by the courts until the age of consent is reached.

Since spinal cord injuries require considerable medical care to be provided, it is probable that a proportion of compensation would be released to the parents to cover essential costs associated with the injury.

Settlement Offers and Compensation for a Cranial Injury at Birth

A cranial injury to a baby is commonly associated with improper use of forceps during an assisted delivery. If excessive force is used to deliver the baby, a head injury during birth may be caused. If substantial proof can be collected to prove birth injury medical negligence caused cranial injuries to a child, the HSE/hospital may be prepared to settle the claim.

It is rare that offers of settlement are made without birth injury claims being made, but if an offer of compensation for birth injuries is made directly to a parent, it should only be accepted under advisement from a solicitor. Even if compensation is offered, it is usually preferable to make a birth injury compensation claim. An unsolicited offer to settle a claim is unlikely to provide adequate recompense for all aspects of the injury, and may not even be sufficient to cover medical costs.

Time Taken for a Brachial Plexus Injury to be Resolved

A brachial plexus injury is a relatively common birth injury, often associated with shoulder dystocia. It can result in temporary or permanent paralysis of an arm, muscle weakness, misfiring nerves, severe pain and a condition called Erb’s palsy. If it can be established and proven that the injury was caused by the mismanagement of shoulder dystocia, birth injury claims should be possible.

The problem with claims for compensation for birth injuries such as brachial plexus nerve damage is that the severity – and permanency – of the injuries can be difficult to establish. An accurate prognosis for recovery often cannot be made for some time after the injury is diagnosed. A brachial plexus injury may heal naturally over months or years, depending on the degree of damage caused. Other cases may see the disability, pain and suffering increase over time and this makes the calculation of birth injury medical negligence compensation highly complicated.

Although a birth injury compensation claim for a brachial plexus injury can be made promptly after the injury is sustained (by a Next Friend on behalf of the child) negotiations with an insurance company (or the HSE) may not commence until the full extent of the injury is known. Consequently, claims for brachial plexus injuries can take many years before they can be successfully resolved.

Calculation of Compensation for Facial Paralysis During Birth

When an injury is sustained to a baby during childbirth that causes full or partial facial paralysis, the loss of quality of life suffered and the level of medical and parental care required is considerable. Birth injury claims must often be made to ensure the costs of treatment can be afforded, and that adequate recompense can be gained to make up for a lifetime of suffering.

An injury during birth of this nature must be investigated to find out the cause, as facial paralysis does not always result from physical damage to the facial nerves during a mismanaged delivery. Unfortunately, in many cases the cause of facial paralysis cannot be established, and if it cannot be proven – on the ‘balance of probabilities’ – that the injury was caused as a result of medical negligence, it is unlikely that a birth injury compensation claim will be successful.

Birth injury medical negligence is most likely to have occurred during a forceps delivery, as a result of an incorrectly administered epidural anaesthetic or if medication has been given to the mother to increase the force of contractions. If the mother has diabetes, gives birth to a large baby or has a particularly long labour, this type of birth injury is more likely to occur. It would be unlikely that compensation for birth injuries could be claimed if it is established that these birth issues were the most probable cause of facial paralysis

Speak with a Solicitor About Claiming for Birth Injury Medical Negligence

If your baby has suffered an injury during birth and you suspect this should have been prevented by a doctor, midwife or nurse, you should seek legal advice from an experienced medical negligence solicitor about claiming compensation for birth injury medical negligence.

Birth injury claims can be highly complex as it is often unclear exactly how future health will be affected, how long injuries will take to heal and whether they resulted from medical negligence. As a result, compensation for birth injuries can take many months or even years to recover; although in some cases it may be possible to apply for the early release of compensation to help cover essential medical costs.

The most important step to take to ensure compensation can be recovered in the shortest possible time frame is to start an investigation into the case as soon as possible. Once the case has been prepared and the right to make a birth injury compensation claim has been preserved, decisions can be made about whether to proceed with the claim or wait until the full extent of injuries are known.