By Cat Wayne. Last Updated 27th September 2023. Though it can be wonderful, childbirth can also be very stressful, particularly if there have been complications in the pregnancy. Doctors and midwives involved in childbirth are expected to provide the basic standard of care during this process (at least). If these standards are not met, then mistakes could happen and the mother, child or both could be seriously injured. In this article, we are looking at the process of birth injury claims.
It is important to point out that both mother and child can suffer injuries during the birthing process that are not avoidable. For medical negligence, we are looking at the injuries that should not have happened. If a mother or child is unfortunate enough to be affected by an avoidable birth injury, then they may be entitled to receive compensation if the injury was caused by the negligence of medical staff.
Avoidable birth injuries can have severe, life-changing effects on a child or mother. Therefore, any compensation received for such injuries could help a lot with coping with them.
In this guide, we’ll explain what you need to know about making a birth injury claim. We’ll explain how birth injuries may occur through negligence by medical staff. We will also explain the type of injuries which could occur if something goes wrong during childbirth. Additionally, we’ll look at potential compensation amounts for this type of claim and whether time limits apply for starting a claim like this.
To speak to our advisors for free about birth injury claims, you can contact Medical Negligence Assist today. You can contact us online through either our live chat service or with our claim online form. You can also phone us on 0800 652 3087
Select A Section
- When Could You Make A Birth Injury Claim?
- Injuries To The Mother During Childbirth
- Traumatic Birth Injuries To A Child
- Birth Trauma And Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Traumatic Birth Compensation – Example Settlements
- Is There A Time Limit On Birth Injury Claims?
- No Win No Fee Birth Injury Claims
- Read More Guides
A compensation claim may potentially be possible for a birth injury if it can be proven that it was caused due to negligent behaviour by medical professionals or a hospital involved in the childbirth.
While delivering a baby, the hospital and staff involved (including doctors and midwives) owe the mother and child a duty of care. As part of their duty, the medical staff should take all reasonable steps to uphold the minimum standard of care (at least) while delivering a baby.
Any mistake by medical staff which reasonably could have been foreseen and/or prevented could be considered an act of negligence and a breach of their duty of care. If other healthcare workers of the same profession would’ve avoided the actions that caused you injury, it may be that your healthcare worker was negligent.
Such negligence could cause birth injuries to the mother or child (or both) which could have severe and even life-changing consequences.
Generally, a duty of care is imposed on healthcare providers in situations where it is “reasonably foreseeable”. This applies to midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Once a medical professional accepts a patient they then have a duty of care to them.
Midwives, who are specially trained to care for mothers and newborns around the time of childbirth, are expected to follow the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code. It sets the standards of conduct, training, ethics and performance for midwives and nurses.
Issues during childbirth can cause a range of injuries to the mother which can potentially be very severe. While it’s normal for recovery time to be expected following childbirth, complications can make the process much longer. In particularly serious cases, birth injuries can have a permanent effect on a mother.
Examples of potential injuries a mother could suffer during childbirth include the following:
- Anaesthetic errors
- Bowel and bladder injuries caused by errors during caesarean (C-section)
- C-section trauma
- Delay or misdiagnosis of pre-eclampsia or another condition that affects childbirth
- Failure to diagnose and therefore prevent preterm birth
- Failure to arrange a timely C-section when necessary
- Injuries caused by forceps or vacuum delivery
- Injuries caused by suturing (stitching)
- Nervous shock following a traumatic birth
- Perineal lacerations or tears or internal damage
- Placental abruption, where the placenta separates early from the uterus
- Postnatal infections
Problems during childbirth can cause different types of injuries to the child being born. Which injuries could occur depends on what type of issue may develop. Any incorrect treatment or other forms of negligence during their birth can lead a child to develop severe and even permanent injuries. These could include the following:
- Brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Cerebral palsy
- Fractures or cuts (which may be permanent)
- Muscular injuries, such as brachial plexus or Erb’s palsy
Medical negligence is a very complex subject. Some injuries that happen at childbirth cannot be prevented and therefore are not classed as medical negligence. A doctor may act completely professional and in line with the duty they owe their patients and still, injuries can occur.
Childbirth can be an incredibly stressful experience for a mother. This is especially likely if any unexpected issues occur during it. Difficulties during childbirth could lead a mother to develop postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a type of anxiety disorder. Also known as birth trauma, it can develop if childbirth proves difficult, requires emergency treatment or something goes badly wrong.
If there are issues during childbirth because of negligent behaviour by medical staff, then PTSD is a psychological injury that could be directly caused by this issue. If a claim is made, then the victim may be able to receive compensation for their PTSD, provided it can be proved that the injury exists and was directly caused by medical negligence.
Unfortunately, we cannot provide an average birth injury settlement for UK claims. Every case is assessed according to the individual circumstances so it is unlikely two payouts will be the same.
Traumatic birth compensation could potentially include:
- General damages – compensation for the pain and suffering that an injury has caused
- Special damages – compensation for any monetary losses that have been caused by an injury
The table below shows injuries that could potentially be claimed for in birth injuries claims alongside attached compensation brackets. This information is taken from the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG). Legal professionals use this document to help value general damages.
|£282,010 to £403,990
|£219,070 to £282,010
|£43,060 to £219,070
|£15,320 to £43,060
|Psychiatric Damage Generally
|£54,830 to £115,730
|Psychiatric Damage Generally
|£19,070 to £54,830
|Psychiatric Damage Generally
|£5,860 to £19,070
|Psychiatric Damage Generally
|£1,540 to £5,860
|(d) Loss of function and permanent scarring
|(d) Recovery from an initial injury with some long term interference to natural function
Special damages could include compensation for:
- Home adaptations
- Mobility aids
- Loss of earnings
- Treatment or care costs
For a more accurate evaluation of your claim, get in touch with our advisors today.
If you have evidence of medical negligence contributing to birth injuries, then you may consider starting a birth injury claim. It is crucial, however, to start your injury claim in time, since there may be a time limit in place.
Under the Limitation Act 1980, a birth injury claim usually has to be started within three years of when your injuries occurred. If your injuries weren’t immediately confirmed, then the time limit begins from the date they were diagnosed. This is called the date of knowledge.
If you’re claiming on behalf of your child for birth injuries they’ve suffered, then the rules on the time limit work differently. The time limit of three years doesn’t actually start for an injured child until the day they turn 18.
You may be able to start a claim on behalf of your injured child before they’re 18 as a litigation friend. A litigation friend can potentially represent an injured party during a case when the injured party is unable to act on their own behalf. A child can’t represent themself in a claim before their 18th birthday.
If you are claiming for a child who passed away due to birth injuries, then there’s usually a time limit of three years for claiming. This applies from the date of the child’s death.
The time limit for claiming can also be frozen if the victim is an adult but lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions. Like with children, a litigation friend may be able to claim on behalf of the victim.
In the event that the victim later recovers enough mental capacity to act on their own behalf, then the three-year time limit will come into effect from the day this occurs.
Now that you know more about birth injury claims in the UK, you may be ready to start your own. Making a claim may seem less daunting when you enlist the help of a professional, which is where one of our solicitors could help.
Working with a solicitor can come with a number of benefits. For example, while we can’t offer an average birth injury settlement for UK claims, a solicitor can assess all aspects of your claim and, using evidence you have provided, can arrive at a value for your settlement. Similarly, a solicitor can help you collect evidence to support your claim.
Our solicitors work on a No Win No Fee basis. This means that they can offer you a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). Under the terms of a CFA, you won’t be asked to pay an upfront fee for your solicitor to start work on your claim. Similarly, you won’t pay for their continued services as your case proceeds, and you won’t pay for their work if your claim fails.
However, if your claim succeeds, then you will pay a success fee. This is a small, legally-capped percentage taken directly from your compensation. The legal cap helps to make sure that the larger share of your compensation stays with you.
To find out if working with one of our solicitors is the right choice for you, contact our team of advisors today:
For more guidance on claims for birth injuries or other injuries caused by medical negligence, you can check out our other guides below:
- Operation Gone Wrong Negligence Claims Guide
- Private Healthcare Medical Negligence Compensation Claims Guide
- The NHS’s response to an FOI request regarding birth injury statistics
- The NHS’s advice on forceps or vacuum delivery
- Read about how, in 2021, the Government pledged money to improve childbirth care.
- Learn more about medical negligence claims here
- Head here for more about cerebral palsy medical negligence claims
- Or learn more about stillbirth compensation claims here, or head here to learn about still born injuries
Thank you for reading our guide about making a birth injury claim.
Guide by Stephen
Edited by Ruth