Solicitor and Managing Partner
Advances in medicine and the expertise of medical professionals have made childbirth safer today than it ever has been for both mothers and newborns.
However, there are still risks before, during and immediately following birth that can jeopardise a baby's long-term health and wellbeing. Mistakes by healthcare professionals, although rare, can dramatically change the course of a newborn’s life, and the lives of their loved ones.
Below are some of the circumstances that could be grounds for a successful clinical negligence claim.
The purpose of antenatal care is to help prevent and eliminate any risk for a baby growing in the womb to be starved of oxygen, contract an infection, or suffer in another way. If monitoring of a baby’s condition is inadequate, or red flags are not acted upon, this can greatly affect their health and put their life in the balance.
For instance, a drop or disruption in blood supply from the placenta can restrict the oxygen a baby receives. The duration and level of oxygen starvation can cause significant brain injuries, and the development of numerous long-term disabilities:
In addition to the threat of oxygen deprivation, other problems that can occur during antenatal care include:
Failing to limit the risk of harm to a baby if the mother has preeclampsia, obstetric cholestasis, diabetes or other risk factors
Failing to prevent or address warning signs of infection
Incorrect reading of CTG results, or tracking the mother’s pulse rather than the baby’s heart rate
Overlooking noticeable changes in a baby’s growth rate
Underplaying bleeding or pain suffered by the mother during pregnancy
All babies are at risk during delivery, whether this is performed naturally, using forceps or ventouse, or by caesarean section. If the birth is mishandled, or warning signs are not reacted to quickly enough, the newborn can develop lifelong disabilities, or even die.
Mistakes that may occur during delivery include:
Failing to see or address signs of oxygen starvation
Causing head injuries due to mismanagement of the birth
Forceful or inappropriate pulling of the baby, leading to nerve damage
Failing to appropriately disimpact the baby's head during a caesarean section
Incorrect or ineffective use of forceps or ventouse
Failing to prevent or address an infection to the baby
These mistakes can lead to a wide range of outcomes for the baby, which can cause them to suffer in both the short and long term:
The immediate hours, days and weeks following birth can be a tense period for new parents in any circumstances, especially if the baby is born unwell or with worrying symptoms.
It is crucial that the paediatricians, obstetricians, midwives and other healthcare professionals responsible for looking after a newborn’s health act promptly and professionally if they notice any warning signs. Failing to adequately monitor or address red flags can lead to serious, preventable consequences for the child and their loved ones.
Examples of birth injury problems following birth include:
Failure to carry out prompt, effective resuscitation of a baby born in poor condition
Failure to anticipate the need for assistance for a baby once born, delaying the medical treatment they require
Failure to cool a baby in order to minimise the risk and damage of potential brain injuries
Not minimising the risk of infection, or treating signs of infection in a newborn
Not recognising or responding to signs of seizures or fits
Sometimes injuries sustained by a baby before, during or immediately following birth are unavoidable, even when the healthcare professionals on site did everything they could.
Sadly, this is not always the case. Inadequate monitoring, delayed responses and overall substandard care can completely alter the direction of a newborn’s life, and the lives of their family. When this happens, it is crucial that those responsible are held accountable, and that those affected are fairly compensated.
Like all medical negligence claims, proving a birth injury was negligent is the responsibility of the claimant against the Balance of Probabilities, and rests on three key elements:
Did a healthcare professional breach their duty of care towards the baby or its mother?
Did the baby suffer harm?
Was this harm a direct result of the healthcare professional’s breach of duty?
As specialist medical solicitors, we will thoroughly assess all available evidence, including medical records and witness statements, to establish whether your child’s birth injury was a result of negligence.
We will also speak with relevant medical experts – who must usually be both actively working in their field and aware of the legal tests to be satisfied – to determine whether the defendant’s action or inaction fell below the standard expected of them, and whether the child’s development has been affected as a result.
By comprehensively examining all evidence and working closely with our network of paediatric neuroradiologists, paediatricians, obstetricians and other healthcare professionals, we take every step to investigate a claim and quantify the amount of compensation a claimant is entitled to.
The law does not allow a person under the age of 18 or a protected party (someone lacking the mental capacity to make certain decisions) to bring their own medical negligence claim. But, this does not make a baby’s or child’s claim any less legitimate.
In these circumstances, a ‘litigation friend’ will be assigned to act on the Claimant’s behalf. A litigation friend can be anyone who will act in the claimant’s best interests, often a parent or close relative.
Another significant difference in child injury claims is how compensation is awarded following a successful claim. If the claimant is under 18 or a protected party, the Court must approve the award of compensation, as well as decide how this should be invested and who is able to manage the fund.
For significant compensation awards, a Deputy will often be appointed by the Court of Protection to protect and administer the funds on the claimant’s behalf. This will end when the child turns 18, if they are considered to be mentally capable of handling their compensation.
For more information, please read our guide on “How to make a birth injury claim on behalf of your child”.
As qualified and specialised medical negligence solicitors with over 20 years experience, we are experts at handling injury to baby claim cases.
Our credentials and established reputation mean that hospitals and trusts are willing to work with us, and often recommend us, to seek fair outcomes for claimants to receive the compensation they deserve.
Trust us with your compensation claim and contact us today to see how we can help you.
Unlike other medical negligence claims that can often reach final settlement in 2 - 5 years, an injury to babies claim may not reach this point until the child is at least 8 or 9 years of age (although this may be younger or older depending on the circumstances).
Why is this? Even if the defendant admits liability for the injuries sustained by the claimant early, it will take several years to properly determine what the ramifications of their injuries will be on their long-term development. You do not want to settle too early for a value that will not meet your child’s ongoing needs.
By monitoring and reviewing the child’s development for several years, impartial experts will be much better placed to inform us of the ramifications of their injuries, and what support they will need for the future.
Despite this wait, we would recommend starting a claim on your child’s behalf as soon as you suspect that they were injured by a medical mistake. While it may take years to reach final settlement, in the meantime you could receive interim payments.
These payments can provide much-needed financial support to meet the immediate needs of your child and your family as a whole, and help you to figure out a care regime that works for you ahead of applying for the final settlement.
In a standard medical negligence claim, you would have a 3-year time limit from the Date of Knowledge of your injury to make a claim. When the claimant is a baby or young child, this is not the case:
Claimants under 18 years of age have until their 21st birthday to make a claim
Claimants considered mentally incapable have no time limit to make a claim
Furthermore, we would encourage anyone to speak to us about a birth injury claim even if you are concerned the injury occurred outside of these boundaries. All cases are at the discretion of the Court, and we have the experience to assess whether your claim is likely to be accepted.
There are several ways you can fund your birth injury claim, whatever your financial situation:
Legal Aid may be available for brain injuries sustained during pregnancy, birth or the first 8 weeks of life
You may have an existing insurance policy that includes cover for legal expenses
A Conditional Fee Agreement means we take on your claim on a ‘No win, no fee’ basis – you only pay if we win your case
Our funding options at Gadsby Wicks ensure your child gets the justice they deserve without the need to find the money upfront to finance their claim.
The consequences of a substantial birth injury can have repercussions on every aspect of their future – where they live, if they can work, who they socialise with, what they can and cannot do, and so much more.
As such, the amount of compensation someone receives following a birth injury claim can vary immensely. A significant brain injury for example can drastically alter the course of a child’s life, securing millions in compensation to cover the costs of lifelong care, therapies and home adaptations.
Generally speaking, the level of compensation awarded in a birth injury claim will depend on the long-term care requirements of the claimant’s injuries, and how long they are expected to need this support. While the specifics will change from case to case, some costs that can be covered through compensation include:
The salaries of round-the-clock or live-in care assistants
Purchasing a more suitable home, and paying for home adaptations (wet rooms, ramps, garages, stairlifts, etc.)
Medical aids and equipment
Ongoing therapies (physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, speech and language therapy, etc.)
Future loss of earnings (based on the achievements of their parents and siblings)
The fees paid to a professional Deputy
At Gadsby Wicks Solicitors, we pride ourselves on giving you expert, end-to-end support, devoting the time and attention necessary to investigate your child’s case and secure the compensation they deserve.
As medical negligence experts, we know exactly how devastating a birth injury can be physically, emotionally and financially. Although we cannot turn back the clock, we will do everything in our power to ensure you are supported at every step, so your child and your family receive the best possible result.
To start your claim, there are several ways you can reach us:
We only take on your case if we absolutely believe we can win it, and will work tirelessly every step of the process to gain the compensation and answers you are entitled to.
If your child has been injured due to an avoidable medical mistake, contact us today and speak to the true specialists in medical negligence.
If you or a loved one have experienced injuries to babies and would like to speak to someone about your options, our team is here to listen and advise you on your next steps.