Childbirth Related Medical Negligence Claims – How Do They Work?

Childbirth used to be dangerous for both mother and child, carrying historically a 5% to 10% chance of the mother not surviving because of blood loss or indirectly through infection. Modern technology has made childbirth far safer for both mother and child. However, it isn’t always safe. Childbirth related negligence claims are still tragically common. But what counts as a childbirth related medical negligence? How do childbirth rated medical negligence claims work?

Examples of Childbirth Negligence

Childbirth malpractice due to hospital or neonatal caregiver negligence is a broad category. It includes uterine rupture, abnormal bleeding and placental abruption. Vaginal tears and lacerations in excess of what is normal from childbirth may be a basis for a medical negligence claim, and infection due to medical neglect is certainly a medical negligence case.

Medical negligence can include a failure to perform a C-section when necessary to save mother, child or both. Mistakes that save mother and child but leave her unable to have more, wanted children is grounds for legal action. Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia both endanger the mother’s life. Failure to diagnose it in time to save the mother is considered childbirth negligence. These cases can be pursued by the family after the mother’s death.

Childbirth negligence may be more mundane. A failure to properly support the mother can cause broken bones, such as a cracked coccyx. Or excessive force when using forceps could crack the child’s skull, dislocate a shoulder or cause other damage, sometimes creating lifelong health problems and impairments for the child from birth.

And then there are the horror stories such as the one of the patient left unattended in the stirrups, and the child was injured because there was no one there to catch it. Women left unattended during a difficult delivery or denied proper pain management may also have a case of medical negligence.

Yes, insufficient anaesthesia is also something you can seek redress for. Brain damage due to hypoxia or lack of oxygen because the child wasn’t retrieved and treated soon enough is a basis for a medical negligence case; this is especially true if foetal distress was noted but not addressed.

Then there are issues that occur in the weeks following childbirth. When the doctor doesn’t diagnose an infection due to improper stitches or injuries from improper use of forceps and vacuum delivery that manifest in the days and weeks later, the patient has a medical negligence case. Or if a child’s health problem wasn’t diagnosed in the initial check-ups; this is care negligence caused by poor postnatal care.

What Isn’t Childbirth Negligence

There are issues that are not childbirth negligence and really no one’s fault. A miscarriage due to natural causes isn’t medical negligence unless a doctor failed to address the health condition that caused it.

The same is true for health conditions that cause stillbirth; a doctor who doesn’t recognize a gallbladder problem when the pregnant woman comes in for itchy skin and digestive problems may have some liability for the stillbirth.

It isn’t the doctor’s fault, however, if the child dies because of genetic defects or unavoidable conditions. Likewise, a patient who doesn’t follow medical advice and loses the child cannot hold the doctor liable. However, a doctor who fails to diagnose a condition like prenatal diabetes that causes complications for mother and child is guilty of childbirth negligence.

You cannot sue the doctor for delivering a child with a pre-diagnosed birth defect that is no one’s fault and couldn’t be determined prior to delivery. You may or may not have a case if the doctor failed to diagnose the condition before birth and the parents went to term that otherwise wouldn’t have. Wrongful birth is a basis for a medical negligence case.

Failure to diagnose a critical condition at birth that led to the child’s death, such as severe heart defects, an infection or cracked skull from forceps use may be a medical malpractice case. Sepsis for mother or child or any other type of infection is a basis to sue.

How Childbirth Negligence Cases Work

The first step to pursuing a medical negligence claim is talking to an expert. These claims are notoriously complex, so you don’t want to ask just any solicitor to take the case. Contact the best medical negligence solicitors in your area, like the UK company The Medical Negligence Experts, as you want to work with a firm that has extensive experience with these types of cases.

Note that childbirth negligence cases are one of the few categories where the three year statute of limitations may not apply. Yes, you should talk to medical negligence solicitors within three years of suffering the ill effects of childbirth injuries. However, you may be able to file a claim against the doctor or hospital if your child’s developmental problems or health problems are found to be due to medical negligence. For example, you may not know that your child has limited use of a limb or has brain damage until he or she starts missing developmental milestones as a toddler.

The next step will be collecting evidence to prove your case. A medical negligence case involves proving that the injuries that occurred are the result of medical negligence. In childbirth, there are known risks such as miscarriage or stillbirth that happen naturally, while there are other risks one takes when having a child. When someone says that they’ve suffered a childbirth related injury, an independent medical expert will determine if “on the balance of probabilities”, the injury or condition is due to medical neglect versus something else.
This step requires analysis of your medical files, both before birth and after, and if necessary, those of the child. Every element of the claim is taken into consideration. Who caused the injuries? How severe are they? Were they due to a breach in the duty of care?

For example, your child may have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and a review of the medical records shows that the issue may be due to the delivery method. Or the analysis may find it is probably not due to the delivery method.

Conversely, if everything possible was done and there was still an injury, the hospital may be found not liable. If the victim is found responsible, such as a finding that the mental impairment is due to neglect from the mother, then it is classified as contributory negligence and no compensation is paid to the victim. If the victim and institution are both held partially to blame, the liability will be divided between them based on percentages.

Suppose that a finding of negligence against a medical professional or institution is made. Now the solicitor presents the case for damages. This includes financial losses like out of pocket medical bills and the cost of caring for the child to date. It also includes future projected lifetime costs for a disabled child or modifying one’s home to accommodate a disabled child. Settlements in these cases are common. If it goes to court, it may be a year or two before you reach a settlement.

Medical negligence cases due to childbirth injuries often have the highest potential payouts, if the child is left disabled and the costs of a lifetime of care are taken into consideration. This is why childbirth negligence cases are one of the few types of medical negligence cases still regularly handled by legal aid, though no win no fee solicitors take them as well.

Conclusion

Not every complication from pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal outcome is the result of childbirth related negligence. Childbirth related negligence may occur during the pregnancy, during childbirth, or in some cases, after delivery. If the medical provider is at least partially to blame, you have a medical negligence case and have the right to contact medical negligence lawyers and pursue a claim.

11 Comments

  • Amy Green

    Between the stories told by Senator Amy Klobuchar and tennis star Serena Williams, we have a long way to go. America has too high of pregnancy and infant mortality rates. Female patients need to be listened to, heard (trust me, they’re too different things) and appreciated. My mom will tell you firsthand!

  • Stevie A.

    My aunt filed a suit like this against her doctors when her daughter was born with cerebral palsy. Never knew whether it was a case of negligence or just bad luck.

  • CJ

    So many things could go wrong for a baby and a mother. Very scary… But also nerve wracking if you’re a doctor because you ALWAYS have to be on your “A” game, or you could be sued.

  • Rosie

    There are so many things that can happen. One place for US folks to seek a good attorney is martindale.com (https://www.martindale.com/find-attorneys/ ) It is a source that corporations and other attorneys use to locate good attorney and check their ethical ratings. A good attorney is not an attorney who will take a big retainer and chase after the opponents like a pack of wild animals, but will give wise advice as to how realistic is your case and if it is worth pursuing – they will not try to capitalize on every person that walks in the door, they have a good reputation for a reason.

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