Birth Injury and Childbirth Claims

Clinical negligence claims against midwives, doctors and obstetricians

The impact of negligence during childbirth can literally last a lifetime. Because of this, compensation claims can often be larger than for other forms of negligence.

In fact within the NHS obstetrics and midwifery account for some of the largest of any compensation payments to those affected with £235 million paid out in 2010/11 by NHS Trusts in England, according to the NHS Litigation Authority.

As with all medical professionals, midwives have a duty of care to women and babies in their care and as such they are obliged to take care. Where harm occurs as the result of a midwife’s carelessness then a clinical negligence claim can often be made.

Negligence During Childbirth

One of the most common forms of negligence in childbirth is a failure to act properly or early enough when an unborn baby is in distress which then causes asphyxia in a child, or lack of oxygen to the brain. This can cause severe lifelong disabilities and is thought to be a cause of conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Cases of negligence this serious can result in significant compensation claims. For example in 2008 a High Court settlement of £8 million compensation was awarded to a boy who had suffered sustained brain damage after being deprived of air for 17 minutes when midwives failed to call in an obstetrician to examine an abnormal CTG which indicated foetal distress.

Other potential breaches of duty of care which can occur during childbirth include:

  • Failure to give correct advice or explain risks to women and their partners or families
  • Failures in keeping reports and maintaining accurate information
  • Timing of a decision to act or seek assistance
  • Failure to recognise the limits of their competence
  • Failure to report or disclose levels of sub-standard

When assessing potential claims the Bolam test is used, which refers to a previous legal case of Bolam v Friern HMC in 1957. Under the test, if a midwife’s actions are not in keeping with what would be expected of their profession and peers then a midwife may be liable for negligence. Therefore the law expects a higher standard of care from a more senior midwife than from a more junior colleague.

If you have been affected by any of these issues and feel that you may have grounds to make a claim for clinical negligence, then our team of sympathetic and experienced staff can help you by reviewing your situation and advising on your legal options. Call now on 0800 012 5880.