Compensation for birth injuries


author image - oliviah

By Oliviah Rix-Taylor

on Friday 23 November 2018


mum holding newborn baby

Obstetrics is the area of medicine that deals with childbirth and midwifery. In this field of medicine, the use of forceps has been fiercely debated. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state that best practice is not to attempt using forceps to aid delivery more than three times during a difficult birth.

Sometimes forceps may be absolutely necessary in order to deliver the baby safely but when used negligently, the harm to the baby can be significant.

The harm forceps can cause a baby and mother are:

  • Marks and defects on the baby’s face or head

  • Bruises and more serious facial injury

  • Damage to the baby’s head including haemorrhaging and skull fractures

  • Brian injury to the baby

  • 3rd or 4th degree tear injury to the mother

The damage that can be caused depends on the types of forceps used. All medical instruments, in the right hands, are designed to save lives, but sometimes they can be used in malpractice. The different types of forceps depend on where the baby is located during the birth;

Lift out or Outlet forceps

Medically known as Wrigley’s forceps, they are smaller and designed to gently ease the baby out when it is almost born and the head is visible.

Mid-cavity forceps

Medically known as Neville Barnes forceps, these are longer and used when the baby is mid-way up the birth canal.

Rotational forceps

Otherwise known as Kielland’s forceps, are designed to help rotate a baby who is not in the right position to enter the birth canal. The Royal college of Obstetrics and Gynaecology recommend these forceps only be used in theatre with anaesthetic. Used improperly, Kielland’s forceps can cause serious harm and trauma to mother and baby.

When can I claim for medical negligence?

It is important to recognise that in almost all circumstances, the forceps would have been used with the intention to help, assist and save lives. It is extremely uncommon that a medical professional would maliciously cause deliberate harm. However, it is classed as negligence if the medical professional did not perform their job to a standard level of medical practice. It is also important to remember that in the UK consent must be given for a forceps delivery. Consent must be given with out force or undue pressue, you should be informed of the risks and procedure involved and you must have had capacity to give consent at the time. If you do not have capacity at the time to give consent then caregivers can give consent on your behalf.

In these cases, you are within your rights to claim compensation if you believe forceps were used incorrectly, beyond reasonable care, without proper consent or training that caused lasting damage to you or your baby. You can also make a claim for compensation if you believe the forceps delivery was unplanned, unconsented and caused you psychological harm.

The use of forceps during a birth can be lifesaving and necessary yet it can also be highly traumatic, especially if lasting damage is caused to either mother or baby.

How does a clinical negligence claim work?

Typically, people make obstetrics negligence claims against the NSH, and less commonly, in private healthcare. In fact, obstetrics accounts for a year on year trend as having the highest value of claims despite only accounting for 10% of clinical negligence claims (taken from the NHS litigation Authority report for 2015-2016). This hints and the relationship between the number of claims to pay-out ratio in this field of medicine is high.

The NHS has a complaints procedure but you do not have to use this pathway to make a claim. Instead you can contact a solicitor who will be able to assess your case. Accident Line Direct can use No Win No Fee Agreements where possible so that there is no cost to start a claim.

Once you have contacted a solicitor we will begin your claim for compensation. Typically, the NHS Litigation Authority will represent the NHS when you bring a clinical negligence claim against them. The report from the Litigation Authority claims that fewer than 1% of the claims brought against them went to court, so it is highly likely that your compensation settlement amount will be agreed outside of court between your solicitor and the LA.

What is a clinical negligence claim?

In order to make a clinical negligence claim for misuse or harm from forceps you will need to give reasonable evidence that your healthcare provider held blame for one of the following:

  1. Did not inform you of the forceps procedure and the risks involved

  2. Misdiagnosed your birthing situation and made matters worse

  3. Carried out use of forceps incorrectly

  4. Made a foreseeable error during the procedure

Personal injury cases involving clinical negligence rely on three things to be successful in granting compensation to the claimant;

  1. You were owed a duty of care from the healthcare professional

  2. They acted negligently and breached that duty of care

  3. Their negligence resulted in direct harm to you.

For more information on forceps misuse and clinical negligence cases speak to one of our advisors today.

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