Midwives work in a very fast-paced environment, frequently work long, unsociable hours, and are often underappreciated for a job that is vital whilst physically demanding and exhausting. Despite these conditions, midwives generally deliver an excellent level of service and support to women during labour and the birthing process.
However, in some rare circumstances, midwives can make mistakes that have devastating consequences for the child, the mother, or sometimes both. If you are the parent of a child who has sustained a significant injury during birth, and you believe it is due to the negligent behaviour of the midwife on duty, you may be wondering what your legal rights are and if you have the grounds to bring a compensation claim against the organisation or caregiver who is responsible.
Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that are posed to our legal team in relation to this topic.
What is midwife negligence?
Midwife negligence refers to situations where a midwife fails to meet the required standard of care during pregnancy, labour, or delivery, resulting in harm to the mother or the child. It involves a breach of duty by the midwife, leading to preventable injuries or complications. Negligence can occur in various ways, such as misdiagnosis, failure to monitor vital signs, improper use of medical equipment, inadequate communication, or delayed interventions.
What types of injuries to the child can be caused by midwife negligence?
Midwife negligence can lead to various types of birth injuries that may have long-lasting effects on your child’s health and well-being. Serious injuries include:
- Cerebral Palsy – Lack of oxygen during delivery due to the midwife’s negligence can result in cerebral palsy, a condition affecting the brain’s motor control and muscle coordination.
- Brachial Plexus Injuries – Improper handling of the baby during delivery can cause damage to the brachial plexus nerves, resulting in conditions like Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy, which affect the arm and hand.
- Skull Fractures or Brain Injuries – Rough handling or the misuse of delivery instruments by the midwife can lead to skull fractures or brain injuries in newborns.
What types of injuries can be sustained by the mother?
While negligence cases are often assumed to relate entirely to the child, there are many scenarios where the mother may also have the grounds to bring a compensation claim too. Injuries to the mother caused by midwife negligence include:
- Perineal Tears – Inadequate or improper techniques during episiotomy or perineal repair can result in severe tears, leading to pain, discomfort, and long-term complications.
- Postpartum Haemorrhage – Failure to diagnose and manage postpartum bleeding promptly can lead to excessive blood loss, potentially endangering the mother’s life.
- Infections – Negligence in maintaining proper hygiene protocols during labour and delivery can increase the risk of infections, such as urinary tract infections or postpartum infections.
How do I bring a claim for negligence?
Bringing a claim for midwife negligence requires careful consideration and legal expertise. Key steps in the process include the following:
- Arranging a Consultation with a Solicitor – It’s important to seek the advice of an experienced medical negligence solicitor who specialises in birth injury cases. A solicitor will assess the merits of your case and guide you through the legal process.
- Gathering Your Evidence – Your solicitor will help gather relevant medical records, expert opinions, witness statements, and any other supporting evidence to substantiate your claim.
- Preparing Your Claim – Your solicitor will draft your Letter of Claim, outlining the details of the negligence, the injuries suffered, and the resulting damages.
- Negotiation and Settlement – Your solicitor will negotiate with the responsible party’s legal representatives to reach a fair settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to court.
What compensation can I expect?
If you are successful in proving that your midwife’s negligent behaviour caused you or your child’s injury, you will be entitled to financial support to cover medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, ongoing care and support, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and any other related damages. The amount of compensation will depend on various factors, including the severity of the injuries, the long-term impact on the child’s life, and the extent of the mother’s injuries.
Who can be held accountable?
Depending on the specific circumstances of your birth and where it took place, there are multiple parties who could be held accountable for injuries to the child or the mother. This includes:
- The Midwife – If the midwife was working independently, they may be personally liable.
- Healthcare Facility or Hospital – In certain situations, the healthcare facility or hospital where the birth took place may bear responsibility for the negligence, especially if they failed to provide adequate training, supervision, or resources to the midwife.
- Employing Authority – If the midwife is employed by a larger authority, such as a healthcare agency or a public institution, that entity may also be held accountable for the negligence of its employees.
Require assistance with bringing a claim?
If you are the parent of a child who sustained an injury during birth and you believe the actions of the midwife caused your child’s injury, you may have ground to bring a claim. Equally, if you are the mother of a child who sustained an injury whilst giving birth, you also have a right to make a claim against the party you consider responsible for it. At McCarthy + Co, we have over 30 years of experience in bringing successful medical negligence claims against negligent care providers. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can.