Stillbirth Negligence Claims
Stillbirth is a tragedy, but knowing the loss of their child was avoidable makes it even more heartbreaking for parents and their loved ones. Sands, the UK’s stillbirth and neonatal death charity, reports that in 2014 in the UK one baby in 219 was stillborn, meaning they died sometime between the 24th week of pregnancy until labour.
Every year in the UK, more than 3,500 mothers face the tragedy of returning home from the hospital without their much longed for baby. While some of these deaths are sadly unavoidable no matter how excellent the medical care woman receives, others are caused by negligence during pregnancy or labour.
Talk to The Medical Negligence Experts if you have experienced the pain of stillbirth which you believe was caused by medical negligence. Claiming compensation will not bring your child back, but it can help give you closure, ensure you don’t suffer financially as well as emotionally from your loss and allow you to move on with your life.
We are happy to offer you a free, no obligation confidential consultation with one of our expert legal advisors to help you decide whether making a claim is the right course of action for you. Whether you have suffered negligent care through and NHS or private hospital, The Medical Negligence Experts can help.
What is Stillbirth Negligence?
While the failure of any pregnancy is heartbreaking, stillbirth is the term used for babies who have passed the 24-week point of gestation. This date is when it is reasonable to assume they have a good chance of survival if they were born (albeit with neonatal intervention). A pregnancy that does not reach 24 weeks is called a miscarriage.
While some reasons for stillbirth are a mystery, some known causes include:
Placental abruption. The placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus and preventing the baby getting the necessary nutrients and oxygen they need to survive. It can also cause significant blood loss and threaten the life of the mother.
Symptoms of placental abruption include abdominal pain and tenderness, possibly some vaginal bleeding, and an abnormal foetal heart rate. With accurate monitoring and swift intervention, it may be possible to save the lives of both the mother and child.
High blood pressure. Women should have their blood pressure checked regularly during their pregnancy to ensure it is not too high or too low. Both can be dangerous for both the mother and baby, with excessively high blood pressure (hypertension) being one of the known factors in some stillbirths.
Lack of oxygen. Babies rely on the placenta and umbilical cord for their oxygen. In addition to placental abruption, smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking some drugs can limit the amount a baby receives in utero. It is possible for stillbirths to result from a lack of oxygen in the womb or during a traumatic labour.
Stillbirth negligence occurs when medical professionals fail in providing an acceptable standard of care for their patients. Examples of stillbirth negligence include:
- Inadequate antenatal monitoring of a baby’s development through regular appointments.
- Failure to refer a mother for appropriate assessment if she is at a higher risk due to conditions like diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure.
- Failure to identify and treat a maternal infection.
- Misinterpreting test or scan results.
Stillbirth Negligence Compensation Case Studies
A claim typical of the ones The Medical Negligence Experts support involved a woman who was suffering stomach pains and diarrhoea in her 32nd week of pregnancy. She phoned the midwife-led birth unit at the hospital where she was booked to give birth and told it was likely to be a stomach virus and to rest at home. When the pain had not abated the following day, the woman visited her GP who recommended she immediately go to the hospital. At the hospital, a midwife did an assessment, including a CTG trace to find the baby’s heartbeat, which was weak and erratic. Instead of being sent for further evaluation, she was sent home to rest. A few hours later the woman suffered a significant bleed and rushed to the hospital only to give birth to a stillborn son.
Medical negligence solicitors were able to prove negligence in two instances, both of which could have prevented the death of the baby. The first was when she phoned and was diagnosed with a stomach bug despite no assessment. The second occurred when the midwife failed to follow the hospital’s defined procedures and admit the woman for further evaluation and monitoring when she could not find a steady heartbeat for the baby.
Another example of a successful claim for stillbirth negligence was for a mother-to-be who showed signs of high blood pressure from her initial midwife appointment. Despite having elevated blood pressure at all her check-ups, she was not referred for further assessment (as NICE guidelines recommend) or recommended to have more frequent appointments with her midwife. A scan at 26 weeks showed the baby’s growth was not as advanced as expected. A further scan two weeks later confirmed this but no further scan was done and there was no action taken to investigate her continued high blood pressure.
Three weeks after the second ultrasound, at 31 weeks gestation, the woman suffered serious abdominal pains and bleeding. She was advised to go into hospital where an ultrasound scan confirmed her baby had died. Her elevated blood pressure meant it was too risky for her to have an operation and she suffered the additional trauma of having to be induced and deliver her stillborn baby.
The woman made a complaint to the responsible NHS trust who found that the care she received was negligent and that inadequate monitoring of her high blood pressure was a likely factor in the death of the child. These findings were used to support her subsequent compensation claim and damages were paid not only for the physical mistreatment but also for the psychological trauma she endured having to give birth to a baby she knew already died.
Claiming Compensation vs Raising a Complaint
Raising a compensation claim is not the same as raising a complaint. Both have different objectives and outcomes. Raising a complaint will trigger a formal investigation to determine the cause of a stillbirth, including whether this was due to negligent care. The NHS trust or private hospital responsible should then take adequate steps to ensure a situation like yours does not arise again whether that means altering processes, improving staff training, or another course of action.
A compensation claim can only be made where medical negligence can be proven to be the cause, or at least a significant factor, of a stillbirth. A successful compensation claim will not necessarily result in any medical professional being disciplined, or any changes made to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future. Compensation is a payment made in recognition of the pain and suffering you have suffered as the result of negligence. It is an acknowledgement of guilt but not an apology.
It is possible to raise both a complaint and an application for payment of damages. Indeed, in many successful compensation claims, the investigation and findings of the complaint provide the necessary evidence to prove liability in the compensation claim. Contact us today to find out more about each of these processes and how The Medical Negligence Experts can assist.
Birth Injury Compensation Claims
As well as being experienced in successfully obtaining compensation for stillbirth negligence claims, The Medical Negligence Experts can also prepare and submit claims for other types of birth injury negligence including cerebral palsy, Cauda Equina, wrongful birth, failed terminations, midwife negligence, contraception failure, and miscarriage negligence.
The amount of compensation you receive will depend on various factors, including the proportion your negligent care is considered to have contributed to your stillbirth. Estimating compensation for a stillbirth is particularly challenging as there is a strong element of psychological damage in some instances. Under UK law, a person can not have a financial interest in the life of someone else. A parent can be compensated for the pain of their bereavement, and a mother awarded damages for physical trauma, but not for the actual loss of her child.
As distressing as a stillbirth is, a parent needs to be formally diagnosed with a recognisable psychiatric condition, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to receive any compensation for psychological trauma. Once a child is born, they are legally recognised as a person. As such, even if their child only survives for a few minutes, parents can claim compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
Although the law differentiates between a stillbirth and neonatal death, recent compensation awards have been somewhat similar, with parents being awarded upwards of £12,000 in both instances – and significantly more in situations where a mother’s health has also been harmed as the result of her negligent care.
How Can We Help?
We appreciate that after the death of a child your emotions will be elevated. You may be feeling extreme anger, sadness, and possibly even guilt, and may also be physically recovering from your ordeal. Deciding to claim compensation may be the furthest thing from your mind, however seeking legal advice as early as possible will help you obtain the most positive outcome.
As well as offering a free, confidential consultation with a legal expert who can answer any questions you have about when and how you can claim compensation for clinical negligence, The Medical Negligence Experts offer a No Win No Fee* service to all clients because we believe that top quality legal support should be accessible to everyone who needs it.
We will only recommend you start a compensation claim if we consider there is a strong probability of a positive outcome for you. Even with the No Win No Fee* agreement minimising financial risk, we know that claiming compensation for stillbirth negligence can be hugely stressful at times and we want to do all we can to help you avoid any upset at what is already a difficult time.
Stillbirth negligence can be difficult to prove, and it is not uncommon for medical negligence claims to continue over many months. Your solicitor at The Medical Negligence Experts will do their utmost to keep the process as smooth as possible for you, supporting you and keeping you informed at every stage, so you know what is happening.
The team at The Medical Negligence Experts are not anonymous, faceless people who see you as nothing more than a number. When you engage our services you will work with the same medical negligence solicitor from start to finish, someone who has experience of successfully and sensitively handling stillbirth compensation claims, and who understands that you are a real person with genuine feelings.
You won’t have to go to a central call centre or general email address to get information, having to recount painful details every time until you find someone who understands your case. Instead, you will have your lawyer’s contact phone number and email address so you can share and receive information directly.
Some clients express concern at the prospect of their claim going to trial. While this does happen on occasion, the vast majority of negligence claims (over 98% of those made against the NHS) reach an agreement before a case gets to court. This is something we will strive to achieve for you, however if the other party denies liability or we cannot reach agreement on a fair payment amount, we may recommend you start court proceedings.
There is a statutory limit of three years to start a compensation claim for stillbirth negligence. This time starts from the date your injury happened, and there can be months of investigations before an application is ready to submit. UK law states the claimant must prove negligence caused their injury or stillbirth, rather than the care providers having to prove it did not.
Contact The Medical Negligence Team today. We can help determine if you can make a claim and, if so, what to do next.
Need some help?
Am I eligible?
If you have suffered from medical negligence in the past 3 years, the short answer is yes.
However, medical negligence can be complicated, so we recommend that you speak with one of our expert solicitors - It’s Free.
How much could I claim?
As every medical case is different, the amount of compensation paid out can differ. Varying factors lead to the final figure include: the level of negligence, earnings missed out on, future losses and more.
Our experienced team of experts will give you an indication of how much you could potentially claim.
How does the process work?
We understand that when making a claim it’s important to know what to expect and when to expect it. That’s why we make the process as transparent as possible.
Your solicitor will gather all the evidence and will notify the negligent party of your claim. With your dedicated solicitor negotiating on your behalf, you will be kept up to date every step of the way.
Why should you choose us?
No Win No Fee
We offer a No Win No Fee* service on all our claims - We assess each claim on its merits with the information provided, which aids us to determine its likely success rate. This takes the risk away from you.
Expert, Friendly Solicitors
Our experienced solicitors are experts in securing compensation no matter the level of negligence.
We are committed to securing the best possible outcome for you, while providing friendly support every step of the way.
Personal Dedicated Lawyers
On contact, you will be allocated your own expert Medical Negligence solicitor who will be there every step of the way. You will be provided with a direct phone number and direct email address of your solicitor.
Expert still birth negligence solicitors working for you
We specialise in helping victims of medical negligence claim the compensation they deserve.
We work on a No Win No Fee basis, meaning if we don’t win your case, you don’t pay! Once you make contact, your experienced solicitor will work to recover the maximum compensation you are entitled to.
Whether you are ready to make a medical negligence claim, or you would just like a free conversation with a legal professional, we have experts on hand to give you all the information you need. Take the first step to getting what you deserve by filling in our quick contact form and we will call you back whenever suits you.