What involves Birth Injury?
Birth injury is damage to a child sustained during the birth process. Many birth injuries are difficult to prove because there may be no specific, visible evidence of what went wrong during the delivery process.
Birth injuries are physical, brain, or nervous system injuries sustained by a baby in the womb due to the mother’s negligence. Birth injury cases most commonly occur when a child is caused to suffer because of negligent hospital staff, physicians, anesthesiologists, or midwives during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Most birth injuries result from medical negligence or errors, and some can be severe enough for doctors to delay delivery until scientific advances can help protect the baby.
A birth injury can cause the child to be born partially or completely paralyzed, brain damaged, with a cleft lip and/or palate or other facial deformities, experience respiratory problems, have an eye injury, have gastrointestinal problems requiring life-long care; or sustain trauma to the spine. Some birth injuries like cerebral palsy also may not be immediately apparent at birth but rather appear months after delivery due to seizures caused by oxygen deprivation of the newborn infant’s brain during labor and delivery. The incidence of labor and delivery errors is on the rise in many countries including Ireland. The most common causes of a catastrophic birth injury are physician error and negligent midwifery professionals who neglect their duty to monitor the well-being of both the delivery mother and infant. In addition, labor can become complicated by perinatal asphyxia, cord accidents, or umbilical strangulation. After birth, a child may be affected by secondary medical complications if oxygen deprivation has occurred during labor and delivery. Secondary complications frequently occur if a newborn was starved of oxygen immediately after being born and these types of injuries are often very difficult to prove in court because they do not leave physical scars on the body that would normally serve as evidence for a trial lawsuit.
What you need to be aware of when making a birth injury claim in Ireland.
Making any kind of legal claim is a major decision you should never enter into it lightly. If you are considering bringing a claim for medical negligence on behalf of you or your child following an injury suffering at birth, it is important to know what you are getting into and what issues you need to be aware of. The best option is to take help from an expert medical negligence claims lawyer in Ireland so that you can protect your rights legally.
Am I automatically entitled to compensation for medical negligence if I suffer an infection after giving birth?
No, definitely not. Infections are an accepted potential complication of giving birth. More importantly, you can suffer an infection after giving birth even when your medical staff does everything right.
To bring a successful compensation claim, you need to show negligence on the part of hospital staff. An infection can occur even when the standard of care you receive is excellent. Therefore there needs to be something else to indicate that medical staff failed in their duty of medical care, to be able to file a medical negligence claim.
Are there time limits for making a medical negligence claim?
Yes. There are always time limits for making medical negligence claims. These time limits apply irrespective of how severe the injury or complication you suffer is. The statute of limitations for an injury differ depending on who suffered as a result of medical negligence during or following the birth:
A medical negligence claim Ireland- mother
The time limit to initiate proceedings for a mother who suffered injury is two years from the date of suffering the injury i.e. the birth. The exception is if you don’t find out about the complication, in which case you will have two years from the date you first become aware of it.
This is a relatively tight time frame, and it is applied to all cases, irrespective of the severity of the injury or its impact on your life. It does not matter how clear-cut your case is, you have to bring a claim within two years of the incident.
A medical negligence claim Ireland – child
The law is more forgiving when it comes to babies. With a minor (i.e. a child under 18) the two-year countdown does not begin until they reach the age of 18. What this means is that people who suffer injuries due to medical negligence at birth can effectively file claims up until the age of 20.
A further exception to the time limit is a disability. For instance, if a child suffers a brain injury during their birth that impacts their cognitive function, the statute of limitations does not begin. However, the court can still reject these cases if they deem that the defendants cannot receive a fair trial.
How can I prove fault in a birth injury claim?
Proving fault will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. As mentioned there must be evidence of wrongdoing, malice, or incompetence on the part of the medical staff who treated you. This evidence will usually take the form of testimony from an expert in the field who can speak to the quality and suitability of the care you received whether relating to surgery, procedure, medication errors, mistakes, experience, misdiagnosis, or otherwise. The type of expert required will depend on the nature of the treatment you received and the injury you suffered. Your medical negligence solicitors will have a panel of medical experts they use to provide advice on negligence, expert reports, and indeed to give evidence in medical negligence cases and so this is something they will organize for you prior to commencing your medical negligence claim.
For example, if the nursing care you received was inappropriate, the testimony should come from an expert midwife. Or, if the issues were with obstetrics, you should consult with an OB/GYN consultant who can testify on your behalf.
In Ireland, as a general rule of thumb, an expert is required from outside of the country as it is difficult to obtain an expert within the country to give evidence against a colleague. Generally speaking, experts are located in Dublin, Ireland. Again your solicitors will arrange all of these experts and reports for you.