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Birth Injury, Trauma and Childbirth Negligence

 Birth Injury, Trauma and Childbirth Negligence

A recent High Court case in Northern Ireland has raised important legal issues relating to time limits for adults to pursue clinical negligence claims for injuries caused at birth, and how damages are assessed.

The unreported case which has been published in local news involves a baby boy born at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast in 1995. At three days old he developed severe jaundice. Blood transfusions should have been carried out, but they weren’t. Due to the defenders’ failure to carry out the transfusions, he developed kernicterus, a rare condition, resulting in irreversible brain damage. The baby boy also had cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and deafness.

In 2023, 30 years later, he was awarded almost £14 million in damages.

Usually, parents bring a claim on behalf of their child. In most clinical negligence cases, you have three years from the date of injury, or from the date of knowledge, to raise a claim. With birth injuries however, the time limit starts 3 years from the date the child turns 16 when they are deemed to be an adult.

When a baby is born with an injury or defect, it can permanently affect the child’s quality of life. Some effects may not be immediately transparent and can take years to manifest. Lifelong care may be required and as the child grows and develops; their needs may develop and change. It’s therefore important to know what you can claim for.

In Scots law, you can claim for the pain and suffering associated with your injuries, otherwise known as solatium. Above and beyond that are special damages, or additional costs, attributed to the injury. Compensation can only be recovered for additional costs associated with raising a child with a disability – not costs associated with raising a healthy child - on the grounds of public policy. Special damages can include treatment costs, travel costs, and potential costs to modify your home or living arrangements. In addition, care costs may be ongoing where the requirement for care is lifelong. It is therefore important to factor in matters such as inflation, the cost of living, and potential additional future treatment.  Parents may also have to give up work to care for their child and so wage loss can be claimed for.

By nature, clinical negligence claims can take years to conclude. It may be possible in some cases to claim for interim damages. In such cases, the defender may agree to make a “meantime” payment to cover the costs of care, treatment, and any other costs which you may have to incur to care for your child above and beyond usual expenditure. It’s important to know that any interim payments would be deducted from the final award of compensation.

Here are Thorntons, our specialised team collectively have over 100 years’ worth of experience pursuing clinical negligence claims, including claims for birth injuries and defects. We operate on a no win no fee basis and there are no hidden costs involved. If you believe that your child has suffered an injury because of negligence, contact our specialised team at Thorntons on 0800 7318434

About the author

Annie Muir
Annie Muir

Annie Muir


Personal Injury

For more information, contact Annie Muir or any member of the Personal Injury team on +44 1382 346776.