The birth process is a very precious time for every family, and the majority of births will proceed without complication. However, according to SAND (Stillborn and neonatal death charity), every day in the UK 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth. Some of these deaths may be due to recognised or known complications of the birth process. It is concerning that some of these deaths will be due to a baby suffering from a birth injury due to failures in treatment before, during and after birth.

Clinical negligence may be involved in the fatality if the relevant obstetricians and midwives failed to take the action or investigation necessary to prevent the injury to the baby.

If a baby has passed away pre-birth after 24 weeks gestation or more, this will be regarded as a stillbirth.

If a baby is born alive, and tragically passes away post birth, this will be regarded as an infant mortality.

1. What can cause infant mortality?

There are a number of causes which may lead to infant mortality including;

  • Prematurity
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Infections
  • Maternal or gestational diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Problems with the placenta that have affected the blood supply to the baby
  • Congenital abnormalities such as heart conditions, or genetic birth defects
  • Birth trauma – such as a disruption in the supply of oxygen to the baby
  • Although some of these causes of death cannot be prevented, there are some that can with better treatment and investigation from the medical clinicians involved.

2. When can you make an infant mortality compensation claim?

You may be able to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim for infant mortality if it can be proven that the treatment and/or investigation provided by the medical clinicians involved in your pregnancy, birth or aftercare was substandard and that this substandard treatment has been the most substantial factor in the death of your baby.

3. Who can make an infant mortality claim?

The parents of a baby who has died due to substandard treatment can pursue a medical negligence compensation claim. 

4. How much compensation do infant mortality claims usually secure?

Whilst it is appreciated that no amount of money will ever be able to compensate the sense of loss that is felt with a loss of a life, the clinical negligence claim procedure has a specified way in which claims are valued based on the law at present.

There are four main elements to the compensation that can be recovered:

  • General damages – This is for the pain and suffering that the parents of the baby have suffered, mainly in terms of a recognised psychiatric injury.
  • Special damages – This is for any losses and expenses that may have been incurred in the past and may still be incurring. This can include, for example, loss of earnings for extended periods of time off work and also any costs for counselling that may have been (or is yet to be) incurred to help parents to cope with their loss.
  • Bereavement damages – A sum of £11,800 is awarded to the parents of a baby who has passed away where negligence is proven to have been the significant factor in the baby's death.
  • Funeral expenses – If they are paid by the parents of the baby.

An example of a successful compensation claim that Thompsons Solicitors has pursued for infant mortality

Thompsons Solicitors recently settled a claim for Michelle, with respect to the tragic loss of her baby daughter, Lily who died on 3rd January 2007 at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester.

The mismanagement of Lily's birth led to her suffering a lack of oxygen during the birth. The medical clinicians involved in Lily's birth should have realised earlier that she was in distress during the birth and have proceeded to a caesarean section.

Lily was born very poorly and was immediately transferred to a specialist unit. Tests performed sadly showed that she had suffered brain damage and organ damage due to the lack of oxygen. Tragically, Lily passed away 23 days after her birth despite efforts to save her.

This loss obviously had a devastating effect on Michelle and her family. Michelle needed an extended amount of time off work to deal with her grief and also found that bereavement counselling was beneficial.

Michelle contacted Thompsons Solicitors to investigate the negligence during Lily's birth. Thompsons Solicitors investigated the case with the assistance of a variety of highly skilled independent medical experts and achieved an admission of liability from the Hospital Trust involved. The Hospital Trust admitted that earlier intervention would have prevented Lily's death.

Once an admission of liability had been achieved, Thompsons Solicitors worked with Michelle to value her claim with the assistance of relevant independent medical experts and presented the evidence to the representatives of the hospital trust. This process involved an assessment by the expert of the effect that the loss of Lily had had on Michelle and the amount of medical assistance she had needed and would still need to help her cope with the loss of Lily. An award of £68,000 in compensation was achieved for Michelle in May 2010. Michelle commented after the case that she felt that she had achieved 'justice for Lily's death'.

5. Why choose Thompsons Solicitors to help you make a medical negligence compensation claim?

Thompsons Solicitors' specialist medical negligence lawyers have extensive proven knowledge and experience in dealing with a range of medical negligence compensation claims, including: infant mortality claims, birth injury claims, amputation claims; fatality claims; brain injury claims; head injury claims; spinal injury claims; surgical error claims; misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis claims; scaphoid fracture claims; prescription error claims; product liability claims and hospital complaints.

We are proud to provide a service which is committed to recognising the importance to families in investigating errors in care which have led to a fatality. We are also dedicated to the provision of a service that reflects a high level of empathy to help families through the complex legal process during what is recognised to be a very difficult time.

My solicitor was always excellent with the paperwork and dealt with telephone conversations with a great sense of empathy. She has helped, and made a great difference to how I get through each day.

Michelle Ashworth, Thompsons Solicitors' medical negligence client

Concerned about negligent medical treatment or diagnoses? Talk to us for advice and support today.

Our discrete and compassionate solicitors are experienced in the full range of medical injury claims, and will work with you to establish whether you have a claim for compensation.

If you, or a loved one, think you have suffered medical negligence in the last three years, contact us for advice.

If the incident happened more than three years ago, you will usually not be able to make a claim for compensation. However, exceptions do apply – such as instances where you could not have reasonably known your symptoms were caused by clinical negligence, or cases involves adults who lack legal capacity or children – so contact us for advice.

For further information, visit our How to Make A Compensation Claim page.