Compensation for a birth injury or trauma?

I can't imagine the distress you must be feeling after a birth injury or trauma. It's so understandable you're considering suing the hospital, doctor, nurse or midwife.

Maybe you're hoping to...

  • hold others to account
  • ensure provision is made for the long-term care of your baby
  • get recompensed for loss of income
  • see justice done and perhaps get compensation from those you hold responsible for your loss and/or injury.

Medical professionals are well aware of the risks of delivering babies and (should) have taken reasonable precautions to deliver your baby as safely as possible.

Medical malpractice unfortunately happens though. Professionals are human beings too and therefore are as fallible as any of us.

However, if you feel that you’ve not received the care you expected, read on to find out about the often-missed challenges of claiming compensation.


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Am I qualified to talk about suing for birth injuries?

My concern is for your emotional and mental well-being, as well as that of your partner or spouse and your family. So, I am offering this advice as psychological support, based on my 24 years’ experience of couple counselling.

I am not qualified to comment on the whys and wherefores of claiming compensation. 

In no way would I want you to think that I am either encouraging or discouraging you from suing.

If right now you just don't have the energy, patience or concentration to read, then I strongly recommend you try hypnosis to help you cope. You can order the hypnosis download, Postnatal Depression Recovery, via my page Hypnosis Online FAQ - and come back here tomorrow.  I'll still be here for you.

Who has suffered a trauma - you, your partner or all three of you?

If your baby has been hurt or has died, you, your partner and your family will be suffering.

If you've been injured then your baby, your partner and your family will be affected too.

To learn more about trauma, hop over to my page on Dealing with a Birth Trauma. From there you can also visit my other pages on post-traumatic stress to help you get a wider perspective.

I will be here when you come back.

Will suing help to heal the wounds?

A successful outcome will of course help a little.

A financial award is a great outcome if it covers the costs of your and/or your baby's treatment and/or long-term care. It can also compensate you for any loss of income.

Of course you may also get satisfaction from the feeling that justice has been done, particularly if that was your primary motivation.

Perhaps you're also hoping that it will help to heal the wounds so that, once it’s all behind you, you’ll be able to get on with the rest of your life. You may - or you may not - be able to do this. It depends very much on how you deal with the trauma and the whole legal minefield.

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The emotional cost of claiming compensation

Claiming compensation for a birth injury or trauma may help you to feel a little better. It will help you to gain a bit more control by 'doing something'. If your claim is successful, it will be helpful to you when you walk out of court knowing that justice has been done. Very importantly for some, it may mean the funds to obtain specialist care. But there are a few things to consider first...

Is it going to cure your trauma?
I’m afraid not.

Is it going to change things for you at home?
- Possibly - depending on your needs and the compensation awarded.

To what extent will this satisfy you?
- This depends on many factors.

Other things you should consider

The legal process is likely to add another layer of stress and difficulty to your life. It will to some extent complicate your situation now - while you’re already feeling fragile - and potentially over the next few years.

Therefore, you and your partner may want to prepare yourselves to deal with the following:

11 Problems which suing could exacerbate

  1. If your baby has been injured, you’ll be dealing with the ‘loss’ of a healthy baby. It takes time to learn to cope with the complications a special needs baby brings. It also takes a huge amount of emotional energy.

  2. If your baby has died, you’ll be grieving and dealing with the loss of your child.

  3. If you had a traumatic delivery or had complications during birth, you’ll naturally be affected by this. It is absolutely normal to suffer emotional turmoil over what should have been, but wasn't.

  4. The rest of the family will still need your attention - perhaps even more so now. If you already have children, they’re likely to realise that all is not well and they may need extra reassurance. Your extended family and your friends will be affected by all that has happened and somehow you’ll need to find the strength to deal with that too.

  5. The stress of the legal process may hamper your and/or your partner's recovery from post-traumatic stress or any other post-postpartum symptoms.

  6. The legal process will make demands on (both of) your time, energy, finances and emotional resilience. The process is likely to be a lengthy one (at least in the UK – I’m not sure what it would be like in the States or anywhere else), possibly with many twists and turns. Feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment and helplessness are not uncommon.
     
  7. Looking after a new-born - with or without special needs - is going to take a lot of energy, particularly if you have other children.

  8. If you are a step-parent there may be additional demands too, particularly if this is the first baby in the new relationship. Individual family members will all need to adjust to the new family structure. There may also be some jostling for position, jealousies and difficult behaviours - as well as the excitement.

  9. Very importantly - the whole legal process will also have an impact on your relationship. Not necessarily a bad one of course, but it rather depends on you and your partner.

  10. Your distress and your partner’s will have an impact on your other children - present and perhaps future. This need not be a negative impact if it doesn’t last and you’re able to help your children cope. Younger children will have no concept of what’s going on for you, so they won't give you any leeway.
  11. If you suffer from post-natal depression, the legal process could potentially prolong this distressing condition. (See How to Do Self-Hypnosis)

Your relationship and suing for a birth injury or trauma

The whole legal process itself can put an additional strain on your relationship or marriage.

Before you start the process do be sure to discuss in detail what both of your expectations are.

  • Do you both agree on your reasons for claiming compensation?  
  • What are you hoping a positive outcome will bring you?  
  • How do you anticipate you’ll deal with a negative outcome?  
  • Have you talked about what the length of the process might mean for you?  
  • Have you discussed any financial implications?

There's a danger that at any one stage it can all begin to feel too much for either one of you. One of you may want to give up on the process, regardless of what you agreed on at the start.  

How supportive will you or your partner be if that were to happen…especially after you’ve invested so much in terms of money, time and emotional energy?

Healing after the trauma

When you have gone through something so traumatic your brain, mind and body need time to heal. That healing is a process as much as the legal process of claiming for a birth injury is.  It too has various stages.  You (both) need to be shielded from additional stresses as much as possible.  "Some chance" you might say - you are dealing with 'life'!

For your trauma to have a chance to heal properly you’d ideally want to avoid going over the 'facts' more that you would normally to come to terms with it.  However, the legal process may interfere with the natural healing.

Looking for a birth injury lawyer?

I hope that you now have sufficient information about how suing might affect you, your partner and your other children. This should help you to plan ahead and muster all of your strength and resources.

I hope it might also help you to have a really useful conversation with your birth injury lawyer or solicitor. I've written a page with tips on Finding a (Birth Injury) Lawyer.

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Elly Prior

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