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Meconium can be a warning sign that an unborn baby is not coping with the stress of labour. If aspirated (breathed in), meconium can also be a danger to the baby’s life and health.
Midwives and obstetricians must recognise and react quickly to signs, such as meconium, that the unborn baby is not getting enough oxygen during labour. The neonatal team must act quickly to clear the baby’s airway of meconium and restore the baby’s oxygen supply at birth. Where the baby suffers a brain injury because their delivery or resuscitation are negligently delayed, the child may be entitled to compensation.
Our cerebral palsy and neonatal brain injury lawyers recover compensation for children whose brain injury and disability were caused by mistakes or delays in maternity treatment or neonatal resuscitation.
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Meconium is the medical name that is given to a newborn baby’s first faeces (poo).
Meconium is dark green, thick and sticky and contains the material that the fetus ingested in its mother’s womb. Once the baby starts feeding on colostrum and milk, its faeces become more yellow in colour.
It is normal for a baby to pass dark green, sticky meconium in the hours immediately after birth. It is also common for the amniotic fluid, which drains from the mother in labour after her waters break, to be discoloured or ‘stained’ with meconium.
During labour and delivery, if the amniotic fluid contains meconium this can also indicate ‘fetal distress’. When a fetus (unborn baby) is not getting enough oxygen their intestinal activity increases. This relaxes the anal sphincter allowing meconium to pass into the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby. If the baby aspirates (inhales) meconium into its lungs, such as by gasping for oxygen, its airway can become blocked by sticky or lumpy meconium.
If dark green or black, thick or lumpy meconium drains from the mother after her membranes are ruptured (waters broken) this should warn the midwives that the unborn baby might be suffering from distress. This means that the labour and delivery must be monitored and managed carefully to avoid injury to the baby.
In these circumstances, correct care should include:
Preparations should also be made for the birth of a baby who might have aspirated meconium, to avoid delay in restoring the baby’s oxygen supply. These preparations usually include warning the neonatal unit paediatricians (doctors who specialise in newborn babies) that a baby with possible meconium aspiration is about to be born. This allows the paediatricians to attend the delivery, fully equipped and ready if needed to clear the baby’s airway and lungs, and provide resuscitation or ventilation.
Delayed delivery of a baby who is suffering from hypoxia or lack of oxygen can cause permanent injury to their brain. Meconium is one of many warning signs which should alert midwives to the possibility that lack of oxygen is causing fetal distress.
Acute hypoxia – a short but profound period of oxygen starvation – can permanently damage a baby’s brain in a matter of minutes. Delayed action to clear meconium from the baby’s airway (to allow them to breathe) or provide resuscitation immediately after birth can extend the length of time that the baby is without oxygen. In some cases, this additional delay in restoring the baby’s oxygen supply after birth can turn a reversible episode of hypoxia into irreversible brain damage and permanent disability, or death.
A baby who is suffering from respiratory distress as a result of meconium aspiration may show the following signs:
Severe meconium aspiration, such as after delays or failure to clear the airway and resuscitate at birth, can lead to permanent disability from:
The amount of compensation that can be claimed in a medical negligence claim for a hypoxic brain injury depends on the individual’s injury, its impact on their life and the cost of meeting the additional needs, losses and expenses that are caused by their disability.
Claims arising from HIE brain injury, such as cerebral palsy, may include compensation for:
Multi-million dollar settlement for a boy who suffered a hypoxic brain injury and cerebral palsy as a result of negligent delays in his delivery. He was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, having inhaled grade III meconium. He needed resuscitation and ventilation. His compensation settlement reflected the cost of meeting his extensive needs in the country where he now lives.
£4.6 million plus lifelong payments of up to £360,000pa for a child who suffered a hypoxic brain injury and devastating disability as a result of mistakes in her mother’s maternity care. Signs of fetal distress, including a suspicious CTG trace and meconium, were ignored and fetal heart monitoring discontinued. There were negligent delays in delivery, resuscitation and ventilation.
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Medical negligence is when a medical professional, such as a doctor, midwife, or nurse, or other healthcare practitioner is negligent if they act in a way that falls below any acceptable standard of care.
If someone is injured as a result of medical negligence, they are entitled to compensation for any injury that was caused and for the financial consequences of that injury.
Medical negligence claims that involve severe injury and disability should always be handled by specialist medical negligence solicitors. It takes experience and skill to successfully prove that medical negligence has caused a patient’s injuries, and to secure the highest levels of compensation.
Anyone who has suffered serious injury or disability as a result of negligent NHS or private medical care can make a medical negligence claim for compensation. Special rules apply to children, adults with mental incapacity, and claims arising from a fatal injury/someone’s death.
Children and teenagers under the age of 18, or anyone with mental incapacity, must make their claim via a ‘litigation friend’. This is usually a parent or guardian in the case of a child, or a partner or other adult family member in the case of an adult with mental incapacity. The solicitor handling the claim takes instructions and works closely with the litigation friend whilst ensuring that decisions are made in the best interests of the child or mentally incapable adult who is making the claim. You can find out more about making a claim for a child.
Some important decisions, such as agreements to settle a child or mentally incapable adult’s claim, must be approved by the court. Arrangements must also be made to safeguard the child or mentally incapable adult’s compensation, whether from an interim payment, lump sum settlement or agreed future payments. Depending on the claimant’s circumstances, this may be done by paying the money into a Court Funds Office account until the child is 18, by appointing a Court of Protection deputy or setting up a personal injury trust. You can find out more about Court of Protection deputyship and personal injury trusts.
If the claim is for bereaved family members and dependants after medical negligence caused someone’s death, the claim must be made by the deceased’s personal representative (executor or administrator of their estate) on behalf of all who are entitled to compensation as a result of the death. You can find out more about making a fatal injury medical negligence claim here.
The NHS has a responsibility to provide its patients with a safe and acceptable level of care. If a patient is seriously injured or their condition is made significantly worse as a result of negligent NHS care, the patient may be entitled to claim compensation.
Compensation can help meet the costs of care, therapies, equipment and home adaptations that are needed when an NHS mistake causes injury or disability that permanently affects the patient’s life.
We are experts at helping clients receive the compensation they deserve from the NHS. We understand the concerns that patients and their families sometimes have about claiming against the NHS. You can read our answers to many of the most common questions on our NHS claims page or speak to one of our solicitors about your own claim by contacting us.
Whilst we cannot guarantee that any particular claim will settle out of court, we take great care in investigating and preparing each claim that we take on. Our clients’ claims usually settle successfully without the need for a contested trial.
Occasionally, cases can only be concluded by a formal court hearing, such as where:
Where our client’s claim is complicated by any of the above, we may advise our client that for the case to proceed, it must go to a court hearing. Our caring and highly experienced medical negligence solicitors and barristers ensure that our clients are always kept informed and supported.
Even in non-contested cases, there will be occasions when the case is brought for shorter hearings before the court, such as after a settlement for a child or brain injured adult without mental capacity takes place. In these cases, the lawyers for both sides present the agreed settlement to the court for the judge’s approval.
Each claimant’s compensation is calculated in accordance with mandatory rules based on their individual circumstances.
Compensation for medical negligence should put the injured person back in the position that they would have been in if the negligence hadn’t happened, in so far as money can.
In a medical negligence claim, the amount of compensation depends on:
Compensation for medical negligence usually includes a sum for the injury, and sums to compensate for financial losses and the cost of meeting the needs that arise from the disability.
Our medical negligence solicitors ensure clients receive their compensation in the way that is best suited to meet their needs.
Depending on our clients’ injuries, individual circumstances and needs, we can recover compensation to pay for:
Where medical negligence caused someone’s death, compensation may be claimed by the deceased’s dependants and on behalf of the deceased’s estate. Compensation in a fatal injury medical negligence claim can be paid for:
There are three ways to fund a medical negligence claim, legal aid, no win no fee, and legal expense insurance.
A medical examination is usually needed to assess our client’s injury. Where our client has suffered multiple injuries or both physical and psychological injuries, they may need to be examined by specialists in each area. This is important to make sure that our client’s injuries are fully assessed and understood, so that they can be properly compensated.
If a medical examination is needed, we instruct the specialist and make the arrangements. We ensure that they have access to our client’s medical records and are aware of the background to the claim. The hospital or doctor against whom the claim is being made may also ask for our client to be examined by their medical expert.
The law states that, in most cases, someone who has been injured as a result of medical negligence has three years from the date of the negligence which caused the injury to issue court proceedings. If they fail to issue court proceedings within that time, their claim will be statute barred, meaning that they lose their right to bring a claim.
There are the following exceptions to the three-year rule:
Regardless of your time limit, we recommend that you contact our medical negligence solicitors as soon as you can, even if at that stage you are only considering whether to make a claim.
By contacting us early, it avoids later problems with deadlines and allows us to advise you on how to collect and preserve essential evidence. This enables us to ensure you have the best chance of securing your entitlement to full compensation for your claim.
If a baby, child, or teenager under the age of 18 makes a claim for compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence, their claim is made on their behalf by a ‘litigation friend’. This is usually a parent or guardian.
As the child’s solicitor, we have a responsibility to make sure that all decisions relating to the claim are made in the best interests of the child. To do this, we work very closely with the child’s family. Some important decisions, such as settlement agreements or the amount of money that is allocated to a child in a claim involving more than one claimant, must be approved by the court.
We are specialists in helping families obtain full compensation for children who have been very severely injured, leaving them with permanent disability and lifelong specialist needs. Our expert children’s claims service includes a dedicated Court of Protection team who help our clients protect, budget and access their compensation via deputyship and trusts, and an SEN team to ensure that their special educational needs are met. Find out more about how we help families, children, and teenagers with children’s claims.
If you think that you or a family member have received negligent medical treatment or have experienced malpractice, we recommend that you speak to one of our friendly, experienced clinical negligence claim solicitors as soon as possible.
You can contact us by telephone or by email. Your enquiry will be handled confidentially and preliminary advice in relation to pursuing a claim will be given free of charge.
Our medical negligence solicitors will ask you to tell us briefly what has happened, advise you about the limitation deadlines (time limits) which apply to your claim and whether we are able to help you investigate your claim.
Once our initial investigations have taken place, we will notify the defendant (hospital or doctor) of your intention to pursue a claim and invite them to respond, giving them an opportunity to admit liability, before court proceedings are issued.
If liability is admitted, we will enter judgment and apply for an interim payment as soon as possible to meet any urgent needs that you may have as a result of the negligently caused injury.
If liability is disputed, we will discuss with you the further steps that we need to take to progress your claim.
Our extensive guide on making a medical negligence claim explains the whole process, if you require any further information.
The duration of a medical negligence claim depends on the individual circumstances of the client’s case. The claim is likely to take less time to conclude where:
Circumstances which make the claim more complex and therefore take longer to resolve include:
Our medical negligence solicitors work hard to secure early admissions of liability and substantial interim payments so that we can begin to alleviate financial hardship and provide essential care, respite, specialist equipment, therapies and home adaptations long before the claim has settled. With liability judgments secured and interim funds in place, the individual and their family are able to focus on rebuilding their lives whilst we concentrate on valuing and negotiating settlement of the claim.
Compensation is carefully structured to ensure the best provision for the injured person’s needs. Our clients often benefit from different types of compensation, including:
Where healthcare is found to be (legally) negligent, then the claimant (the person making the claim) must prove that their injury was caused or significantly worsened by the negligent care.
This is important because the patient may already be very ill when they receive negligent medical care. In those circumstances, they must prove that their injury (and its financial consequences) would have been avoided or greatly reduced if correct treatment had been given. This aspect of the medical negligence claim is known as ‘causation’. Causation must be proven, even if negligence is admitted, for the claim to succeed and compensation to be awarded.
Negligence and causation must be proven by supportive opinions from medical experts. We instruct experts in the same field of medicine as the negligent care to tell us whether the care that was given was of a reasonable standard. If negligence is proven, we ask medical specialists in the type of injury suffered, to confirm whether our client’s injury was caused or made worse by the negligent treatment, or would have been reduced or avoided with correct care.
In a medical negligence claim, compensation will only be paid for injuries and loss that we can prove were caused by the healthcare provider’s negligence. Once we know what mistakes were made, the next step (causation) is to identify the extent of the injury or disability that was caused by those mistakes.
Proving causation in complex medical negligence cases requires both medical expertise and understanding of the law. We often succeed in claims where NHS Resolution (the NHS’ defence organisation) has denied ‘causation’. You can read more about how we overcome difficulties with causation in complex birth injury cases.
Our medical negligence and personal injury teams have been nationally recognised for over 20 years because of their expertise, empathy and commitment to securing maximum compensation for our clients.
Fran has been an amazing support through a very difficult time for me and my family. Always available to speak and kept me in the loop with anything happening, she has been so kind, and I thank her so much for helping and getting my mum the justice she deserved.
What has to be some of the most testing horrible times was dealt with in a dignified, honest, approachable and truly empathetic manner. I could not begin to do Susan justice for her handling of our case.
I approached Boyes Turner after my claim was turned down by one of the Medical Negligence Claim company. My wife was a victim of medical negligence.
Boyes Turner have acted so efficiently on our behalf and was able to win our case. Anytime we contact them, their customer service was very good as they kept us fully informed of every level our case has developed. They are very friendly and approachable and great in their professional advise. I would strongly recommend anyone approach them for their legal and medical negligence services.
Thoroughly professional, knowledgable and approachable with communication and updates as and when needed, in what can be a drawn out process, I was always comfortable asking questions and always received answers which were clear and understandable. Highly recommend
I came to Boyes Turner desperate after searching the web for a firm to use for my sons case. He was only a few months so my mind was all over the place, but from the very first point of contact I felt a sense of relieve and belonging. I was welcomed and looked after by amazing staff who always communicated everything so well and went the extra mile to explain things and ensure I understood what was happening every step of the way (THANK YOU SUSAN BROWN). Susan was amazing I felt like I not only had a solicitor but someone who understood my emotions as a mother and always handled me with so much compassion and that was all I needed to keep me going for the 6 years of the case. Years went by in a breeze because of how professional Boyes Turner was. I am so greatful I went through it all with them and mananged to get my son a good compensation. We look forward our new life where my sons needs are priority after struggling for so long. Thank you Boyes Turner and thank you Susan Brown. My family and I are ever indebted.