What legal support is available for grieving families who have experienced neonatal death?
Losing a child to neonatal death is a devastating and traumatic event for any family and learning that such a loss occurred due to someone else’s negligence can be devastating. We look at the legal support available for grieving families who have experienced neonatal death.
31 October 2023
The loss of a child to neonatal death is a heartbreaking and traumatic event for any family to go through. For parents and families, this suffering can be heightened if there is the possibility that medical negligence played a role.
It is understandable that families will want to know what caused such a tragedy, and only right that they are able to find the answers they seek. Here, we discuss the legal support available to families grieving the loss of a baby due to neonatal death, and the reasons families might consider making a claim for compensation.
What is neonatal death?
The term neonatal death is used to describe the passing of a newborn baby who was born living but dies within 28 days of birth. According to the Office for National Statistics, there are approximately three neonatal deaths in every 1,000 live births in England and Wales each year.
The cause of neonatal death can be varied, and several factors can contribute to the loss of a newborn baby within the first four weeks. For example, premature birth is a significant factor, and one of the more well-known risk factors. However, other issues could include:
- Genetic disorders
- Infections or viruses, in either the baby or the mother
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Complications during or after birth
- Medical negligence
Doctors, nurses, and midwives have a duty of care to those under their care. That includes the care and treatment provided during the recovery and health of both the mother and child before, during and after birth. When there are failures in the care and treatment provided to both the mother and child, the consequences can be devastating. Such mistakes can include:
- Failure to diagnose and treat infections, in either the baby or the mother
- A lack of monitoring and testing during the pregnancy, or after the birth
- Failure to refer to specialists, if needed
- Failing to respond quickly to signs of risk throughout the pregnancy and birth (such as expediting delivery, or identifying complications during birth)
Why should families consider making a neonatal death claim?
The death of a child is heartbreaking however it occurs, yet to lose a child to medical negligence – in circumstances that could have been avoided – is unthinkable. It is understandable that families would want answers, to seek justice, and to ensure that such circumstances cannot happen again.
Making a neonatal death compensation claim is likely to be the last thing on your mind. We know that no amount of money will ever change what has happened, and that there is no such thing as ‘compensating’ for the loss of a child.
However, many families who choose to make a neonatal death claim find that it can help them:
- Get a better understanding of what happened during the pregnancy, birth or aftercare that led to neonatal death, such as what mistakes were made and why they happened
- Receive a formal apology from those at fault and raise awareness of mistakes, making it more unlikely to happen again in the future
- Support their family in dealing with the loss by funding therapies such as counselling
What legal support is available for families after neonatal death?
Pursuing legal action following the loss of your child can be difficult, so it is important to understand what support you should expect to receive.
You should first make sure to seek out an experienced lawyer who specialises in medical negligence cases. Such lawyers will be able to explain the legal process involved in detail and will be aware of the challenges and complexities involved in cases such as these. They will also be able to provide you with the best possible advice and guidance to support you and your family throughout the process.
At Slater and Gordon, our team of have many years’ experience in handling neonatal death cases and do so with the utmost care and sensitivity. Our team also includes trained nurses and midwives, enabling us to quickly identify any mistakes that have been made and could have potentially contributed to, or caused, a neonatal death.
At the outset of your case, we will sit down with you, your partner and/or your family to discuss the circumstances surrounding the loss of your child, including any concerns you might have had about the treatment you received.
We will then look to access your medical records to carry out a detailed review of what has happened and identify any potential mistakes in the care you have received. This will form the basis of your legal case, along with any witness statements from yourself and your family.
Most medical negligence cases can be settled out of court, and we will work hard to ensure that your case is settled quickly and smoothly.
What are the first steps to making a neonatal death claim?
If you are concerned about the treatment you and your child received at any point throughout your pregnancy and labour or believe an error in your care may have led to neonatal death, it is only right that you are able to seek the answers you deserve. At Slater & Gordon, you can speak to a member of our expert medical negligence team for a free, during a no obligation consultation.
Our team has extensive experience in these matters and understands how difficult it can be to pursue legal action. They are here to help and support you with the greatest amount of care and sensitivity and will provide advice and guidance based on your individual circumstances.