Steps for navigating a stillbirth or neonatal death case
If you have questions or concerns about how your baby died and whether the stillbirth or neonatal death could have been avoided, then we are here to help.
We are experts at investigating stillbirth and neonatal death cases. Here is some more information about what a case would involve:
Get in touch
The first step is to make contact with our team. All new enquiries are dealt with directly by our legal team (not by call centres) and therefore you will be speaking to someone with the right expertise from the start. We understand how traumatic your loss has been and how hard it may be to talk about it. We pride ourselves in being able to support people experiencing the aftermath of the loss of their baby and we understand that this is an incredibly emotional time for all involved. Sometimes we speak to members of the wider family first, or friends, if it is too raw and difficult for the parents to provide details directly. Either way, we are here to have a no obligation discussion. We will listen and provide you with more detail about what a clinical negligence investigation would involve if you proceed. This is a no obligation free call with a sympathetic solicitor.
We understand that it is often too raw to get in contact with a solicitor immediately after the death of your baby. Therefore we encourage people to take their time and to focus on their own wellbeing at this, the most difficult of times.
The time limits for bringing a case to Court (if that is where the case ended up) is the same as for any other clinical negligence claim for compensation – there is usually a three-year deadline and after this point, the case is statute-barred and can no longer be proceed. A three-year time limit runs from the date of the stillbirth or neonatal death. The only thing to bear in mind with this deadline is that this is the endpoint and not the beginning of the case. There is considerable work to do prior to that. It would therefore be difficult for you to find a solicitor to take on your case if the three-year time limit was approaching soon. We usually recommend therefore to get in touch in the first year if possible and if you feel able to do so. This gives you time to investigate your case without a looming deadline.
There are some exceptions to the limitation deadline. If you are unsure at all about the deadline in your particular circumstances, please do not hesitate but to get in touch and we can advise you.
For some people, it may be more appropriate for them to undertake the complaints process first with the hospital or community team who were responsible for their care. It may be best to get in touch with us at an early stage so we can discuss future options, and timescales. We can let you know whether this is the best route for you to go down, rather than a full legal case.
It may also become urgent to contact a solicitor is if there is any involvement from the Coroner, where there is an Inquest into the death of your baby, which can take place now even if they are stillborn. We represent families at Inquests in the Coroners Courts. We would need to be involved as soon as possible. Sometimes families contact us after the Inquest has been completed, if they have represented themselves through that process and if the Coroner identified concerns in the standard of care.
What the Claim for Stillbirth/ Neonatal Death Involves
Once we have had an initial free discussion, we will advise you in detail about whether you should pursue a case and what would be involved. In summary, your case will be funded either by insurance and / or a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement (conditional fee agreement). We will undertake an investigation outside of court. This involves obtaining all of the medical records including gaining access to any internal investigations that may have taken place at the NHS Trust responsible for your care. We will take a witness statement from you. This stage may also involve representing you at an inquest. We will review the records with you and let you know whether to proceed.
The main advantage of pursuing an investigation in clinical negligence is to gain answers – we are aware that this is the main thing that families want when they come to us. They often feel let down by health services and do not feel that they have been given the answers they need as to why the death occurred. Parents want answers so they can be confident in continuing their family plans without worrying that the same thing will happen again. Families often come to us with lots of questions and we recognise that achieving those answers is the main benefit of investigating the case.
We then work with leading experts in obstetrics, midwifery and neonatology (baby doctors) in order obtain an independent opinion. The expert(s) will provide a report commenting on the standard of care afforded to you and whether it was negligent. The reports will also tell us why the death occurred and importantly, whether it should have been avoided. Obtaining this report is often the most important and valuable thing that you can gain from the case.
Compensation for Stillbirth/ Neonatal Death
If the expert reports identify that your baby should have survived, then the way in which the law acknowledges your loss and holds accountable those responsible, is by the payment of financial compensation. We recognise that these cases are never about money and that no amount of compensation can ever bring back what you have lost. What we find is that compensation acts as a way of recognising that this should not have happened. It can also provide vital rehabilitation such as access to private psychological therapy, if needed, or potentially even physical treatments including fertility or gynaecology care on a private basis if those things have been lost as a result of negligence in your case. There are also now claims being brought, where appropriate, for the cost of future surrogacy.
You may have also incurred the cost of purchasing items for the baby which can be included in the claim. There may also be a claim for funeral expenses. The psychological impact may also affect other areas of your life and we recognise that this can include you now requiring care and assistance, or taking time out of work – you would be entitled to be compensated for those financial losses. This can be a welcome reassurance for people who are trying to rebuild their lives after the loss of their baby. Every case is unique and we treat them in that way.
How do you get in touch?
You can contact our clinical negligence team who will be happy to assist on 0800 316 8892 or contact us online.