Claim for Shoulder Dystocia at Birth

My brother told me I can make a claim for shoulder dystocia at birth as the hospital has insurance to cover birth injuries. Is this correct?

Your brother is correct in saying that a claim for shoulder dystocia at birth can be made against a hospital – but it is the State Claims Agency, rather than a commercial insurance company who would cover compensation payments to patients who are injured due to negligence a member of the hospital staff.

If your baby has suffered an injury due to shoulder dystocia at birth – such as brain damage or Erb’s Palsy – it may be possible to recover compensation. Shoulder dystocia claims can only be made when this medical condition resulted in an injury being sustained to either the mother or baby; provided that the injury was avoidable and could have been prevented had the appropriate procedures been followed by the delivery room staff.

It is impossible to say without further information on this condition was managed at the hospital whether a claim for shoulder dystocia at birth can be made against the hospital. To establish your eligibility to make shoulder dystocia claims you will need to discuss your case with a medical negligence solicitor, and we recommend seeking legal advice as soon as possible.

Before the right to make a claim can be confirmed the facts of the case must be established. A solicitor will need to investigate the case to determine whether the actions – or inaction – of the delivery room staff resulted in an avoidable injury being sustained by you or your baby. Until the exact cause of the injury has been established it is not possible to confirm whether compensation for shoulder dystocia can be recovered.

The reason for this is that shoulder dystocia cannot be predicted, therefore medical professionals cannot be held responsible when the shoulder of a baby becomes trapped in the mother’s pelvis. There is no known way of preventing this complication of childbirth, although it is possible – in the majority of cases – to avoid an injury being sustained by the baby if the condition is rapidly identified and prompt action is taken to dislodge the impacted shoulder.

The procedures for dealing with shoulder dystocia are termed the HELPERR protocol, which should be employed promptly by a midwife or obstetrician as soon as this condition is suspected. If the birth process is being carefully monitored it should be possible for the signs of this condition to be rapidly identified and the HELPERR protocol employed to ensure that the mother and baby do not come to any harm. Obstetricians will be aware of the signs of this condition, and the midwife should also be trained to recognise it when it occurs.

A claim for a birth injury due to shoulder dystocia will be possible for a failure to identify the signs of this medical condition in a timely manner, when incorrect techniques were used to manipulate the baby or if excessive force was used to free the trapped shoulder, provided that the action or inaction was primarily responsible for the injury being sustained to the baby.

A solicitor will conduct an investigation of the claim for shoulder dystocia at birth to determine if the injury to your baby was caused by negligence of the delivery room staff, and if a claim for compensation for shoulder dystocia is possible you will be advised of the procedures which must be followed in order to take legal action.

After the injury to your baby has been fully diagnosed and an accurate prognosis obtained, your solicitor will calculate how much compensation for a birth injury due to shoulder dystocia can be recovered and the Health Service Executive will be contacted and invited to settle the case.