Birth injury claims in South Africa

15 Jul 2020

Birth injury claims can result in compensation for past and future medical expenses, as well as general pain and suffering.

What are birth injuries?

A birth injury is any type of injury to a baby that results from trauma during the birth process.

Not all birth injuries are the result of medical malpractice or negligence.

However, far too many birth-related injuries in South Africa are caused by improper, or inadequate, medical intervention.

When do birth injuries involve malpractice?

Any failure to follow accepted standards of treatment and care may constitute medical malpractice.

Examples include failure to:

  • monitor the mother and baby for distress
  • perform an emergency Caesarian section when indicated
  • administer anaesthetic correctly
  • diagnose medical issues or properly take these into account
  •  treat medical conditions

Use of inappropriate delivery methods, including excessive use of force, can also constitute medical malpractice.

If medical malpractice or negligence is the direct cause of harm to a baby, a claim for compensation can be pursued.

How to make a birth injury claim

A medical malpractice claim can be made against an individual doctor, a private hospital or – in the case of birth at a state hospital – the state.

It’s important to start by contacting a suitably experienced attorney. Medical malpractice cases are complex. You’ll require expert legal advice and representation.

It’s best to do this as soon as possible. Malpractice claims are subject to various time limits (also called prescription periods).

For example, claims involving malpractice at state hospitals are – like other claims against the state – subject to special requirements. These include giving notice of the intended action within six months of the incident.

Documents to support a medical malpractice claim

To support a birth injury claim, it’s useful to:

  • keep all medical records associated with the birth
  • keep all medical bills and invoices
  • record the names and contact details of relevant medical staff and other potential witnesses
  • to the best of your ability, record exactly what you were told and what occurred.

Common types of birth injuries in South Africa

According to the Perinatal Problem Identification Program, oxygen deprivation is a leading cause of deaths and birth injuries among full-term babies.

Oxygen deprivation can lead to permanent brain damage. For example, it’s a common cause of cerebral palsy in babies.

This can occur because the birth process takes too long, the uterus is overstimulated or the baby’s fetal distress isn’t detected in time.

Other common types of birth injuries include fractures; Erb’s Palsy/Brachial Plexus Palsy; facial paralysis; spinal injury; and hemorrhages.

All of these birth injury types can have natural causes.

However, if a birth injury results directly from negligence on the part of a doctor or other medical staff, you can claim compensation.

What we offer at DSC Attorneys

At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims and our medico-legal team has extensive experience in handling birth injury claims.

We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no win, no fee basis.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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