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Perineal & Vaginal Tear Compensation Claims

Perineal and vaginal tears can have a profound impact on a sufferer’s quality of life. In addition to the physical pain they cause, the injuries can lead to urine, stool and gas incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and long-lasting intimacy issues. If you have suffered a perineal or vaginal tear through someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to make a perineal & vaginal tear compensation claim.

You can get in touch with a trained medical solicitor for free on 0800 234 6438. They’ll be able to answer any questions you may have and can let you know whether they think you’re eligible to make a perineal & vaginal tear compensation claim.

What is a perineal tear?

The term ‘perineal’ refers to anything that affects the perineum, which is the area between the vagina and the anus. A perineal tear is an injury to the skin and muscle in that region. You might hear a perineal tear referred to as a vaginal tear.

What are the common causes of perineal or vaginal tears?

Perineal and vaginal tears can happen for several reasons, including sexual activity and hair removal. However, the vast majority of these injuries occur during childbirth. Statistics show that as many as nine out of every ten first-time mothers will experience a perineal tear of some sort while giving birth, usually because their vagina cannot stretch far enough to accommodate the baby’s head.

What are the four degrees of perineal tear injuries?

Doctors grade perineal tears according to their severity. There are four degrees of tear, from the first degree to the fourth degree.

First-degree tears

First-degree tears are the least severe category of perineal tear injury. They are skin deep, usually heal themselves without treatment, and hardly ever lead to long-term physical issues. They can, however, cause significant discomfort to the sufferer, particularly when going to the toilet.  If you experience a first-degree perineal tear, you can expect it to heal within a few weeks.

Second-degree tears

Second-degree tears are deeper than first-degree ones and involve the muscle in the perineal area as well as the skin. Second-degree perineal tears are the most common type of tear to occur during childbirth. They typically require stitches, which are usually given in the delivery room immediately after the birth using local anaesthetic. If you experience a second-degree perineal tear, you can expect it to heal within a few weeks, when you may feel sore.

Third-degree tears

Third-degree tears are those that extend into the anus muscles. They are far less common than first and second-degree tears, affecting around six in every one hundred first-time mothers. This type of tear usually needs to be repaired in an operating theatre setting, generally following an epidural or spinal anaesthetic. If you experience a third-degree tear, you can expect to heal physically within a few months, and you may be immobile for some of your recovery period.

Fourth-degree tears

Fourth-degree tears are the most severe but the least common type of perineal tear. They extend into the sufferer’s anal canal and need to be repaired in an operating theatre. As with third-degree tears, you can expect to heal physically within a few months but may be in considerable pain during that time, for which you will be prescribed pain relief.

How common are perineal tears in childbirth?

Perineal tears are extremely common during childbirth, with 90% of first-time mothers experiencing a tear of some severity. Several specific risk factors can increase the likelihood of tearing during childbirth, including the following:

  • It is your first vaginal birth.
  • Your baby is large.
  • The second stage of your labour is particularly long.
  • Your baby is breech.
  • Your labour is very speedy.
  • You require a ventouse or forceps delivery.

Are perineal tears preventable?

It’s very difficult to prevent perineal tears entirely during childbirth, but research has shown that methods such as perineal massage and warm compresses can help reduce the severity of any tear that does occur. However, sometimes, a tear may be caused or worsened by the actions of the mother’s medical team. In these cases, you may be entitled to compensation.

Find out more about making a Birth Injury Compensation Claims.

What impact can perineal and vaginal tears have on sufferers?

Many women who suffer a perineal and vaginal tear will heal fully and have no long-lasting complications. However, for some, the impact of their injury can be severe, with sufferers frequently reporting the following issues:

  • Prolonged perennial pain.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Urinary, faecal and gas incontinence.
  • Intimacy issues.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.

If your perineal and vaginal tear has caused these or other issues and was a result of negligence, you may be eligible to make a perineal & vaginal tear compensation claim.

What counts as medical negligence concerning perineal tear injuries?

Given the prevalence of perineal tears during childbirth, it’s unsurprising that not all injuries of this nature result from medical negligence. However, some do, and your medical negligence solicitor will advise whether the circumstances of your tear are such that you are entitled to compensation.

Examples of situations in which a medical practitioner’s actions might be deemed negligent in the context of perineal tear injuries include the following:

  • Failing to appreciate risk factors for a perennial tear, such as the mother having suffered a tear during a previous delivery.
  • Failing to take steps to minimise the risk or severity of a perennial tear, such as recommending a caesarean section where appropriate.
  • Delaying a tear diagnosis.
  • Failing to repair the tear properly.
  • Failing to recognise that a woman has experienced a tear and not treating her accordingly.
  • Failing to give adequate aftercare. For example, if a woman has sustained a third or fourth-degree tear, she should be given antibiotics and checked after six weeks by an obstetrician.
  • Falling to spot any unusual symptoms, such as those indicating an infection.

Can I make a perineal tear compensation claim?

You can make a perineal tear compensation claim if your tear was caused by someone else’s negligence. To succeed in establishing negligence in the context of the medical profession, you need to satisfy the following three criteria:

  • The medic owed you a duty of care. Those caring for you before, during, and after childbirth owe you a duty of care.
  • The practitioner breached their duty. This leg of the test requires that the practitioner’s actions did not reach the standard expected of responsible practitioners in their field. Essentially, if other medics would have acted in the same way, the practitioner is unlikely to have breached their duty.
  • You suffered harm as a result of the practitioner’s actions. This means that if your tear would have occurred anyway, you cannot make a claim.

Your medical negligence solicitor will review the facts of your case and advise on its merits.

Can I claim compensation from the NHS for a perineal tear?

Overall, the NHS is a robust institution that provides high-quality healthcare to all. However, sometimes, things go wrong. If you have received negligent treatment from an NHS worker that caused a perineal tear or made one worse, you can sue the NHS. The compensation you receive will fund your ongoing rehabilitation and allow you to take some much-needed time out to concentrate on your recovery.

Can I sue a private hospital for perineal tear negligence?

Medical professionals working in private hospitals owe their patients the same duty of care as those working for the NHS. So, if their negligence caused you to sustain a perineal tear or made a tear worse, you are entitled to compensation.

How much compensation could I get for perineal tear negligence?

Damages (the legal term for compensation) in perineal tear claims are divided into two types: special and general.

Special damages

Special damages compensate you for the financial losses you have sustained as a result of your perineal tear. For example, if your tear has rendered you unable to work, your special damages award will include a sum for loss of earnings.

General damages

General damages are intended to compensate you for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenity caused by your tear. The level of general damages you will receive depends on several factors, including the nature of the negligence, the extent of your tear, and its impact on your daily life. Crucially, you can claim general damages for mental as well as physical suffering. This can be an important aspect of perineal tear compensation claims since many women find they suffer from ongoing anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder following a perineal trauma, particularly if it is severe.

Your medical negligence solicitor will be able to advise you on the level of compensation likely to be awarded in your case.

How long do I have to start my perineal tear compensation claim?

You must start your perennial tear compensation claim within three years of sustaining the tear. If you weren’t immediately aware that your tear was caused by negligence, you have three years from the date of realisation to start your claim. These time limits are absolute; if you miss them, your claim will be barred, regardless of the facts. Therefore, speaking to a medical negligence solicitor is vital as soon as you become aware of a possible claim.

How long do perineal tear negligence claims take?

Whilst all perineal tear negligence claims follow a similar process, the length of time it takes to conclude an individual case depends on the circumstances. If the other side admits responsibility, your claim will likely take far less time than if they defend the allegations. Sufferers are often relieved to learn that very few medical negligence claims reach trial. Most are settled during the litigation process, with many settling before a claim is even issued.

How do I begin a perineal or vaginal tear negligence claim?

The first step in making a perineal or vaginal tear negligence claim is to choose a medical negligence solicitor to represent you and to contact them with brief details of your claim. Your solicitor will review the facts of your case and advise on the likelihood of your claim succeeding. If you decide to proceed, your medical negligence solicitor will guide and support you through the process, working tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve.

Can I make a no-win no-fee perineal tear claim?

Many medical negligence solicitors act for their clients on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis. Under no-win no-fee arrangements, you only pay your solicitor’s fees if your claim succeeds. This means that there is no financial risk to you in bringing a perineal or vaginal tear negligence claim. If you win your case, you will pay your solicitor the amount detailed in your no-win, no-fee agreement, which your solicitor will go through with you before you sign. Don’t worry; the amount you will have to pay can’t be more than 25% of your compensation, so there is no danger of your legal fees swallowing up your damages.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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