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Stillbirth Compensation Claims

Experiencing a stillbirth is a devastating tragedy for everyone involved. The profound psychological harm can be worsened if it transpires that your baby may have lived were it not for the negligence of a medical professional.

If you have suffered a stillbirth, you may be entitled to make a stillbirth compensation claim. Whilst no amount of money can make up for the loss of your baby, pursuing a claim can help you get the answers you so desperately need. 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 stillbirth compensation claim.

Furthermore, the compensation you receive can help you access vital services to help you navigate your grief and allow you to take some time out to prepare for your future.

What is stillbirth?

Stillbirth is the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. According to NHS figures, approximately 1 in every 250 births in England is a stillbirth.

What is the difference between stillbirth and neonatal deaths?

The difference between a stillbirth or neonatal death is when the event occurs. In a stillbirth, the baby dies before or during birth. In a neonatal death, the baby dies within the first 28 days of life.

What are the causes of stillbirth?

Sadly, the cause of many stillbirths is never identified. However, researchers have pinpointed several issues that seem to cause or at least contribute to the risk of a stillbirth. They include the following:

Pregnancy complications

Preterm labour, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, and a baby not growing properly in the womb have all been identified as risk factors for stillbirth.

Placenta issues

The placenta is a temporary organ that the mother grows in her womb during pregnancy. It plays a crucial function in a baby’s development, linking the baby’s blood supply to that of its mother and providing the baby with oxygen and essential nutrients.

A large percentage of stillbirths are caused by issues with the placenta, such as insufficient blood flow and placenta praevia. Placentia praevia is where the mother’s placenta blocks the cervix, meaning the baby cannot pass through the birth canal.

Genetic problems

According to the baby loss charity Tommy’s, around 10% of stillbirths are caused by genetic disorders. One such condition is anencephaly, a neural tube defect in which a major part of the baby’s brain, skull, and scalp does not develop.


Several infections can lead to a baby being stillborn. Most of these are infections of the mother’s womb, such as group B streptococcus (often referred to as ‘strep B’), chlamydia, and E. coli. Other infections that can harm a baby include rubella, Lyme disease, and toxoplasmosis.

Umbilical cord problems

The umbilical cord joins the baby to the placenta, enabling the transfer of oxygen and nutrients from the mother. Problems with the umbilical cord, such as knotting or wrapping around the baby, can sometimes cause stillbirth.

Other factors that have been linked to stillbirth include multiple pregnancies, pre-existing and gestational diabetes, and the mother haemorrhaging before or during giving birth.

Can I make a stillbirth medical negligence claim?

If you believe your baby’s death was caused by a medical professional’s negligence, you may be able to make a stillbirth claim. To prove negligent treatment, you must be able to meet the following criteria:

  • The medical professional owed you a duty of care. Medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and midwives, are legally obligated to provide their patients with proper care. This is referred to legally as owing them a ‘duty of care’. The individuals responsible for looking after you when pregnant and during the birth of your baby owe you a duty of care.
  • The medical professional breached their duty. In the context of stillbirth compensation claims, a medical professional breaches their duty of care if the mistakes they made would not have been made by any other reasonably competent professional. To establish a breach, your medical negligence solicitor will look at your medical records and call expert witnesses, usually trained in midwifery or obstetrics, to give their opinion on what would have been reasonable.
  • The medical professional’s breach of duty caused your stillbirth. To succeed in proving negligence, you must show that your baby would likely have lived had the medical professional not breached their duty of care to you. The hospital may argue that the unhappy outcome would have been the same no matter what the medical professional did or did not do. Your medical negligence solicitor will appoint medical experts to provide an opinion on what, in their view, caused your stillbirth.

Examples of conduct on the part of your medical team that may be classed as negligent include the following:

Delaying your baby’s delivery

Your medical team may have acted negligently if they did not proceed to an assisted delivery or caesarean section when there were warning signs that this was required.

Inadequate antenatal monitoring of your baby during pregnancy

If your medical team did not adequately monitor your baby during pregnancy, for example, through scans, tests and heartbeat checks, so missed warning signs that something was wrong, they may have been negligent.

Failing to monitor you correctly during pregnancy

If your medical team failed to spot any issues with you, such as pre-eclampsia, and take any necessary precautions, they may have acted negligently if your baby was stillborn as a result.

Communication failures

If your medical team failed to communicate effectively with each other and you during the pregnancy, and those failings caused your baby’s stillbirth, they may have acted negligently.

Find out more about making a Birth Injury Compensation Claim.

Can I make a stillbirth negligence compensation claim against the NHS?

Yes, if an NHS professional’s negligence caused your stillbirth, you can make a stillbirth negligence compensation claim against the NHS.

By holding the negligent medical professionals to account, many parents hope to prompt improvements in maternity care and avoid other parents suffering as they have. Furthermore, parents can sometimes find a little comfort in the fact that their baby’s loss and their own trauma have been formally recognised by the law.

When can I make a stillbirth compensation claim?

Stillbirth compensation claims are subject to strict time limits. If you miss the deadline, you will be barred from bringing a claim, regardless of its merits. Therefore, seeking advice from a specialist medical negligence solicitor is essential as soon as you feel up to doing so.

You generally have three years from the date you received the negligent care or the date you became aware that your care was negligent within which to issue Court proceedings.

Many stillbirth compensation claims are settled before a court claim is issued through negotiations between the relevant NHS Trust and the victim’s legal team. By instructing a medical negligence solicitor sometime before the time limit for making a claim expires, your solicitor has longer to negotiate a settlement and avoid you having to embark on litigation to avoid missing the deadline.

However, even if you issue a claim, settlement negotiations will continue in the background, so there’s a good chance you will reach a settlement before trial.

How much compensation can I claim for stillbirth negligence?

The damages awarded in stillbirth negligence cases are split into two parts, known as general and special damages. ‘Damages’ is the legal term for compensation.

Special damages

Special damages are intended to make good any financial losses stemming from the stillbirth. For example, you may feel unable to return to work for some time following your loss, and this category of damages will compensate you for any earnings you lose as a result.

If you access specialist services to help you cope with your stillbirth, such as counselling, your medical negligence solicitor will claim the cost of those services as part of your special damages.

Other expenses you may recover include travel costs to and from medical appointments, as well as prescription charges.

General damages

General damages are intended to compensate you for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenity your stillbirth caused. No amount of money can bring your baby back, but by ordering those responsible for your baby’s death to pay compensation, the law seeks to provide some redress insofar as a financial award ever can.

Sometimes, negligent maternity care can cause physical harm to the mother, which will be factored into the general damages award. For many parents, though, the primary harm caused by their baby’s loss is psychological. The emotional impact of a stillbirth is often severe, and many parents report suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder following the event.

The level of general damages appropriate in a specific situation is specific to the facts. The range of reported damages awards in stillbirth compensation claims is extremely broad since each award is based on a variety of unique factors, including the nature and extent of the victim’s suffering and its impact on their daily life.

Your medical negligence solicitor will arrange for you to undergo medical examinations and psychological evaluations to assess your physical and psychological injury and mental health and will advise on the level of compensation you will likely receive in the circumstances.

Can I claim stillbirth compensation on a ‘no win no fee’ basis?

Yes, to ensure that no mother is denied access to justice due to her financial situation, many medical negligence solicitors represent their clients on a no win, no fee basis. You can call an expert legal advisor for free on 0800 234 6438 or submit the form to make a stillbirth compensation claim.

No win no fee stillbirth medical negligence claims

Under a no win, no fee arrangement, you do not pay your medical negligence team anything unless you win your case. This means virtually no financial risk is involved in bringing a stillbirth negligence compensation claim.

If your case is successful, you will pay your solicitors the amount detailed in your no win, no fee agreement. That amount can’t be more than 25% of your compensation, so you can be sure your legal costs won’t swallow up your damages award. Your medical negligence solicitor will talk you through the no, win no fee agreement and ensure you are happy with it before signing.

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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