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Medical Malpractice Claims on Behalf of Minors: A Guide to What’s Involved

Medical Malpractice Claims on Behalf of Minors: A Guide to What’s Involved
May 12, 2021 gnuworld
medical malpractice claims on behalf of minors

If you and your family have experienced the tragedy of a child being seriously injured or lost due to medical negligence, we offer our deepest sympathies.

DSC Attorneys has extensive, specialised experience in medical malpractice claims involving minors. If you choose to pursue a claim, we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Call us on 086 146 5879. Our offices are on the 10th Floor, Touchstone House, 7 Bree Street, Cape Town. We deal with medical malpractice claims at locations across South Africa.

Time limit for lodging a medical negligence claim for a minor

According to South African law, medical malpractice claims must be lodged within three years of the date of the injury. When the claim is against a state or provincial hospital, the institution must be notified, in writing, of the intention to sue within six months of the incident.

When a minor is the injured party, and a parent or guardian has not lodged a claim on his or her behalf, the Prescription Act provides for the prescription period to be delayed until one year after the minor attains the age of 18.

Birth injury claims

Birth injury claims are prevalent in South Africa. Substandard medical care prior to, during and after birth is identified as the primary cause of infant trauma and injury.

A growing number of newborns are left permanently disabled as a result of avoidable birth complications. The data on infant fatalities shows the rising incidence of medical negligence.

South Africa’s estimated infant mortality rate of 27.8 deaths in every 1,000 live births is significantly higher than the rates in Sweden (2.6), Germany (3.3), Canada (4.3) and the UK (4.1).

Paediatric medical negligence

Paediatric medical malpractice is defined as a medical professional’s act, or failure to act, that deviates from the accepted standard of medical care. It includes:

  • an incorrect diagnosis
  • mistakes with medical procedures
  • prescribing the wrong medication or medicine doses
  • absent or improper wound or post-operative care
  • a delay or failure to treat.

Common types of medical malpractice involving children

According to a study by a US medical liability insurer, The Doctors Company, diagnostic errors are the most common type of medical malpractice involving minors.

Poor medical treatment and surgical errors are the second most prevalent type of negligence in children aged one to 17.

Nearly one quarter of all claims are lodged against obstetricians for making mistakes during labour and the birthing process.

Common birth injuries

In South Africa, the leading cause of injuries is birth asphyxia (oxygen deprivation). Causes range from the premature separation of the placenta to an entangled umbilical cord around the neck.

The rate of hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy, or newborn brain injury, due to oxygen deprivation ranges from 8.7 to 15.2 per 1,000 births in South Africa. In developed countries, the rate fluctuates between one and eight cases per 1,000 births.

Obstetric brachial plexopathy

Obstetric brachial plexopathy is another widespread injury in newborns. The nerves at the base of the neck are damaged when the baby is pulled too hard during delivery.

Depending on the site of the injury, the nerves in the infant’s arms, wrists or hands are damaged, resulting in what is termed brachial palsy, Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy.

Assessing the incidence of brachial plexopathy in South Africa is difficult. The most recent data was published in 2006 when the rate of Erb’s palsy was two in every 1,000 births. The range was similar in the UK (0.38 to 3), US (1.3) and the Netherlands (3.3).

Common paediatric injuries

Appendicitis

Acute appendicitis is a common medical emergency among children. When the appendix is not surgically removed in time, the results can be fatal.

In South Africa, the misdiagnosis rate of appendicitis ranges from 28% to 57% in children between the ages of two and 12. It’s almost 100% in children younger than two.

Meningitis

Meningitis is a devastating disease that can lead to permanent disability or death. In South Africa, it has an incident rate in infants of 40 per 100,000. This is 10 times the rate in the general population.

Paediatric meningitis is difficult to diagnose and treat because the symptoms are non-specific and mimic those of flu.

Claiming for medical malpractice involving your child

In order for a medical malpractice claim to succeed, there has to be proof of negligence.

The best course of action is to contact an attorney with the knowledge and experience to gather evidence, analyse medical records and access medical professionals who can testify in court in support of your claim.

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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 medical malpractice claims on behalf of minors and Road Accident Fund claims involving children.

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.

Contact us at DSC Attorneys for the very best legal support and representation. We work on a no win, no fee basis.

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