A teenage girl is to receive compensation for prenatal injuries caused by a car accident after suffering from respiratory distress syndrome when she was born prematurely two days later.
Martina Sheehan was driving the family car along Templeroan Road in Dublin on 13th April 1999 when she was in collision with a car driven by Elaine O´Connor – also from Rathfarnham. Neither woman was hurt in the accident, but two days later, Martina – who was thirty-six weeks pregnant – went into early onset labour and gave birth to a daughter – Aoife.
As soon as Aoife was born, she suffered from respiratory distress syndrome and was transferred to the Coombe Hospital´s neo-natal intensive care unit, where she was placed on a ventilator and given medication to help her breathe independently. Aoife remained in the intensive care unit for three weeks, during which time she was critically ill.
After seeking legal advice, Martina Sheehan made a claim for compensation for prenatal injuries caused by a car accident on behalf of her daughter; alleging that had the accident not occurred she would not have gone into labour at thirty-six weeks, Aoife would not have been born prematurely and she would not have suffered respiratory distress syndrome.
Insurers for Elaine O´Connor denied their client´s liability for Aoife´s injuries, claiming that there was no medical evidence to support the claim that the collision had directly been responsible for the premature birth, that pre-term babies were more pre-disposed to respiratory distress and, as the accident had happened before Aoife was born, Aoife was ineligible to receive compensation for prenatal injuries caused by the car accident.
However, solicitors representing Martina and Aoife continued with the claim and, after a prolonged period of negotiation, a settlement of compensation for prenatal injuries caused by a car accident was agreed that would see Aoife receiving €15,000 in general damages with a further €2,800 in special damages to account for the financial expenses that Aoife´s parents had incurred.
Approving the settlement, Judge Deery said that the solicitors representing Martina and Aoife had done a good job as, in the circumstances, proving liability may have been difficult if the case had gone to trial and might not have ended with the family securing a positive outcome.