A legal guide to birth injuries
Giving birth to a child is a special occasion – one of joy and the beginning of a new adventure. For some parents, however, it can mean a world of different emotions. Around 6 to 8 babies per 1000 births in the US are born with a birth injury. Additionally, serious birth injuries account for slightly less than 2% of neonatal deaths and stillbirths in the US.
What is a birth injury?
Birth injuries are injuries (to the infant or the mother) caused before, during, or immediately after the delivery due to medical negligence on the part of the doctor or the medical support staff. A birth injury (unlike a congenital disability) is any injury that occurs immediately before delivery or during or shortly after it.
Birth injuries can be severe or mild, short-term or long-term. In some cases, birth injuries may lead to permanent disabilities and may even be fatal. Some examples of severe birth injuries include:
- Erb’s Palsy
- Cerebral Palsy
- Brachial Plexus Injury
- Infant Brain Damage
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
- Forceps Delivery Trauma
How do birth injuries happen?
Birth injuries can happen for a multiplicity of reasons, and the likelihood is heightened by certain factors, including those relating to the mother’s health, size of the mother’s pelvis, the baby’s size, the baby’s position in the womb during labor, and delivery, premature babies, prolonged labor time, and more.
Birth injuries due to medical malpractice
The medical malpractice angle comes in when the mother or infant is harmed by the doctor or nurse using an improper medical technique during the delivery or the inappropriate use of a medical device (e.g., forceps, vacuum extractors, etc.). Other actions that can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit include the doctor’s failure to address signs of fetal distress, wrong medication of the mother, failure to conduct the cesarean delivery on time, to name a few.
Some research has indicated that lack of proper communication between medical staff and patients could be responsible for up to one-third of all obstetrics-related malpractice cases.
Birth Injuries and personal injury law
Legally speaking, medical malpractice is a negligent act by a professional health care provider (doctor, nurse, other medical staff) that has harmed the patient. The negligent act (or omission) deviates from the typical standard followed by similarly trained medical professionals.
Proving a negligent birth injury revolves around four key elements:
- There was a duty of care.
- There was a breach of this duty.
- The breach caused harm leading to damages (physical, monetary, etc.).
- The resulting harm was directly related to the breach.
Proving a birth injury
Proving medical negligence in a birth injury lawsuit can be difficult and may require expert testimonies from people in the medical profession. Finding these medical professionals and relaying the facts is a long and possibly expensive process. It would be advisable to consult with an experienced birth injury attorney to decide if it is legally viable to sue the medical professional and/or the hospital.
Statute of limitations
All states have implemented something called a statute of limitations or a time period within which a medical negligence case must be filed. Therefore, state-specific rules should be complied with to avoid the suit from being dismissed because the claim was made too late.
Steering a clear of a birth injury
It is essential for to-be parents to do some basic research before picking a hospital and doctor. Try to learn about what occurs during deliveries and keep a lookout for unusual signs. Of course, feel free to ask questions to the staff about any doubts you may have.
Finding the right birth injury lawyer
A key aspect in receiving compensation in any personal injury lawsuit is choosing a well-equipped and experienced attorney. Thankfully, there are many birth injury attorneys that can represent you. These professionals understand the dynamics of birth injuries and will be able to walk you through each step of the process clearly and efficiently.
Having a baby can be one of the most gratifying moments of one’s life. The vast majority of the time, the process is clear and straightforward. However, in case of a birth injury or other medical malpractice, make sure to be compensated appropriately.