Parker Waichman LLP Fights for the Rights of Your Child and Your Child’s Future
Suffering any physical injury can be painful and debilitating, regardless of how or why the injury happened. For individuals whose injuries are permanent, debilitating does not even begin to explain how consequential the injuries are. Birth injuries, many of which are permanent, go far beyond debilitating. Birth injuries change a person’s life before that person’s life truly begins. An infant cannot take any action to prevent being injured, and once a birth injury is sustained, an infant’s life must be adapted to accommodate the birth injury.
Some birth injuries are minor and will not have a significant impact on the injured baby’s way of life. However, for severe birth injuries, every aspect of the injured baby’s life may be difficult to the point where the baby will never be able to walk, eat or go to the bathroom without assistance. Additionally, a birth injury can make a parent’s life difficult as special assistance may be required to care for the baby’s daily needs. Any parent who thinks his or her child has sustained birth injuries should speak with a Florida Birth Injury Attorney right away.
Parker Waichman LLP – Obtaining More than $2 Billion in Compensation for Injured Clients
The nationally-recognized Florida Birth Injury Attorneys of Parker Waichman LLP have a reputation for helping their injured clients seek and obtain the compensation they need and deserve. With a large client-base in Florida as well as throughout the United States, our attorneys have represented countless clients who have sustained birth injuries through no fault of their own. Parker Waichman LLP has obtained more than $2 billion collectively for clients through settlements and verdicts at trial. While it is not possible to ensure results, our attorneys are known for achieving favorable results for many of their clients.
Florida Birth Injuries – Florida Birth Injury Lawsuits and Settlements
Understanding the Various Types of Birth Injuries
Different types of birth injuries afflict Florida infants every year. Some birth injuries may be temporary while others last forever. Some birth injuries involve the development of body parts while others involve the development of the brain, both of which can be damaging to a child’s way of life. Also, some birth injuries are not evident until a child begins to develop.
Common injuries sustained during birth include, among others, the following:
- Abrasions and bruising, especially from forceps marks;
- Hypoxia (i.e., lack of oxygen);
- Bone fractures;
- Brain bleeding, swelling, and other damage;
- Cerebral Palsy;
- Facial paralysis;
- Internal bleeding;
- Nerve damage;
- Soft tissue swelling and damage;
- Skull fractures;
- Spinal cord injuries; and
- Umbilical cord strangulation.
It is essential to keep in mind that while many birth injuries are sustained during delivery, some injuries are sustained earlier on in the pregnancy, and may be caused by certain medications the mother is taking or because of a complication during pregnancy that goes undiagnosed. For example, if the mother is taking a medication that is linked to birth defects, such as an anti-depressant, and a doctor does not inform the mother to stop taking the medication, the baby is at risk for suffering birth defects such as cleft palate or a hole in the heart, among others.
Another example of an injury sustained during pregnancy includes a situation where the mother complains of symptoms (such as cramping or bleeding), and the complaints are not evaluated, resulting in the need for a pre-term birth that causes low birth weight and potential developmental disabilities. The ways in which a birth injury can be sustained are unique because every mother is unique, and some mothers require specialized care both during the pregnancy and at the time of birth.
The Catastrophic Consequences of Florida Birth Injuries
Physical pain and suffering and emotional harm may be life-long struggles for a birth injury victim. However, the financial consequences of a birth injury can be just as devastating. The cost of medical care is already at an all-time high, and specialized care can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and may reach into the millions during a person’s life. Additionally, not only is the injured child suffering, but the parents and other family members are also suffering. They may experience emotional distress from having to cope with a special needs child, which can also lead to an inability to work and make a living. Because so much is at stake when facing birth injuries, any parent who believes a person or party’s negligence caused a birth injury should act quickly to speak with an attorney.
Birth Injuries and Medical Malpractice in Florida
Advances in medicine have helped to reduce the incidence of preventable birth injuries. However, too many infants continue to suffer birth injuries year after year, with many injuries being fatal. A doctor’s actions during labor are extremely important, and one wrong move could put both the mother and infant in distress. A common act of medical negligence during delivery is the improper use of forceps which can cause severe injury to an infant’s head or other body parts. Forceps are traditionally not used unless there is a medical need to use them to deliver the baby sooner. The use of a vacuum to deliver a baby has also been linked to birth injuries, especially if a vacuum is not used properly.
Another common type of medical malpractice that is linked to birth injuries is when a doctor fails to recognize that the baby is in distress and does not have adequate oxygen. A lack of oxygen, also called hypoxia, can cause a baby to suffer severe brain damage. A failure to recognize fetal distress and perform an emergency cesarean section (C-section) is, unfortunately, a common type of medical negligence that is preventable.
There are additional ways in which medical malpractice can contribute to birth injuries, including the following:
- A failure to properly use Pitocin, a drug that induces labor;
- Failure of a nurse or other medical staff member to communicate pregnancy or labor complications to the treating doctor;
- Failure to ensure a mother is not taking any medication during pregnancy that is linked to severe birth defects (unless there is a medical need to take a certain medication and the mother is aware of the risks);
- Failure to refer a high-risk pregnancy patient to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist;
- Failure to perform all necessary tests during the entire pregnancy and at the time of labor and delivery;
- Failure to accurately read and interpret test results during pregnancy and at the time of labor and delivery;
- Failure to properly monitor changes in a fetus’s condition during pregnancy and at the time of labor and delivery; and
- Failure to timely diagnose and treat birth-related complications.
Cerebral Palsy – A Common Birth Injury in Florida
While many birth injuries plague Florida infants, cerebral palsy is a very common birth injury caused by medical malpractice. A lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, is often the root cause of cerebral palsy, and this can happen during any step of the pregnancy or at the time of labor and delivery. A fetus could be developing normally during the entire course of a pregnancy and then suffer sudden hypoxia at the time of labor and birth, resulting in the development of cerebral palsy. Acting quickly upon labor and delivery is crucial to ensure a baby is receiving adequate oxygen.
If a treating physician fails to read and interpret fetal monitor strips accurately, fails to order an emergency C-section, or fails to act if the umbilical cord is wrapped around a baby’s neck, then a baby may be lacking oxygen. This lack of oxygen could cause the baby to suffer severe birth injuries such as cerebral palsy, a condition that causes both physical and mental abnormalities that may last a lifetime.
Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Birth Injuries in Florida
Filing any lawsuit can be a stressful experience, but when negligent conduct has caused a baby to suffer needless birth injuries, a parent has a chance to hold the negligent party accountable for causing pain, suffering and financial distress. If a baby has sustained birth injuries and is still alive, a parent can file a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of the baby or child. If a baby has suffered fatal birth injuries, a parent can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased baby, alleging medical negligence as a cause of death.
When pursuing a lawsuit, certain elements must be established to link a birth injury to negligent conduct. Such elements include the following:
- A medical professional (such as the doctor delivering the baby) owed a duty of care to the baby;
- A medical professional breached its duty of care to the baby;
- A medical professional’s conduct caused a baby to suffer a birth injury; and
- The birth injury resulted in damage to the baby, which is often permanent.
Medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, are held to a higher standard of care to act as any reasonable medical professional would act in the same or similar circumstances. For example, if a reasonable medical professional would timely identify if a baby is in distress and is lacking oxygen, and a particular medical professional did not follow this standard and therefore failed to identify fetal distress, that doctor may be held liable for any injuries caused by the failure. Experts are used to establish what the standard of care would be, and this is one way to prove whether a particular medical professional has acted negligently and caused preventable birth injuries.
Time Limitations on Filing Birth Injury Lawsuits in Florida – What You Should Know
While injured individuals have a right to file a lawsuit when they believe another person or party’s negligence caused their injuries, there are time limitations on how long a person has to bring a lawsuit. Every state establishes its own time limitations, and such time limitations may be different based on the type of lawsuit being filed. In Florida, a person wishing to file a lawsuit should be aware of the following statutes of limitations concerning personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases.
- Personal Injury – A person who sustains personal injuries in a car accident, slip and fall accident, workplace accident or any other accident aside from medical malpractice has four years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. If injuries are not found until after the date of the accident that caused the injury, a person has four years from the date he or she discovered or should have found that the injury was caused by an accident to file a lawsuit.
- Medical Malpractice – A person who sustains injuries because of medical malpractice has two years from the date of the neglectful act to file a lawsuit. If an injury is not detected until after the date of the negligent act (such as a surgery), the injured person has two years from the date he or she discovered or should have determined that the injury was caused by the negligent act to file a lawsuit. However, a medical malpractice lawsuit cannot be filed more than four years after the date of the negligent act.
- Wrongful Death – A person wishing to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a loved one (spouse or child) has two years from the date of the loved one’s death to file a lawsuit, regardless of whether the fatal injuries were sustained because of an accident or medical malpractice. There are very few exceptions to this statute of limitation, so once two years have passed since a person’s wrongful death, it is too late to file a lawsuit.
- Minors – Most states treat minors differently when applying a statute of limitation. Some states allow minors to file lawsuits up until the age of eighteen or even a few years after turning eighteen. However, in Florida, the rule for minors is different depending on when the minor was injured. For birth injuries, a parent or guardian must file a medical malpractice lawsuit no later than the child’s eighth birthday. Because this rule is unique from many other states, it is important to act quickly by speaking with an attorney.
Filing a Florida Birth Injury Lawsuit – What to Expect from the Process
Filing a lawsuit is a big decision, and it is a decision that should be discussed with an attorney and immediate family members. Birth injury lawsuits may take a prolonged period of time in which to complete, especially when dealing with minors who have sustained birth injuries, as their condition may change as they grow older. Clients wishing to pursue a lawsuit should expect the following steps throughout the entire process:
- Case Intake/Consult – Every case starts with a free consultation with an attorney to discuss the basic facts of the case and possible legal options that are available under Florida law.
- Decision – After the free consultation, the attorney will review the potential case and decide to accept or reject the case. If a case is rejected, the attorney will explain the reason for rejection.
- Filing the Lawsuit – Once both the attorney and client decide to move forward with legal action, a lawsuit is filed. Depending on the facts of the case, it may be possible to seek resolution or settlement of the case before going to court.
- The Discovery Process – After a lawsuit is filed, the parties exchange information about the allegations in the case (i.e., medical records, accident reports, policies and procedures, and witness statements, etc.), take depositions of fact witnesses and experts, and produce expert reports. The discovery process can take a very long time as significant information is needed to prepare for trial.
- Mediation and Potential Settlement – Settlement is often discussed throughout the entire case process, especially during mediation, but cases are typically not settled until closer to trial after the parties have gathered extensive evidence about a person’s injuries and what caused those injuries.
- Going to Trial – If a case has not settled by the time a trial begins, then a case will be heard before a jury. Settlement negotiations may continue during the trial, with some cases settling right before a case goes to the jury for a decision. A trial is typically scheduled at least 1-2 years after a lawsuit is filed.
- Appeal Process – After a jury has returned a verdict, the losing party will likely appeal the decision, and the entire appeals process can take two or more years to conclude.
The time it takes to complete each step of the litigation process will depend on the unique facts of a client’s case. The more complicated a birth injury case, the longer it may take to resolve the case. Some cases may settle quickly before going to trial, but no guarantees can be made as to whether a case will be successful.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Florida Birth Injury Lawsuits
If birth injuries are not reversible, what is the purpose of filing a lawsuit?
No lawsuit can ever undo birth injuries. However, compensation is the only type of remedy available to injured victims who suffer physical and mental pain as well as suffer from financial stress associated with medical bills. If a medical professional is responsible for causing a birth injury, that professional can be held accountable for the damage resulting from the birth injury.
How much will a birth injury cost during a person’s life?
The economic cost associated with a birth injury can exceed $1,000,000 over a person’s life, but this number may be less or more depending on how severe the birth injury is. For example, if a person’s birth injury resulted in the need for daily medical treatment and assistance, such as a live-in nurse, the financial cost will be higher than for someone who can handle his or her own daily needs. Regardless of how severe a birth injury is, the medical expenses can be debilitating and often cause families to file for bankruptcy.
What is the distinction between a birth injury and a congenital disability?
A birth injury is one that typically happens at the time of labor and delivery. However, birth injuries can be sustained during the course of pregnancy, and if these injuries are not timely diagnosed, the consequences could be permanent. A congenital disability is a physical or mental abnormality such as cleft palate, hole in the heart, shortened stomach, or brain defect that causes developmental delays, among others. Birth defects could be caused by chromosomal abnormalities that are not related to medical negligence, but they can also be caused by a failure to diagnose a condition during pregnancy or failure to advise a mother to stop taking certain medications that are linked to birth defects, such as anti-depressants. Birth defects and birth injuries can often overlap and may be considered the same.
How long should I wait to file a lawsuit if I believe my child suffered a birth injury because of medical malpractice?
As discussed earlier in this page, there is a statute of limitations that establishes how long a person has to file a lawsuit on behalf of a child who has sustained a birth injury. As such, parents should not wait too long to contact an attorney once they realize (1) that their baby may have sustained a birth injury and (2) that a person or party’s negligence may have caused the birth injury. Once a child attains the age of eight, it is extremely difficult to file a lawsuit alleging birth injuries. The sooner a parent speaks with an attorney about a child’s birth injuries, the sooner an attorney can help to ascertain if there is a link between a medical provider’s negligent conduct and the resulting birth injury.
Why Choose Parker Waichman LLP?
Our legal team is honored to have received positive ratings that demonstrate our firm’s devotion to every client’s rights and interests. Such ratings include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- 9.8/10 Rating by AVVO (Rating Every Attorney in the U.S.);
- “Preeminent Lawyers” AV Peer Review Rating (Martindale-Hubbell®);
- Highest Ranking of “5 Dragons” Based on Peer Review by Lawdragon; and
- Listing in Best Lawyers Publication Determined by Extensive Peer Review.
Peer-reviewed ratings may not tell the entire story, but such ratings reveal that fellow attorneys and law firms respect the integrity and dedication of Parker Waichman LLP. Any potential client should consider speaking with our legal team to learn why our law firm is much more than positive ratings.
Contact Parker Waichman LLP Today to Schedule Your Free Consultation
If you have a baby or child who has received birth injuries, you should consider speaking with a qualified Florida Birth Injury Attorney as soon as possible. The Florida Birth Injury Attorneys of Parker Waichman LLP are nationally-recognized for helping injured victims receive compensation for personal injuries suffered through no fault of their own. Our attorneys are true advocates who fight endlessly on behalf of their clients. To learn more about your legal options that may be available, contact the Florida Birth Injury Attorneys of Parker Waichman LLP today by calling (800) YOUR-LAWYER (968-7529) to schedule your free consultation. We have a team of Spanish-speaking attorneys, paralegals, and staff members to assist our Spanish-speaking clients.
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