Law Firm with Nationwide Practice Calls Attention to the Devastation of Birth Injuries
Birth Malpractice Can Cause Birth Injury. Childbirth. It is one of the most beautiful, glorious, and transformative events a person could ever experience. Bringing a new life into the world fills the baby’s parents with love, hope for a bright and prosperous future, and a little trepidation, to be sure. All of the hopes, dreams, planning, anticipation, and joy the new parents anticipate with great wonder, especially if the baby is the first born into a young family, can be dashed within the first few moments of the child’s life if there is something wrong.
Hope turns to fear as doctors and nurses scramble around the delivery room to save the child if the baby is in distress or begin tending to birth defects or deformities the baby suffered during his or her journey into the outside world. Instead of a mother lovingly accepting her newborn covered in a blanket with outstretched arms, she is robbed of that moment because medical professionals are concentrating on tending to the welfare of the baby. The moments of anticipated joy turn to dread as the parents watch helplessly and in utter confusion as the doctors work to help the baby survive.
The care the mother received from her physicians before giving birth, also known as prenatal care, and the actions of the doctors, nurses, and midwives, if the mother chooses to work with one, during childbirth can influence the child’s health and well-being at birth as well as the mother’s. Some birth defects and diseases cannot be avoided because they are genetically disposed. Alternatively, medical malpractice can cause birth injuries to the child and mother.
Parker Waichman LLP is now accepting clients whose children suffered injuries during childbirth due to another’s negligence, reckless, or intentional conduct.
At Parker Waichman LLP, our birth injury lawyers empathize with the pain, anguish, confusion, despair, and anger you feel when your baby is born with birth defects caused by medical malpractice. The emotion and financial toll a child born with a birth injury takes on a family can be nearly insurmountable. That is why we dedicate our extensive resources combined with our experience, knowledge, skill, and determination to ease the burden unjustly cast upon your child and your family by fighting to collect a substantial financial award on behalf of your child and you.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Statistics suggest that approximately 7% of all children born in the United States annually are born with a birth injury. Birth injuries, like all injuries, can run the gamut from minor to severe. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 2 out of every 1,000 live births result in an injury of some sort. The Agency also found that many of the birth injuries that occur are preventable with the appropriate prenatal care and communication with the mother-to-be’s healthcare providers and eradication of medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice may cause birth injuries, whether they happen to the child or the mother. In the context of pregnancy and childbirth, medical malpractice is negligence of the medical staff treating the mother and child. To prove that obstetric-gynecological physician or other healthcare professional committed malpractice, the claimant, or plaintiff, must prove that:
- The doctor owed the child and mother a duty of care,
- The doctor failed to uphold the duty of care impose by the standards of the obstetric-gynecological profession by failing to act reasonably under the circumstances, and
- The breach of the duty of care by the healthcare professional caused the harm to the mother or baby.
Proving that the malpractice of a physician caused the child’s or mother’s injury or death is complicated at times. The plaintiff must offer expert testimony to demonstrate to the jury or judge that the appropriate standard of care at the time the injury occurred and how the actions of the physician constituted malpractice. For example, the expert might have to explain why delaying a C-section was malpractice, using forceps when removing the baby was inappropriate, or failing to monitor the mother’s blood pressure closely led to injury or death by preeclampsia.
Parker Waichman’s birth injury attorneys have a track record of success recovering damages in birth injury cases and know how to present this vital testimony, without which your case will fail.
Types of Birth Injuries and their Causes
Maternal mortality has risen in the U.S. A recent study shows that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. sits around 26.4 out of every 100,000 live births annually. That is the highest rate in the civilized world. Why, in a country such as ours, is giving birth so dangerous, considering all of the medical advances we have at our disposal? A mortality rate that high is easier to understand in developing countries, but not the U.S.
A recent examination of the problem yielded several possibilities. They are:
- Confusing and sometimes conflicting hospital protocols for attending to potentially lethal prenatal and natal injuries turn preventable injuries into mortal harm;
- Hospitals themselves are ill prepared for an emergency situation involving the mother;
- Funding for care and training is a tremendous difficulty with only 6% of grant money going to maternal care, with the remainder devoted to care and treatment of the child; and
- Physicians entering the emerging field of maternal-fetal care complete the training without ever setting foot in the delivery room.
The situation appears, therefore, that the doctors are ill-prepared to deal with an emergency situation. They should be looking for signs that can cause a mother to fall into life-threatening distress while giving birth. Healthcare professionals must carefully monitor the mother for signs of:
- Preeclampsia, or extremely high blood pressure after giving birth, which can cause cardiac arrest, seizures, or stroke,
- Hemorrhaging or internal bleeding leading to excessive blood loss,
- Complications due to the age of the mother,
- Infections, and
- Gestational diabetes.
Preeclampsia is deadly yet eminently preventable. Common symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling, rapid weight gain, upper stomach discomfort, vomiting, headache, and anxiety. However, many doctors dismiss these symptoms are a component of pregnancy and labor that the expectant mother should anticipate. Consequently, many doctors misdiagnose these signs and expect the mother will experience relief immediately upon giving birth. Doctors often fail to distinguish preeclampsia from chronic high blood pressure and do not react in time to save the mother’s life or prevent injury.
Injuries a child can suffer during birth are numerous. The following is a list of birth injuries victims of medical malpractice can suffer:
- Broken bones, especially the collarbone,
- Brachial Plexus Injury, Duchenne-Erb paralysis,
- Brain injury,
- Cerebral Palsy,
- Injury during Cesarean (C-Section) birth,
- Shoulder Dystocia (shoulders are unable to pass through birth canal),
- Umbilical cord dangers,
- Scalp and facial cuts and bruises,
- Injuries caused by forceps and vacuum-assisted deliveries,
- spinal cord injury,
- Facial paralysis and other facial nerve damage, as well as
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) which is a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain caused by an obstruction during childbirth.
Dr. Saad Alsaedi is an internationally renowned neonatal care specialist. Dr. Alsaedi suggests that inattention or lack of skill causes many, but not all, birth injuries necessary demonstrated by obstetrics during childbirth. At the outset, Dr. Alsaedi considers that fetal macrosomia (birth weight well above average), premature births, cephalopelvic disproportion (child’s head is too big to fit through pelvis), dystocia (difficult birth caused by various circumstances), prolonged labor, and breeched lie can cause birth injuries.
Dr. Alsaedi breaks down birth injuries children suffer in two categories: Cranial Injuries and Peripheral Nerve Injuries. We will discuss each in turn.
Cranial, or head, injuries can be caused by forced vaginal delivery. They can occur when the doctor uses forceps or a vacuum to assist with childbirth. Common cranial head injuries include:
- Erythema is red, blotchy lesions that appear on the child’s body. Most are benign and resolve without medical intervention. However, Erythema can develop into a more serious condition in which fever, fatigue, and other symptoms of illness develop.
- Abrasions are merely cuts and scrapes.
- Ecchymosis looks like bruises. Ecchymosis occurs when the blood vessels under the skin break and cause blood to rise to the outer skin. The wound changes colors as a typical course of a bruise might take.
- Cephalohematomas are usually benign, but they could also be a sign of jaundice or anemia in the child. Blood transfusions might be necessary if anemia is the cause of the complication. They typically resolve themselves but the bump on the head the cephalohematoma leaves can be quite scary. A cephalohematoma is a by-product of a closed-injury to the child’s head in which ruptured blood vessels leak blood that builds under the skin but above the child’s scalp.
As indicated, these injuries are the result of forceps or vacuum delivery. Delivery with forceps assistance is indicated when the mother cannot push any longer. At that point, the baby is ready to come out, but the mother can no longer assist with the birth. Forceps delivery is also necessary if there is a problem with your health, your child is in distress, or the child is not in the proper position for birth.
Forceps birth can be risky. The complications listed above appear to be somewhat minor. However, a child born with the assistance of forceps could suffer facial palsy because of nerve damage from the pressure of the forceps on the baby’s face. Also, the child could suffer spinal injuries, eye trauma, and seizures from a forceps delivery.
Vacuum-assisted delivery is another common form of vaginal birth with medical intervention. Physicians suggest vacuum delivery in the same or similar circumstances in which forceps delivery is warranted. As with forceps delivery, there are complications for the mother and child. The mother can contract an infection especially if the physicians need to cut away some skin to assist the child out of the womb. Furthermore, the child could suffer a skull fracture, brachial plexus, collarbone fracture, and cephalohematoma.
Peripheral Nerve Injuries
Perinatal brachial plexus palsy is a pinching of the nerves in the neck as the baby is born. The child’s head turns to the side and damages the nerves running through the shoulder area. The resulting nerve damage causes the baby’s arm to become paralyzed. The paralysis can be temporary, but medical research demonstrates that the problem is permanent in about 25% of the cases.
Erb’s Palsy is a sub-species of brachial plexus palsy. Erb’s palsy is damage to the spinal cord at the root of the nerve coming from the area of the fifth, and sixth vertebrae of the cervical spine. Erb’s palsy causes the affected arm to droop and to turn inwards towards the body. Furthermore, the wrist is flexed, and reflex tests show no positive signs in the affected areas.
Most children have the full use of their arm when they grow up. Unfortunately, some never have full strength or range of motion. Doctors can usually form an opinion after one month if the child can have a fully healthy limb. However, surgery might be required after three to six months improvement has not been shown. Surgery can involve nerve grafting. Grafting is the procedure by which healthy nerves are taken from one area and transplanted to the affected area. The ultimate determination as to the child’s potential recovery is whether the injured nerves are severed or simply impinged. At this time, a severed nerve cannot be repaired, and paralysis will be permanent.
Collarbone fractures can happen when doctors pull the baby during delivery, or the child’s arm is raised during birth. Fortunately, collarbone fractures, are not permanent injuries and can heal on their own.
Cerebral Palsy and Child Birth
Cerebral palsy is damage to a child’s brain that renders the child incapable of controlling his or her muscles. Cerebral palsy can occur through a congenital problem. However, many cases of cerebral palsy occur from oxygen deprivation at birth. Cerebral palsy that occurs during childbirth is known as acquired cerebral palsy. Acquired cerebral palsy can happen when the baby suffers a lack of oxygenated blood to the brain either during the birthing process or shortly after that.
Prolonged labor lasting up to 18 hours can result in cerebral palsy. Doctors must be aware of the potential and take every precaution to guard against it.
Cesarean Section Negligence
Childbirth by Cesarean Section, more commonly known as C-Section, are not as rare as they once were. Some childbirths do not allow for a vaginal birth and require this complicated surgery. As many as 20% of all childbirths in the United States are by C-section.
C-section births present circumstances in which the doctor must comprehend that a medical necessity requires a c-section and then the physician must competently perform the procedure. Not performing a c-section when needed or delaying can have disastrous consequences for the mother and the child. Additionally, failing to perform the surgery competently can irreparably injure the mother and child and can lead to death, cerebral palsy, HIE, or other nerve or brain damage. Therefore, the doctor must take the health of the mother and the child into consideration when contemplating whether a c-section delivery is appropriate.
Damages Often Recovered by Victims of Child Birth Injury or Death
Every case is different, and the amount of possible compensation you could receive depends on the facts of your case. Most states’ laws of negligence and malpractice permit recovery for two types of damages: economic and non-economic. Simply defined, financial losses can be counted, i.e., they are derived from a sum certain. Economic losses include past, present, and future medical bills, lost wages, and other costs like transportation costs, which are reasonably related to the injury you suffered.
A victim of malpractice can receive compensation for medical expenses accumulated for treatment and recovery. Those costs include expenditures for an ambulance, emergency room, doctors’ visits, hospitalization, rehabilitation, medication, and medical device costs. A plaintiff may also claim medical expenses which they are likely to incur in the future. Future damages can include compensation for the healthcare your child will require as they grow and live with their birth injury. These costs can be tremendously expensive and could last a lifetime.
Economic costs include lost wages. If the mother is injured during the birthing process, she can receive compensation for the time that she missed from work due to her doctor’s negligence. It is more challenging to consider how a child’s economic viability was damaged because of a birth injury. Part of the journey of life is figuring out who a child can become and what they will do in their lives. To that extent, economic damages for future lost earning might be too speculative to seek.
The party committing the malpractice might be responsible for paying for many future damages, however. For example, if the child has cerebral palsy due to malpractice committed during childbirth, the child might be nominated as the beneficiary of an educational trust or a medical trust. In these terms, a trustee holds money deposited by the malpractice insurer into the trust fund. The trust fund then pays for any specialized educational needs and medical needs the child might require and he or she ages.
The plaintiffs might also be eligible to collect damages for pain and suffering. This is compensation for the physical pain and emotional damage that the malpractice victim suffered. Some states have implemented tort reform measures that cap the amount of compensation for pain and suffering a person can receive for medical malpractice.
If a child or the mother dies during childbirth or after childbirth due to malpractice committed during pregnancy or birth, the family an collect damages for the wrongful death of that person. Each state has enacted a wrongful death statute. Those statutes dictate to whom damages must be paid and what damages the family may receive compensation. Some wrongful death statutes account for the value of the person’s life, as if a number could be put on it, while other laws try to offer compensation for the anticipated value of the person’s life.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Birth Injury and Death Cases?
Each state has a different statutory scheme for statute of limitations. Each state is different, but many have a two or three-year statute of limitations for filing of medical malpractice actions. Those states might have a shorter timeframe for filing wrongful death suits. Whatever the length of the statute of limitation applicable in your jurisdiction, Parker Waichman’s birth injury attorneys will make certain that your claim will be filed timely so that you are not deprived of vigorously pursuing justice on your family’s behalf.
Call our law firm to find out the statute of limitations apply in your case. Call at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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Free Case Review with One of our Compassionate Birth Injury Attorneys
Parker Waichman’s birth injury attorneys will review your case free of charge. Call them today to find out what they can do for you. Call Parker Waichman LLP today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our contact form. Trusting your case to anyone else could compound the problems your family must unjustly face.
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