Choose an Experienced Birth Injury Attorney and Get Results
Bringing a baby into the world can fill new parents with love, hope, and a little trepidation, to be sure. But all of their hopes, dreams, planning, and anticipation, especially if the baby is the first born into a young family, can turn to worry and fear within the first few moments of the child’s life if there is something wrong. Instead of a mother lovingly accepting her newborn with outstretched arms, she is robbed of that moment because medical professionals are scrambling to save the child or tend to birth defects or deformities suffered in childbirth. Anticipated moments of joy turn to moments of dread as the parents watch helplessly while doctors and nurses work to help the baby.
The care the mother received before giving birth and the actions of the medical professionals attending the birth 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 genetic, but in other cases, medical malpractice can cause birth injuries to the child or mother. If this devastating situation has happened to you, you deserve to see the guilty provider brought to justice.
Parker Waichman LLP is now accepting clients whose children suffered injuries during childbirth due to another’s negligent, reckless or intentional conduct. At Parker Waichman, our birth injury lawyers empathize with the pain, anguish, confusion, despair, and anger that you feel when your baby is born with birth defects caused by medical malpractice. We also know that the emotional and financial toll of a child’s birth injury can be nearly insurmountable. That’s why our birth injury law firm works hard to ease these burdens by dedicating our extensive resources and experience to fighting for compensation on behalf of parents and children. Call us today for a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights.
How Common Are Birth Injuries?
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, around two out of every 1,000 live births result in an injury of some sort. Many of these birth injuries are preventable with the appropriate prenatal care and communication with the mother-to-be’s health providers and the eradication of medical malpractice.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
In the context of pregnancy and childbirth, medical malpractice is negligence of the medical staff while treating the mother or child. To prove that an obstetrician or other health professional committed malpractice, the plaintiff and their birth injury attorney must prove that:
- The doctor or other provider owed the child and mother a duty of care.
- The doctor or other provider failed to uphold the duty of care imposed by the standards of their profession by failing to act reasonably under the circumstances.
- The breach of the duty of care by this health professional caused harm to the mother or baby.
Proving that the malpractice of a physician, midwife or nurse caused the child or mother’s injury or death can be a complicated task for a birth injury malpractice lawyer. The plaintiff and their birth-related injury attorney must offer testimony to demonstrate to the jury or judge that the appropriate standard of care was not met at the time the injury occurred and show how the actions of the provider constituted malpractice. For example, a witness might have to explain why delaying a C-section was malpractice, using forceps during delivery 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 birth injury claims will fail.
Types of Birth Injuries and Their Causes
Maternal mortality rates are rising in the United States, even as they decline in other Western nations. A recent study showed that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. sits around 26.4 out of every 100,000 live births annually, 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 that 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 possible causes:
- 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 lacking, with only 6% of grant money going to maternal care and the remainder devoted to the care and treatment of the child.
- Physicians entering the emerging field of maternal-fetal care sometimes complete their training without ever setting foot in a delivery room.
Without adequate care, mothers can fall into life-threatening distress while giving birth. Health professionals must carefully monitor the mother for signs of:
- Preeclampsia or extremely high blood pressure before, during or after giving birth, which can cause cardiac arrest, seizures or stroke
- Hemorrhaging leading to excessive blood loss
- Complications due to the age of the mother
- Gestational diabetes
Preeclampsia is deadly, yet it’s eminently preventable. Common symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling, rapid weight gain, upper stomach discomfort, vomiting, headache, and anxiety. However, many doctors dismiss these symptoms as components of pregnancy and labor that the expectant mother should anticipate. Consequently, many doctors misdiagnose these signs and expect that the mother will experience relief after 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.
Newborns can experience numerous types of birth injuries, including:
- Broken bones, especially the collarbone
- Brachial plexus injury, including Duchenne-Erb paralysis
- Brain injury
- Cerebral palsy
- Injury during cesarean birth (C-section)
- Shoulder dystocia
- Scalp and facial cuts and bruises
- Injuries caused by forceps and vacuum-assisted deliveries
- Spinal cord injury
- Facial paralysis or other facial nerve damage
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain caused by an obstruction during childbirth
Dr. Saad Alsaedi, an internationally renowned neonatal care specialist, has suggested that inattention or lack of skill causes many, but not all, birth injuries. Many of these injuries stem from cases of fetal macrosomia (birth weight well above average), prematurity, cephalopelvic disproportion (child’s head is too big to fit through the pelvis), dystocia (difficult birth caused by various circumstances), prolonged labor, and breech presentation. Birth injuries generally fall into two categories: cranial injuries and peripheral nerve injuries.
Cranial (head) injuries can be caused by forced vaginal delivery. They can occur when the doctor uses forceps or a vacuum device to assist with childbirth. Here are some common cranial injuries:
- Erythema describes 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 accompanied by symptoms including fever and fatigue.
- 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 like a typical bruise as it heals.
- 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 that the cephalohematoma leaves can be quite scary. A cephalohematoma is a byproduct of a closed injury to the child’s head in which ruptured blood vessels leak blood that builds up under the skin above the child’s scalp.
Delivery with forceps assistance may be 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 may also be necessary if there is a problem with your health, the baby is in distress or the baby is not in the proper position for birth.
Forceps birth can be risky. 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. The baby may also suffer spinal injuries, eye trauma, and/or 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 can be complications for the mother and child. The mother can contract an infection, especially if the physicians need to perform an episiotomy to assist the baby out of the womb. Furthermore, the baby could suffer a skull fracture, brachial plexus, collarbone fracture or cephalohematoma.
Peripheral Nerve Injuries
Perinatal brachial plexus palsy is a pinching of the nerves in the neck and shoulder as the baby is born. The resulting nerve damage causes the baby’s arm to become paralyzed. This paralysis can be temporary, but medical research shows that the problem is permanent in about 25% of cases.
Erb’s palsy is a subtype of brachial plexus palsy. Erb’s palsy is characterized by 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 turn inward toward the body. The wrist is flexed, and reflex tests show no positive signs in the affected areas.
Most children with these conditions have the full use of their arm when they grow up. Unfortunately, some never gain full strength or range of motion. Doctors can usually form an opinion after one month about whether the child will have a healthy limb. Surgery might be required after three to six months if improvement has not been shown. Surgery can involve nerve grafting, in which healthy nerves are taken from one area and transplanted to the affected area. The biggest factor in a child’s potential recovery is whether the injured nerves are severed or simply pinched. A severed nerve cannot be repaired, so paralysis will be permanent.
Collarbone fractures can also happen when doctors pull on the baby during delivery or the child’s arm is raised during birth. Fortunately, collarbone fractures are not permanent and can heal on their own.
Cerebral Palsy and Childbirth
Cerebral palsy is damage to a child’s brain that impairs their ability to control their muscles. Cerebral palsy can be a congenital problem, but many cases of cerebral palsy stem from oxygen deprivation at birth. Cerebral palsy that begins 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. Prolonged labor lasting up to 18 hours can result in cerebral palsy. Doctors must be aware of this possibility and take every precaution to guard against it.
Cesarean Section Negligence
Childbirth by cesarean section, more commonly known as a C-section, is not as rare as it once was. As many as 20% of all births in the United States are by C-section.
C-section births start with the doctor or midwife determining that a C-section is a medical necessity. Then, a physician must competently perform the procedure. Not performing a C-section when needed or delaying it can have disastrous consequences for the mother and the child. And failing to perform the surgery competently can have consequences including death, cerebral palsy, HIE or other nerve or brain damage. The doctor must take the health of the mother and the child into consideration when contemplating whether a C-section delivery is appropriate.
Types of Compensation a Birth Injury Attorney Can Recover
Most states’ laws of negligence and malpractice permit recovery through birth injury lawsuit settlements for two types of damages: economic and non-economic. Simply defined, economic losses are based on fixed, documented amounts, such as medical bills or lost wages, while non-economic losses are less tangible, such as pain and suffering.
A victim of malpractice can receive compensation for medical expenses accumulated for treatment and recovery. Those costs include expenditures for an ambulance, emergency room care, doctor visits, hospitalization, rehabilitation, medication, and medical devices. When you work with the best birth injury lawyer you can find, you also may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses you are likely to incur in the future as your child grows and lives with their birth injury.
Economic costs also include lost wages. If the mother is injured during the birthing process, she can receive compensation for the time she missed from work due to her doctor’s negligence. It’s more challenging to consider how a child’s economic viability was damaged because of a birth injury; economic damages for a child’s future lost earnings might be too speculative to seek. However, the defendant’s malpractice insurer could be ordered to deposit money into a trust fund for the child to fund their future educational needs.
The plaintiffs might also be eligible to collect damages for pain and suffering. This is compensation for the physical pain and emotional damage that a 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 mother dies during childbirth or after childbirth due to malpractice, the family can collect damages for the wrongful death of that person. Each state has its own wrongful death statute dictating to whom damages must be paid and what damages the family may receive as 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 statute of limitations, but many have a two- or three-year limit for filing medical malpractice actions. Those limits may be even shorter for wrongful death suits. At Parker Waichman, our attorneys are knowledgeable about statutes of limitations and can make certain that your claim is filed on time to preserve your legal rights. When you need a birth injury lawyer near you, you can count on our legal team to help you seek justice.
Hire the Best Birth Injury
Lawyer and Get Results
When you need a top attorney to handle your birth injury case, you need the experienced, compassionate lawyers at Parker Waichman. We’re dedicated to superior advocacy, and we’ve recovered more than $2 billion in compensation for our clients. We’ve also earned numerous honors from our peers in the legal community, including:
- A nearly perfect 9.8 out of 10 rating by AVVO, a service that rates every attorney in the United States
- A Martindale-Hubbell peer review rating of “AV Preeminent”
- The highest ranking of “5 Dragons,” based on peer review, by Lawdragon
- Listing in Best Lawyers, determined by extensive peer review
Get a Free Case Review With One of Our
Compassionate Birth Injury Attorneys Today
When you contact Parker Waichman’s birth injury attorneys, we’ll review your case free of charge to help you get a sense of your legal options. And if you decide to proceed with a lawsuit, we’ll take your case on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that you’ll take on no financial risk for our services: We’ll get paid from a portion of your settlement or jury award, not out of your pocket. We aim to make it as simple and painless as possible for you to seek justice for your birth injuries. Call us today at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our contact form to see how we can help you.
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