Get Help From Top Birth Injury Attorneys in Florida
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 can change a person’s life before their life truly begins. An infant can’t take any action to prevent being injured, and once a birth injury is sustained, the infant’s life must be adapted to accommodate their injury.
Some birth injuries are minor and will not have a significant impact on the injured baby’s way of life. However, severe birth injuries can make every aspect of the injured baby’s life difficult, to the point where the person may never be able to walk, eat or manage other routine tasks without assistance. A birth injury can also make the parents’ life difficult, as special assistance may be required to help them cope with the child’s needs. While we at Parker Waichman LLP can’t undo the damage that’s been done, we can help you by pursuing a claim for compensation on your behalf, which can make it easier to handle medical bills, caregiving costs, and other effects of your child’s injury. If your child was harmed at birth, you can speak with a Florida birth injury attorney at our firm for free to learn about your legal rights and how we can assist you.
Understanding Common Florida Birth Injuries
Some birth injuries that affect Florida infants may be temporary, while others last forever. Some birth injuries involve the development of body parts, while others affect the development of the brain; both types of injuries can have long-lasting effects, some of which may not be immediately apparent. Common birth injuries include:
- Abrasions and bruising, especially from forceps
- 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
- Umbilical cord compression
It’s essential to keep in mind that while many birth injuries happen during delivery, some injuries are sustained earlier on in the pregnancy and may be caused by 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 and a doctor does not inform the mother to stop taking the medication, the baby is at risk of defects such as cleft palate or a hole in the heart. Another example would be a case in which a mother experiences a premature birth, delivering a baby with a low birth weight and potential developmental disabilities, after reporting symptoms such as cramping or bleeding that were not handled appropriately.
The Catastrophic Consequences of Florida Birth Injuries
Physical pain and suffering and emotional harm may be lifelong struggles for a birth injury victim. In addition, the financial consequences of a birth injury can be just as devastating. The cost of health 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 lifetime. Additionally, not only is the injured child suffering, but the parents and other family members may also experience negative effects. The emotional distress that can come with caring for a child with additional needs can 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 a Florida birth injury attorney. With skilled legal help, you may be able to recover damages to make your life easier.
Birth Injuries and Medical Malpractice in Florida
Advances in medicine have helped to reduce the incidence of preventable birth injuries, but too many infants still experience such injuries, many of them fatal. A doctor’s actions during labor are extremely important, and one wrong move could put both the mother and infant in distress.
One 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 more quickly. The use of a vacuum device to deliver a baby has also been linked to birth injuries, especially if the device is not used properly.
Another common type of medical malpractice 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. Failure to recognize fetal distress and perform an emergency cesarean section (C-section) is, unfortunately, a common type of medical negligence that is preventable.
Other forms of medical malpractice that can contribute to birth injuries include:
- 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 that a mother is not taking any medication during pregnancy that is linked to severe birth defects (unless there is a medical need 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
- Failure to promptly 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 particularly 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 stage 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 is crucial to ensure that the 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 compressed, then the baby may be deprived of 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 injuries, parents can 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 child. If a baby has suffered fatal birth injuries, a parent can hold the negligent party responsible with the assistance of a birth injury lawyer. Florida attorneys at Parker Waichman can help you pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging medical negligence as a cause of death.
When pursuing a lawsuit, you must establish the following facts to link a birth injury to negligent conduct:
- A medical professional (such as the doctor delivering the baby) owed a duty of care to the baby.
- The medical professional breached this duty of care.
- The medical professional’s conduct caused the baby to suffer a birth injury.
- The birth injury resulted in damage to the baby, which is often permanent.
Medical professionals are expected to act as any reasonable medical professional would act in the same or similar circumstances. For example, if a reasonable medical professional would promptly identify that a baby is in distress and is lacking oxygen, but the medical professional in question did not follow this standard and therefore failed to identify fetal distress, that person may be held liable for any injuries caused by this failure. Expert witnesses are used to establish what the standard of care would be, helping to show whether a particular medical professional 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 limits on how long a person has to bring a lawsuit. Every state establishes its own time limits, and these deadlines may be different based on the type of lawsuit being filed. An experienced Florida birth injury lawyer can calculate the correct filing deadline for your case based on the relevant statutes of limitations.
- Personal Injury: A person who sustains 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 they discovered or should have discovered 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 they discovered or should have determined that the injury was caused by a 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, so once two years have passed since a person’s wrongful death, it is likely to be too late to file a lawsuit.
- Minors: Most states treat minors differently when applying statutes of limitations. Some states allow minors to file lawsuits until they are 18 or even a few years after turning 18. 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 different than those in many other states, it’s important to act quickly by speaking with an attorney.
Filing a Florida Birth Injury Lawsuit: What to Expect
Filing a lawsuit is a big decision, and it’s a decision that should be discussed with immediate family members as well as a compassionate birth injury lawyer. Florida lawsuits can take a significant amount of time to resolve, and you’ll need to work with an experienced attorney who can skillfully handle all of the complexities of the process. You can expect your claim to go through these steps:
- Case Intake/Consult: Every case starts with a consultation with a Florida birth injury lawyer to discuss the basic facts of the case and possible legal options available under Florida law. At Parker Waichman, consultations are free and come with no obligation.
- Decision: After the consultation, the attorney will review the potential case and decide to accept or reject it. 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 the lawsuit is filed, the parties exchange information about the allegations in the case (medical records, accident reports, policies and procedures, witness statements, etc.), take depositions of witnesses and experts, and produce reports. The discovery process can take a very long time, as significant research is needed to prepare for trial.
- Mediation and Potential Settlement: Settlement is often discussed throughout the entire process, and a mediator may be called in in an attempt to resolve the dispute before trial. The defendant may also offer a settlement once the evidence has been gathered and they see how strong your case is. Your attorney will advise you on whether or not you should accept a settlement offer.
- Going to Trial: If a case has not settled by the time the trial begins, then the case will be heard by a jury. Settlement negotiations may continue during the trial, with some cases settling right before the case goes to the jury for a decision. A trial is typically scheduled a year or more after a lawsuit is filed.
- Appeal Process: After the jury has returned a verdict, the losing party may 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 is, the longer it may take to resolve. 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 About Florida Birth Injury Lawsuits and Settlements
If Birth Injuries Are Not Reversible, What Is the Purpose of Filing a Lawsuit?
No lawsuit can ever undo birth injuries, but getting compensation through the legal system can help to address physical and mental pain as well as financial stress from medical bills and caregiving expenses. 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 well over $1 million during a person’s lifetime, 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 their own daily needs. Regardless of how severe a birth injury is, the accompanying 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 typically happens at the time of labor and delivery. However, birth injuries can also be sustained during the course of pregnancy, and if these injuries are not promptly diagnosed, the consequences could be permanent. A congenital disability is a physical or mental abnormality such as a cleft palate, hole in the heart, shortened stomach or brain defect that causes developmental delays. 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 medications that are linked to birth defects.
How Long Should I Wait to File a Lawsuit if I Believe My Child Suffered a Birth Injury Because of Medical Malpractice?
Because all legal claims are governed by statutes of limitations, you should not wait to contact an attorney once you realize that your baby may have sustained a birth injury that was caused by a person or party’s negligence. Once a child is 8 years old, it’s 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’s a link between a medical provider’s negligent conduct and a birth injury.
Parker Waichman LLP?
When you need a Florida birth injury lawyer, you need someone you can trust to skillfully handle your case. At Parker Waichman, our nationally recognized law firm has vast experience with pursuing birth injury cases and getting our clients the compensation they need and deserve. We’ve secured more than $2 billion in jury awards and settlements, and while it’s not possible to guarantee results, our birth injury attorneys in Florida have built a reputation for success.
Our legal team is honored to have received many accolades that demonstrate our firm’s devotion to every client’s rights and interests, including:
- A 9.8 out of 10 rating from AVVO, which rates every attorney in America
- Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer-review rating, “AV Preeminent”
- Inclusion in Best Lawyers, a publication that draws on extensive peer review
- The highest ranking of “5 Dragons” based on peer review by Lawdragon
These honors show that our fellow attorneys and law firms respect the integrity and dedication of Parker Waichman. When you work with a Florida birth injury attorney at our firm, your case will be in good hands.
Free Consultation Today
If you have a baby or child who was injured at birth, it’s important to speak with a qualified Florida birth injury attorney as soon as possible to preserve your legal rights. Once we take your case, we’re fight tenaciously on your behalf to get you the settlement or jury award you deserve. And since our Florida birth injury attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, you’ll pay nothing out of pocket for our services.
Contact Parker Waichman today by calling 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to schedule your free consultation in either English or Spanish. With the help of our experienced birth injury attorneys in Florida, you can stand up for your legal rights.
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