Find Birth Injury Lawyer

Find Birth Injury Lawyer

Birth Injury

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 7 in every 1,000 children will suffer from a birth injury. While sometimes they are not serious, birth injuries can also lead to lifelong complications. As a parent, it’s important to recognize that birth injuries are often preventable. This means that the healthcare personnel responsible for causing birth injuries can be held responsible for their actions, making birth injury a type of medical malpractice. Parents should be aware of the risk of birth injury and the legal recourse available to them in the event of one.

What Is a Birth Injury?

Birth injuries are physical injuries experienced during childbirth.

Birth injuries can range in severity. Minor injuries during delivery are common and do not require treatment as they can heal on their own in a matter of days or weeks. However, other birth injuries are more severe and can lead to serious complications such as lifelong disability.

Birth Injury Causes

Birth injuries usually occur for reasons out of the mother’s control. This includes things like:

- The position of the baby, such as in a breech birth
- Very large size of the baby (over 4kg)
- Very quick labor
- Very long labor
- Labor complications
- Assisted delivery using forceps or vacuum
- Small size or unusual shape of the pelvis
- Maternal obesity
- Prematurity (birth before 37 weeks)

Types of Birth Injury

Some common types of birth injuries to infants include:

- Scalp scratches - These can occur when instruments such as forceps or vacuum extractors are used during a vaginal delivery.

- Bruising or forceps marks - The trauma of passing through the birth canal or the use of forceps can leave temporary marks or bruises on a baby’s face or head.

- Brachial palsy or Erb’s palsy - This can occur when the nerve supplying the arms and hands are injured, common when there is trouble delivering the baby’s shoulder. The baby may lose the ability to flex and rotate their arm. Tearing of the nerve can cause permanent damage.

- Facial paralysis - Injury to the facial nerve, sometimes occurring when forceps are used, can lead to paralysis. It may improve on its own or require surgery in the case of a torn nerve.

- Subconjunctival hemorrhage - This very common temporary injury is when the small blood vessels in a baby’s eyes are broken.

- Cephalohematoma - Often appearing several hours after birth as a raised lump on the head, this is bleeding between the skull bone and its covering. This can take between two weeks and three months to disappear completely and can cause jaundice.

- Caput succedaneum - A significant swelling of the soft tissues of the scalp, this condition is most common in babies delivered by vacuum extraction and usually goes away in a few days.

- Fractures - The most common fractures during labor are of the clavicle, which can break when delivering a baby’s shoulder or during a breech delivery.

- Perinatal asphyxia - This is a decrease in the blood flow to the baby's tissues or a decrease in oxygen in the baby's blood before, during, or after delivery.

- Cerebral palsy - This condition affects a baby’s muscle control and can often cause speech and developmental delays. It has no cure.

- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) - This occurs when a child suffers from a lack of oxygen and blood flow during birth.

- Intrauterine fetal demise - Also called stillbirth, this occurs when a fetus dies before birth and occurs in 1 out of every 100 pregnancies each year in the United States.

- Spinal cord injuries - Occurring if a doctor pulls on a baby’s spine too hard during delivery, spinal cord injuries can interfere with a newborn’s sense of touch and ability to move.

Birth Injury Law

Sometimes birth injuries happen by accident. Other times, they are caused by medical negligence of healthcare professionals during delivery. For example, any of the following preventable actions can be considered medical malpractice:

- Forcefully using forceps or vacuum extractors
- Improperly medicating the mother
- Failing to diagnose serious medical conditions in the mother or baby
- Erroneously delivering a baby prematurely

If a healthcare provider fails to uphold the high standard of care expected and legally required of them, they can be held responsible for their actions in a court of law and be required to pay damages.

Do You Need Legal Advice Regarding a Birth Injury Case?

If you or a loved one have experienced a birth injury, it’s important to reach out as soon as possible to a lawyer experienced in these types of cases. This will help you learn your options for how to proceed in order to receive the compensation you deserve for your pain, suffering, and loss.

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Birth Injury Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is birth injury law?

A birth injury is, as the name implies, an injury sustained during the birthing process. Birth injury law is a subtype of medical malpractice law. Medical malpractice alleges that a physician or member of a medical team did not act as a reasonable person and subsequently violated their duty of care. Birth injury lawsuits allege that this negligence has lead to permanent damage to infants and seek legal recourse to cover costs of medical treatment as well as pain and suffering.

2. What's considered a birth injury?

There are a number of injuries that are classified as birth injuries. These include:

  • Brachial palsy: Injury to the nerves of the arm often caused by difficulty delivering the shoulder region of an infant.
  • Caput succedaneum: Significant swelling of the soft tissues of an infant’s scalp commonly associated with vacuum extraction delivery.
  • Cephalohematoma: Bleeding between the skull bone and the fibrous covering of the skull.
  • Facial paralysis: Injury of the facial nerve associated with the use of forceps.
  • Forceps marks and bruising: Signs of bruising on the face or head caused by the trauma of passing through the birth canal and contact with the mother's pelvic bones and tissues as well as forceps.
  • Fractures: Breakages of the clavicle or collarbone are the most common fractures during the labor and delivery process.
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage: Burst blood vessels in the eyes of an infant presenting as a bright red band in the whites of the eye.

While some of these injuries are routine and will heal quickly, severe injuries can occur when the delivering practitioner is negligent or commits malpractice.

3. Is there a statute of limitations for birth injuries?

The statute of limitations is a legal barrier that controls when a lawsuit can be filed. When it comes to the statute of limitations for birth injuries, the timer begins as soon as the birth injury is detected. How long you have to file a birth injury lawsuit depends on what state you were injured in. On average you will have two years to file a birth injury lawsuit but some states will have limits as low as one year or as extensive as five years.

4. What is the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect?

Birth injuries occur as a result of a complication during labor and delivery.  The majority of these injuries result from improper medical technique or use of equipment. It is estimated that five out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States are injured at birth.

On the other hand, birth defects are irregularities that develop prior to labor and delivery, usually within the first three months of pregnancy. Various factors can cause birth defects, including genetics, prescription or illegal drug use, and untreated conditions and infections. About 3% of all babies born in the United States have some sort of birth defect or irregularity. 

5. Are lawsuits involving a baby harmed through birth injury always successful?

No, birth injuries may not always result in a successful lawsuit. This is because in some cases, birth injuries or defects are unavoidable and would have occurred regardless of a doctor's care. However, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be justified if the doctor could have prevented or treated the injury, but instead provided insufficient or negligent care.

6. How can I determine whether my child has suffered a birth injury?

A newborn should be monitored for any apparent birth injuries or defects immediately after birth. Some signs of birth injury after delivery include blue or purple skin, lack of appetite, or especially rapid or slow breathing. If you notice any of these signs on your baby, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

It is also possible for birth injuries to present themselves months or even years later in a child's life. Birth injuries may cause motor impairments, vision or hearing problems, speech impediments or seizures in children later in life. If your child misses key developmental milestones during his or her early years, consult your pediatrician. 

7. How can I sue a doctor for birth injury malpractice?

If you or a loved one’s baby has experienced harm due to a doctor’s negligence or inadequate medical care during childbirth, the first thing you should do is hire a malpractice attorney. Your attorney will establish the fundamental facts of your case and advise you on how to proceed with a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

In order to avoid an expensive and lengthy lawsuit, your attorney may work with the doctor who delivered the baby to reach a settlement. Your case will be taken to court if the parties are unable to decide on a solution through mediation.

8. How do birth injury compensations work?

There are a few different types of compensation that you may be entitled to following a medical malpractice lawsuit for a birth injury. Settlements usually provide compensation for two main factors: economic damages for medical care and non-economic damages relating to the child and family’s quality of life. Compensation for economic damages may cover medical, caretaking or medication expenses. Non-economic damages may refer to the pain and suffering of the child, damage of family relationships and lack of enjoyment in life due to the birth injury.

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