Attorney at Law

Birth Injury Overview

Lia Kopin-Green
July 21, 2022
Last reviewed by
Boruch Burnham, Esq.
May 28, 2023

One of the most beautiful moments in a parent's life is the birth of their child. However, there is a possibility that what should be a joyful day could quickly go awry. There are several complications that can occur during child delivery that could harm the newborn. Unfortunately, some complications are unavoidable. Nevertheless, there are other situations in which the doctor could have taken action to prevent any harm.

Two types of situations are common in birth injury malpractice: either a doctor fails to assess a condition or problem during childbirth, or an infant is harmed as a result of negligent prenatal care. Read on to discover everything you need to know about medical malpractice birth injuries.

Birth Injury vs Birth Defect

First of all, it is important to recognize the main differences between birth injuries and birth defects. A newborn may suffer from a birth injury that was caused by a complication during childbirth, or an unavoidable birth defect that the doctor could not have prevented.

Five of every 1000 babies born in the United States are estimated to be injured during birth. Depending on the severity of the complication, these injuries can cause mild to severe harm to the baby. These injuries typically occur as a result of improper medical techniques or the use of medical equipment. It should be noted, however, that not all birth injuries are grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Even with the correct technique and equipment, birth injuries can occur.

Birth defects, on the other hand, develop prior to labor and delivery. Approximately 3% of all babies born in the U.S. have some kind of birth defect or irregularity. In most cases, they develop within the first three months of pregnancy, although they can arise anytime before or during pregnancy. Birth defects can occur as a result of genetic factors, prescribed or illegal drug use and untreated infections or conditions. Legal remedies for birth defects caused by the mother's behavior during pregnancy, such as alcohol consumption, are generally very limited.

Risk Factors 

Birth injuries can result from several conditions and factors. These are a few of the most common factors that contribute to birth injuries:

  • Complex Labor or Delivery: Difficult labor and delivery can happen if the fetus is situated in an uncomfortable position, or if the mother’s cervix is unable to expand, preventing the fetus from moving through the birth canal. In addition, some pelvic shapes or sizes may cause an infant to get stuck in the birth canal during childbirth, preventing oxygen from reaching the baby.
  • Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia refers to acute maternal hypertension, or high blood pressure, towards the end of the mother’s pregnancy. This condition can prevent the placenta from getting enough blood to the baby, which can result in fetal growth restrictions and brain damage.
  • Infections: Untreated infections in the mother can increase the risk of birth injuries. These infections may affect the placenta, which can disrupt the flow of oxygen to the fetus. Moreover, infections can lead to serious issues throughout labor and delivery such as maternal fever.
  • Premature Births: Babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy are considered premature. At this stage, the infants’ organs are not yet fully developed, putting them at risk for birth injury. Premature birth injuries can result from infections, physical trauma, oxygen deprivation, and other complications caused by immature body systems and functions.

Medical Negligence

A medical professional's failure to meet the standard of care expected of them can lead to serious complications during childbirth. Doctors are likely to be found liable for birth injuries if they fail to provide the mother or baby with adequate medical care during pregnancy or delivery. However, in order for a medical professional to be held legally responsible, it needs to be proved that his or her conduct must fall below a generally accepted and reasonable standard of care. These are just a few examples of medical negligence that may fall below this standard:

  • Failure to perform a medically necessary C-section (cesarean section)
  • Failure to monitor the vital signs of the mother or baby after and during childbirth
  • Negligent or improper treatment of health conditions in the mother or baby
  • Misuse of tools and equipment such as forceps or vacuum

Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit

The first step in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a medical professional after a birth injury is to hire a skilled lawyer with extensive experience in medical malpractice cases. . Your attorney can establish basic facts about the case such as the date and location of the birth injury, how it could have been prevented and who should be held legally responsible for the injury. This key information will help your lawyer work towards building a strong case and seeking a legal remedy.

Initially, in order to reach a settlement and prevent a formal lawsuit, your lawyer may work with the medical professional who delivered the baby. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement through mediation, your case will be decided in court.

Compensation for Birth Injuries

Some birth injuries can lead to long term effects and permanent damage. Proper compensation should be provided for the pain, disability, and other challenges a healthy baby faces because of the negligence of a medical professional. Following a successful medical malpractice lawsuit, one could be awarded with compensation for a variety of non-economic and economic damages such as:

  • Pain, suffering and mental anguish
  • Lack of enjoyment in life
  • Medical expenses
  • Caretaking expenses
  • Loss of future earning capacity

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