Birth injuries are shockingly common in the U.S., and Arkansas is no exception. Whether they happen in utero or during the delivery process, the child and the parents are likely to suffer. Recovering compensation – both for the medical expenses necessary to treat a debilitating birth injury and for the considerable pain and suffering that both parents and child deal with – is essential.
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian have a track record of success representing birth injury victims and can help victims in Arkansas recover what they deserve.
Medical Malpractice is a Major Cause of Birth Injuries
Most birth injuries are caused in the delivery room when a doctor or other healthcare professional makes a mistake, a bad decision, or does something negligently, like:
- Failing to notice clear signs of fetal distress
- Noticing the warning signs of a difficulty in delivering the baby but not taking appropriate reaction
- Negligently administering the epidural
- Using extraction devices too forcefully
- Improperly performing a C-section procedure
In any of these cases, the result can be an injured newborn. Those injuries can plague them for the rest of their life.
Holding a doctor and their medical institution accountable for what they have done is crucial for the injured child and their parents to make a full recovery.
Types of Birth Injuries in Arkansas
There are a lot of specific types of birth injuries that newborns can suffer. Some are relatively minor and will only affect small areas of the child's life. Others, though, can be extremely debilitating and even fatal. Most create other medical complications that can be even more severe than the birth injury itself.
Some of the most serious birth injuries include:
- Oxygen deprivation – often due to problems with the umbilical cord, which can lead to serious developmental delays, impaired mental function, and brain damage through perinatal asphyxia
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy or nerve damage to the child's arm
- Shoulder dystocia
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Paralysis, including facial paralysis
- Bone fractures, including skull fractures
Many of these injuries can create lasting repercussions. The vast majority of them happen either in utero while the fetus is developing over the course of the mother's pregnancy or during the delivery process.
Birth Injuries that Happen in Utero
Some birth injuries happen during pregnancy. These are often either the result of a doctor's negligence in prescribing medication to the mother that would harm the fetus or a doctor's failure to fully inform the parents of a potential for a genetic birth abnormality.
When doctors fail to perform a genetic test, fail to read the results correctly, or fail to communicate the results to the parents, they can prevent the parents from making an informed decision about whether to proceed with a pregnancy or whether to get pregnant at all. By not giving the parents this information, a doctor can commit medical malpractice.
Not Informing Parents of Genetic Disorders Can Amount to Malpractice
Some birth injuries or defects, however, are the result of genetic disorders. Just because a birth injury is caused by bad genetics, though, does not mean that the doctor cannot be held liable. They have a duty to discover abnormalities that are present during the pregnancy and relay that information to the parents. Without that information, parents can be kept from making an informed decision about what to do.
Birth Injuries that Happen During Delivery
Delivery is where a lot of birth injuries happen. The delivery process is a traumatic one that can create a lot of fetal distress, especially if extraction devices are used to assist in the delivery. If poorly done, these assisted delivery methods can hurt the baby.
Additionally, doctors can reduce the amount of fetal distress by taking reasonable precautionary steps before and during the delivery. These can often prevent a birth injury from happening by avoiding the situations where one becomes likely. For example, doctors can prevent a birth injury from happening by noticing a potential obstruction in the birth canal and performing a C-section instead.
Birth Injuries Can Also Happen from Defective Medical Devices
While a far less common cause of a birth injury, defective medical devices can also hurt newborn children. These incidents complicate matters, as the negligent party is no longer the doctor who directly caused the birth injury by committing medical malpractice. Instead, the responsible party is one of the companies in the supply chain that designed, made, or brought the medical device to the hospital, where it was used during the child's delivery.
Incidents like these often involve one of the following medical devices that are used during childbirth:
- Forceps or other assisted delivery devices, like a vacuum extraction device
- Drugs used to dilate the cervix or ease the mother's pain
- Personal protective equipment used by doctors during the delivery
These medical devices can be defective in any of the following ways:
- Defective design: The medical device or product was poorly designed in a way that put patients, including newborn children, at unnecessary risk of harm
- Defective manufacture: The company that executed the product's design did it poorly, creating a defective product that did not comport with what was intended
- Failure to warn: The company that sold the medical device failed to warn the doctors who were destined to use it about the potential for harm that was not apparent
- Packaging and shipping problems: Otherwise perfect medical devices can become defective if they are improperly packaged and shipped to hospitals in a way that makes them unsterile when they are used
When a defective medical device is used during childbirth, it can leave the child with a severe birth injury. Holding the negligent party accountable for the defective device can take a products liability lawsuit that recovers compensation for the victims of the incident.
Birth Injury Symptoms
These birth injuries can be difficult to detect because the symptoms that they create might not be very obvious. This is true even when the birth injury is a physical one that is causing the child difficulties in their first days in the world.
Some of the most common symptoms that a child has suffered a birth injury include:
- Excessive fussiness
- Sensitivity to light
- Breathing issues
- Coughing or wheezing
- Crying while arching its back in pain
- Lack of movement in a limb
While some of these are strong indications that the child has suffered a birth injury, others can very easily be a symptom of something else. Bringing your child to see a pediatrician that is independent from the hospital that gave birth to the child is an important step to take if you are suspicious that something went wrong during the delivery.
In many other cases, though, there are no symptoms of a birth injury in the baby's first few days or even the first few weeks. It is only as the child begins to miss developmental milestones that it becomes clear that something is wrong.
Developmental milestones are physical, emotional, mental, and social achievements that children attain as they grow up. Doctors have determined when a child normally reaches these stages of growth, and have created a list of milestones that normal children will be able to reach.
When a child misses them consistently, it is a sign that they may have a medical condition that is causing these developmental delays. That medical condition may have happened during the pregnancy or in the delivery room, and may be the result of a doctor's medical malpractice. In these cases, the child will have suffered a birth injury, but the symptoms do not begin to appear for months or even years afterwards.
Compensation for Birth Injury Victims in Arkansas
When doctors act negligently and hurt someone, they and their employer can be held liable for their medical malpractice. By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit for a birth injury that happened in Arkansas, victims – both the hurt child and his or her parents – can pursue the compensation that they are legally entitled to receive and that they need to financially cover a devastating injury that they did not cause.
The coverage that compensation can provide can go well past just the costs of the medical treatment that the child has already had to receive for the birth injury.
Because birth injuries usually lead to medical conditions that will never go away and will require care in the future as well, a birth injury lawsuit can include preemptive compensation for expected treatment. That medical treatment can come decades after the lawsuit has been filed. However, so long as it is reasonably expected and is necessary to treat the lasting effects of the birth injury, it can be recovered in a lawsuit.
Another huge component of the compensation available in birth injuries is meant to cover the mental anguish and suffering of the hurt child. Birth injuries can be debilitating. When the injury leaves a child unable to do the things the child wants to do or otherwise causes the child to struggle to keep up with peers, the child deserves compensation.
Additionally, the parents of a child born with a birth injury will suffer in their own way. They also deserve to be compensated for being forced to watch their child struggle with a difficult medical condition from the child's very first days.
Thankfully, unlike other states, Arkansas does not limit the amount of compensation that can be recovered in a birth injury lawsuit. While other states have laws that cap the amount of damages recoverable in a lawsuit, Article 5, Section 32 of Arkansas' state constitution prohibits damage cap statutes.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit in Arkansas
The parents of a child hurt by a birth injury can file a medical malpractice lawsuit on their child's behalf against the doctor and institution responsible. That lawsuit, however, has to be filed before the child turns 11 years old to comply with Arkansas' statute of limitations – at Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-114-203.
Wrongful Death Cases for Infants
Some of the most severe birth injuries prove to be fatal for the newborn. These birth injuries most frequently involve:
- Oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia
- A drastic reduction in blood flow
- Traumatic injuries during the delivery
The lack of oxygen, if it is complete and lasts for too long, can cause brain damage and tissue damage that proves to be fatal. Even if the child is breathing, if their blood flow is constricted it can prevent that oxygen from getting to the brain and other organs. Finally, some fatal birth injuries are caused by especially traumatic injuries, like a broken skull or spine.
All of these are tragic accidents, but can be categorized into two situations:
- The doctor's malpractice causes the death of the unborn child
- The child is born alive, but the malpractice saddles them with terminal conditions that causes their death soon afterwards
The difference matters, as does the age of the child when the medical malpractice occurred.
In Arkansas, whenever a person dies because of someone else's negligence, that person's relatives and kin are allowed to sue the negligent party on the victim's behalf. According to the Supreme Court of Arkansas, a “person” under the wrongful death statute includes unborn children, so long as they are viable when they are hurt. That case, Aka v. Jefferson Hospital Association, Inc., was decided in 2001 and overruled an earlier case from 1995, Chatelain v. Kelley.
In Chatelain, the court had determined that children had to be born alive in order for their parents to have rights under the state's wrongful death statute. Now, though, parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their deceased infant so long as the baby could have survived outside of the mother's womb.
Gilman & Bedigian: Lawyers With a $55 Million Verdict Serving Victims in Arkansas
The personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian represent birth injury victims and their parents in Arkansas courts and help them recover the compensation they need and deserve.
The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian have had prior success fighting on behalf of birth injury victims and even have the highest verdict on record for a birth injury in the state of Maryland: $55 million.
In that case, a mother in Baltimore went to the Johns Hopkins Hospital to give birth to a baby boy. Doctors there, however, did not respond appropriately to signs of fetal distress. It took two hours for them to decide they needed to perform a C-section. By that time, the baby's oxygen supply had been cut off for so long that he was born with Cerebral Palsy, as well as mental and physical impairments.
The lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian took the case all the way to trial after Johns Hopkins refused to settle it. At trial, Gilman & Bedigian attorneys helped the family and the victim win the compensation they deserved.
Compassionate, Aggressive Birth Injury Attorneys in Arkansas
Contact us online to get started on your case if you or your child has suffered a birth injury in Arkansas.