Birth injuries are the rare kinds of accidents that leave two victims, instead of just one: both the child who has been saddled with the disabilities from their birth injury and the child's parents will suffer. While not all birth injuries are severe, some can cut short the child's life or can be debilitating enough that the child has no chance of living a full life.
When the birth injury only happened because the doctor was negligent or committed medical malpractice, you deserve to be compensated for the losses you have incurred. Pursuing that compensation can also serve to hold the hospital and the doctor accountable for what they have done.
Whether you were the one who suffered a birth injury or it was your child who was, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer. The personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help if the incident occurred in Washington, D.C.
Birth Injuries in Washington, D.C.
Birth injuries are disabilities that happened during a child's delivery or while the baby was still in utero. While some birth injuries are just the result of genetics, others could have been discovered early enough for the parents to make informed decisions about the pregnancy, and still others are caused by doctors while delivering the baby.
These types of birth injuries are often the result of medical malpractice.
Birth Injuries Suffered in Utero
A doctor's medical malpractice can lead to birth injuries while the fetus is still inside the uterus.
In some cases, the malpractice can actually cause the injuries, like when they prescribe a pregnant woman medication that will have an adverse side effect on their unborn child.
More commonly, though, birth injuries suffered in utero lead to medical malpractice claims when the doctor fails to discover the defects. By not finding the birth defects in the fetus, the doctor is left unable to tell the parents of the difficulties that their child might face. This prevents the parents from making an informed decision. This situation can happen if the doctor:
- Does not order genetic testing
- Does not administer the testing correctly, thereby failing to find the problem that the test should have found
- Fails to read the results of the test correctly
- Does not relay the results of the genetic test to the parents
Birth Injuries Suffered During Delivery
Birth injuries are more commonly suffered during the delivery process, especially when the delivery was a difficult one that required assistance from the doctors or that had any of the following birth complications:
- Uterine rupture
- Excessive bleeding
- Problems with the umbilical cord
- Abnormal fetal presentation, like when the baby is not positioned to come out head first
- Extended labor
These complications can quickly lead to fetal distress, which can have disastrous consequences. Newborns can get seriously hurt if the stress gets too high. Unfortunately, many doctors and surgeons fail to notice the signs of fetal distress and add to the problems in an attempt to get through the delivery process.
That lack of attention and the decisions that it produces can amount to medical malpractice and some serious birth injuries.
Birth Injuries are Common in Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, birth injuries are shockingly common in Washington, D.C. One medical study found that an estimated 0.06 to 0.08% of live births in the U.S. included a birth injury, as well as just under 2% of neonatal deaths.
With around 10,000 babies being delivered in Washington, D.C. annually, that means that nearly a hundred children are being saddled with life-long difficulties from the very beginning of their lives every single year. Some of these birth injuries are going to be unfortunate accidents or the results of genetic abnormalities, but others are going to be the result of malpractice that can lead to lawsuits against the following hospitals:
- Children's National Medical Center
- George Washington University Hospital
- Howard University Hospital
- Sibley Memorial Hospital
- St. Elizabeth's Hospital
Some Common Birth Injuries
There are dozens of possible birth injuries that can be the result of medical malpractice. However, some of the most common that a child can suffer include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Facial paralysis
- Swelling of the scalp, a condition known as Caput Succedaneum
- Skull bruising from assisted delivery methods, also known as cephalohematoma
- Ruptured blood vessels, also known as either intracranial or subconjunctival hemorrhaging
- Oxygen deprivation during delivery, or perinatal asphyxia
Some of these birth injuries can lead to long term and sometimes even permanent debilitation and disability. Others are serious, but will not drastically alter a child's quality of life.
All of them, though, can be the grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit if they could have been prevented by a doctor or healthcare professional.
How You Can Recover Compensation for a Birth Injury
If you suffered a birth injury or your child has, and you suspect that the injury was the result of a doctor's malpractice, you could be entitled to compensation. Just because you are entitled to it, though, does not mean the doctor or the hospital is going to give it to you without a fight. It often takes a lawyer and a lawsuit to get what you deserve.
The process of filing the lawsuit often takes the following steps.
Discovering the Injury
The first step is always to find evidence of the birth injury. Without signs that something is wrong, nothing else can be done.
In some birth injuries, there are clear signs that something has happened. In others, though, the signs and symptoms of a birth injury take years to emerge.
This can present a complication for the parents of children who have been born with birth injuries. Washington, D.C.'s statute of limitations requires parents to file a lawsuit within three years of the injury's infliction.
Children, on the other hand, are not bound by this strict statute of limitations. D.C. Code Ann. § 12-302(a) allows them to file a birth injury lawsuit until their 21st birthday by tolling the three-year statute of limitations until they are no longer a minor.
Once you have discovered the existence of the birth injury and have decided that you would like to invoke your rights to compensation, the next step is to gather evidence of the birth injury and the losses that will be suffered by both parents and child. This includes statements and diagnoses from doctors, as well as medical bills and estimates of future medical care that will be needed to treat the birth injury.
Sending Demand Letters
The first interaction with the doctor who committed malpractice and the hospital where they work is often through a demand letter. A demand letter notifies the doctor and their institution that there was a birth injury, that you think it was malpractice, and that you deserve to be compensated. It tells the soon-to-be defendants that you are considering a lawsuit, and initiates the settlement discussions.
In most cases, though, demand letters are ignored. This leaves you with little option but to file the lawsuit.
Starting the Lawsuit by Filing the Complaint
The complaint is the opening of a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is a long and drawn recitation of the facts of your case and ends with a demand for compensation. It gets filed with the court and then served on all of the people you are suing, officially making them defendants in the case.
Discovery and Settlement Negotiation
Once the complaint has been filed, lawyers for all of the parties involved gather evidence of the case. This usually includes depositions and written interrogatories, as well as physical and documentary evidence of the birth injury.
As evidence is uncovered, settlement discussions will begin. The vast majority of personal injury and birth injury cases are settled out of court in this way.
If there is no settlement, your case will get scheduled for trial. There, your lawyer will present the evidence that there was a birth injury, that the doctor committed malpractice, that the malpractice caused the injury, and that you deserve to be compensated for all of your losses. Lawyers for the defendants will have an opportunity to present evidence of their own.
Once the jury hears the evidence and deliberates, they will issue a verdict.
Recoverable Compensation for a Birth Injury in Washington, D.C.
Unlike most other injury cases, birth injuries create multiple victims: The child who suffered the injury and the parents who will have to care for it. Both victims deserve compensation for what they have been put through, though they each have suffered differently.
Parents of a child born with a birth injury deserve to be compensated for their:
- Medical expenses. The parents of the hurt child are going to be the ones who paid for the medical bills out of their own pocket, and will likely be paying for the costs of the birth injury well into the child's adult life.
- Lost wages. The parents probably missed out on work while they were in the hospital caring for their hurt child.
- Physical pain. Most birth injuries involve traumatic deliveries. The child's mother likely experienced significant amounts of pain during this process. When she would not have suffered that pain, were it not for the doctor's malpractice, she deserves to be compensated for it.
- Mental anguish. The uncertainty and fear of having a potentially disabled child are intense. Because the doctor's malpractice caused it, the parents should be compensated.
A child born with a birth injury can also deserve compensation for the repercussions of their condition, including:
- Anticipated medical expenses. Many birth injuries require care and treatment for the rest of the child's life.
- Lost earning capacity. Some birth injuries will prevent a child from reaching their maximum potential in the workplace as an adult. The income that has been lost because of the birth injury can be recoverable in a birth injury lawsuit.
- Pain and suffering. A key component of pain and suffering compensation is the loss of life's enjoyments. When a child cannot do the things they want to do, or that they see other children doing, the mental suffering can be significant.
Thankfully, and unlike other states, Washington D.C. does not have a limit on the damages that birth injury victims can recover.
A Track Record of Success and a $55 Million Verdict: Birth Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian have represented numerous clients who have been suffering from a birth injury in the D.C. area and have won a record-breaking $55 million verdict for one victim against Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
In that case, doctors did not act on clear signs that a delivery was causing serious fetal distress. Instead of quickly switching from a natural birth to a C-section, there was a delay of nearly two hours.
In that amount of time, the baby lost so much of his oxygen supply that he was born with mental and physical disabilities, as well as Cerebral Palsy.
Instead of taking responsibility for the malpractice that happened in its facility, Johns Hopkins insisted that it did nothing wrong. Rather than settle the case, they took it all the way to trial. The trial lasted two weeks and ended with a $55 million verdict against the hospital – the largest birth injury verdict in Baltimore.
But even if your birth injury case never makes it to trial, the medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can still be a huge help. Just having the reputation as lawyers who can take a case to trial and win it can inspire unease in doctors and hospitals. Hiring the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can force the defendants in your case to take settlement far more seriously, and often leads to better offers throughout the settlement process, as defendants take extra precautions to make sure they are not brought to trial by our skilled attorneys.
Contact us online to get started on your case if you or your child has suffered a birth injury in the District of Columbia.