When doctors commit medical malpractice and the victim who gets hurt is a newborn, the result is a compensable birth injury. These are some of the most devastating kinds of medical malpractice because the repercussions are likely to deprive a child of a normal life and tend to be impossible to completely overcome.
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can legally represent victims in Connecticut, helping them file a birth injury lawsuit and fight for the compensation they need and deserve.
What are Common Types of Birth Injuries?
Because pregnancy and the delivery process are both very complicated, there are a lot of different things that can go wrong and lead to a birth injury. As a result, there are also a lot of different birth injuries that newborns can suffer. Some of the most severe and also the most common include:
- Shoulder dystocia
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy
- Hemorrhaging, including subconjunctival hemorrhaging and intracranial hemorrhaging
- Spinal cord injuries
- Facial paralysis
- Oxygen deprivation
- Perinatal asphyxia.
When something goes wrong because of a doctor's negligence or poor decision, they can be held liable for the results.
What are the Symptoms of a Birth Injury?
There are some very clear signs that a birth injury has occurred. These symptoms can be the true extent of the birth injury, or can also signal that there is something deeper that is wrong. They include:
- Indentations or lumps in the child's head, an indication of a fractured skull
- Broken bones
- Fractured collarbone
- Dislocated shoulder
- Breathing issues that require a breathing tube
- Paralysis, whether to the muscles in the child's face or one of their limbs
- Bruising or swelling
- A subconjunctival hemorrhage in the child's eye
These symptoms are strong indications that something went wrong and the child suffered a birth injury. However, other symptoms are likely to be present, as well, though they may be vague. Some of these include:
- Eating problems
- Issues with swallowing or drooling
- Coughing or wheezing or other breathing difficulties
- Inconsolable crying, often while the baby is arching its back
- Excessive fussiness
These symptoms, though, can mean a lot of things in addition to a birth injury. Bringing your child to a pediatrician for an independent diagnosis is important if you see symptoms of a birth injury and are concerned about your child's health.
In some cases, though, the symptoms of a birth injury may not become apparent until months or even years have passed. This is especially common when the birth injury is a neurological one.
The symptoms for these birth injuries often come in the form of developmental delays, where the child is not achieving certain important milestones of their growth when they should be achieving them. While missing one or two developmental milestones is not uncommon – children can struggle with a particular task – missing many or all of them is a sign that the child suffered a birth injury.
Birth Injuries to the Fetus While in the Uterus
Negligence or poor decision making can happen while the fetus is still in utero. Doctors can commit medical malpractice and hurt an unborn child in several ways.
One way for a birth injury to happen while the fetus is still in the uterus is when a doctor prescribes the mother medication or other drugs that would imperil a fetus without first checking to make sure she is not pregnant. A lot of medications can alter the complex biological procedure that is a pregnancy, causing serious problems with the fetus and harming its development.
Not Notifying Parents of a Genetic Defect Can Amount to Malpractice
Less obvious instances of medical malpractice are when doctors fail to take reasonable care to detect a genetic defect, or fail to notify parents of one that has been found. These prevent parents from making an informed healthcare decision. They also lead to preventable birth injuries or defects because many genetic issues can be discovered early in the pregnancy.
A Doctor's Medical Malpractice Can Cause a Birth Injury
Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare professional fails to provide reasonable medical assistance. Malpractice can happen in the delivery room in a wide variety of circumstances, including:
- Negligently administering the epidural to the expectant mother
- Failing to take appropriate action when there are signs of difficulty during the delivery
- Not noticing problems in the delivery
- Negligently performing a C-section
- Using so much force during an assisted delivery that the child gets hurt
Whenever any of these situations happen, the doctor should be held accountable. The hospital they work for can be held liable for the child's injuries.
Injuries During the Delivery & Birth of a Child in Connecticut
Birth injuries can also happen during delivery. A birth can be incredibly traumatic both for the newborn and the mother.
Long and difficult labors can drastically increase the odds of a birth injury happening, especially if doctors resort to using extraction devices to speed the delivery along and help the newborn through the birth canal. If doctors do not use these devices properly, they can do more harm than good, though, and can cause a serious birth injury if too much force is applied.
Doctors can also avoid situations that raise the risks of a birth injury by taking precautions throughout the delivery process. By taking action to reduce the amount of fetal distress in the delivery, doctors can keep both the newborn and the mother safe.
That does not always happen, though, and a recent case that was handled by Gilman & Bedigian proves it. A mother in Baltimore went to Johns Hopkins Hospital to give birth. Even though there were clear signs of fetal distress, doctors did not change their tactics for two whole hours. By the time they changed to a C-section, the boy had lost so much oxygen that he was born with Cerebral Palsy, mental impairments, and physical problems. The doctors' malpractice led to a Maryland record $55 million verdict.
Compensation Available in Birth Injury Cases in Connecticut
If a birth injury has been caused by a doctor's medical malpractice, the doctor and his or her medical institution can be held liable for the costs of that injury. Those costs go far beyond just the medical expenses that the hurt child and their parents have had to pay to treat the birth injury in its immediate aftermath.
A huge component of the compensation that is available in a Connecticut birth injury case is the anticipated future medical expenses that the parents and child are likely to face. Birth injuries tend to saddle children with lifelong medical conditions that will require constant care. Just because those expenses happen after the lawsuit is being filed does not mean that they should not be compensated.
In addition to compensation for the medical care necessary to treat the birth injury, a successful lawsuit can also recover compensation for the child's pain and suffering. This includes coverage for the mental anguish that the child will suffer because they will not be able to enjoy their life to the fullest because of the birth injury.
In Connecticut, unlike in other states, there are no damage caps that limit how much compensation can be recovered in a birth injury case. The only way for a verdict to be limited is under Connecticut General Statute § 52-228c. This law allows a judge to overturn or reduce a jury's verdict if it awarded more than $1 million in non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering and the loss of consortium felt by the child's parents. However, judges can only limit these damages if there is evidence that the jury was influenced by partiality, prejudice, a mistake, or corruption.
Infant Wrongful Death Cases
The most severe incidents of medical malpractice on newborns can produce birth injuries that prove to be fatal. Many of these involve one of the following medical conditions:
- Traumatic injuries during birth
- Reduced blood flow
- Severe oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia
The last two of these medical conditions can cause tissue and brain damage that is severe enough to be fatal for the newborn. Hypoxia can happen if the child is completely deprived of oxygen for a long period of time. Even if the child is able to breathe, a reduced blood flow can keep that oxygen from getting to the brain and other organs, causing them to fail. Traumatic birth injuries, on the other hand, can be fatal if a doctor is excessively forceful during the delivery and this causes a terrible injury like a fractured skull or a broken spinal cord.
Connecticut, like all other states, has a wrongful death statute that allows certain people – often family members – to file a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased victim who was killed by someone else's negligence or wrongdoing. This is Connecticut Code § 52-555.
While some other states only allow wrongful death lawsuits to be filed if the baby was born alive or was hurt after it had become viable, Connecticut lets parents file a claim whenever their unborn child died from his or her prenatal injuries, no matter how far into the pregnancy the injury happened.
This rule comes from the Connecticut case Hatala v. Markiewicz. Unfortunately, that case was decided by the Connecticut Superior Court, not the state's supreme court. It also involved an unborn child who was stillborn after a car accident, not by medical malpractice. However, the case was decided in 1966, and has not been overturned by the courts. This means that parents in Connecticut are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor and hospital that committed the malpractice.
Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Cases in Connecticut
Birth injury lawsuits, however, must comply with the statute of limitations in order to get anywhere. The statute of limitations forces victims to file their lawsuit before a set amount of time has passed since their injuries.
In Connecticut, the statute of limitations for all medical malpractice lawsuits, including birth injuries, is Connecticut General Statute § 52-584. This law requires a case to be filed within two years.
This two-year window applies to both adult victims as well as victims who were children when harmed. Unlike most other states, Connecticut does not delay its statute of limitations for young victims.
Products Liability Cases for Defective Medical Devices
Some birth injuries are not caused by the doctor's negligence, but rather by the negligence of one of the companies that designed and made one of the medical devices used during the child's delivery. While these incidents are less common than birth injuries that are caused by medical malpractice, they do still happen in Connecticut, and can still plague newborn children with serious injuries that can drastically impair their ability to live a full life.
Doctors use numerous medical devices over the course of a childbirth procedure. Some of the most common and well known include:
- Vacuum extraction devices, which assist in the delivery by attaching to the child's head while it is in the birth canal and gently sucking it out
- Forceps, which can reorient fetuses as they are about to enter the birth canal
- Drugs and painkillers for the mother, like Oxytocin and an epidural
There are also numerous pieces of sterilized protective equipment used during the delivery, like sponges, gloves, and towels.
If any one of these devices or pieces of equipment is defective in any way, it can pose a risk to the newborn baby and the mother delivering it. These devices can be defective in one of three ways:
- Design defects are medical devices and products that were poorly designed in a way that unreasonable and unnecessarily increased the risk of harm
- Manufacturing defects fail to produce medical devices according to the design and increase the danger of using the device
- Advertising defects fail to warn the doctors about the dangers of using the device, putting them in a position where they are unaware of the threat to their patient
Additionally, medical devices that need to be sterile can be defectively packaged and shipped, losing their sterility and creating the potential for an infection.
Compassionate and Aggressive Birth Injury Attorneys in Connecticut
If your child has suffered a birth injury in Connecticut, contact us online to get started on your case.