Birth injuries are tragic for families that may be facing a lifetime of care for their young one. Some birth injuries can be treated with full recovery. However, many birth injuries require medical care and special accommodations for the remainder of the child’s life. Parents may also have to set up a trust or special protections after the parents are no longer able to care for their child.
The total costs of a birth injury can be in the millions of dollars. After a permanent or severe injury, parents need to think about the total costs and how they will cover those expenses. This includes:
- Healthcare costs
- Life needs
- Special education
- Home modifications
- Mobility devices
- In-home care
- Future care
- Planning for adulthood and beyond
Medical insurance may not cover the costs of care. If the birth injury was caused by a medical mistake during pregnancy, labor, or after delivery, the family may be able to file a medical malpractice claim. A medical malpractice case may allow the family to recover damages, including medical costs, loss of earning potential, and pain and suffering.
Lifetime Medical Care for Birth Injuries
The highest costs for a child with a birth injury is generally medical expenses. Medical care in the United States can be very expensive. Even with insurance, patients are responsible for paying for any medical care they receive.
Some birth injuries are temporary and the child can fully recover after proper care. For these injuries, costs may only involve past medical expenses and possibly future follow-up care. However, more serious birth injuries like cerebral palsy can cause permanent brain damage, mental disabilities, and physical disabilities that require medical care for the rest of their lives.
Ongoing medical care may change over the child’s life. Depending on the child’s condition, the extent of disability, and availability of care, medical expenses may include:
- Ambulance transportation
- Emergency care
- Hospital stay, room and board
- Drugs and medication
- Medical devices
- Blood transfusion
- Diagnostic testing
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- In-home nursing
- Residential care facilities
- Long-term care
- Visits to doctors and specialists
- Behavioral therapy
- Assistive equipment
Calculating Future Medical Expenses
Care for a child with a birth injury may involve a lot of medical care through the early years of life and continuing on. Depending on the extent of the injury, a child may need lifetime care. As the child grows, care may shift to helping the child adapt skills for independence and self-sufficiency.
Calculating the projected costs of medical care is usually left up to expert witnesses. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, medical experts, actuaries, and accountants will use their experience and economic forecasts to estimate a range of future medical expenses.
Continuing Therapy and Life Needs
Not all costs of care involve medical costs. The child may need help adapting to everyday life, assistance in overcoming challenges, and extra time and care in completing day-to-day tasks. There may be additional costs associated with this care, adaptations, therapy, and life needs.
Therapy for Birth Injuries
Many birth injuries require continuing therapy to help them develop, grow, and thrive. Challenges of birth injuries include mental and physical conditions that may need extra time and effort to help them learn and grow. For physical and mental disabilities, continuing therapy can be very beneficial for the child, socially, emotionally, and for future independence.
Physical therapy (PT), or physiotherapy, uses movement, electrotherapy, exercise, joint mobilization, education, and other modalities to treat injuries and impairments. Physical therapy can be temporary or require regular treatment. Some birth injuries may require regular and continuing physical therapy to adapt to their physical conditions and improve strength and independence.
Occupational therapy helps people do things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities. For children with a birth injury, occupational therapy can range from play and sports activities to assistance joining the workplace. Occupational therapy over the course of a child’s life can help them overcome difficulties in participating in everyday activities.
Speech therapy can be used to treat communication disorders, communication disorders, voice disorders, and swallowing disorders. Children with brain injuries or other birth injuries may be able to benefit from speech therapy to help them communicate.
Beyond medical care, a child with a debilitating injury may need a number of accommodations to help them lead a full and independent life. This includes education, mobility devices, and modifications to adapt to the child’s condition. Many of these life needs evolve over the years as the child continues to grow and develop. These can be costly when the family is responsible for covering the expenses of these specialized needs.
Some birth injuries may require special education for the child that is not available through the local school district. Depending on the type of injury, medical condition, and extent of injuries, the child may also benefit from tutoring and educational support, in addition to special education. It may also be important for the child to be able to participate in extracurricular activities that can accommodate individuals with specific birth injuries.
Many birth injuries, like cerebral palsy, have motor function impacts. The child may not be able to walk or require aids to get around. Mobility devices and aids allow people to get around when they otherwise are unable to or have difficulty walking. Mobility devices include canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, and motorized scooters. A child with a lifetime of health complications may require multiple mobility devices over time.
Home modifications can adapt the home to provide a safe and comfortable place to live after an injury, disease, or disability. The family may need these modifications before their child can return home. Common modifications include ramps, modified plumbing, fall protections, and monitoring devices.
Some vehicles may need to be modified for the family to be able to transport their disabled child. Other vehicle modifications may not be needed until many years later, to allow the adult disabled individuals to drive. Modifications may include using a wheelchair-accessible minivan, getting a specially equipped vehicle that can be operated without the use of foot pedals, and adjustable seats.
Many parents do not think about the costs of mental health for their young child. Children with physical dysfunction, brain injuries, or scarring and disfigurement may have mental health problems when they get older. Mental health problems may be caused by physical injuries to parts of the brain. Mental health problems may also be related to children feeling different than their peers.
One study found a link between children with brachial plexus injuries and developing depression later in life. Brachial plexus injuries, like Erb’s palsy or shoulder dystocia, are some of the most common birth injuries. Nerve damage during a difficult delivery may involve a doctor using too much force to deliver a child. This may be more common when a child has an abnormal presentation, larger than average head, or small birth canal.
In the study, 38% of the patients had reactive depression and 42% of the patients had anxiety. Depression can involve feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in normal activities, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include feeling nervous or restless, increased heart rate, a sense of impending danger, trouble concentrating, and trouble sleeping.
Treatment for mental health conditions can be ongoing, involving a multi-discipline team of doctors, pharmacists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors. The patient may have to continue medication and psychotherapy for much of their lives.
Planning for Adulthood and Beyond
One of the most difficult parts of planning for parents to think about is what happens when a disabled child becomes an adult and what happens after the parents pass away. It seems so far away. However, parents need to consider how a disabled child will be cared for when the child reaches school age, adulthood, and even when the child becomes elderly. The parents can only control their child’s care as long as they are physically able to do so.
Planning for the future for a child with a birth injury is complicated. There are so many unknowns. Factors that make it difficult to plan for the future include:
- Level of disability
- Pace of progress
- Cost of treatment
- New medical breakthroughs
- Life expectancy
- Ability of caregivers
When parents age, they may be less able to care for their adult child with a developmental disability and have to find services that can provide care for their child. Parents also need to arrange financial resources to provide for their child after they are no longer able to do so. This future care may include:
- In-home care
- Residential care facilities
- Continuing medical care
Families may be able to use government benefits to care for their child, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicaid. Other options may include a special needs trust or tax-advantaged savings accounts for the disabled (ABLE).
Non-Economic Costs of a Birth Injury
Not all costs of an injury have a clear dollar value. What is the cost of a child missing out on the opportunities they would have had otherwise? How does an injury victim estimate the losses associated with pain? In a medical malpractice lawsuit, these costs are expressed as non-economic damages.
It is important for a family to consider all costs associated with a birth injury. Damages in a birth injury lawsuit are generally categorized as economic or non-economic. Economic damages include the financial losses caused by the injury, including medical expenses, loss of income, and loss of earning potential.
Non-economic damages may include internal losses and difficulties that the injury victim and family have suffered from the birth injury, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a limb or body part
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Emotional distress
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Family loss of companionship or support
When thinking about the costs associated with a birth injury, consider the costs of pain, suffering, loss of opportunities, emotional distress, and the loss of family support.
Some physical pain caused by a birth injury can be chronic. The injury victim may be able to treat the pain with medications but painkillers can have their own negative side effects, including the risk of addiction and impact on mental health.
Even if the child was the one who suffered the injury, the family also has to bear some costs. The family may not be able to work in order to care for their child. The parents may not have anyone to care for them in their older years if the child has limited physical and mental capacity. Parents also suffer stress and anxiety in raising a child with birth injuries, including the stress of not knowing how they will pay for the care needed.
Birth Injury From Malpractice and Cost of Care
When injuries are caused by a medical mistake, the doctor and hospital may be liable for damages. Even if the costs of a birth injury are millions of dollars, the medical professionals who made the mistake should be held accountable. Their insurance companies don’t want to pay out a dime but with the help of experienced trial lawyers, the family can get the compensation they need.
There are time limits to filing a claim so talk to your lawyer about recovering damages to help pay for the cost of care for your child. There may also be limits on the amount of compensation the injury victim could get for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. Your attorney can help you understand how much your claim may be worth so you can rest a little easier knowing that the people who caused the injury will have to pay for their actions.
A medical malpractice claim will allow the injury victim and their family to recover damages and losses, including medical care, loss of income, and pain and suffering. Talk to an experienced birth injury attorney about your options for recovery. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.