After birth, children are supposed to develop quickly and reach important milestones over the first few years of their lives. While many of them stay on schedule, others have developmental delays that set back their physical or mental growth. Even though the root cause of some of these growth problems is natural or genetic, a significant portion of developmental delays are due to medical malpractice.
Whenever the developmental delays that your child is experiencing were caused by a doctor's negligence, it can be the grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Having a skilled malpractice attorney like those at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can be the best way to ensure you get the compensation that you deserve for your child.
A Child's Developmental Schedule
Children are supposed to grow and develop at a rate that is medically recognized and expected. Doctors and pediatricians have developed a schedule of growth milestones--spanning the physical, emotional, and mental spectrum--that healthy children conform to as they grow older.
For example, according to the growth schedule from the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies who are older than 8 months but younger than a year old should be able to
- sit up without help,
- be able to pull themselves up to stand,
- walk while holding onto furniture or other supports,
- imitate gestures and other children playing,
- show a preference for some toys over others, and
- begin to associate spoken words with images.
Babies and younger children who are healthy are on target to hit these milestones at, or nearly at, the age that pediatricians expect them to. Some children even develop more quickly than doctors expect them to.
Developmental Delays in Children
However, some children struggle to master certain developmental skills and soon fall behind schedule. These children are said to have a developmental delay. In some cases, this delay might just be a phase, as the child is struggling with a particular skill or concept and will overcome it on his or her own. Unfortunately, in some other cases, these developmental delays are a sign of a serious medical condition.
Many of the developmental delays that children show have to do with their mental or emotional abilities, though these issues can also lead to symptoms that are more physical in nature.
For example, some of the most common symptoms of a developmental delay are problems with a child's motor skills. These are physical symptoms that prevent a child from using their hands or feet effectively to do intricate things like eat, write, or play without being clumsy. However, these physical symptoms are often indicative of a delay in the child's mental development.
Some Developmental Delays are Genetic
In some cases, a child's developmental delays can be attributed to natural or genetic causes.
Medical conditions like Down's syndrome or cystic fibrosis are genetic diseases that are passed down from a child's parents and cause significant developmental delays. Because these conditions are genetic, there is little a doctor or other medical professional can do to prevent them from occurring.
However, just because the medical community has not discovered a way to treat Down's syndrome or cystic fibrosis does not mean that they cannot be the grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. In some cases, doctors can have a legal obligation to identify these conditions early in the pregnancy and notify the parents. If they fail to uphold this obligation, the doctor could be liable for a wrongful birth.
Many Developmental Delays Come from Medical Malpractice
While some developmental delays come from natural causes, others are the result of the negligence of doctors or other medical professionals. Most of these mistakes come during the delivery, or in the preparation for the delivery.
For example, if the baby is deprived of oxygen for a prolonged period of time during labor or delivery, it can cause serious or even irreparable harm to the child's brain, and can even amount to brain damage. The true severity of such an injury might not become apparent until years after the injury occurs, as the child progressively shows his or her inability to keep up with peers and falls short of developmental milestones.
Other developmental delays can come from any of the myriad kinds of birth injuries that are caused by medical malpractice during the delivery or during the months that lead up to it. Doctors can make prescription errors that lead to pregnant mothers taking drugs or other medications that will have a significant impact on the development of the fetus in the womb, leading to developmental delays after the child is born. Additionally, poorly-conducted delivery techniques like an aggressive use of the doctor's forceps can cause muscular or skeletal damage during delivery, saddling the newborn with a significant injury from the onset and preventing them from physically developing as quickly as they should be while they overcome their injury.
Medical Malpractice Claims Lead to Compensation for Children
In all of these cases, a newborn baby is hurt, through no fault of their own. Not even the parent is responsible for the pain and suffering that they will go through as they struggle to keep up with other children of their own age. Instead, the problems associated with the developmental delay were caused by the negligence of a doctor or other health professional.
This is why medical malpractice and wrongful birth claims exist: to hold these medical professionals accountable for their mistakes and compensate the victims who are hurt.
Filing a medical malpractice for your child's developmental delay is often the only way to get them the compensation that they need and deserve to live a full and rewarding life. Without it, they could struggle to overcome the obstacles that have been put in their way.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian can help. Contact us online.