Birth injuries are medical conditions suffered by newborn babies and caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. Because the injuries suffered by the newborn are likely to saddle them with lasting and debilitating medical problems for the rest of their life, recovering compensation for one is absolutely critical, both for the hurt child and his or her family.
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help families recover that compensation whenever a birth injury happens in Idaho.
Birth Injuries Can Be Severe
Birth injuries include all of the medical conditions that can be sustained by a newborn during the delivery process or during the pregnancy. Therefore, there are dozens of different kinds of specific birth injuries that a child can suffer. Some of them can be relatively minor, while others are debilitating and very serious. Some can even be fatal in a few short years.
Some examples of the most common and serious birth injuries include:
- Oxygen deprivation, which can lead to a whole host of other medical complications and developmental delays
- Perinatal asphyxia, a medical condition that occurs when a child's oxygen deprivation affects his physical development
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy
- Facial paralysis
- Shoulder dystocia, a birth injury that can lead to oxygen deprivation and its attendant complications
- Bleeding in the baby's brain, often in the form of intracranial hemorrhage or subconjunctival hemorrhage
- Diabetic retinopathy.
Each of these conditions can come in a range of severity. For example, newborns who suffer from the effects of oxygen deprivation during the delivery can have developmental delays that only barely impair their lives. Others, however, can be put in a near-vegetative state for the rest of their lives.
What Can Cause a Birth Injury?
Most birth injuries are caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. However, other birth injuries can be the result of a genetic defect in the child.
Even birth injuries that are the result of the child's genes, though, can still lead to medical malpractice and compensation if the doctor fails to detect the problem or inform the parents of the risks of a birth injury.
Medical malpractice is negligent conduct by a healthcare professional that leads to medical attention that falls below a reasonable standard of care. When it leads to someone getting hurt – as it often does – the victims can recover compensation from the negligent doctor and the medical institution that employs them.
Medical malpractice can cause a birth injury in a wide variety of circumstances. For example, a healthcare professional can:
- Neglect an expectant mother in the maternity ward
- Negligently administer an epidural
- Use too much force during an assisted delivery and hurt the newborn
- Make a mistake during a C-section surgery
- Fail to take appropriate action when the delivery process becomes complicated
- Prescribe a pregnant woman drugs that could harm the development of the fetus
Birth Injuries Caused by Genetics Can Also Amount to Malpractice
Even when the birth injury was the result of a genetic defect or abnormality in the child, it can still lead to medical malpractice if the doctor should have discovered the issue or failed to notify the parents of the situation. This can prevent the parents from making an informed decision about the pregnancy and lead to a child being born with a birth defect. In these cases, the doctor's mistake can become the superseding cause of the birth injury and make them responsible for the results.
Birth Injuries and Defective Medical Equipment
In addition to genetics and medical malpractice, defective medical devices can also cause birth injuries in Idaho. While defective devices are a relatively rare cause of a birth injury, they can still happen. When they do, the pathway to compensation is a little different than normal.
Doctors use many different medical devices during a childbirth procedure. Some of the most common and apparent include:
- Forceps, to reposition the fetus at the beginning of the birth canal
- A vacuum-assisted extraction device, to help the child out
- Personal protective equipment, like gowns, gloves, and masks
- Drugs like Oxytocin and an epidural shot for the mother
If the birth involves a C-section, dozens of other medical devices are used, as well.
Whenever a piece of medical equipment is used, though, there is a chance that it will fail or prove to be defective. Defective products – including medical equipment – fall into three categories:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Advertising defects, often referred to as “failure to warn” defects
A defective design is one that needless puts people at unnecessary risk. Manufacturing defects happen when a product is made: If the end result does not comport with the design, it can be defective. When they are for medical devices, advertising defects fail to warn doctors about the hidden risks of using the device.
The common theme for all of these situations is that the doctor could use all of the caution in the world and the newborn could still suffer a birth injury. It would be unfair to hold the doctor accountable for the consequences of his or her faulty tools. The companies responsible for the defective product can be held accountable and made to compensate the victims with a products liability claim.
What are the Signs or Symptoms of a Birth Injury?
Different birth injuries present different symptoms. Unfortunately, not all of those are obvious or even apparent. Some of the symptoms of neurological problems caused by a birth injury can take years to develop.
The most obvious symptoms of a birth injury are physical deformities or problems like:
- Broken bones
- Fractured collarbone
- Dislocated shoulder
- Fractured skull
- An indentation or lump on the baby's head that is a symptom of a fractured skull
- A subconjunctival hemorrhage in the baby's eye
- Breathing problems so severe that the child needs a breathing tube after birth
- Muscle paralysis, most often in the child's face, neck, arms, or hands
However, children who have suffered a birth injury can also have plenty of other symptoms, as well. Some of these symptoms, though, can indicate a birth injury as well as numerous other medical conditions, or even nothing at all. Some of these symptoms are:
- Eating issues
- Difficulty swallowing
- Crying with an arched back, a sign of intense pain
- Erratic eye movements
- Vision or hearing problems
- Lack of physical coordination
In some cases where a child has suffered a birth injury, the symptoms do not even begin to appear until they begin to grow up. This is especially common when they have suffered neurological injuries, like minor amount of brain damage from being deprived of oxygen during the delivery.
When this is the case, the symptoms are often increasingly large delays in the child's development. They may begin to consistently miss the developmental milestones that doctors use to gauge the child's mental, physical, emotional, and social growth. If your child falls behind his or her peers over the first few years of their life, it may be a symptom that they suffered a birth injury.
Most Birth Injuries Happen During the Delivery
There are many ways a birth injury can happen and most of them occur in the delivery room during the birth of the baby. Delivering a baby is a traumatic event for both the child and the mother. Lots can go wrong, and doctors have to make some important decisions to keep everyone safe. When they do not do this effectively, it can rise to the level of medical malpractice.
An example of this happening comes from a recent case that the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian handled in Maryland. A mother went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to deliver a baby boy. However, doctors did not act when clear signs of fetal distress showed themselves. Rather than pivot to a C-section delivery immediately, they waited for nearly two hours. By that time, the baby had been deprived of so much oxygen that he was born with Cerebral Palsy and other physical and mental developmental delays.
With legal representation from Gilman & Bedigian, the family sued the doctors and the hospital, taking the case all the way through a trial when the hospital refused to settle. The jury awarded a $55 million verdict to the victims, a record amount for a birth injury in Maryland.
Birth Injuries to Unborn Babies in Utero in Idaho
While less common, birth injuries can also happen because of a doctor's malpractice while the baby is still in the mother's uterus.
One way this can happen is if a doctor prescribes a medication to the mother that would harm a fetus. Doctors prescribing these potentially harmful drugs to women who could be pregnant should run tests to make sure the patient is not carrying a child. It often takes several weeks for women to even suspect that they are pregnant. Not taking the proper precautions can amount to medical malpractice.
Another way a doctor can commit malpractice and cause a birth injury is by not notifying parents or potential parents of clear signs of a genetic trait that could produce a birth defect. This can prevent parents from making an informed decision about their family.
Birth Injuries Can Even Be Fatal
A doctor's medical malpractice can cause one of the following common types of fatal birth injuries:
- Blood flow problems
- Traumatic injuries
Each of these medical conditions can lead to the death of a newborn or can cause a baby being stillborn.
Hypoxia happens when the baby is completely deprived of oxygen. This can trigger a chain of events where the cells in the baby's brain, tissues, and other organs wither and die from the lack of oxygen. If left unchecked, this can quickly prove to be fatal. Similarly, blood flow issues can create the same results. The only difference is that the child is breathing – the lack of oxygen comes from the lack of blood flow to bring that oxygen to the organs that need it.
Finally, traumatic injuries like a broken spinal cord or fractured skull can also be fatal in some of the most severe cases.
In Idaho, when someone is killed due to the negligence of someone else, including a doctor, the relatives of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the wrongdoer. When the victim was a minor child, the parents are allowed to file the lawsuit under Idaho Code § 5-310.
The Supreme Court of Idaho, in the 1982 case Volk v. Baldazo, has determined that a “minor child” under § 5-310 includes viable but unborn fetuses. However, these lawsuits are still wrongful death cases, not normal personal injury lawsuits. This means that the compensation paid by the defendants is meant to cover the losses sustained by the parents of the child, not the child, him- or herself. This is important because, while it does include compensation for the parents' loss of consortium for the deceased child, it does not include compensation for the parents' grief, emotional distress, or mental anguish.
Victims Deserve Compensation in Idaho
Children who are born with a birth injury can face a lifetime spent overcoming the setback that happened while they were being born and through no fault of their own. They deserve to be compensated as does their family.
In Idaho, that compensation can come from a successful birth injury lawsuit. The compensation can cover financial setbacks and other problems derived from the doctor's malpractice, including:
- Medical expenses that have already accumulated;
- Medical bills that are likely to accrue in the future for continued treatment of the birth injury;
- The child's reduced earning capacity due to the developmental delays or debilitation caused by the birth injury;
- The child's physical pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish experienced by the child for the loss of life's enjoyments and that stem from any physical deformity caused by their birth injury; and/or
- Loss of consortium and companionship suffered by the child's parents.
Unfortunately, all of the “noneconomic” damages suffered by a victim of a birth injury and their family – including pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and mental anguish – is capped in Idaho by Idaho Code § 6-1603 to a mere $250,000. While lots of states have these so-called “damage caps,” which put a limit on how much a victim can recover in a successful personal injury or medical malpractice case, Idaho's is especially harsh because it means victims of birth injuries can be kept from recovering anything close to what they truly deserve.
The Statute of Limitations for Birth Injuries in Idaho
As elsewhere, victims of birth injuries in Idaho have to file their legal claims in court before the statute of limitations has expired.
For parents who are suing doctors and the hospital on their injured child's behalf, that statute of limitations is Idaho Code § 5-219, which requires all medical malpractice claims to be filed within two years. However, if the parents are not acting on the child's behalf, then Idaho Code § 5-230 gives the child until the eighth birthday to file a lawsuit.
Aggressive and Compassionate Birth Injury Lawyers Serve Idaho
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian serve the victims of birth injuries in Idaho. Contact us online to get started on your case.