When doctors act negligently and hurt a newborn baby, the result is a birth injury. These injuries are devastating because they leave a child with a serious medical condition from the very beginning of their life. In most cases, they are debilitating and prevent the affected child from living a full life.
Because birth injuries are often the result of medical malpractice, though, the victim and their family can be entitled to compensation for the losses that stem from the birth injury. The lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help victims in Indiana recover the compensation they deserve.
Birth Injuries are the Result of a Doctor's Malpractice
The term “birth injury” covers all of the debilitating medical conditions that a newborn baby can suffer in their first days. Many of them are at the hands of a doctor's medical malpractice and were not caused by either the child or the child's parents.
There are dozens of medical issues that the term “birth injury” encompasses. Some of the most common and the most debilitating, though, include medical conditions like:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy
- Facial paralysis, which can leave a newborn unable to move their facial muscles, causing a variety of complications like an inability to nurse or close their eyes
- Broken blood vessels in a baby's eye called subconjunctival hemorrhages
- Broken blood vessels in a baby's skull or brain called intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhages
- Oxygen deprivation, which can lead to developmental delays, including perinatal asphyxia if there are physical impairments
- Shoulder dystocia, a condition where the baby's shoulder gets stuck during the delivery and impinges the umbilical cord, causing oxygen deprivation
- Diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss
Many of these conditions are entirely preventable. When they were caused by a doctor's negligence or medical malpractice, the victim and their family can recover compensation.
Symptoms of a Child's Birth Injury
These birth injuries can present a wide variety of symptoms. Unfortunately, some of these symptoms can mean a lot of different things, other than a birth injury. Worse, some symptoms of a birth injury do not become apparent until years after the child's birth.
Some birth injuries present very clear symptoms, right away. These symptoms can be:
- A fractured skull, often indicated by lumps or dents in the child's head
- Seizures, which can also indicate a fractured skull
- Broken bones, often a collarbone from an especially stressful and traumatic delivery
- Dislocated shoulder
- Bruising or swelling immediately after the delivery
- The need for a breathing tube right after the delivery
- Limp, weak, or stationary limbs
- Muscle paralysis, especially in the face, which can be an indication of deeper nerve damage
- A subconjunctival hemorrhage, which can be a sign of other problems caused by a stressful birth
Other symptoms are less conclusive, like:
- Eating problems, especially problems swallowing
- Excessive drooling
- Vomiting and nausea
- Strange eye movements, which may indicate neurological problems or seizures
- Arched back which crying, which can indicate severe pain
- Coughing and wheezing
When the birth injury is a neurological one, rather than a physical one, the symptoms can be delayed for months or even years. When they do appear, it is often in the form of developmental delays, where the child is unable to perform certain tasks that doctors expect of them, once they reach a certain age. For example, there are specific ages that a child should begin to crawl, walk, and recognize their own name. While it is not uncommon for children to struggle with one or two of these milestones, if they are late on several or all of them, it can be a strong sign that something is wrong and that they suffered a birth injury.
Causes of Birth Injuries in Indiana
A doctor's medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of birth injuries in Indiana. When a doctor makes a mistake with a child or an unborn fetus, it can set off a chain reaction that leads to devastating results for the child and their family.
That initial mistake or negligent act can take a variety of forms, including:
- An incorrect C-section procedure
- A failure to notice serious signs of danger during the delivery
- Not taking the appropriate action after discovering signs of difficulty
- Incorrectly administering the epidural
- Using too much force with an extraction device during an assisted delivery
- Not conducting a genetic test to discover potential birth injuries or defects
- Failing to notify parents of the risks of a birth injury
When any one of these instances of medical malpractice happen, it can cause the child to be born with some very severe medical complications that can alter the course of their entire life. To make matters even worse, it can set off a chain reaction that leads to still other birth injuries.
For example, if a doctor uses too much force during an assisted delivery, it can cause broken bones and facial paralysis, but it can also constrict the umbilical cord and lead to oxygen deprivation. This complication can, itself, lead to some very serious medical conditions in addition to what was directly caused by the doctor's negligence.
Even though these complications are not directly caused by the act of malpractice, the chain of events that led to the eventual birth injury was caused by the doctor's poor conduct. They should be held accountable for them, even though there were intervening symptoms that puts distance between the malpractice and the eventual injury.
Birth Injuries During Pregnancy or the Delivery in Indiana
Some birth injuries are the result of medical malpractice that occurs while the mother is still pregnant with the child, even in the early stages of the pregnancy. Doctors who prescribe pregnant women drugs that could pose a threat to a fetus should make sure their patient is not carrying a child before making the prescription. If tests are not performed to cancel out the threat of harm to a fetus, the failure can put the fetus in dire risk of a birth injury or defect.
However, most birth injuries are suffered in the delivery room.
Whenever a delivery is complicated by an obstructed birth canal or some other issue, doctors frequently use extraction devices to assist in the baby's delivery. However, those techniques can prove to be more harmful than good or can cause a severe birth injury in order to bring the labor process through to its completion. If the doctor's use of an assisted delivery technique was negligent or poorly done, it can amount to medical malpractice if it caused an injury to the newborn.
Delivery room birth injuries, however, can be avoided if doctors take reasonable precautions to reduce the fetal distress. If the doctor fails to take these steps, it can amount to medical malpractice that can make them liable for any birth injuries that end up happening.
This was the case in a recent lawsuit that Gilman & Bedigian filed against Johns Hopkins Hospital on behalf of a child and his parents. The boy was born with Cerebral Palsy and other developmental delays after doctors there ignored sure signs of fetal distress for two hours before performing a C-section. If the C-section had been timely performed, the baby would likely not have suffered a severe and permanent injury.
When Johns Hopkins refused to settle the case and insisted that they had done nothing wrong, the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian took the case to trial and won a record-setting $55 million verdict for a birth injury case in Maryland.
Compensation for Victims in Indiana
By filing a medical malpractice claim after a birth injury, the victim and his or her family can seek the compensation that they need and deserve after such a terrible medical setback. In Indiana, that compensation aims to cover the victim's losses and other foreseeable repercussions. It includes financial coverage for:
- Medical bills that have already been paid;
- Medical expenses stemming from the birth injury likely to accrue in the future;
- The child's inability to earn a living once they grow up;
- Physical pain and suffering of the child;
- The child's mental anguish and emotional distress, including their loss of life's enjoyments; and
- The family's loss of companionship and the emotional strain of watching their child grow up with a debilitating medical condition.
Unfortunately, Indiana is one of the states in the United States that has a statute that expressly limits the amount of compensation that can be recovered in a medical malpractice claim, including one for a birth injury. To make matters worse, Indiana's damage capping statute, Indiana Code 34-18-14-3, is one of the strictest in the country. Unlike other damage caps, Indiana's cap limits the total compensation recoverable in a medical malpractice suit, rather than just the compensation available for pain and suffering. Under the statute, the limitation depends on when the birth injury occurred.
Before July 1, 2017
Between June 30, 2017 and July 1, 2019
After June 30, 2019
For victims of a birth injury who need this compensation to last for the rest of their life, the maximum amount recoverable is far below what they usually deserve.
Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Cases in Indiana
Birth injury cases have to be filed within a certain period of time in order to comply with Indiana's statute of limitations. That statute is Indiana Code 34-18-7-1 and requires lawsuits by parents on behalf of their hurt children to be filed within two years. Children filing without their parents' representation, though, have until their eighth birthday to file their claim.
Gilman & Bedigian: Compassionate and Aggressive Birth Injury Lawyers in Indiana
If you or your child has suffered a birth injury in Indiana, you can reach out to the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian for legal representation by contacting us online.