When doctors in Iowa commit medical malpractice and hurt a newborn child, the result is often referred to as a birth injury. Because neither the child nor the child's parents were responsible for the incident, they deserve to be compensated for all of the repercussions that they have had to deal with because the doctor acted negligently.
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian provide the legal representation that victims of birth injuries in Iowa need to recover compensation.
What is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is any medical complication that results in harm to a newborn baby.
Those complications can happen during the delivery or while the mother is still pregnant. Those that happen during the pregnancy are suffered by the unborn fetus but still saddle the child with a serious medical problem once they are born.
In many cases, birth injuries are caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. That malpractice can be the result of the doctor's negligence, poor conduct, or unreasonable decision making. If it causes a child to be born with a medical condition, both the doctor and his or her medical institution can be held financially liable for the birth injury.
Types of Birth Injuries in Iowa
Because a birth injury includes any medical condition that hurts a newborn, there are a lot of different kinds of maladies that it includes, like:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy
- Broken blood vessels in the baby's eye (also known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage) or in their brain (an intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhage)
- Diabetic retinopathy, which causes vision loss in newborns
- Facial paralysis
- Shoulder dystocia, a condition that causes oxygen deprivation
- Oxygen deprivation, where the newborn loses his or her oxygen supply for long enough that the cells in their body or brain begin to die, causing developmental delays or perinatal asphyxia
Each one of these medical conditions can be severe or relatively minor. For example, a child deprived of oxygen during birth may hardly even notice the repercussions of a short deprivation. Meanwhile, if the deprivation lasted for multiple hours, the baby may be born with severe defects that will render him or her unable to ever live independently.
When Do Birth Injuries Happen in Iowa?
These birth injuries can happen at any point during the pregnancy, right through the point where the baby is delivered.
A birth injury can happen early in the pregnancy – even before the mother knows she is pregnant – if a doctor prescribes her medication that could harm the fetus. If a doctor does this without first checking to see if she is pregnant, it can amount to medical malpractice. The birth injury that it causes can be severe and debilitating.
However, birth injuries are far more common in the delivery room. Delivering a baby is a traumatic experience for everyone involved, and doctors can find themselves actively assisting in the delivery using extraction devices. However, if these techniques are improperly performed or negligently done, the newborn can suffer a birth injury from blunt force trauma in the course of being pulled out.
Avoiding extra trauma in the delivery room is one of the things that doctors prioritize when delivering a baby because it can minimize fetal distress. This drastically reduces the likelihood of a traumatic birth and the odds of the child suffering a birth injury.
Compensation Available to Birth Injury Victims in Iowa
Victims of birth injuries – both the child and their parents – suffer extraordinary losses through no fault of their own and all at the hands of a doctor's medical malpractice. The law in Iowa recognizes how unfair this can be, and allows victims to recover compensation by filing a birth injury lawsuit against the negligent doctor and his or her medical institution or hospital.
That compensation is meant to cover both the economic damages as well as the noneconomic damages suffered by the victim and their family.
A victim's economic damages include:
- Medical bills
- Costs of future anticipated medical care
- The child's reduced earning capacity due to their medical condition.
Meanwhile, the noneconomic damages suffered by the victim and his or her family include:
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish and suffering
- Loss of life's enjoyments
- Emotional distress, including that which comes from having a disfiguring or disabling medical condition.
However, Iowa recently passed a law that can limit how much compensation victims can recover for their noneconomic damages. This statute, Iowa Code § 147.136A, was signed into law on May 5, 2017, and caps noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases – including birth injury cases – to a mere $250,000, making it one of the strictest damage capping laws in the country. The only exceptions to the law are if the victim suffers:
- Substantial or permanent loss or impairment of bodily function
- Substantial disfigurement
In many cases, a birth injury will fall into one of these exceptions. Proving that it does is essential to avoid such a strict and arbitrary limitation on what a deserving victim can recover.
Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Claims in Iowa
In Iowa, victims of birth injuries have to file their claim before the state's statute of limitations, found at Iowa Code § 614.1(9), expires.
For parents who are filing the lawsuit to recover compensation on their child's behalf, that limitation is two years. However, if the child is suing on their own behalf and without the help of their parents, the statute of limitations gets tolled or delayed. Children acting on their own behalf have until their 10th birthday to file a lawsuit.
An Example of a Birth Injury Lawsuit
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian recently helped a victim and his family recover a record-setting $55 million verdict in Maryland.
In that case, an expectant mother went to Johns Hopkins Hospital to deliver a baby. Doctors there failed to react to sure signs of fetal distress, though, and the baby was deprived of oxygen for nearly two hours. When he was born, he had mental and physical impairments and Cerebral Palsy.
Aggressive and Compassionate Birth Injury Attorneys Serving Iowa
If you or your child has been born with a birth injury in Iowa, contact the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian online.