A birth injury happens whenever a doctor in Kansas commits medical malpractice that ends with a newborn baby suffering a serious medical condition that can set them back for the rest of their lives. Because the baby and the parents did nothing to deserve the birth injury, they should be compensated for their losses.
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help make that happen. With their legal representation, numerous clients have fought for and recovered the compensation they have needed after suffering a birth injury.
What Are Birth Injuries?
Birth injuries are medical conditions that harm newborn babies. They can happen at any time during the pregnancy – from before the mother is even aware that she is pregnant, all the way through the delivery. Many of them can be severe or even life-threatening.
Examples of birth injuries include:
- Diabetic retinopathy, which can be caused by the mother's diabetes and, if not detected and treated early, can cause permanent vision loss in the newborn
- Facial paralysis, a condition that leaves the baby unable to move his or her facial muscles, making it difficult for them to nurse or even close their eyes
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy
- Broken blood vessels in the baby's eye, called subconjunctival hemorrhaging, or in their brain, called intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhaging
- Shoulder dystocia, a condition where the newborn's shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal, compresses their umbilical cord and leads to oxygen deprivation
Underlying many of these medical conditions is the threat of the child being deprived of their supply of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation, especially if it lasts for any considerable period of time, can cause significant developmental delays, including brain damage and perinatal asphyxia.
Each medical condition has a variety of severities. For example, if a baby is deprived of oxygen for only a short time, their developmental delays might only be minor or, if they are lucky, hardly noticeable. However, if the deprivation was for hours, it can be so debilitating that they will likely be confined to a wheelchair for their entire life.
What Causes a Birth Injury?
A birth injury can be caused by a doctor's medical malpractice or by the child's genes. The malpractice can be either the direct or the indirect cause of the birth injury. Additionally, even if the child's genetic makeup was the ultimate cause of their birth injury, a doctor and his or her medical institution can still be held liable if they failed to discover the potential for a birth defect or did not notify the parents of the problem.
A doctor's medical malpractice can directly or indirectly lead to a birth injury. That malpractice can take on lots of forms and happen in a variety of circumstances, including:
- A bad C-section procedure
- Negligently administering the epidural
- Neglecting the mother before the delivery
- Not noticing signs of fetal distress
- Not reacting appropriately to indications that the delivery
- Giving an unknowing mother prescription drugs that could hurt her unborn child without checking to see if she is pregnant
Many of these instances of malpractice directly hurt the baby. For example, a doctor who negligently uses an extraction device can break bones and pinch nerves, causing facial paralysis.
However, malpractice can also indirectly cause a birth injury, as well. When a doctor's malpractice causes oxygen deprivation, for example, it can trigger a chain of medical complications that leads to other severe birth injuries.
Genetic abnormalities or defects can also lead to a birth injury. Doctors can still be held liable for malpractice in these cases if they did not take reasonable steps to discover a genetic problem, or if they found a genetic risk but failed to notify the parents of the situation. In these cases, it can prevent the parents from making an informed decision about their child.
Defective Medical Equipment
Defective medical equipment can also cause a birth injury. While these cases are far less common than medical malpractice or the child's genetic makeup, they do still happen in Kansas and can cause incredible heartache to victims and their families.
During the delivery process, doctors use numerous medical devices. These include personal protective equipment, like masks, gowns, and gloves, as well as things like towels, syringes, and sponges. It also includes:
- Oxytocin and other drugs for the mother
- Extraction devices, like a vacuum-assisted delivery system
Each one of these devices, however, can be defective. If it is, the mother and the newborn baby can be put at a significant risk of harm.
Product defects can fall into three different categories:
Design defects are the least common, but also the most catastrophic when they do happen. Medical devices that are based off a design that creates needless danger for patients can cause thousands of serious injuries.
Manufacturing defects are problems that happen while making the device. If the design is not followed, the variations can increase the chance that the medical device breaks or does not work properly.
Advertising defects are issues with the instructions that are provided to doctors for using the medical device. If they fail to warn doctors of the risks of use, healthcare professionals are unable to take appropriate steps to ensure their patients are kept safe.
For medical devices, though, there is another way for them to be defective and dangerous: Negligent packaging and shipping. Most medical equipment has to be sterile when it is used, or else it carries the risk of infecting the patients. If the packaging is defective or medical devices are not shipped carefully, the equipment could lose its sterility and cause harm to the newborn child.
When Do Birth Injuries Happen in Kansas?
Birth injuries can happen at any point during the pregnancy, all the way through the baby's birth.
Doctors can commit medical malpractice and cause a birth injury even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. One way this can happen is if a doctor prescribes a medication that could harm a fetus' development without checking to make sure that the patient is not pregnant.
However, birth injuries are more likely to happen during the baby's birth. The delivery process is difficult and can be traumatic. Doctors can find themselves in situations where they have to make important decisions, very quickly. Long labors and obstructed births can lead to situations where doctors have to assist in the delivery. When they use extraction devices to bring the birth to its climax, though, they can do more harm than good if they act negligently. Additionally, if a doctor does not react to clear signs of fetal distress, it can amount to medical malpractice if it leads to a birth injury.
What are the Symptoms of a Birth Injury?
In some cases, it is clear that a birth injury has happened because the symptoms are very apparent. In these cases, the symptoms can be:
- Broken bones
- A fractured collarbone
- Bruising or swelling after the baby's delivery
- A fractured skull, which often comes with symptoms like a dent or lump in the baby's head
- Seizures, which can be a symptom of a fractured skull or other neurological injuries
- Erratic eye movements, which can be a sign that the child is suffering from seizures
- Paralyzed facial muscles or limbs
- A subconjunctival hemorrhage in the child's eye, a sign of birth trauma and potentially a symptom of other birth injuries
Not all birth injuries come with symptoms so apparent, though. A lot of them have symptoms that are difficult to detect or that can mean a lot of other medical issues, or even none at all. These symptoms include:
- Coughing, wheezing, or other breathing problems
- Vision or hearing loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Eating problems, including difficulties swallowing food
- Excessive crying, especially when the baby arches it back while crying – a sign of severe pain
When the birth injury was a neurological one, the symptoms may not even begin to appear for well over a year after the child's birth. In these cases, the most telling symptoms are developmental delays that prevent the child from performing the tasks that doctors use as a sign of proper growth and development. For example, doctors expect children to recognize their name, crawl, and walk at certain ages. If your child is consistently missing these milestones and falling behind his or her peers, it can be a sign that they suffered a birth injury that is holding them back.
Gilman & Bedigian's $55 Million Birth Injury Verdict
A doctor's inaction in the face of clear signs of a problem was at the heart of a record-setting birth injury verdict that the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian recently won for malpractice victims in Maryland.
In that case, an expectant mother went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, to give birth to a baby boy. Once there, though, doctors did not react to sure signs that the baby was in distress. Rather than rush to get the boy out, doctors did nothing for nearly two hours. By the time they finally realized the danger in the situation and performed an emergency C-section, the boy had been deprived of oxygen for so long that he was born with Cerebral Palsy and other mental and physical impairments.
With the legal help of the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian, the victim and his family sued the doctors and Johns Hopkins. When they refused to admit any wrongdoing, the case went all the way through trial, with a jury awarding a verdict that was a state record for a birth injury case: $55 million.
Compensation for Birth Injury Victims in Kansas
Birth injury victims in Kansas can also recover compensation if their condition was caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. That compensation can cover costs and other losses like:
- Medical bills, including those that are likely to accumulate in the future for ongoing care
- The child's reduced ability to earn a living in the professional world
- The child's pain and suffering
- Emotional distress, including the child's loss of life's enjoyments
The types of compensation that can be recovered in a birth injury case are divided into two types:
- Economic damages, which are relatively easy to determine and state in a dollar amount, like medical bills and lost future income
- Noneconomic damages, which are far more likely to put in a dollar amount and including things like pain and suffering and emotional distress
Kansas used to strictly limit the amount of noneconomic damages that could be recovered in all personal injury lawsuits, including birth injury cases, to a mere $325,000. However, the Supreme Court of Kansas ruled that damage cap unconstitutional in June 2019. That case, Hilburn v. Enerpipe, said that capping damages violated a victim's right to a jury trial.
Wrongful Death Cases Involving Infants
Tragically, some of the birth injuries that newborns suffer at the hands of a negligent doctor in Kansas prove to be fatal. The three most common types of birth injuries that end up killing a newborn or an unborn child are:
- Complete oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia
- A reduced or completely cut off blood flow
- Extremely traumatic injuries
Negligent doctors who use too much force while assisting a delivery can end up causing a traumatic injury that proves to be fatal. These injuries often fracture the newborn's skull or spinal cord.
Some fatal birth injuries are less sudden or traumatic, though. These often involve brain or tissue damage from a complete lack of oxygen. This can happen if the newborn is unable to breathe at some point during their delivery. However, it can also happen if their blood flow is cut off, often by the umbilical cord wrapping around their neck. If circulation is completely cut off from the child's brain, it can prevent oxygen from getting there. If this issue is not quickly corrected, it can become fatal.
In Kansas, when someone dies from the negligence of another party – including a doctor – the victim's surviving heirs can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligence party. For deceased newborns, the parents are nearly always going to be the child's closest surviving heirs.
Kansas is one of the few states with a wrongful death statute that explicitly covers unborn children. While most other states only allow wrongful death lawsuits when a “person” has been killed, Kansas Statute § 60-1901 expressly states that a “person” includes an unborn child. Furthermore, the statute covers unborn children at any stage of gestation. Unlike in many other states, then, parents in Kansas can file wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of fetuses that are not yet viable.
Statute of Limitations to File Birth Injury Claims in Kansas
Victims of birth injuries have only a limited amount of time to file a claim for compensation in Kansas. For parents filing the claim on behalf of their hurt child, Kansas Statute § 60-513(a)(7) forces the claim to be filed within two years. Children filing a claim without their parents' representation, though, have eight years from the birth injury to file their lawsuit under Kansas Statute § 60-515.
Birth Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian Serve Victims in Kansas
If you or your child has suffered a birth injury and think it was the result of medical malpractice, reach out to the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian. Contact them online today to get your case started.