In Massachusetts, a birth injury is a legal term for what happens when a newborn baby or an unborn fetus is hurt because a doctor or other healthcare professional committed medical malpractice. The consequences of a birth injury are often life long, and can even be fatal.
Recovering compensation is essential if the victim and his or her family want to live as close to a full life as possible. The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help make that happen for victims in Massachusetts.
Different Kinds and Severities of Birth Injuries in Massachusetts
The term “birth injury” encapsulates all of the medical problems that newborn babies can go through. When a birth injury is the result of medical malpractice, someone else can be held liable for the setback.
However, numerous types of medical conditions can fall under this broad umbrella term. Some of them are minor setbacks that a child will hardly notice, growing up. Others, however, can be disastrous for their growth and will prevent them from living a full life. Some can even be fatal after only a few years.
Some of the most common and severe birth injuries are:
- Hypoxia, or a period of oxygen deprivation during the pregnancy or during birth that can lead to a host of other medical conditions, including severe developmental delays and perinatal asphyxia, if the deprivation impairs the child's physical development
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy
- Facial paralysis
- Brain bleeding, usually taking the form of either an intracranial hemorrhage or a subconjunctival hemorrhage
- Shoulder dystocia
Each one of these medical conditions can be severe or relatively mild. For example, some babies born with Cerebral Palsy can suffer physical abnormalities that will only become an obstacle if they want to play competitive sports, while others born with Cerebral Palsy may be bound to a specialized wheelchair for the rest of their lives.
Many Birth Injuries Happen During the Pregnancy
Some birth injuries actually happen well before the baby is born. Doctors can commit medical malpractice by unreasonably putting an unborn fetus in harm's way.
One way this can happen is by prescribing potentially dangerous drugs to a patient who may be pregnant. If those drugs pose a threat to a fetus, doctors should make sure the patient is not pregnant, first.
Most Birth Injuries are the Result of Malpractice During the Delivery
However, most birth injuries happen in the delivery room. This is where doctors have to make important decisions that can keep both the mother and the baby safe. If they make an unreasonable decision or create a situation that raises the odds of the baby being born with a birth injury, it can amount to malpractice and make them liable for the results.
Many birth injuries that happen during the delivery process come during traumatic births or after a difficult labor. Doctors who use extraction devices to assist in the delivery of the baby can wind up hurting the newborn, instead.
An Example of a Birth Injury and a $55 Million Verdict
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian recently represented a boy who was born with a birth injury and his family. The mother went to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to give birth. While there, though, the doctors ignored clear signs of fetal distress. It took them two hours to perform a C-section. By then, the boy had been deprived of oxygen for so long that he was born with mental and physical conditions as well as Cerebral Palsy.
With the help of the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian, the boy and his family filed a lawsuit against the doctors and Johns Hopkins Hospital. The case went all the way through trial because the hospital refused to settle and insisted that it did nothing wrong. The jury, however, returned a $55 million verdict for the child and his family, a record-setting amount for a birth injury case in Maryland.
Massachusetts Provides Compensation for Birth Injury Victims
Birth injuries that happen in Massachusetts can be compensated by the doctor whose malpractice caused the injury and by the hospital that employs that doctor. However, it often takes a birth injury lawsuit to hold them accountable.
That birth injury lawsuit demands that the doctor and the medical institution that caused the birth injury to pay compensation to the victim and their family. That compensation should cover:
- Medical bills that have already been paid or invoiced
- The costs of reasonably anticipated future medical bills to treat the birth injury
- Compensation for the physical pain and suffering that the child has had to deal with
- Compensation for the mental anguish suffered by the child, often from the loss of life's enjoyments that come with living with a disabling and often disfiguring birth injury
- The reduced earning capacity of the child, as their birth injury prevents them from living a rewarding professional life
- Loss of consortium for the family, which is meant to cover the anguish that they will feel as they watch their child live with a serious medical condition
A “Soft” Damage Cap in Massachusetts
Massachusetts, however, does have a statute that limits, or “caps” the amount of compensation that victims of medical malpractice can recover for their pain and suffering. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 231 § 60H caps pain and suffering damages at $500,000. However, this cap does not apply if the jury finds that the malpractice caused any of the following:
- Substantial disfigurement
- Substantial loss or impairment of a bodily function
- Permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function
Massachusetts' Statute of Limitations for Birth Injuries
In Massachusetts, there are two laws that force victims of birth injuries to file their lawsuit within a certain amount of time.
- The first is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 260 § 4. This law requires that all medical malpractice lawsuits brought on behalf of a minor child be filed within three years.
- The second is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 231 § 60D, which creates an exception for birth injury lawsuits filed by the children, themselves. They have up to seven years to file their claims.
Birth Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian Serve Massachusetts
If you or your child has been born with a birth injury and suspect that it was caused by a doctor's malpractice, reach out to the birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian by contacting us online.