Among the most severe incidents of medical malpractice is when a doctor's negligence or poor decision-making end up injuring a newborn child. These birth injuries leave an innocent baby with serious medical problems that will be an obstacle for the rest of their life. In many cases, they will prevent the child from doing what they want to do as they grow up, and can even prevent them from living an independent life.
The birth injury attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian strive to legally represent victims of birth injuries and their families in Montana and help them recover the compensation they need and deserve.
How Do Birth Injuries Happen: An Example from a Case That Ended With a $55 Million Verdict
Medical malpractice and birth injury cases can be difficult to understand in the abstract. Examples can help people understand how they happen and how the legal system provides a way for victims to recover compensation and hold the wrongdoers accountable for their poor conduct.
A recent case handled by the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian encapsulates how birth injuries can happen and how a lawsuit can help the victims.
In that case, a mother went to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. While there were clear signs of fetal distress that should have pushed doctors into immediate action, nothing was done for nearly two hours. During that time, the baby was being deprived of oxygen. When the doctors finally performed a C-section to deliver the child, he had lost so much oxygen that he was born with Cerebral Palsy and other abnormalities.
The parents hired the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian to hold the hospital and its doctors accountable, but they were met with stiff resistance – the doctors insisted that they did nothing wrong and the hospital refused to settle the case and provide the compensation that the victim and his family deserved. The case went all the way through trial, and it took a jury's verdict to force the hospital to compensate the victim and his family. That verdict was for $55 million, a record-setting verdict for a birth injury in Maryland, and aimed to cover for all of the setbacks and losses that the victim and his family would experience from the doctor's poor conduct.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
While the boy in the case against Johns Hopkins Hospital suffered Cerebral Palsy as a result of the doctors' negligence and malpractice, there are numerous other types of birth injuries that children and unborn babies can suffer. Some of the most common include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb's Palsy, or nerve damage in the baby's neck
- Shoulder dystocia, which is a birth complication where the baby's shoulder gets caught in the birth canal and cuts off its supply of oxygen through the umbilical cord
- Broken blood vessels in the baby's eyes (a subconjunctival hemorrhage) or in the baby's brain (a subarachnoid or intracranial hemorrhage)
- Diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to the baby losing his or her eyesight
- Facial paralysis
- Oxygen deprivation, which can lead to brain damage, developmental delays, and perinatal asphyxia if the damage compromises the baby's muscles and tissues
Some of these injuries happen in the delivery room. For example, Erb's Palsy is often the result of a doctor's use of forceps or other extraction devices to assist in the baby's delivery. If done too forcefully, these assisted delivery techniques can cause serious and even irreparable harm to the newborn.
However, some birth injuries can also happen during pregnancy, sometimes even before the mother is aware that she is carrying a child. If a doctor prescribes a medication that could harm a fetus without first checking to make sure the patient is not pregnant, it can cause serious damage to the development of the fetus and can amount to medical malpractice. In some other cases, a doctor can hurt the fetus during a routine checkup if they are not careful.
Compensation for Montana Birth Injury Victims
Victims in Montana can pursue compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim against the doctor and his or her medical institution. A malpractice claim can not only recover the compensation that the victims deserve; it can also hold the facility and the doctor accountable and force them to take better care in the future.
The compensation that can be recovered in a birth injury claim falls into two categories:
- Economic damages; and
- Noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are those that are easily distilled into a dollar amount. They include the following types of compensation:
- Medical bills
- Estimated medical expenses in the future
- The reduction in income that the injured child is likely to experience once they grow up
Noneconomic damages are those that cannot be easily distilled in a dollar amount. They include losses felt both by the birth injury victim as well as his or her family members, like:
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium and companionship
- Loss of life's enjoyments
These classifications matter in Montana because Montana has a state statute that limits how much compensation a birth injury claim can recover for noneconomic damages. That statute, Montana Code Annotated § 25-9-411, prohibits victims from recovering more than $250,000 in noneconomic damages in any type of medical malpractice claim – including birth injury lawsuits – no matter how much they deserve.
Montana's Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Claims
Montana also has a statute of limitations for birth injury lawsuits that can pose an obstacle for victims. Under Montana Code Annotated § 27-2-205, if a birth injury lawsuit is not brought within two years, it will be dismissed.
However, there is an exception to this rule. If the parents of the child victim do not act as the child's legal representatives, then the child has until his or her 10th birthday to file the lawsuit.
Birth Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian Serve Victims in Montana
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian strive to legally represent birth injury victims and their families in the state of Montana. Contact us online to get started on your case today.