In New York as elsewhere, there are few things as much anticipated and carefully planned for as the birth of a new child. From taking birthing classes to reading books on child care to finding the perfect car seat to painting the nursery, expectant parents have the luxury of many months for planning and anticipating the arrival of their child.
No one, however, contemplates what it would be like to have something go wrong before or during birth. Until it happens to you, you cannot fully appreciate what it is like to be told, “There is something wrong with your child.” When parents hear those words, they often report not having a very clear memory of what was said after that. Instead, they recall their world tipping slightly off its axis and waves of devastation, sadness, and grief. This, of course, is totally normal. But where do you go from here?
Understanding Birth Injuries in New York
Birth injuries can happen in a number of different ways. Some birth injuries are the result of negligent conduct – such as when medical professionals fail to act or fail to act in a timely manner. Other birth injuries are the result of proactive conduct on behalf of medical professionals. In other words, medical professionals act in a manner that causes an injury. In both instances, medical malpractice occurs when the conduct falls below the generally accepted standard of care, based on the situation at hand.
Birth injuries can include permanent physical and mental disabilities. They can also result in developmental delays. In both instances, birth injuries require care to allow the child to meet his or her fullest potential. Sometimes, this requires therapy. Other times, this requires durable medical equipment. Sometimes, the child requires ongoing care from a part-time aid to full-time medical assistance.
The Most Common Types of Birth Injuries in New York
There are a wide variety of different types of birth injuries. These include:
- Bleeding under the scalp
- Bleeding inside the skull
- Cerebral palsy
- Clavicle fractures
- Cranial nerve trauma
- Erb's palsy
- Excessive bleeding
- Facial paralysis
- Group B Strep
- Meconium aspiration
- Skull fracture
- Soft tissue injuries
- Spinal cord damage
Some birth injuries are a matter of degree. For example, cerebral palsy may result in a slight limp or may manifest itself as severe paralysis and mental disabilities requiring lifetime hospitalization. Often times, the extent of a birth injury is not immediately known.
Common Causes of a Birth Injury
Some of these birth injuries are the direct result of a doctor's medical malpractice.
In these cases, a doctor's negligence or mistake was the immediate cause of the child's injury. This can happen when:
- A doctor uses too much force with an extraction device during an assisted delivery, causing facial paralysis or nerve damage
- A doctor prescribes an expectant mother drugs that impair the fetus' development
- A surgeon makes a mistake during the C-section and hurts the child
In these cases, there is little doubt that the cause of the birth injury was the doctor. They deserve to be held liable for their poor conduct.
In other cases, though, there are intervening issues or medical conditions that separate the doctor's negligence or poor decision making from the eventual birth injury. This can happen when:
- Doctors fail to notice signs of fetal distress, and the oxygen deprivation it causes leads to Cerebral Palsy
- A negligently administered epidural prolongs the delivery, causing a stressful birth that ends with the baby suffering a hemorrhage
Just because the malpractice was not the direct and immediate cause of the birth injury, though, does not mean that the doctor cannot be held liable. As long as a birth injury was a foreseeable outcome of their negligent act or omission, they can be made to compensate the victim and their parents.
Even if the birth injury was caused by a genetic defect, doctors can still be held liable if they could have discovered the condition and communicated it to the parents. Depriving the parents of their right to make an informed decision can amount to medical malpractice and can lead to the doctor's liability under New York's medical malpractice laws.
Symptoms of Birth Injuries
Depending on the nature of the birth injury, the symptoms can be readily apparent or difficult to see. They can even be delayed for several months if the child was born with a birth injury that impairs their neurological and cognitive development without any physical affects.
The most obvious symptoms are of a physical birth injury. They can include:
- Broken bones
- Skull fractures
- Dislocated shoulders
- Fractured collarbones
- Severe or even life-threatening breathing problems
- Muscle paralysis, often in the child's arms, hands, neck, or face
Not all symptoms of a birth injury are so apparent, though. Many other symptoms could indicate that there was a birth injury, but could also be signs of a less severe medical condition. These include:
- Relatively minor breathing problems, like wheezing or lots of coughing
- Vision problems or loss of hearing
- Swelling or bruising soon after birth
- A subconjunctival hemorrhage, or a dark red spot in the baby's eye, which is a sign of intense pressure on the skull during delivery
- Eating problems, including trouble swallowing, excessive drooling, constipation, or a lack of appetite
- Erratic eye movements, which could indicate a seizure
Parents who note some of these symptoms should bring their child to see a pediatrician who is independent of the hospital in order to get an unbiased medical opinion.
Finally, some neurological birth injuries will not come with any physical symptoms right after the child's birth. In these cases, the symptoms are often developmental delays, where the child is late to develop the skills that doctors expect them to obtain as they grow up. When children struggle to learn mental, social, or emotional traits or if they fail to reach certain physical goals when they are supposed to, it can be a symptom that they are struggling to overcome the effects of a birth injury.
If You Suspect Your Child Suffered a Birth Injury in New York
If you suspect your child suffered a birth injury, there are steps you should take immediately. You should know that the hospital may or may not choose to take responsibility for the injury or even acknowledge the injury. Don't let that stop you. As a parent, if your instinct tells you there is something wrong, odds are very good that there is, in fact, something wrong.
First, take your child to another medical professional for an assessment and to discuss potential treatment options. Next, contact an attorney well-versed in birth injury litigation. Doctors, hospitals, and medical malpractice insurance companies invest in millions of dollars each year in legal departments designed to deny legal claims. You need an advocate on your side who understands birth injury and is not afraid to litigate issues.
Largest Medical Malpractice Verdict in Baltimore
At Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, we represent clients who have experienced some of the above situations. We use all our resources to get the best outcome for our clients. Below is a brief overview of just one of our client's birth injury experience.
A Well-Planned Birth Goes Wrong
Recently, the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian, LLC represented a family who experienced a devastating birth injury. Enso Martinez and Rebecca Fielding planned their perfect birth story. They enlisted a midwife to assist in their planned home birth. However, it became apparent that Rebecca needed medical intervention. She traveled by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Medical professionals observed clear signs of fetal distress. The appropriate response would have been to perform an emergency cesarean delivery immediately.
Had the hospital performed the emergency cesarean delivery as they should have, Rebecca and Enso's son would have been fine. However, the hospital failed to act for two hours. During this time, Rebecca and Enso's son was deprived of oxygen. This resulted in permanent brain injury, seizures, cerebral palsy, and many other physical and mental disabilities. Medical staff at Johns Hopkins Hospital refused to acknowledge they failed to meet the generally accepted standard of care and refused to take any responsibility for Rebecca and Enso's son's challenges. Their son's needs included medical expenses not covered by insurance, a home that can accommodate his needs, and ongoing care.
A Well-Planned Lawsuit Goes Right
Rebecca and Enso turned to the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian, LLC. Birth injury cases often go on for long periods of time. They are costly and require a deep knowledge of birth injuries and a willingness to stay in it for the long haul. Fortunately for Rebecca and Enso, as well as their son, Gilman & Bedigian, LLC was up to the task. Hospital lawyers argued the brain injury happened while Rebecca labored at home, and thus, refused to settle the case. But Rebecca and Enso's attorneys persisted and took the case to trial. A Baltimore jury heard the case over two weeks. They carefully listened to all the witnesses before retiring to deliberate. The jury returned a verdict of $55 million. This verdict allows them to raise their son, providing him with the additional lifetime of support he needs.
New York Statute of Limitations
In the state of New York, the statute of limitations applies to medical malpractice cases. Section 214-A of the Civil Practice Laws and Rules allows only 2.5 years to file a medical malpractice case. However, before a medical malpractice case can be filed, there is homework that must be done. Consequently, it is a good idea to get started exploring a potential medical malpractice case as soon as possible.
Infant Wrongful Death Cases in New York
While many birth injuries are serious, some can be life-threatening or even fatal. These include, for example:
- Traumatic birth injuries during the delivery to the skull or spinal cord
- Blood circulation problems
Both hypoxia and circulation issues can lead to severe tissue damage, including brain damage, which can become fatal if not corrected.
Hypoxia is a total, or nearly total, deprivation of oxygen. When the child is unable to breathe during the delivery, the loss of oxygen can cause significant damage to the internal organs that need it to survive and develop. This includes the heart, lungs, and brain.
Circulation problems can cause the same end results as hypoxia can. The difference between the two conditions is that hypoxia happens when the child cannot breathe, while circulation issues keep inhaled oxygen from getting to the tissues that need it because the blood flow has been constricted or reduced.
These life-threatening medical conditions can become fatal in three circumstances:
- The child is born alive, but dies soon thereafter from their prenatal injuries
- The fetus is harmed after it has become viable and is stillborn
- The fetus is harmed before it has become viable and is stillborn
Unfortunately, New York is one of only a half-dozen states that requires children to be born alive in order for their parents to be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor and hospital that caused a birth injury that ends up taking the child's life.
Products Liability Cases Involving a Birth Injury
A rare, but still possible, source of a newborn child's birth injury is a defective medical device. These are traumatic injuries that did not have to happen. However, the doctor and his or her hospital often had no part to play in the injury, so they will not be held liable when the birth injury was caused by a defective device. Instead, the culpable party is the company or corporation that allowed the defect to happen. Holding them accountable can take a products liability lawsuit.
When it comes to medical devices, there are four types of defects:
- Design defects are those that are a part of the intended design of the device. If the design does not account for potential problems that would have been easy to avoid, it can be defective
- Manufacturing defects are those that produce an error that does not comport with the intended design of the product. These manufacturing errors can cause the medical device to break while being used, which can lead to a birth injury
- Advertising defects are issues with the instructions for use. If the manual does not warn doctors of the risks of using the medical device, doctors can be powerless in protecting their patients from that risk
- Packaging defects are unique to medical equipment that has to be sterile when it is used. If the device is defectively packaged or shipped, it can get contaminated with bacteria and cause a serious infection
These defects can impair any of the medical devices or other medical equipment that gets used by doctors while delivering a child. From personal protective equipment to extraction devices, there is already a lot of equipment that gets used during a basic delivery procedure. If the child is born via C-section, that number rises precipitously.
If You Suspect a Birth Injury, Now is the Time to Act
If you suspect a birth injury, do not wait, act now. Contact the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian, LLC. We offer free consultations, so there is no cost to you. Additionally, you only pay the firm if you receive a favorable outcome. You have nothing to lose – and so much to gain for your family. Call us today at 800-529-6162.