Birth injuries are some of the most serious types of injuries anyone can face, and they can be truly devastating to both the newborn and his or her family. Newborns are not able to protect themselves, instead, it is up to their parents to handle the difficulties that may lie ahead. Birth injuries are often caused by the medical malpractice of a doctor, nurse, or another medical professional. When this is the case, that medical professional should be held responsible for the harm caused to your newborn.
If your newborn child has been harmed by medical malpractice, the highly experienced attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are here to fight for you. You do not have to be alone in dealing with all you face.
Birth Injuries: The Different Types
Sadly, birth injuries are all too common in Texas and the rest of the United States. The highest percentage of these types of injuries occurred in mothers between the ages of 25 and 34, many of whom were subjected to birthing tools. Birth trauma occurs in about 7 to 15 of every 1,000 live births. This percentage shows the pervasive problem associated with birth injuries, many of which are caused by the medical malpractice of a doctor or other medical professional.
Birth injuries can happen at one of two important times. The injury can either occur during pregnancy or the delivery of the child. Either can lead to major complications that can make your life difficult, result in expensive medical treatment, and may even cause the long-term disability or death of your child.
Birth Injuries During Pregnancy
Birth injuries that occur during the pregnancy, before the baby is born, can be incredibly serious. While less common than injuries that occur during birth, these types of injuries harm the developing fetus. In many cases, this damage cannot be undone, and the child will continue to grow while damaged by the doctor's medical malpractice.
Common injuries that occur in utero include, but are not limited to:
- Failure to diagnose genetic risks or diseases;
- Improper prescriptions that are given to the pregnant mother; and/or
- Malpractice during in utero medical procedures.
Birth Injuries During Labor or Delivery
During delivery, a lot can go wrong if a medical professional does not do his or her job. Improper use of medical procedures can result in:
- broken bones;
- oxygen deprivation;
- spinal injuries; and/or
- fetal stress.
Medical complications from malpractice can result in severe damage to your newborn child. At Gilman & Bedigian, we specialize in getting you compensation for your child's injuries. In one case, we represented the family of a boy born with cerebral palsy due to the doctor's negligent decision to delay a C-section. The young child lost his oxygen supply and was left with physical and mental disabilities. With the help of our attorneys, the family sued John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and won a Maryland record $55 million medical malpractice verdict.
Examples of Birth Injuries
While there are a great number of birth injuries that a baby can suffer, some of the most common are listed below:
- Cerebral palsy: caused by brain damage sometime during childbirth
- Detached placenta: detachment of the placenta from the uterine wall
- Infant Anoxia/Hypoxia: loss of oxygen to the brain during childbirth
- Bell's Palsy: baby's facial nerve is damaged during labor or birth
- Klumpke's Palsy: effects the lower 2 of 5 nerves in the brachial plexus
- Pediatric Hydrocephalus: a buildup of fluid in the brain, causes damaging pressure
- Brachial Plexus: injury to the network of nerves that connects the spinal cord to the baby's arms and hands
- Brain bleeding: bleeding of the soft tissue of the brain into the skull and brain area
- Bone injuries: bruises to bones or broken or fractured bones
- Cephalohematoma: accumulation of blood beneath the baby's periosteum (the protective membrane that covers an infant's skull)
- Shoulder dystocia: the infant's shoulders become lodged in the mother's pelvic area
There is any number of other birth injuries that can occur during pregnancy or labor caused by the medical negligence of a doctor or another medical professional. When this is the case, you need an experienced team to fight for the rights of your family.
Symptoms of Birth Injuries
Depending on whether the birth injury was a physical one or a neurological one, the symptoms can be very different.
Children who suffer neurological birth injuries can have serious mental or emotional impairments, including brain damage. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to detect when a child has suffered one of these birth injuries.
In some cases, there are physical symptoms. They can include:
- A fractured skull, which parents can detect by noticing lumps or dents in the child's head
- Erratic eye movements, which can be a sign of seizures or other brain problems
- Severe breathing problems, which can mean that the child was not able to get enough oxygen right after being born
- A subconjunctival hemorrhage in the baby's eye, which can be a sign that the pressure on the baby's skull during the delivery was so severe that it could have also created neurological damage in addition to bursting blood vessels in the newborn's eye
However, many neurological birth injuries do not present any symptoms for several months. The symptoms that slowly begin to emerge are developmental delays, where the child is unable to perform the tasks that doctor would expect of someone their age. This can be a symptom that they are struggling to overcome a birth injury that has caused neurological damage.
Children who have suffered physical birth injuries have symptoms that are more pronounced. In many cases, the birth injury is the symptom. These cases include:
- Fractured collarbones
- Broken bones
- Dislocated shoulders
- Asymmetrical facial movements, which indicate facial paralysis and potentially even nerve damage
- Other limb paralysis, usually in the arms
- Chronic pain, where the child cries uncontrollably while arching its back
- Eating problems, like an inability to swallow, nausea, lack of appetite, and vomiting
Causes of Birth Injuries
These birth injuries are caused by a doctor's medical malpractice, which is an act of negligence that leads to the provision of a substandard level of medical care.
Regardless of whether the medical malpractice directly caused the birth injury or indirectly caused it by creating a medical complication that ended up hurting the child, the doctors or other medical professionals responsible can be held accountable.
Malpractice can be the direct cause of a birth injury when:
- A nurse drops the baby
- A surgeon hurts the baby during a C-section
- A doctor causes nerve damage by using too much force during an assisted delivery
In these cases, the malpractice is the immediate precursor to the child's birth injury. There is often very little that a doctor can do to claim that they were not the cause of the injury.
In other cases, though, there are intervening medical conditions that complicate the cause of the birth injury. For example:
- Nurses neglect an expectant mother during labor and miss signs that the fetus is not getting enough oxygen, resulting in a child born with brain damage
- Hospital technicians do not sterilize medical instruments, leading to an infection in the baby that causes a heart condition
When there are intervening medical complications, doctors frequently claim that their poor conduct was not the ultimate cause of the birth injury. However, when they set in motion the chain of events that ended with a child being saddled with a serious birth injury, they should still be held accountable.
Birth injuries can be contrasted with birth defects, which are caused by genetic disorders or abnormalities. Even birth defects, though, can lead to compensation if a doctor's malpractice prevented the parents from making an informed decision about their child.
Defective Medical Equipment
Defective medical equipment can also cause birth injuries in Texas, though they are far less common than a healthcare professional's medical malpractice.
In these cases, a medical device that is used by a doctor or a nurse during a newborn baby's delivery breaks or causes a birth injury that the doctor could not have predicted or prevented. Because these injuries are caused by a tool that the doctor used, rather than the doctor's negligence or malpractice, it would be unfair to hold the doctor liable for the birth injury. The real fault lies in the company that manufactured the medical device with such a serious flaw.
Defects come in three types:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Warning defects
Warning defects are the most common in the medical field. They overlook a serious danger of using the medical device in its intended way, and fail to warn the doctors and nurses of these risks. This keeps healthcare personnel in the dark about the injuries they can cause while using the device, preventing them from taking the reasonable precautions that would keep their patients safe.
Manufacturing defects are problems with how the product was made. They lead to variations between the device's design and the end product. These can increase the likelihood that the device will break when it is used properly, causing a birth injury or complicating the birth procedure in ways that put the mother and newborn in peril.
Regardless of the nature of the defect, victims who have been hurt by a defective product can recover compensation for their losses through a products liability lawsuit. When the injury was a birth injury, both the child and his or her parents stand to recover the compensation that they need and deserve after such a terrible ordeal.
Recovering Compensation After Birth Injury in Texas
Those who suffer because of medical malpractice in Texas deserve financial compensation for their losses. Birth injuries are often expensive, painful, and can lead to a life-long disability. As a result, the amount of damages can be incredibly high, resulting in a large award for the victim's family.
Compensation can come in the following forms:
- medical bills
- future medical expenses
- pain and suffering
- lost earning capacity
- loss of consortium
This financial compensation can help your family to recover after the devastating effects of a birth injury caused by medical malpractice. The responsible party should have to pay, not you.
What Happens if the Birth Injury Was Fatal?
While all birth injuries are terrible experiences, some can even be fatal for the newborn or the unborn fetus. This most commonly happens from the following types of birth injuries:
- Blood flow problems
- Hypoxia, or a total lack of oxygen
- Traumatic birth injuries to the head or spinal cord
Out of these, hypoxia is one of the most common types of a fatal birth injury. When a baby is unable to breathe for an extended period of time during his or her delivery, the lack of oxygen can cause irreparable and severe damage to their organs and tissues, including their brain. If the condition is not corrected, this damage can be fatal as the organ shuts down. The same result can happen if the child is breathing, but their blood circulation has stopped or is unable to flow to certain parts of the body – most often the brain.
When this is caused by a doctor's medical malpractice, the grieving parents deserve to be compensated and the doctor and his or her medical institution should be held accountable.
In Texas, this is possible through a wrongful death lawsuit. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.002 is the law that allows these claims. What sets it apart from the wrongful death laws of most other states in the U.S. is the fact that it explicitly allows parents to file a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased and unborn child, even if the child was not viable at the time of the birth injury that led to its stillbirth. Nearly all other states in the country require a fetus to be viable for parents to have the right to file a wrongful death case on its behalf.
Statute of Limitations in Texas Birth Injury Cases
Medical malpractice claims in Texas are subject to the statute of limitations which provides only two years to file a claim. This means that in most cases, the injured party must bring the lawsuit for medical malpractice within two years of the injury or the discovery of the injury.
There is an exception to the rule, however, and that exception refers to the injured party's age. Under Texas law, an injured minor (a person under age 18) has until the age of 14 to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf. However, Texas law holds that a minor's medical expenses before the minor turns 18 belongs to the minor's parents. This means that any claim for 18 years of medical expenses must be brought by the parents of the child who are subject to the two-year statute of limitations.
It is critical that you contact an experienced birth injury lawyer soon after the injury occurs or as soon after the discovery of the injury. The earlier you approach your attorney, the more comfortable you can rest knowing that your case is not lost for being untimely.
Compassionate Birth Injury Attorneys Representing Texas
Contact Gilman & Bedigian online to get started on your case if you or a loved one has been hurt by a birth injury in Texas.