If your child suffered a birth injury in Virginia, you have rights that deserve to be protected. When medical malpractice by a doctor or other medical professional causes the injury suffered by your newborn baby, that person is responsible and must be held to account for it. The injuries a baby may suffer from a birth injury range from relatively minor to severe or even fatal. These injuries may require years of medical treatment and may cause permanent medical conditions and disabilities. When this is the case, you and your family should not be on the hook for these costs, only the responsible party should have to pay.
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.
Types of Birth Injuries in Virginia
In the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. generally, the occurrence of medical malpractice during pregnancy and childbirth is all too high. The danger to an unborn child is very real, and when an injury is caused by medical negligence the responsible party can be held accountable. Anywhere from 6 to 8 out of every 1,000 births have injuries due to some kind of medical trauma. Much of this "trauma" occurs because someone in the delivery room did not do their job. These mistakes can have life-altering consequences for you and your child.
When it comes to birth injuries related to medical negligence, they can occur at two different times. They can happen either during the pregnancy (before the child is born) or during the labor and delivery process. Injuries can occur in either case, and both minor and serious injuries caused by medical negligence are likely to be expensive to deal with and cause untold pain and suffering for you and your child.
During Pregnancy: Issues Related to Malpractice
Doctors who treat pregnant patients have certain duties – duties they should be aware of and follow. When they do not, harm can befall the unborn baby. Many of these mistakes and the damage they cause are irreversible. Pregnant women require special care with special considerations taken because they are with child. Medical negligence often occurs because a doctor fails to properly take this into account.
Common causes of birth injuries that can occur during pregnancy include but are not limited to:
- Improper prescriptions;
- Failure to recognize risk factors or signs of a current medical condition; and/or
- Process defects in medical procedures to the fetus.
During Labor or Delivery
Most traumatic birth injuries occur during labor or delivery of the child. Medical negligence that occurs during this time can lead to:
- brain damage
- broken bones, fractures, or bone bruising
- injuries to the child's spine
- stress caused by overlong labor or negligent delivery
- oxygen deprivation.
At Gilman & Bedigian, we specialize in winning compensation for our clients who have suffered at the hands of a negligent doctor. 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 Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and won a Maryland record $55 million medical malpractice verdict.
Virginia Birth Injury Examples
- Bleeding in the brain: damage to the brain that causes bleeding and often leads to other serious medical conditions
- Stillbirth: a child born deceased due to medical negligence
- Detached placenta: placenta that has come loose from the uterine wall
- Infant Anoxia/Hypoxia: loss of oxygen to the baby during labor or delivery
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE): damage and destruction of brain tissue due to a lack of oxygen
- Cerebral palsy: a condition caused by brain damage during childbirth
- Eye damage: damage to the eyes as a result of improper use of tools or intracranial pressure
- Pediatric Hydrocephalus: a buildup of pressure in the brain due to the accumulation of fluid
- Brachial Plexus: damage to nerves that connect the spinal cord to the baby's hands and arms
- Bone injuries: broken, fractured, or bruised bones often caused during labor or delivery
- Shoulder dystocia: a baby's shoulders become stuck in the pelvic area of the mother
Common Symptoms to Look For
Different birth injuries can have different symptoms. They are especially likely to be different when the injury was a physical one or a neurological one.
Physical birth injuries tend to have more apparent symptoms that are easy to notice and relatively easy to diagnose. These symptoms include:
- Breathing problems that are so severe that the baby needs a respirator
- Broken bones
- Dislocated shoulders
- Lumps or dents in the baby's head, which can indicate a fractured skull
- Fractured collarbone
- Asymmetrical facial movements, a symptom of facial paralysis
- Weak or paralyzed arms or legs, which could indicate nerve damage
There are some other symptoms of a physical birth injury, though, that are less apparent. They include:
- Vision loss
- Hearing difficulties
- Problems swallowing, which can lead to excessive drooling
- Eating issues, including constipation, nausea, and vomiting
- Coughing or wheezing or other breathing issues
- Crying uncontrollably with an arched back, a symptom of chronic pain
- Wild eye movements, which could be a symptom of seizures
- A burst blood vessel in the white of the baby's eye, also known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage and a symptom of birth injuries that can be caused by a traumatic birth
Neurological birth injuries, on the other hand, are less apparent. Most of the symptoms may not even appear for months after the child's birth. These symptoms are developmental delays, as the mental issues caused by the birth injury prevent the child from mastering the skills that doctors expect them to gain as the child grows.
Seeing a pediatrician can be the best way to know for sure that the symptoms really indicate that your child has suffered a birth injury. Seeing one that is not associated with the hospital that delivered the child is essential if you want to make sure you get an unbiased opinion.
Causes of Birth Injuries: Malpractice and Genetics
Many of these birth injuries are caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. Some, though, are the result of genetics. However, genetic issues – which cause birth defects, rather than birth injuries – can still lead to compensation if a doctor's malpractice prevented the parents from making an informed decision about their child.
In Virginia, medical malpractice involves:
- A doctor or healthcare professional with a legal duty to provide generally accepted standard of care to a patient,
- A failure to uphold that legal duty, and
- An injury to the patient caused by that failure.
When the patient hurt is a newborn child, the result is a birth injury.
Obviously, failing to provide a generally accepted standard of care can take a lot of different forms. Some of the most common that lead to a birth injury, though, include:
- Prescribing drugs to a pregnant woman that will negatively impact the development of her unborn child
- Dropping a newborn right after birth
- Hurting a newborn during a Cesarean section procedure
- Failing to notice clear signs of fetal distress that can culminate in brain damage or another severe birth injury
- Applying too much force during an assisted delivery and hurting the child
- Negligently sterilizing medical equipment and causing an infection for the mother and child
Even when the medical condition is the result of a genetic abnormality, doctors can still be held liable for medical malpractice if they either fail to detect the condition or do not relay this important information to the parents. This can prevent the parents from making an informed decision about the pregnancy, and can amount to medical malpractice that supersedes the congenital defect and makes the doctor and their medical institution liable for the care that the injured child will need.
Causes of Birth Injuries: Defective Medical Equipment
While medical malpractice or genetics cause the vast majority of the birth injuries that happen in Virginia, an overlooked culprit of these terrible injuries is a defective medical device.
During the birth of a child, doctors and nurses use dozens of medical devices. These run the spectrum from high-tech to mundane, and include things like:
- Drugs, like Oxytocin, which take years of research and testing to develop
- Vacuum-assisted delivery systems
- Gloves and masks
When the child is delivered with a Cesarean section, even more pieces of medical equipment are used. Any one of these devices can be defective and can break during the procedure or prove to be far less effective than the doctors needed for the circumstances. This can either directly cause a birth injury to the child, or can complicate the delivery in ways that put the newborn and the mother at an increased risk of harm.
Medical equipment can be defective in three ways:
- Design defects lead to medical devices that do not protect people from inherent and easily-corrected risks
- Manufacturing defects are errors during the assembly process that create devices that are different from the original design and that can break or be ineffective when used properly
- Marketing defects are oversights in the instructions for the device that fail to warn doctors and healthcare professionals of the dangers of using the device as it was intended to be used
All of these issues have the same outcome: They put patients – including newborn babies – at risk of harm in ways that the doctor cannot reasonably avoid. Because it would be unfair to hold the doctor liable for injuries caused in this fashion, victims have to file a products liability lawsuit to hold the company responsible for the defect accountable.
Financial Compensation: What You Can Recover in Virginia
If you and your newborn child were injured because of the medical malpractice of a doctor, you have the right to seek financial compensation for those injuries. Some of the most common types of money damages you can recover include but are not necessarily limited to:
- medical bills
- future medical expenses
- pain and suffering
- lost earning capacity
- loss of consortium.
The money you receive from a successful medical malpractice lawsuit can help you move forward with confidence. You should not have to pay for the mistakes of others. We can also help you file a claim with the Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation program to provide another source of funds to help you live your life.
Infant Wrongful Death Cases
Birth injuries can be life-threatening and even life-ending. Infant wrongful death cases come in three circumstances:
- The birth injury happened before the child was viable and the baby was stillborn
- The injury happened after viability and the baby was stillborn
- The baby was born alive but succumbed to his or her birth injuries soon thereafter
Doctors who act negligently can create medical emergencies that lead to stillbirth or a severe and eventually fatal birth injury. The most common conditions that can lead to a fatal birth injury include:
- Hypoxia, or a deprivation of oxygen so severe and long-lasting it causes tissue damage
- Reduced blood flow
- Traumatic injuries during the delivery
When a doctor's malpractice leads to the death of a newborn child or the stillbirth of a fetus, a wrongful death lawsuit can hold him or her accountable. However, unlike in nearly all other states, Virginia does not allow the parents to file a claim on behalf of the deceased child. Virginia Code § 8.01-50 limits the lawsuit to the “natural mother” of the newborn – the woman carrying the child.
While Virginia has a strict limit on who can file the lawsuit, though, it is more expansive in its protections for unborn children. This makes a huge difference when the child was stillborn, rather than born alive. While most other states require children who were stillborn to be viable when they sustained their birth injury, Virginia does not. Virginia Code § 8.01-50 allows for wrongful death lawsuits whenever there has been a “fetal death.” Virginia Code § 32.1-249 defines this term as the death of a fetus at any point during the pregnancy – even very soon after the conception of the child.
Statute of Limitations in Virginia Birth Injury Cases
Under Virginia law, a typical medical malpractice claim must be brought within 2 years of the incident that caused the injury. However, when the claim involves a child (as with birth injuries) the statute of limitations is extended if the child was under the age of 8 at the time of the harm. In that case, the child has until his or her 10th birthday to file a claim for medical malpractice.
A statute of limitations sets a hard and fast date by which you must file your birth injury claim, or it is lost. This can be true even when your case would otherwise result in a win. To avoid this possibility, you will want to make sure that you do not wait to file your claim but instead, contact an experienced attorney right away. Do not wait, otherwise, you could see your legitimate claim be dismissed due to a legal technicality.
Compassionate Birth Injury Attorneys Representing Virginia
Contact Gilman & Bedigian online to get started on your case if you or a loved one has been hurt by a birth injury in Virginia.