When a child suffers a birth injury in the State of West Virginia, that child and his or her mother deserve to be compensated for those injuries. The financial cost of dealing with injuries caused by medical negligence can quickly pile up. In addition, a person injured by a doctor's negligence is entitled to compensation for any pain and suffering caused as a result of that negligence. Whether the injury occurred during the mother's pregnancy or during labor and delivery, the injuries that result can range from mild to severe and permanent or fatal.
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 West Virginia
Both in West Virginia and the larger United States, the incidence of birth injuries is far more common than most people think. As many as 7 out of every 1,000 children are born with a birth injury every year, constituting nearly 28,000 babies who are harmed per year. These numbers are far too high but in each case where they do occur, both baby and mother are entitled to financial compensation for the injuries they suffer.
Most birth injuries occur at one of two separate times. The first is during the pregnancy and before birth occurs. The second occurs during labor and delivery. In both cases, the potential for serious injury due to medical negligence exists and when it occurs, an experienced birth injury lawyer can fight to get you the financial compensation you deserve.
While malpractice during pregnancy is less common than that during birth, it still occurs at an alarming rate. Medical negligence that occurs during this crucial developmental stage can cause severe and debilitating effects on the unborn child, many of which are irreversible. Doctors have a duty to be aware of the special care required for pregnant patients, and when they do not, they can be held responsible.
Common causes of injuries during the pregnancy include but are not limited to:
- Use of dangerous prescription drugs prescribed by the doctor
- Failure to diagnose genetic risks or diseases
- Medical negligence during in utero medical procedures.
Medical Malpractice During Delivery or Labor
During the delivery of your newborn baby, a lot can still go wrong if the doctor or other medical staff does not follow the proper standard of medical care. Improper use of medical procedures can result in:
- broken bones;
- oxygen deprivation;
- spinal injuries; or
- fetal stress.
At Gilman & Bedigian, we specialize in winning financial 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 John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and won a Maryland record $55 million medical malpractice verdict.
Examples of Birth Injuries in West Virginia
While there is an untold number of birth injuries that can be caused by a doctor's medical negligence, some of the most common are listed below:
- Brain bleeding: damage to the soft tissue of the brain causing bleeding
- Detached placenta: a placenta that has come loose from the uterine wall
- Pediatric Hydrocephalus: a buildup of pressure in the brain due to accumulation of fluid
- Cephalohematoma: a collection of blood underneath the protective membrane covering an infant's skull
- Shoulder dystocia: baby's shoulders become stuck in the pelvic area of the mother
- Infant Anoxia/Hypoxia: a loss of oxygen to the baby during labor or delivery
- Klumpke's Palsy: a condition caused by damage to the lower 2 of 5 nerves of brachial plexus
- Cerebral palsy: a condition caused by brain damage during childbirth
- Brachial Plexus: damage to the 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
Common Causes of Birth Injuries
There are three common causes of a birth injury in West Virginia:
- Defective medical devices
- A doctor's medical malpractice
- The child's genetics
In West Virginia, medical malpractice happens when:
- A doctor or other healthcare professional has a legal duty to provide adequate medical care to a patient
- He or she fails to uphold that legal duty by providing substandard care
- Their patient gets hurt as a result
When the patient is a newborn baby, the result is a birth injury.
The medical malpractice can occur immediately before the birth injury or only indirectly.
Birth injuries that are indirectly caused by medical malpractice can happen when there is a medical complication between the malpractice and the child's setbacks. Common scenarios include:
- A nurse neglects a mother while she is in labor and fails to notice clear signs that the umbilical cord is choking the child. When the baby is born, it has brain damage
- A doctor gives prescription drugs to a pregnant woman. Those drugs increase her blood pressure, which causes preeclampsia, a premature birth, and numerous medical issues for the baby
Doctors and medical institutions frequently claim that the intervening medical conditions break the chain of causation between the malpractice and the birth injury. Overcoming that defense is essential.
How Genetics Can Lead to Malpractice
Some birth injuries are actually birth defects – the result of the child's genetic makeup. Birth defects are not caused by a doctor's poor conduct or negligence. However, a doctor's malpractice can still make them liable for the child's medical conditions if the doctor does not tell the parents about the developing congenital defects or simply fails to detect them, in the first place. This can deprive the parents of the information they need to make an informed decision about the pregnancy and can lead to the child being born with a terrible medical condition that will keep them from living a full life.
Defective Medical Devices
While medical malpractice and genetics are more likely to cause a birth injury, defective medical devices can, as well. Doctors and nurses use numerous pieces of medical equipment in a typical delivery procedure, and countless more if the child is delivered via C-section. Some of the most common pieces of equipment used during a delivery include:
- Drugs like Oxytocin and the anesthetics and anti-inflammation medication used in an epidural shot
- Extraction devices
These devices can have a design, manufacturing, or advertising defect that can put the newborn and the mother at a serious risk of injury.
Design defects are problems with how the medical device is supposed to work. If the design includes inherent dangers that could easily have been corrected or avoided, it can be defective.
Manufacturing defects in medical devices come in two forms:
- Errors during the assembly process that make the device prone to break or that make it ineffective
- Shipping mistakes that contaminate medical equipment that is supposed to be sterilized when it arrives at the hospital
Advertising defects are issues with the instructions for how to use the medical device. If the instructions fail to warn healthcare professionals about a hidden danger or risk to patients, doctors can unknowingly put their patients at risk while using the device.
Each of these defects can lead to a birth injury, but the doctor would not have been at fault. In cases like these, victims can file a products liability lawsuit against the company responsible for the defective medical device, and recover the compensation they need and deserve from them, rather than from the doctor and his or her medical institution.
Financial Compensation You Can Recover
After you and your newborn suffers an injury as a result of medical negligence, you are entitled to receive financial compensation for those injuries. Compensation may take any of the following forms but is not necessarily limited to these:
- medical bills
- future medical expenses
- pain and suffering
- lost earning capacity
- loss of consortium.
Receiving this compensation can help you to get your life back on track, and recover from the injuries to you and your child.
Infant Wrongful Death Cases
When a birth injury is especially severe, it can lead to the death of the newborn child or an unborn fetus. Some of the most common medical conditions that prove to be fatal for a newborn child include:
- Traumatic injuries
- Reduced blood flow
Traumatic injuries can be fatal if they harm the child's skull, spinal cord, neck, or cause devastating amounts of nerve damage. Hypoxia, meanwhile, is the medical condition of an extreme level of oxygen deprivation. It can cause tissue damage, including a potentially fatal amount of brain or organ damage. That tissue damage can also happen if blood flow is reduced or circulation is cut off entirely. When blood cannot reach a vital organ – most often the brain – it can lead to the same kind of tissue damage that happens under hypoxia.
These fatal birth injuries create one of three situations:
- The child is born alive but succumbs to the birth injuries he or she has suffered
- The child is stillborn from injuries suffered after viability
- The child is stillborn from injuries suffered before it became viable
West Virginia allows the close relatives of a victim of someone else's fatal negligence to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the wrongdoer under West Virginia Code § 55-7-5. Like most other states' wrongful death statutes, though, this law allows a lawsuit after the death of a “person,” but does not define the term.
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has stepped forward and, in the case Farley v. Sartin, interpreted the law to include not just live born children, but all fetuses, regardless of viability. This means parents of stillborn children who were hurt at any stage during the pregnancy can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent doctor who caused the injury.
Statute of Limitations in West Virginia Birth Injury Cases
Under West Virginia law, there is a 2-year statute of limitations imposed upon birth injury cases. This 2-year period begins to run either:
- on the date the incident that caused the injury occurred; or
- two years following the discovery of the injury, whichever is later.
It is only during one of these two periods of time that a person can properly file a medical malpractice claim related to a birth injury, and failure to do so can result in the dismissal of your case. Lawsuits for cases of infant wrongful death must be filed within 2 years of the infant's death.
A statute of limitations is a hard bar that can result in dismissal of your case even when it would have otherwise been successful in court. As a result, if you fail to file in time, you could be denied the financial compensation to which you are legally entitled. The best advice is simple: do not wait to contact an experienced birth injury lawyer in order to protect your rights and the rights of your injured child.
Compassionate Birth Injury Attorneys Representing West 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 West Virginia.