A birth injury can be heart-breaking for parents. The parents may blame themselves for something that was out of their control. It can be difficult to focus on the future for their child when they are thinking about their child’s future medical needs and disabilities. It is important to understand that you are not alone and there are resources available to help you through this difficult process.
Almost one in every 500 babies born in the U.S. experience some kind of birth trauma. Many other mothers also suffer illness, injury, or infection in childbirth. Even though the U.S. is supposed to be one of the most advanced countries in the world, we still have a much higher infant mortality rate than other developed countries.
Birth injuries can leave children with temporary injuries, long-term impairment, or permanent disability. The child and family may have to live with the consequences of a medical error for the rest of the child’s life. This can result in a lifetime of medical care, limits to future opportunities, and unnecessary suffering.
If you are not sure what to do after a birth injury, you can always contact a birth injury attorney for help. An experienced lawyer can help you get answers and understand your options. Contact our birth injury law office today online or by phone at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.
Getting the Right Medical Care For Your Baby
The most important thing after a birth injury is to make sure your child gets the medical care necessary to give them the best chance of success. Delays in treatment can make a birth injury worse. Find a doctor you are confident in to diagnose your child’s condition and let you know what the treatment options are, and the risks of any procedures.
Some birth injuries cause permanent damage. You may need to think about a lifelong care plan for your child. It is unfortunate that many families have to consider the costs of medical care in making healthcare decisions for their family. This is why it is important to consider talking to a lawyer about birth injuries to help you get compensation for care. Lifetime care may include:
- Emergency care
- Medical devices
- Blood transfusions
- Diagnostic testing
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Long-term care
- Specialist care
- Behavioral therapy
- Assistive equipment
Even as the child grows up, they may still require care to help them adapt skills for independence and self-sufficiency. This may include special education, mobility devices, and home modifications. These can be very costly when the family is responsible for covering the child’s medical expenses.
A birth injury medical malpractice lawsuit can help the family recover damages to provide care for their injured child. If the injury was caused by a doctor’s failure to provide the standard of care required, the doctor may be liable for losses. A malpractice claim can help the family get money for:
- Medical care
- Future care
- Loss of opportunities
- Pain and suffering
Discovering a Birth Injury
Birth injuries can occur at any time during the pregnancy, during childbirth, or shortly after delivery. When the injury occurs can impact when the parents learn about the injury. Some birth injuries may not be discovered for years, until after the child develops and begins to miss significant developmental milestones.
Birth Injuries During Pregnancy
During gestation, much of what is going on is out of sight of the mother. The mother may be able to feel a lot of what the fetus is going through during development but there is still a lot that is not clear. This is one reason why prenatal testing and monitoring can be so important. Prenatal testing and diagnostics may include:
- Blood tests
- Genetic testing
- Fetal monitoring
- Monitoring the mother
Prenatal genetic tests can help doctors look for chromosomal abnormalities that may indicate a possible birth defect. Prenatal genetic testing methods include:
- Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
- Percutaneous Umbilical Cord Blood Sampling
- Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)
Amniocentesis samples amniotic fluid from the uterus for testing. Amniotic fluid contains fetal cells and can be used for genetic tests, fetal lung testing, fetal infection tests, and paternity tests. CVS tests use a catheter or needle to biopsy placental cells derived from the fertilized egg as the fetus. The sample can be taken through the cervix or through the abdominal wall.
Amniocentesis is usually performed at 15 to 20 weeks gestation. A CVS test can be done as early as after 10 weeks of pregnancy. Both amniocentesis and CVS carry some risk to the mother and fetus, including the risk of infection or miscarriage.
Parents should be able to have the information they need to make important decisions during pregnancy, including the risk of birth defects. Many congenital birth defects are preventable or treatable when they are detected in time. Failure of the doctors to order the proper tests or evaluate diagnostic tests that lead to a birth injury may be considered medical malpractice.
According to the March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects, the 5 most common birth defects include:
- Congenital heart defects
- Neural tube defects
- Hemoglobin disorders, thalassemia, and sickle cell disease
- Down syndrome (trisomy 21)
- Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency
Many of these birth defects are caused by hereditary factors that can be detected through blood tests or genetic testing. Parents should have access to this information to understand the risks of pregnancy and be prepared for birth complications. Other genetic and chromosomal conditions:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome)
- Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome)
- Turner syndrome
- Cri-du-Chat syndrome
- Missing copies of the X chromosome or Y chromosome
- Tay-Sachs disease
- Spinal muscular atrophy
- Fragile X syndrome
According to a study in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, genetic testing errors are common because some healthcare providers have limited knowledge in ordering genetic tests and interpreting the results. Some of the most common genetic testing errors include:
- Ordering the wrong genetic tests
- Disease mix-ups and medical condition confusion
- Failing to order the more clinically appropriate genetic test
Even common imaging tests can be a cause for birth complications. During pregnancy monitoring, a doctor may be able to identify risks of a birth complication, including abnormal birth presentations, cephalopelvic disproportion, and macrosomia. Failure to identify and prepare for these possible complications can delay delivery and put the baby at risk of oxygen deprivation.
Birth Injuries During Childbirth
Childbirth can be a traumatic experience for the mother and baby. It is important for doctors and health care providers to be at their best during labor, during childbirth, and until after delivery. This includes properly monitoring the mother and baby to make sure they are able to safely go through childbirth with minimal trauma or injury.
One of the most common causes of birth injury that occurs during childbirth is delayed delivery. There are a number of possible birth complications that can make it more difficult to deliver the baby. This includes abnormal birth presentation, problems with the umbilical cord, or falling oxygen levels for the baby. During a difficult labor, some doctors may engage in improper delivery techniques to speed up delivery. This can cause:
- Birth injuries from extraction devices
- Brachial plexus palsy
- Brain damage and head trauma
- Clavicle fracture
- Erb’s palsy
- Facial paralysis
- Klumpke’s palsy
- Shoulder dystocia
- Subgaleal hemorrhage
- Torticollis (Wry Neck)
Problems during delivery can cause traumatic injuries to the mother and child but one of the most damaging birth injuries is caused by oxygen deprivation. There is a short period of time between when the child has to transition from getting oxygen and blood from the mother to breathing outside air. Any delays can cause permanent damage.
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation due to hypoxic or anoxic injuries. The longer the brain goes without oxygen, the more extensive the damage to the brain can be. When blood flow and oxygen to the brain are reduced, the body may compensate by prioritizing blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. Continued oxygen deprivation can lead to cell damage and cell death. Even a few minutes without oxygen can lead to permanent brain damage.
Some of the permanent injuries caused by hypoxia include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, developmental delays, cognitive impairment, language impairment, coordination problems, and motor impairment. However, some of these conditions may not become evident for months or years after the injury was caused. How does a parent know that their child may have suffered oxygen deprivation injuries? There may be signs and symptoms of a possible HIE injury, including:
- Abnormal heart rate
- Meconium staining
- Low Apgar scores
- Difficulty feeding
- Breathing problems
- Low muscle tone
- Organ damage
- Abnormal response to light
- Abnormal reflexes
- Hyperalert or lethargic
Neonatal Birth Injuries
After the child is delivered, the baby may still be very sensitive to the outside world and can suffer injury, infection, or other serious birth injuries. A neonatal birth injury is a structural destruction or functional deterioration of the neonate’s body due to a traumatic event at birth.
Some babies need additional care after delivery, often because of a birth defect or premature development. A premature birth is a birth that occurs more than 3 weeks before the baby’s due date. Premature babies may be at a greater risk of birth complications, including:
- Breathing problems
- Feeding problems
- Poor temperature regulation
- Brain problems
- Heart problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Blood problems
- Weakened immune system
The child may need care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It can be difficult for a parent to see their newborn taken away to be placed in emergency care. NICU care may involve specialized tests or treatment to help the baby, depending on the medical condition. Treatment may include:
- Blood transfusion
- Oxygen treatment or ventilator
- Temperature control
A neonatal infection is an infection in a newborn that could have occurred at any point in the pregnancy and birth process, including in the womb, during delivery, or after delivery. Even a minor infection can be harmful to the newborn because of the baby’s compromised immune system. Treatment for neonatal infections may include antibiotics. Common birth infections include:
- MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
- Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus
- Staph Infection (Staphylococcus aureus)
- C Diff (Clostridium difficile)
- E. coli (Escherichia coli)
Some infections are known as hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), due to exposure in the healthcare setting. If the hospital or medical staff are not following proper hygiene and sanitation measures, it may increase the risk of an infection. If the child suffers an injury because of a neonatal infection, the hospital or doctors may be liable for damages.
Do I Need a Birth Injury Lawyer?
Birth injuries are complex and not all lawyers understand the process of taking a medical malpractice case to trial. These types of lawsuits require a lot of time and resources to give the family the best chance of recovering damages. Make sure your attorney has the experience and ability to take on your case.
There are other reasons to file a birth injury lawsuit, aside from compensation. Many patients never file a claim and the doctors or hospitals are never held accountable. This may put other families at risk of experiencing a similar tragedy. A malpractice lawsuit can help improve patient care by holding doctors and hospitals accountable for their actions. It may be just the thing that motivates a healthcare company to make changes to reduce the risk of future injuries or harm.
Another benefit of an experienced malpractice law firm is they can provide guidance. You may feel all alone but there are others who have gone through similar difficult times. Knowing your rights, your options, and what you can expect can go a long way to easing your mind. You may feel much more confident knowing your child will be provided for into the future.
How Much Time to Act?
There is a limited amount of time to file a birth injury claim, depending on your state. The statute of limitations and statutes of repose vary by state. Some states have very short time limits for injury victims of birth injuries. If you wait too long, you may lose out on your chance to recover damages. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you can file your birth injury claim before it is too late.
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian strive to represent victims of birth injuries throughout the country. The firm won a record-breaking $55 million verdict in Maryland for a birth injury victim against Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.