After your child suffers a birth injury in the State of Wisconsin, both the child and the child's mother deserve to be compensated for those injuries. The financial burden of treating these injuries, along with the pain and suffering endured because of the injuries, can pile up quickly. Injuries can be minor or severe and long-lasting. Regardless of the severity, however, the responsible doctor should be held accountable for the compensation. Whether the injury occurred during pregnancy or during delivery or labor, you are entitled to financial compensation for the injuries you and your child suffered.
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 Wisconsin
Throughout the United States and in Wisconsin, injuries related to a child's birth occur at an all too frequent rate. As many as 7 out of every 1,000 births result in some type of trauma injury. As a result, over 28,000 babies are harmed every year as a result of birth injuries. These high numbers demonstrate how this is a very real and dangerous problem for mothers and babies alike.
Most birth injuries occur at one of two different times. The harm can either occur during the pregnancy or during labor or delivery. In either circumstance, the danger posed by medical negligence during these times is high, and when it occurs you may feel hopeless after dealing with an injury. Instead, you can fight for your rights and get the financial compensation to which you are entitled.
Malpractice During Pregnancy
Malpractice that causes harm during the pregnancy, before the child is born, is much less common than injuries that occur during childbirth. However, this does not make the injuries less severe when they do occur. When medical malpractice occurs during this critical time, permanent and often irreversible harm can occur to the unborn baby. Doctors have certain duties that are special to pregnant women, and failure to abide by those duties is negligence.
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; and
- 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 Wisconsin
There are a great many different types of injuries that can occur to your child during pregnancy or birth, but some of the more common are as follows:
- Infant Anoxia/Hypoxia: a loss of oxygen to the baby during labor or delivery
- Cerebral palsy: a condition caused by brain damage during childbirth
- 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
- Brain bleeding: damage to the soft tissue of the brain causing bleeding
- 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
- Klumpke's Palsy: a condition caused by damage to the lower 2 of 5 nerves of brachial plexus
- 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 Symptoms of a Birth Injury
Physical birth injuries have some different symptoms than birth injuries that affect the newborn's neurological development. Knowing what to look for can help parents see that something may have gone wrong during the child's delivery and that their child has been hurt.
Physical birth injuries can cause some of the following symptoms:
- Fractured skull
- Seizures, a symptom of which can be strange eye movement by the newborn
- Lumps or bumps in the child's head, which could be a symptom of a fractured skull
- Dislocated shoulders and fractured collarbones
- Broken bones
- Paralyzed muscles, which could also be a symptom for even more severe nerve damage
- Breathing problems, especially right after birth
- Coughing or wheezing
- Eating issues, including nausea, lack of an appetite, vomiting, and trouble swallowing
- Uncontrollable crying with an arched back, a symptom of chronic and severe pain
Some of these are far more apparent than others. When some of the less obvious symptoms show themselves, it can help to see a pediatrician to get a proper medical diagnosis. Seeing a pediatrician who is not affiliated with the hospital that delivered the child is a wise move to make – they are less likely to look for causes that do not involve a doctor's malpractice.
Neurological birth injuries can come with different symptoms. These include developmental delays that do not begin to appear until several months have passed. However, sometimes, the presence of neurological issues can be seen right away from the following symptoms or indications that something has gone wrong:
- Fractured skull
- Severe breathing problems right after birth, which could be a sign of oxygen deprivation during delivery
- A subconjunctival hemorrhage, which is a symptom of the kinds of stress on the baby's skull that can cause neurological damage
- Hearing, vision, or coordination problems
What Can Cause a Birth Injury?
In order to be compensable in a lawsuit, a birth injury has to be the result of a healthcare professional's medical malpractice. However, that medical malpractice does not necessarily have to happen immediately before the injury is sustained – it can set in motion a series of medical conditions or complications that end with the birth injury, as well. It can also be the superseding cause of a birth injury that was originally a genetic defect.
Malpractice as the Direct Cause of a Birth Injury
Some of the most obvious incidents of a medical malpractice causing a birth injury happen when a healthcare professional's mistake or negligence immediately precedes a birth injury. This can happen when, for example:
- A nurse drops a newborn baby
- A surgeon cuts the baby with a scalpel during a C-section
- A doctor uses too much force with an extraction device during an assisted delivery and causes facial paralysis in the child by damaging nerves
Malpractice as the Indirect Cause
Other birth injuries are caused by medical malpractice, but might not seem like it because there were other medical complications at play. This does not absolve the original act of malpractice, though.
For example, when a doctor notices signs of fetal distress but does not react appropriately, it can be malpractice. Just because the malpractice leads to oxygen deprivation, which then leads to brain damage does not mean that the malpractice was not the root cause of the child's injuries.
Malpractice and Birth Defects
A child's genetic makeup can lead to birth defects. While these are not the result of a doctor's malpractice, if the doctor does not notify the parents of the defects or does not look for their presence, it can keep the parents from making an informed decision and make the doctor and his or her medical institution liable for the results.
What Financial Compensation Can I Recover in Wisconsin?
After you or your newborn is injured as a result of medical malpractice, you are entitled to receive financial compensation for those injuries. Compensation can be in 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. Getting the financial compensation you deserve is best done with the help of a highly experienced lawyer like those at Gilman & Bedigian. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to fight for you.
Birth Injuries Sustained from Defective Medical Devices
In some cases, the doctor was not responsible for the birth injury because they took all the care and precautions that were reasonably necessary, only for one of their tools to be defective and dangerous. When this happens, the victims can file a products liability lawsuit to recover the compensation that they need and deserve.
Medical devices can cause a serious birth injury if they are defective in their:
- Packing and shipping
Marketing defects are among the most common, when it comes to medical devices. These are not problems with how the company that makes the device promotes it. Instead, marketing defects are issues with the instruction booklet that tells healthcare professionals how to safely use the device when caring for a patient. If the instructions fail to warn doctors about a risk inherent in the use of the device, doctors can unknowingly put his or her patients at serious risk of injury through no fault of their own.
Packing and shipping defects are unique to medical instruments that need to arrive at the hospital in a sterilized condition. Technically a type of manufacturing defect, if a piece of medical equipment is poorly packaged or is negligently shipped, it can get contaminated with bacteria that puts the patient who eventually relies on it at risk of an infection.
These defects can plague any of the dozens of medical devices and other pieces of equipment that doctors over the course of a childbirth. If there is a defective piece of equipment in the procedure and it causes a birth injury, the victim would not have been hurt through the malpractice or negligence of any healthcare professional. Instead, the culpable party would have been the company that allowed the defective device to reach the hospital, in the first place.
Wrongful Death Cases Involving Infants and the Unborn
Some birth injuries prove to be fatal, either leading to a stillborn child or causing the child's death shortly after birth. Among the most common birth injuries that end up being fatal are:
- Traumatic birth injuries during an assisted delivery
- Reduced blood flow
Both hypoxia and a reduced blood flow can cause tissue and organ damage.
Hypoxia is a serious case of oxygen deprivation. When a child is unable to breathe for an extended period of time – often during the delivery – their inability to get oxygen means that the organs that depend on a steady supply of it can deteriorate and get damaged. If this condition is not corrected, it can be fatal as the organs shut down and stop working.
A reduced blood flow can have the same effects. When the bloodstream is compromised and circulation to a part of the newborn's body is cut off, the blood cannot bring oxygen to the organs in the affected area. For example, if the umbilical cord gets tightly wrapped around the child's neck, it can prevent blood and oxygen from reaching the brain, causing significant brain damage from oxygen deprivation.
Wisconsin allows the close relatives of someone killed by another person's negligence to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the victim. Wisconsin Statute § 895.03 lets these lawsuits be filed whenever the victim is a “person.” While this clearly covers newborn children who were born alive, only to die from a prenatal injury, it is less apparent if it covers stillborn children.
The Supreme Court of Wisconsin, in the case Kwaterski v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., decided that the wrongful death statute also allows lawsuits to be filed on behalf of unborn children, so long as they were fatally injured after they were viable.
Statute of Limitations in Wisconsin Birth Injury Cases
Under Wisconsin law, there is a 3-year statute of limitations period for all medical malpractice claims, including those for birth injuries. This period begins to run on the date the injury is caused through the malpractice. Failure to file by the statute of limitations can result in dismissal of your case, even if you otherwise may have won significant financial compensation.
For those who are under the age of 18, the statute of limitations changes to 2 years following the date the child turns 18. This extends the statute of limitations period for the child's injuries significantly. However, this does not extend the time period for the child's parents, so it is critical to contact an attorney as soon after the birth of your child as possible. Otherwise, you may be significantly limited in the amount of costs you can recover. This can result in financial hardship for you, your newborn, and your family.
Compassionate Birth Injury Attorneys Representing Wisconsin
Contact Gilman & Bedigian online to get started on your case if you or a loved one has been hurt by a birth injury in Wisconsin.