If you or your child suffered an injury during childbirth, call Edelstein Martin & Nelson to speak with one of our birth injury attorneys to learn more about your rights.
The day your child is born should be one of the most joyful days of your life. The anticipation of holding your beautiful newborn is a feeling like none other.
However, labor and delivery are extremely difficult for both the mother and the baby. We hope that with the advancements in modern medicine that we wouldn’t have to worry about injuries during birth, but unfortunately, they happen.
What is a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
A birth injury occurs during pregnancy or childbirth and is generally due to the negligence of a medical professional. These injuries can affect either the mother or the infant, or both.
A birth injury lawsuit is a type of medical malpractice legal matter that aims to hold medical personnel responsible when their actions cause a child or vulnerable mother to endure an injury by failing to adhere to the established standards of their profession. Families can file a birth injury lawsuit to seek justice and receive the full financial compensation they will require to provide the necessary care following the accident.
Birth injury lawsuits should only be handled by a skilled Pennsylvania birth injury lawyer who is experienced due to the seriousness and complexity of these cases.
Causes of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries happen when there is trauma during labor and delivery, or unresolved complications during pregnancy. While not every complication is due to medical malpractice, many of these injuries are due to a medical professional’s negligence, which leads to preventable harm being done to the infant or mother. One major cause of birth injuries to infants is oxygen deprivation while they are still in the womb, or during labor. This usually happens because the umbilical cord has been damaged, twisted, or wrapped around the infant’s neck. If a medical professional fails to properly monitor an infant’s oxygen levels during pregnancy or childbirth, it can lead to severe injuries. Other common causes of birth injuries may include:
- Unsafe medical practices during birth: Medical interventions during childbirth, such as certain medications used to slow down or speed up labor, or tools such as forceps or vacuums can lead to infant distress, obstructed flow in oxygen, and even death.
- Poorly designed medical equipment: Most medical equipment is something of a one-size-fits-all situation when the people it is being used on are never one standard size. This means that the design of a piece of equipment may not work in the way it is intended to work, as it is either too large or too small for the patient it is being used on. Women can fall or struggle unnecessarily in beds or chairs that are too large or too small for them. Tubing used for IVs may not be the right diameter for a patient, which can cause blood clots or leaks.
- Delays in diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition: If medical professionals do not take a pregnant woman’s concerns seriously, or if they fail to diagnose a complication during prenatal care, it puts both the mother and the infant at risk of harm. The same can be said for improper treatment of diagnosed medical conditions.
- Improper use of anesthesia: Administering anesthesia during childbirth is a very precise science. If a woman is given an improper dosage of anesthesia, it can have catastrophic effects on both the mother and the infant.
- Failure to provide proper follow-up care: Complications can arise after the birth of an infant, and if the mother or infant are not given the proper follow-up care, these complications can become deadly injuries.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can happen at any time during pregnancy, childbirth, or even after a child is born. Injuries can be long-term and affect a child’s entire life as well as the mother’s health and well-being. Some common birth injuries include:
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury generally happens during labor and delivery and can range from bruising or scratches to more severe injuries like brain bleeds, skull fractures, or permanent brain damage.
If an infant is deprived of oxygen during labor or experiences significant head trauma, they may be at risk of developing cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy describes a group of disorders that can affect movement control, balance, and posture. Cerebral palsy is sometimes due to abnormal brain development while in the womb, but it happens due to medical malpractice during labor and delivery, as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1 in 345 children in the United States have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy as of 2010.
Brachial Plexus and Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that provide movement and feeling to the shoulder, arm, and hand. An infant’s shoulders can easily be injured during delivery, and if the injury is severe enough to cause Erb’s Palsy, they are at risk of permanent paralysis in the affected arm. Recovery involves physical therapy and in severe cases, surgery on the nerves and muscles.
During the labor and delivery process, an infant’s face may experience severe pressure, which can injure facial nerves and lead to paralysis. Facial paralysis can also happen when forceps have been used during delivery. This usually improves within a few weeks on its own, but the most severe cases may need surgery.
Fractures to an infant’s shoulders or clavicle are fairly common during delivery, especially with breech births. An infant’s bones are not as hard as an adult’s and are fairly pliable right after birth. Fortunately, due to the flexible quality of infant bones, most fractures heal within a couple of weeks. These fractures are still painful for an infant, and they may need to wear a bandage or splint to limit movement as the injury heals.
Hypoxia and anoxia happen when there is not enough oxygen being supplied to the infant’s organs. This typically happens when blood flow is reduced, generally due to a problem with the umbilical cord. This lack of oxygen can lead to conditions such as cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental delays, and hearing or visual impairments. These conditions can lead to very extensive care and medical interventions and can lead to lifelong impairments.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are very rare, but they are very serious when they happen. These injuries are often permanent and can result in paralysis or the inability to breathe without help.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
HIE is a form of brain trauma that occurs in newborns due to a lack of oxygen or blood flow. It is also known as neonatal encephalopathy, birth asphyxia, and perinatal asphyxia and can lead to serious complications such as cognitive disabilities, seizures, epilepsy, and more.
A cord prolapse happens when the umbilical cord moves ahead of the infant during the birthing process and exits the cervix before the baby. This is a medical emergency as it cuts off the infant’s blood and oxygen during delivery. It is most common in breech births and the birth of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
Injuries During Cesarean Section
A cesarean section (or C-section) is an invasive surgery where the mother’s abdomen and uterus are opened in order to remove the baby. They are usually performed as a life-saving measure or if there is great risk to the mother or infant. Injuries can happen to both the woman and her baby, especially since c-sections can be performed in emergency situations in under 15 minutes. Some risks include infections, hemorrhage, blood clots, bowel or bladder injury, placenta abnormalities in future pregnancies, and injury to the baby.
Compensation for Birth Injury Damages
If you or your child were injured due to medical negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for the following damages:
- Medical Expenses: This includes any costs associated with the treatment of the injuries incurred during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Treatment might include surgery, hospital visits, medications, and physical therapy.
- Pain and Suffering: This refers to the emotional and physical pain caused by the injury. This includes things like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, and can also include the loss in quality of life.
- Future Care: If your child’s injury results in lifelong care, you may be able to receive compensation for these future expenses. This might include the cost of caretakers, medical equipment, and future surgeries that will need to happen.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages may be awarded to you as a way to punish the medical provider that harmed you or your child and deter them from making the same negligent choices in the future.
Statute of Limitations in Birth Injury Claims
Most personal injury claims must be filed within two years of the injury in the state of Pennsylvania. However, birth injuries often cannot be diagnosed at birth, as some may not appear until an infant is older. Because of this, a parent or child has until the time the child is 21 to file a lawsuit against a medical professional.
If you believe your child has experienced developmental delays or conditions such as cerebral palsy that you believe occurred at birth, you may be able to file a claim. Contact one of our Pennsylvania birth injury attorneys so that we can help determine whether medical negligence or malpractice is to blame.
How An Attorney Can Help
Birth injury claims can be extremely complicated and nearly impossible to navigate without an attorney. We have years of experience in the legal system and will provide you with invaluable support throughout the process. Here are the steps involved and how we can help:
Before receiving any kind of compensation for a birth injury claim, you must prove that a medical professional was negligent. This happens in four parts:
- You must prove that the medical professional owed you a duty of care. Which, thanks to the regulations surrounding doctor-patient relationships, any medical professional that took care of you has this duty.
- You must prove that the doctor or other professional breached this duty. They had to fail in some way. A lawyer will need to demonstrate that the doctor violated the standard of care required in their profession.
- You must prove that you or your child were injured.
- You must prove that these injuries were directly caused by a medical professional’s breach of standards and that you suffered damages because of it.
Obtaining Medical Records
Gathering evidence is a common responsibility for attorneys, and in the case of a birth injury, we will help you retrieve your medical records and review them in detail to see if we can identify what led to you or your child’s birth injury.
Gathering Expert Testimonies
We can refer to medical experts to determine the accepted standard of care and whether it was breached by the medical team caring for you during your pregnancy and labor and delivery. Taking their testimony in a deposition can provide valuable evidence in support of your claim.
It is difficult to know how much you will need to recover financially from a birth injury, especially if it is going to lead to a need for long-term care. We will be able to accurately calculate how much you deserve in a settlement, and will negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. Hospitals have large insurers and defense firms to reduce their payout in the event of malpractice, which often means the victims of their malpractice are not given what they need to recover. Edelstein Martin and Nelson aren’t intimidated by these companies and will fight for your fair settlement.
Contact a Pennsylvania Birth Injury Lawyer Today
If you or your child were injured during pregnancy or childbirth, the attorneys at Edelstein Martin & Nelson are here to help. You should never have to worry about the health of your child at the hands of someone else’s negligence. We want you to enjoy the joyful time that bringing new life into the world should be.
Call Edelstein Martin & Nelson at 888-208-1810 for your free consultation and see how we can help you receive the justice you deserve.