Many children born in the United States will suffer from a birth injury, which may impact their health and well-being. Yet, many of these injuries are preventable. If your child has suffered a birth injury, you may have the right to file a birth injury lawsuit and recover compensation.
What Is a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
A birth injury lawsuit is legal action the family of an infant injured during labor or delivery can take against the doctor, nurse, or other medical professionals responsible for the birth injury to receive compensation. Proving birth injury malpractice is essential to winning birth injury claims.
Types of Birth Injuries That Can Lead to a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
There are different types of birth injuries; some may heal with or without treatment, while others are permanent and cause lifelong disability in the child. Here are some of the most common birth injuries:
Brachial Plexus Injury
The brachial plexus is a group of nerves located between the neck and shoulder. They connect the spine to the arm and hand, controlling their movements. A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are excessively stretched or torn during delivery, which can happen if the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the mother’s pubic bone during delivery (known as shoulder dystocia).
This injury can cause neurapraxia where the nerves are stretched but do not tear. However, more severe cases of this injury can cause Erb's palsy, Horner’s syndrome, or Klumpke’s palsy. These are caused by an avulsion of the nerves — when the nerves are pulled away from the cervical spine.
Some cases of brachial plexus may resolve by themselves or require therapy or surgery to heal. However, others may cause permanent disability.
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
This is brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen in the child’s brain during labor, delivery, or shortly after birth. The severity of the damage depends on how long the brain is without an adequate supply of oxygen. Some children may not have any long-term effects from HIE. However, in some cases, it can cause cognitive impairment, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, or epilepsy.
Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)
PVL occurs when there’s an injury to the white matter around the brain's fluid-filled ventricles. This matter helps transmit information between different parts of the brain and spinal cord.
Most cases of PVL occur in premature babies. Babies with PVL may suffer major nervous system problems and have learning difficulties.
Facial Nerve Injury
A facial nerve injury can occur during delivery if there’s pressure on the infant's facial nerves (like against the mother's pelvis), resulting in facial paralysis. This causes the loss of voluntary movement in the infant’s face.
The use of forceps during delivery can also lead to facial paralysis. Some cases may heal on their own while others may require surgery to correct.
Intracranial hemorrhage refers to bleeding that occurs within the brain or cranium. This can happen if blood vessels rupture or another trauma occurs during delivery. Mild hemorrhages may resolve on their own, whereas severe cases may necessitate medical treatment or have long-term consequences, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury, and other developmental issues.
What To Expect from a Birth Injury Lawsuit
If you suspect that your child suffered some birth injuries, then consider filing a birth injury lawsuit. Here’s the potential process of your case with legal help:
Initial Consultation With a Birth Injury Attorney
Consult a birth injury attorney to better understand your case and to determine if there’s a valid birth injury claim worth pursuing. A birth injury lawyer has the experience and skill to help you decide your next course of action.
Investigation and Gathering Evidence from Medical Records and Expert Testimony
If the birth injury attorney determines that your case likely involves birth injury malpractice, the next step is to conduct a comprehensive investigation and collect sufficient evidence to establish your case.
This stage involves the following:
- Obtaining and reviewing medical records on the pregnancy, prenatal care, and delivery
- Demanding medical records on any treatment the infant received
- Consulting with expert witnesses
- Interviewing witnesses and collecting witness statements
Filing the Birth Injury Lawsuit
The next step involves filing a birth injury lawsuit. Note, however, that you do not have an indefinite amount of time to file your case, as the statute of limitations dictates when you must do so or risk losing your right to do so. Consult a lawyer immediately to ensure you file your case within time and comply with the legal requirements and documentation involved.
Pre-Trial Proceedings and Discovery
Discovery allows the attorney to find more information supporting the birth injury claim from the other party. During this stage, the parties may take depositions and request documents. The statements are taken under oath and considered evidence.
Trial or Birth Injury Lawsuit Settlements
Usually, both parties will attempt to negotiate. If the negotiation is successful, the parties will reach a birth injury settlement. Otherwise, the case will proceed to trial.
Many medical malpractice claims do not proceed to trial. However, if it does, the parties will present their case and arguments before a judge and jury, who will then render a verdict.
Compensation for Medical Expenses, Rehabilitation, and Physical Therapy
The plaintiffs in successful childbirth injury lawsuits will recover damages for the child’s injury or wrongful death. The birth injury compensation may cover the cost of the following expenses:
- Adaptive equipment
- Assistive devices
- Home nurses or other special care
- Lost wages if you stopped working to provide full-time care
- Occupational and physical therapy
- Mobility aids
- Special education
- Speech therapy
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Other future medical care
Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney and Claim Your Legal Rights
Navigating a birth injury lawsuit can be challenging, but a medical malpractice attorney can help. The experienced birth injury lawyers at McEldrew Purtell can help you fight for your baby’s right to justice and recover adequate compensation for their injuries. Call or email us today to discover how we can help.