Childbirth is an emotionally and physically draining experience, and mothers place trust in medical professionals to provide the highest possible standard of care. Unfortunately, negligence, medical errors, and a failure to provide proper care can lead to birth injuries.
A birth injury attorney can help you seek justice in the event that you or a loved one has been injured during the delivery process. First, it is important that you are fully aware of the types of childbirth injuries and the ways that legal representation can benefit you.
What Role Does a Birth Injury Attorney Play?
A birth injury lawyer acts as an advocate for you and your child so that the parties involved in the injury are held responsible. Furthermore, the long-term effects of birth injuries can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining, and victims may be due compensation. For example, the CDC estimates that the lifetime costs of caring for an individual with cerebral palsy, including but not limited to medical bills, average more than $1 million.
When you pursue legal action against a medical professional, hospital, or facility due to a birth injury, your attorney will be responsible for:
- Conducting extensive research into the circumstances of your case
- Obtaining witness testimony and medical records
- Building a case against the medical professionals who delivered the child
- Filing necessary paperwork within the appropriate court
- Presenting your case and seeking financial compensation
When you hire a lawyer for a birth injury case, you should feel that you have found an ally who is dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome.
Examples of Birth Injuries That Could Require a Birth Injury Lawyer
There are many types of birth injuries, ranging from relatively minor to severe or even life-threatening. In order to better establish whether you have a legitimate case, it's important to first determine what kind of injuries occurred.
Medical Negligence or Medical Malpractice
While it is not always the case, preventable birth injuries sometimes result from negligence or error on the part of your doctor or nurses. These incidences are more common than you might expect.
A 2006 report found that there were 157,700 potentially avoidable injuries to mothers and newborns during childbirth. The kinds of malpractice or negligence that can occur include:
- Using excessive force on a baby during birth
- Failing to properly monitor the vital signs of the mother and baby
- Incorrectly or unnecessarily using tools, such as forceps, during childbirth
- Neglecting to perform a cesarean section when it is medically necessary
If medical mistakes or negligence caused injury to you or your child, you may have a rightful claim to compensation.
Brain Damage and Brain Injuries
One of the more common types of birth injuries is brain damage and injuries. Brain damage is more common in delayed birth, in which a mother is in labor for more than 18 hours. One of the more common conditions is cerebral palsy, which can be caused by a number of events during childbirth:
- A head injury
- Choking or nearly drowning
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, and it can impair movement, including difficulties with walking, swallowing, and controlling eye movement.
A head injury, lack of oxygen, or insufficient blood flow to the brain during pregnancy or childbirth can result in lifelong disabilities. These include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and vision impairment.
During childbirth, a baby's body position or the use of unnecessary force can lead to a spinal cord injury or nerve damage. Some newborns experience brachial plexus injuries, which affect the nerves that provide feeling and muscle control in the shoulder, arm, forearm, hand, and fingers.
Brachial plexus injuries occur when a baby's neck is stretched to one side during childbirth. Excessive tension can cause the nerves to stretch or tear. In more severe cases, the nerve roots might be pulled from the spinal cord.
These kinds of nerve injuries sometimes require extensive interventions, including surgery, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Experts estimate that they occur in 1 to 3 of every 1,000 births.
Birth trauma generally refers to injuries that occur during the birthing process, including lacerations and bone fractures, as a result of the child's size or the improper use of birthing tools. Examples of birth injuries resulting from trauma include:
- Bruising or marks from forceps
- Caput succedaneum
- Facial paralysis
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage
These conditions are more common during specific circumstances. For example, vacuum extraction is more likely to result in lacerations or caput succedaneum, which is the swelling of the soft tissue of the baby's scalp.
Also known as birth asphyxia, perinatal asphyxia occurs when a baby is unable to take in adequate oxygen before, during, or immediately following birth. It can lead to low levels of blood oxygen, or hypoxia, as well as excessive acid in the blood, which is referred to as acidosis.
Studies have shown that perinatal asphyxia can cause neurodevelopmental impairment later in life. This can affect the motor, sensory, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes of the child.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Cases?
The statute of limitations for a birth injury case depends on the state where the injury occurred. For example, in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on personal injury caused by negligence is two years. However, if the individual who is injured is a minor, that person has until two years after their 18th birthday to file a case. When the victim is a newborn, the parent can choose to file a case on behalf of the child, or the child who sustained the injury at birth can file a case upon reaching the age of 20.
Hire an Attorney With the Legal Experience and Background in Birth Injury Litigation
If you or a loved one has experienced a birth injury, it's important that you act quickly and carefully. While it is vital that your case is filed within the statute of limitations, it is equally important that you find a birth injury attorney with extensive experience and the knowledge necessary to best represent your case.
For assistance in finding an attorney with experience in birth injury lawsuits, contact the experts at McEldrew Purtell.