Q. What Does Birth Injury Mean?
When infants are harmed at some point during labor and delivery, doctors call the resulting injuries “birth injuries.” These aren’t preexisting genetic conditions, but forms of harm that were suffered during birth – and often, as the result of the childbirth process itself.
Birth injuries can be minor. In reality, many children receive mild bruises simply from the mechanical pressure of fitting through the birth canal. Thankfully, most of these mild birth injuries heal rather quickly, and many traumas don’t require any medical treatment at all. But some infants sustain severe injuries during birth, and in rare cases, these injuries will result in long-term disability.
Birth injuries don’t have to be immediately-apparent physical cuts and scratches, although these are quite possible, especially in assisted deliveries. Many children suffer brain damage during delivery, often as a result of oxygen deprivation, or birth asphyxia. In some cases, birth asphyxia can cause severe, and debilitating medical conditions, like cerebral palsy. The signs of such injuries, however, may only appear days or months after a child’s delivery.
Q. Is That Different From A Birth Defect?
Birth defects, or congenital abnormalities, are caused by genetic mutations, along with environmental factors that alter fetal development in the womb. Birth injuries, on the other hand, are sustained during the childbirth process.
In practice, telling the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury can be difficult. Cerebral palsy, for example, can be caused by genetic mutations that occur long before a mother enters the delivery room. But the condition can also be caused by birth asphyxia, which is itself the result of medical negligence in some cases.
To complicate the picture, some birth defects can be caused by medical malpractice. Many pharmaceutical drugs, for example, have damaging effects on fetal development. These “teratogens” can cause congenital abnormalities when prescribed to pregnant women. In some cases, healthcare professionals – along with pharmaceutical manufacturers – can be held accountable for negligently prescribing these drugs during pregnancy.
Q. What Causes Birth Injuries?
In general, birth injuries can be caused by direct physical trauma, medication errors, or mismanaged complications of pregnancy. Even the most skilled physicians cannot prevent harm befalling a newborn in particularly difficult circumstances. But birth injuries can also be caused by negligent healthcare professionals – doctors who make an incompetent mistake, or nurses who fail to communicate emergency situations properly.
Most birth injury malpractice lawsuits involve a serious medical error, from failing to diagnose a maternal health condition to pulling a baby’s head with excessive force during a difficult delivery. Most lawsuits are filed over birth injuries that result in severe injuries, conditions that can lead to lifelong disability or cognitive impairment.
Q. What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the core concept in any viable birth injury lawsuit. Families will have to show that a medical professional’s actions – or failures to act – deviated from the “standard of care” in some way. After defining how a reasonable doctor should have acted under the circumstances, families need to demonstrate that their own doctor failed to act in the same way. Then comes the crucial step of proving that the doctor’s failure to act appropriately led directly to a child’s injuries.
To learn more about medical malpractice and how it works in a birth injury lawsuit, click here.
Q. How Do We Know That Medical Malpractice Caused Our Child’s Birth Injury?
While you may suspect that your doctor made a mistake during the delivery of your child, there’s no way to know with certainty until after a thorough investigation.
Some babies sustain injuries during birth that are tragic but ultimately unavoidable. Medical malpractice is what happens when harm could have been prevented under the circumstances, but a medical professional failed to prevent it.
Of course, doctors rarely admit that they made an error in treatment, so an experienced birth injury attorney will have to review the medical documentation from a birth to identify instances of malpractice. Independent medical experts will prove invaluable in doing this, and can also help families develop a plan for their child’s long-term care needs.
Q. Who Can File A Birth Injury Lawsuit?
Most birth injury malpractice lawsuits are filed by parents, who act as guardians on behalf of their child. In successful cases, however, the damages are usually awarded to the infant herself. Many families choose to have these damages placed in a special trust, which can provide for the child’s needs over the course of her lifetime.
Where wrongful death lawsuits are concerned, parents file the lawsuit on behalf of themselves, and are awarded applicable damages in their own names.
Q. How Much Will Filing A Lawsuit Cost?
At BirthInjuryAdvocate.com, our team of experienced medical malpractice attorneys works on a contingency-fee basis. You don’t owe us anything until we recover compensation to cover your child’s injuries and medical expenses.
Q. Is There A Time Limit?
Yes, but the time limit that applies in your child’s case will depend on the state in which malpractice occurred. Every state has a “statute of limitations,” which is like a legal deadline. For medical malpractice lawsuits, most injured patients have between one and three years to file a lawsuit, depending on where their healthcare was administered.
But cases involving injured infants and children are sometimes governed differently. In some states, parents will have up until their child’s 18th birthday to file a birth injury lawsuit. Again, that isn’t the case everywhere, and we urge you to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney today to ensure that your family’s rights remain protected.
Q. I Signed A Consent Form Before Delivery. Does That Restrict My Family’s Rights?
No. By signing an informed consent document, you acknowledged that things can go wrong during labor or delivery. You did not give a medical professional the right to act negligently during childbirth. Signing an informed consent does not restrict your right to file a birth injury lawsuit.