Birth injuries occur when there is some kind of complication just before, during, or immediately after childbirth. They can range from mild nerve damage that causes minimal and temporary disability to severe brain damage, permanent disability, and even death. The consequences are potentially very serious, and even small mistakes can cause these injuries.
Malpractice may be provable in situations that lead to birth injuries. It all depends on whether or not a medical professional in the same situation would have done something differently and prevented the injury from every happening. If that can be proven, the parents of a child that is a victim of a birth injury may be able to successfully win a settlement that will help that child as he or she grows.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries are usually associated with the baby, but they can also include injuries the mother sustains during childbirth. There are various types of injuries that may occur and that can cause a range of complications, including very serious disability and minor issues. Some examples of birth injuries include:
- Brain damage. This can lead to a number of serious conditions.
- Cerebral palsy. This is consequence of brain damage during child birth and is a permanent condition that causes a variety of symptoms and disabilities, mostly related to movement and muscles.
- Erb’s palsy. Damage to the brachial plexus nerves that run along the side of the neck can cause a type of palsy that results in disability or paralysis in the arm.
- Skull fracture. Pressure on an infant’s skull can damage it, causing serious harm.
- Wrongful death. Injuries to an infant may be severe enough to cause death.
There are also situations in which parents may file malpractice suits, even if there is no specific injury. For instance, a wrongful birth case means that a doctor failed to detect the presence of serious birth defects or genetic conditions through testing. The parents may claim that if they had the information they would have terminated the pregnancy.
How Do Birth Injuries Happen?
There are many ways in which a mistake or an occurrence during and just before childbirth can lead to injuries. Not all of these are able to be proven as malpractice, but in many cases it is clear that a physician or other medical professional did something or failed to do something that led directly to a birth injury. In these cases the tragedy is that the injury could have bene prevented with better care. Some examples of how birth injuries can occur include:
- Failure to monitor fetal health and the mother’s health adequately
- Not identifying the potential for complications until it is too late
- Not ordering a cesarean section
- Using too much force on the baby’s head during delivery, including using tools like forceps inappropriately
- Failure to monitor the baby’s oxygen intake
- Pulling too hard on the infant’s arm during delivery, which can lead to nerve damage
- Failure to detect or treat maternal health issues that can harm the baby, such as preeclampsia
- Failure to detect or treat jaundice in a newborn, which can cause brain damage
- Not supervising residents or nurses during delivery
When Birth Injuries are Negligent
Negligence in cases of birth injuries may be easy or difficult to prove depending on the circumstances. One of the most important factors in a malpractice case is showing that another medical professional would have done something differently in the same situation. This proves that the doctor, nurse, or midwife responsible did not provide an adequate standard of care, and that this directly led to the birth injury and damages.
Consequences of Birth Injuries
The consequences of a birth injury can be very serious, even including the death of the baby or the mother. Even when the complications are less serious, they are often permanent and something the baby must live with for the rest of his or her life. Cerebral palsy, for instance, is not curable and it leaves individuals with disabilities that they must live with forever.
Depending on the specific case, birth injuries may result in emotional pain and suffering for the parents and the child, chronic pain, disability, medical conditions, a need for ongoing, even lifelong, treatments or medications, an inability or diminished capacity for an individual to work and earn as they grow older, medical and mental health care costs, a need for educational interventions and special therapies, and a need for lifelong caregiving support because the child may never be able to live independently.
Examples of Birth Injury Malpractice Cases
One of the most common types of birth injury malpractice cases involves cerebral palsy. It is caused by brain damage, which may be caused by a number of errors made before and during childbirth. In one example of a cerebral palsy malpractice case, the family of a child born with the condition won a settlement of $53 million. The case occurred in Chicago and went to trial. The mother went to the hospital to deliver her child when it was staffed largely by residents. Fetal monitoring showed that her baby was in distress, and yet nothing was done to help for several hours. As a result, he suffered from brain damage and is now unable to be independent.
Another case of infant brain damage demonstrates all the ways in which this mistake can happen. In a case from Michigan a baby was born with jaundice, which was detected and treatment. However, the blood transfusion treatment was not performed correctly. Air got into the line and the baby suffered cardiac arrest. As she was resuscitated, she was cut off from oxygen for nearly 40 minutes and had permanent brain damage as a result. The family was able to prove negligence and win a settlement for their disabled daughter.
In an even more tragic case, a baby died after a skull fracture that occurred during delivery. The doctor used forceps too forcefully on the baby’s head, and the mother even testified that she could hear the fracture occur. She also testified in her case, which went to a jury trial, that she had requested a cesarean section, but that her doctor ignored her concerns and request and went ahead with the vaginal delivery. The baby died from complications related to the injury, and the jury awarded the mother a $10.3 million settlement.
Birth injuries can be devastating. Delivery and birth are very complicated medically and sometimes bad things happen that are no one’s fault. However, there are far too many cases when an injury is caused by a mistake that could have been prevented. When that happens, parents can rely on a medical malpractice lawyer to help them prove negligence and get a settlement to help their child.