A birth injury is an injury that can occur before birth, during labor & delivery or in the neonatal or “newborn” period. Sadly, many birth injuries can be permanently devastating when they affect the functioning of the brain.
The arrival of a new family member is an exciting time and an event that is very special. Unfortunately, sadness and loss can come with such an event when professional negligence is involved. Injuries sustained at birth all too often result in a child becoming permanently handicapped wherein he or she will require special care for the rest of their life. And, tragically, death can be the result of a birth injury.
There is nothing more devastating that discovering that your baby has suffered a birth injury that was due to the fault of someone you trusted. If you are facing this type of tragedy, you may be struggling to pay an increasing number of medical bills as you feel a great deal of uncertainty, confusion and sadness. This is why it’s important to seek legal assistance quickly so that your attorney can review medical records to determine the cause of your child’s injuries. If it is found that the birth injury was caused by negligence, your California personal injury attorney will seek the compensation and justice you need and deserve.
Types of Birth Injuries
A birth injury most commonly occurs when a doctor or another medical care provider deviates from standard procedure or fails to recognize potential danger to the child or mother during the birthing process. Under law, medical providers are obligated to follow strict regulations in the monitoring of vital signs. They also must take all necessary steps and precautions to help prevent danger and illness during birth. When medical professionals deviate from these standards and a child is injured as a result, they can be held liable for their negligence.
Birth injuries can manifest in a variety of ways including physically, developmentally and cognitively. Some of the most common types of birth injuries include:
Erb’s Palsy – This condition is caused by nerves in the arms being injured, specifically, the C5 and C6 nerves. Erb’s Palsy can be caused by a difficult labor as well as by excessive pulling on the shoulders during labor when the baby is coming out head-first. It also can be caused by pressure on the raised arms during a feet-first delivery. Children diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy have partial or full paralysis of the arm(s) which can involve a loss of sensation. The affected arm(s)will hang to the side and cannot be raised fully.
Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy affects the motor functions and development of babies who sustained injuries during birth. This is a type of brain injury that can result in the victim becoming very dependent upon parents and caretakers for his or her everyday needs. A difficult labor that resulted in a lack of oxygen to the brain can cause cerebral palsy as can head trauma, meningitis and infection. Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy often suffer from seizure disorders, developmental delays and feeding problems.
Spina Bifida – Spina bifida is a congenital disorder wherein the embryonic neural tube (or the tissue that develops in the brain and spinal cord) does not close properly before birth. The most common type of this disorder involves malformations near the lower back. Once the baby is born, the area can be closed surgically although the child will not recover function of the injured area of the spinal cord. Because spina bifida can be detected by ultrasound, sonographers and radiologists may be held liable for failing to observe signs of this disorder.
Fetal Distress – Fetal distress or hypoxia occurs when an unborn baby is deprived of oxygen due to complications involving the umbilical cord. During birth, it’s necessary to monitor the fetus’ heart rate so that if any abnormalities are found, immediate steps are taken that can prevent a birth injury. These steps are often as simple as giving the mother more oxygen, turning the mother on her side or delivering the baby as quickly as possible using forceps or by C-section. Fetal distress is often caused by doctors and other medical staff failing to quickly free the umbilical cord from dangerous positions such as from around the baby’s neck.
Chemical Birth Defects – Some birth defects such as cleft lip, missing or underdeveloped organs, leukemia, limbs that are deformed or missing and abnormal brains can be classified as chemical birth defects. A child can develop a chemical birth defect if he or she was exposed to chemicals prior to birth. Mothers who work in occupations that require they be around chemicals are at risk for giving birth to babies with chemical birth defects. A few of these occupations include painting, industrial cleaning, dry cleaning and certain types of factory work where workers are routinely exposed to chemicals.
Hypoxic Ishemic Encephalopathy – This is a condition in which the brain of an infant is unable to get the oxygen it needs. This injury most commonly occurs at birth and can be fatal. Some of the main causes of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy are difficult childbirths, blocked blood vessels, umbilical cord strangulation and complications from anesthesia.
Who Can be Held Liable for a Birth Injury
Medical professionals including obstetricians, pediatricians, doctors, nurses and pharmacists have received extensive training in their given professions. These healthcare professionals are supposed to improve the health of their patients while following specific protocols with regard to treatment. While most medical professionals perform their jobs as expected, even well-intended and experienced medical professionals can become careless, make mistakes or fail to take the right course of action under strain or pressure.
When the negligent action or a failure on the part of a medical professional causes a birth injury, this is a form of medical malpractice wherein the person responsible can be held accountable for what has happened. Compensation can be sought to help relieve financial strain and the costs of treatment and to ensure that the affected child receives the highest quality care for as long as it’s needed.
Hospitals in our country can be held responsible for their own actions as well as for the actions of their staff. A personal injury claim can be filed against a hospital if it is found that it acted negligently in some way. For example, if the hospital in question did not have an adequate number of staff on duty at the time a birth injury occurred, a lawsuit can be filed against the hospital regardless if it is a private or public entity.
A hospital also can be held responsible for a birth injury caused by the negligence of one of its staff members. When a hospital hires doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, it is the responsibility of the hospital to make sure the people they hire have received adequate education and training required to fulfill their job duties. If an injured party or the parents of a child with a birth injury in this case, can prove that a medical professional’s credentials were never checked before that person was hired, the hospital as a whole can be held responsible for the birth injury.
Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who were responsible for caring for an infant at the time he or she became injured can be held accountable for the birth injury if it is found they acted negligently to result in the child becoming injured.
Importance of Seeking Legal Assistance
If your child has suffered a birth injury that you suspect was caused by the negligence of a healthcare professional, you should speak to a California personal injury attorney as soon as possible. It is never advisable to talk with an insurance adjuster as insurance companies are big corporations that are only interested in their own bottom line. While you may be offered what seems to be a fair settlement amount from an insurance company, an experienced attorney will work hard on your behalf to ensure you receive a fair and just settlement that compensates for what has happened to your child. Being the parent of a child with a birth injury can be challenging to say the least. By seeking legal assistance, you can help ensure that what happened to your child will not happen to the child of someone else.