Q. What Is A Birth Injury?
A birth injury is a type of damage sustained by infants during, or around, the time of labor and delivery. Birth injuries can be mild or severe, healing quickly or leading to life-long disability.
Many birth injuries are related to oxygen deprivation, which can occur for a number of reasons during the delivery process and lead to permanent brain damage and serious medical conditions like cerebral palsy. Birth injuries can also be caused by medication errors, physical trauma or mismanaged complications of pregnancy.
Q. Why Do Birth Injuries Happen?
Birth injuries can happen for all sorts of reasons, some of which are entirely unavoidable. Most birth injuries that result in lawsuits, however, happen when doctors or nurses fail to respond appropriately to signs of distress or emergent medical concerns in a mother or child.
Birth injury malpractice lawsuits are usually based on medical errors, whether that means failing to diagnose a dangerous medical condition or twisting a baby’s head too forcefully.
While birth injuries can be very minor, and a little bruising is to be expected on most newborns, medical malpractice lawsuits are usually filed in relation to severe forms of injuries, ones that cause developmental delays, cognitive impairment or physical disability.
Q. Is There A Difference Between Birth Defects & Birth Injuries?
Children are born with birth defects, or congenital abnormalities. “Congenital” means “from birth,” but the more accurate description would likely be “before birth.” Birth defects are normally caused by a mix of genetic factors and chemical exposures within the womb, but in every case, the abnormality develops during the process of fetal development. Babies aren’t born with birth injuries in the same way. Newborns sustain birth injuries at some point during pregnancy, labor or delivery.
Q. Is Every Birth Injury Caused By Medical Malpractice?
No. Sometimes babies sustain injuries during the birthing process, but it’s not really anyone’s fault. Some injuries are truly unavoidable. Medical malpractice is when an injury could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.
The only real way to know whether a child’s injuries were caused by medical malpractice is to have a third-party expert review what happened during labor and delivery. Negligent doctors almost never admit their own mistakes, and that’s the last thing an insurance company would do.
Q. Can Cerebral Palsy Be Caused By Birth Injuries?
Yes. Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for several neurological disorders that impact how a person moves. As a group, these conditions are caused by brain damage, which can be sustained during pregnancy or delivery, sometimes as a result of oxygen deprivation (or birth asphyxia). In some cases, cerebral palsy is caused by the negligent actions of medical professionals.
To learn more about cerebral palsy, click here.
Q. What Are Appropriate Grounds For A Birth Injury Lawsuit?
Proof of medical negligence is the key to every birth injury lawsuit.
In a lawsuit, families will have to prove that a doctor, nurse or midwife provided their child with inadequate care, making a critical error or failing to diagnose a serious problem. Another essential step is showing that the doctor’s negligent act caused or significantly contributed to the child’s injury.
For more information on these concepts, visit our guide to Birth Injury & Malpractice Lawsuits.
Q. Who Can Secure Damages In A Birth Injury Lawsuit?
When a lawsuit is filed on behalf of a child who is still living, the child’s parents – not the child herself – bring the lawsuit as guardians of the infant. Damages, however, will usually be awarded to the child, often in the form of a trust. Parents, of course, can make their own separate (or “derivative”) claims for damages, including missed time at work or emotional trauma, which will be awarded to the parents themselves.
After a child’s untimely death, some parents choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. Those damages, which are usually for emotional trauma and counseling, go to the parents.
Q. I Signed A Consent Form At The Hospital. Does That Mean I Can’t File A Lawsuit?
We get this question a lot, and the answer is no. Signing an informed consent document does not eliminate your right to file a lawsuit for a child’s birth injuries. Informed consent is simply an acknowledgment that bad things can happen during childbirth. Acknowledging that bad things can happen isn’t the same as giving a doctor the right to practice medicine negligently.
Q. Do I Need An Attorney?
While you don’t need an experienced lawyer to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, we think you and your child deserve that much. Medical malpractice is one of the most complex areas of law, and very few parents would be able to build a successful case on their own. Pursuing damages for medical negligence requires an intimate understanding of the law, human biology and medical practice. Experienced counsel is certainly preferable under the circumstances.
Our birth injury attorneys offer a free consultation to any parent who believes that a doctor’s negligence may have led to their child’s injuries or medical condition. You can learn more about your options, at no charge and no obligation. Just call us today or fill out our contact form.
Q. How Much Does Hiring A Birth Injury Lawyer Cost?
We work on a contingency-fee basis. That means you owe us nothing until we secure compensation for your child’s future. If we aren’t successful, you pay nothing.
Q. How Much Time Do We Have?
Each state has its own statute of limitations, which is a legal time limit that restricts the amount of time injured people have to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations that governs your situation will depend on where the potential malpractice occurred.
Where medical negligence is concerned, some states have a statute of limitations as short as one year, although most states allow families between two and three years to file suit. In some cases, lawsuits involving injured children are treated differently. Several states allow families up to the child’s 18th birthday to bring a viable lawsuit, but again, that isn’t true everywhere. It’s extremely important to consult a birth injury lawyer immediately – after the statute of limitations has run out, you may lose the right to file suit.