Most babies are born healthy without complications. However, risks exist during every birth, such as the baby not getting enough oxygen or dangerously long labor and delivery. Doctors and nurses are trained to handle these emergencies. But in many cases, their actions cause harm, or they fail to take the proper steps to avoid complications.
Medical malpractice typically occurs when a doctor fails to provide reasonably competent skills to their patient. Birth injuries can happen due to a doctor’s improper technique or the use of a medical device or tool used in childbirth. In nearly all these cases, parents describe a chaotic birth with the child being rushed to intensive care.
The severity of a birth injury may indicate whether a medical error caused it. Once in intensive care, did your baby undergo “cooling” or hypothermia? This is often done to stop brain damage from occurring. Did the mother have to undergo a cesarean section – or C-section – due to complications during labor? Was a vacuum used? Was your child diagnosed with cerebral palsy? These can be indicators of malpractice.
The Most Common Birth Injuries
Two types of birth injuries are more common after delivery room errors. These are:
- Cerebral palsy: CP can be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain – also called cerebral hypoxia. During childbirth, fetal heart monitors sometimes detect significant fluctuations in the baby’s heartbeat, which can indicate distress. Many times when a doctor sees this, they will perform a C-section. If they don’t, CP can often result, potentially leading to permanent disabilities and seizures.
- Shoulder dystocia: Typically occurs when the baby’s shoulder is stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. Doctors must perform specific procedures to get the baby out. If not done correctly, the child can suffer injuries, including Erb’s palsy, where the child loses most or all of the use of their arm.
While these are the two most common birth injuries, malpractice can also cause spinal cord injuries, bone injuries, internal bleeding resulting in brain damage and paralysis. Injuries can also occur when forceps are misused, labor is improperly induced or doctors fail to treat infections in the baby or mother.
The Duty Of Care
Doctors have a duty of care to treat patients “reasonably” when compared to the actions and skill of other physicians in their field. Specialists, such as OB-GYNs, are often held to a higher standard due to their expertise. Lawsuits can result when they fail to uphold those standards. Here are a few reasons birth injury claims are filed:
- Not adequately monitoring the mother and fetus during childbirth
- Not recognizing risk factors that result in injuries
- C-section errors, such as not performing the procedure promptly
- Incorrectly using devices, such as vacuum extractors or forceps
- Medication errors during childbirth
Many of these mistakes happen when doctors and nurses drop the ball. Poor communication is often at the center of these errors. Nurses, anesthesiologists and other medical professionals participate in deliveries and can be held accountable when they make mistakes. Hospitals and clinics can also be negligent.
Diagnosing Medical Malpractice
When determining whether a medical mistake led to a birth injury, experienced attorneys analyze hospital records, such as doctor and nursing notes. However, the fetal heart monitor strip is typically the most critical evidence. While a doctor’s note can be subjective, the fetal heart monitor is an impartial record of every second of the delivery process.
Next, we work with experts: experienced OB-GYNs who examine the evidence and tell us what went wrong. While it’s crucial to work with doctors knowledgeable in obstetrics, finding those who can effectively tell the story to a jury is just as important. They must be able to make jurors understand what mistakes occurred and what should have been done that could have led to a better outcome. This is vital because the defense will have experts as well.
When To Contact A Lawyer
Birth injury cases are complicated, and usually take a long time to resolve. Contacting an experienced lawyer sooner than later is essential to access and analyze medical records. Most of these cases take a year or two to be resolved. During that time and beyond, the child may need extensive physical therapy for their injuries, and some may require 24-hour care. Parents generally take on most or all duties and costs until their case is resolved.
Attorneys experienced in these cases can help parents understand how the process works while assisting them through the grief process. While we never forget about the emotional toll a birth injury can take, our goal is to find justice and protect parents’ rights to seek compensation for medical costs, lost income, future lost income, and pain and suffering. Filing a lawsuit cannot erase your baby’s injuries but receiving the compensation you deserve can help with their care.
The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.
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