Birth Injury Overview | Types and Legal Options
For expectant parents, the arrival of a new baby is frequently a cherished event. Thankfully, most births are relatively smooth. However, complications can occur during pregnancy and the delivery process and potentially cause injuries to the infants and mothers. When a baby suffers preventable injuries during pregnancy or delivery, it is critical to protect the rights of both the infant and parent. While the circumstances can vary, most birth injury cases arise because of a doctor’s failure to properly monitor infants and mothers and respond to emergencies or because of issues caused by improper prenatal care. A birth injury attorney in Philadelphia at Raynes & Lawn can help by assessing your case and discussing the legal remedies that might be available.
Birth Injuries Caused by Medical Negligence
Many birth injuries are caused by a doctor’s medical errors. Some of these types of medical negligence might include the following:
- Failing to recognize hypertension
- Improperly using vacuum or forceps
- Improperly assessing the infant’s health in the womb
- Failing to perform an emergency C-section
When these types of situations result in serious injuries, a malpractice lawsuit might be filed against the medical professionals involved. In some cases, the hospital where the delivery occurred might also be liable.
Malpractice cases involving birth injuries might also arise during the mother’s pregnancy. For example, if a doctor fails to recognize the signs of preeclampsia or diabetes, both the mother and infant could suffer serious injuries or die. Another example might occur when a woman takes prescription medications under her doctor’s guidance, causing injuries to her baby. In this type of case, a claim might be filed against the pharmacist, doctor, and drug manufacturer.
Birth Injury vs. Birth Defect
In some cases, it might be difficult to determine whether a complication was caused by a birth injury or defect. For example, a baby might suffer cerebral palsy because of a lack of oxygen during the labor and delivery process, making it a preventable injury. By contrast, a child born with cerebral palsy might have an unavoidable birth defect. While birth injuries can give rise to medical malpractice claims, unavoidable birth defects cannot.
Birth injuries normally happen because of complications during labor or delivery. They can occur because of improper techniques or improper use of a vacuum or forceps.
It is important to understand that not all birth injuries will result in a viable malpractice claim. In some cases, complications can occur and result in birth injuries even when the obstetrician met the expected standard of care and was reasonably competent.
By contrast to birth injuries, birth defects result from something that occurs either before or during a woman’s pregnancy, including genetics, environmental factors, or exposure to teratogenic chemicals. Some examples of teratogens that can cause birth defects include the following:
- Certain illegal drugs
- Certain anti-nausea medications such as Thalidomide
- Certain spermicides
Many birth defects do not have a known cause. In some cases, a mother’s actions during pregnancy can result in birth defects.
Types of Birth Injuries
Some of the common types of birth injuries that might give rise to medical malpractice claims include the following:
- Brain bleeds
- Strangulation by the umbilical cord
- Spinal cord injuries
- Skull fractures
- Bone fractures
- Shoulder dystocia
- Nerve damage
- Kernicterus and jaundice
- Injuries caused by vacuum extraction or forceps
- Intracranial hemorrhages
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
- Fetal distress
- Facial nerve injuries
- Erb’s palsy
- Cerebral palsy
- Brain damage
- Brachial plexus injuries
Proving a Birth Injury Malpractice Claim
Regardless of the facts of what happened in your case, you will be required to prove the elements of medical malpractice to recover damages in a malpractice lawsuit. You will have to present evidence showing that the responsible parties failed to meet the standard of care that reasonably competent providers would have exercised under similar treatment conditions.
The expected standard of care depends on the type of medical provider and the area in which he or she practices. In general, your lawyer will need to work with a medical expert for help with determining the relevant standard and showing that the doctor’s care failed to meet it and caused the resulting birth injuries. Pennsylvania requires plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases to file certificates of merit when they file medical malpractice lawsuits. These certificates certify that the case has been examined by a medical expert who can testify about the defendant’s deviation from the standard of care and how it resulted in harm to the plaintiff.
If your case goes to trial, your lawyer will call an expert to testify on your behalf. The medical expert will generally need to practice in the same practice field as the defendant and will testify about how the provider’s care fell below the expected standard of care.
Causation can be difficult to show, but you are required to prove it as an element of medical malpractice. Your lawyer will present evidence showing that the provider’s failure to provide treatment meeting the standard of care caused your baby’s injuries.
Consult Our Experienced Birth Injury Attorneys in Philadelphia
If your baby suffered birth injuries or died during the labor and delivery process, you might have grounds to file a birth injury claim against all of the parties that were involved. However, these types of cases can be complex and necessitate the help of qualified experts and experienced malpractice attorneys. The lawyers at Raynes & Lawn have extensive experience representing the families of children who have suffered preventable birth injuries because of medical negligence. Contact us today to request a free consultation and to learn more about your rights by calling 1-800-535-1797.
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