Developmental Delays from Birth Injuries

Healthy infants, toddlers, and young children are expected to develop specific physical, mental, and social skills and abilities within certain age ranges. These skills are called “developmental milestones.” For example, babies are expected to be able to lift their heads and support their upper bodies while on their backs at the age of three months, respond to their names at seven months, and start forming sentences when they are two years old.

Some children, though, do not reach the developmental milestones at the expected time. Children who fall significantly behind their peers may have developmental delays.

Developmental delays can be caused by birth injuries, maternal infections, genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome, or other traumas or conditions.

Developmental Delays Caused by Birth Injuries

Developmental delays are often a result of birth injuries. Babies can get birth injuries when there are problems during the labor and delivery process or, sometimes, earlier in the mother’s pregnancy. These problems may be caused by medical negligence.

Oxygen Deprivation During Birth

The lack of sufficient oxygen during birth (also called “birth asphyxia”) can cause brain damage, which can range from mild to permanent and severe. When babies are deprived of oxygen for a few minutes or even seconds, brain cells start to die and brain tissue gets destroyed.

Babies deprived of oxygen may be born with a condition called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can develop into cerebral palsy. Symptoms of HIE include blue skin, low heart rate, and problems with breathing. HIE is usually diagnosed right after birth. Cerebral palsy, however, is generally not diagnosed until later. A key sign indicating that a child may have cerebral palsy is that he or she is missing developmental milestones.

Not all children with developmental delays have cerebral palsy. There are other causes of developmental delays, and some of these delays may be short-lived. However, you should take any signs of development delays seriously and talk to your pediatrician.

Developmental Milestones

You and your medical providers should be aware of whether your baby is meeting the developmental milestones appropriate for his or her age. For example, during the time from birth to three months, babies should be able to:

  • Bring their hands to their mouths
  • Enjoy playing with other people
  • Recognize familiar objects
  • From age four to seven months, your baby should have the ability to:
  • Transfer objects from one hand to another
  • Be interested in what they see in the mirror
  • Try to get objects that are out of their reach
  • From eight to 12 months, babies are expected to:
  • Crawl on their bellies
  • Be shy with strangers
  • Find hidden objects

You should become familiar with the full range of physical, social, and mental developmental milestones that babies are expected to reach at various ages. If your baby falls behind on any of the milestones, you should bring it to the attention of your pediatrician. By being alert to any warning signs of delays, you can find out if your baby needs special care to catch up on the milestone or to treat an underlying condition. It’s always best to identify and treat problems as quickly as possible.

Treatment for Developmental Delays

Therapy can help children with developmental delays catch up to the abilities of their peers. The type of therapy will depend on where the child lags behind and may include physical, occupational, speech, or behavioral therapies.

If the developmental delays are the result of a serious underlying condition, then more treatment will be necessary. For example, if a child has cerebral palsy, he or she may need surgery or medications in addition to therapy.

Compensation for the Costs of Caring for a Child With Developmental Delays

If your child has developmental delays because of a birth injury, you may be entitled to compensation if the birth injury was the result of medical malpractice.

Doctors and other medical professionals are legally required to provide competent medical care that meets the standards of their professions. If a medical provider failed to meet that standard and made a mistake or failed to do something they should have done, and that mistake or failure contributed to your child’s birth injury, you may be able to sue for medical malpractice.

Possible targets of a medical malpractice lawsuit include the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who were present during the delivery, medical providers you consulted while pregnant and after your baby’s birth, the hospital where you had your baby, manufacturers of defective medical equipment, and pharmaceutical companies.

Providing therapy and treatment for a child with developmental delays is expensive. Compensation from a lawsuit can give you the money you need to give your child the help he or she needs to live the best life possible.

In addition to covering past and current costs for therapy and medical treatment, compensation may include the expected costs of such care in the future, for as long as it will be needed — for the child’s whole life, if necessary. Compensation from a lawsuit may also include payment for

surgeries, medication, rehabilitation services, attendants, necessary assistive and medical equipment, pain and suffering, and lost income.

Proving medical malpractice requires that you show that one or more medical providers did not live up to the standard of care and that your child’s birth injury was caused, at least in part, by that failure. You will need the help of a birth injury lawyer who has experience developing strong cases from proof found in medical records and the testimony of medical experts.

We Are Here to Help

The experienced birth injury attorneys in the Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer law firm are committed to fighting for justice for children who were harmed by poor medical care. If your child has developmental delays due to a birth injury, we invite you to talk to us so we can evaluate your situation to see if you could have a medical malpractice claim that would get you the compensation you need to best help your child. Call us at 1-800-535-1797 for a free consultation.

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