Healing the Wounds: Legal Compensation and Recovery for the Victims of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can be devastating for new parents and their children. These types of injuries can cause long-lasting consequences that can affect children and families for up to a lifetime. When a child suffers a birth injury because of the negligence of medical providers, the family can file a claim against the negligent providers to hold them accountable and seek compensation for the economic and non-economic losses the family has suffered.
Since birth injuries can result in long-term difficulties, the lifetime costs can be substantial. As a result, the compensation that might be available in a birth injury lawsuit can also be significant. However, it can be challenging to calculate how much a birth injury claim might be worth. Your claim must account for both your current and future economic and non-economic losses to ensure your family is fully compensated. A Philadelphia birth injury attorney at the law firm of Raynes & Lawn can review your case and help you understand its value. Here’s what to know about birth injury claims and the compensation to which you might be entitled.
- Birth injuries can have a lifelong impact on both children and their families, leading to significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges that may persist for years.
- These injuries often result from medical negligence during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, and families can file claims against negligent healthcare providers to seek compensation for their losses.
- Compensation in a birth injury lawsuit may cover a wide range of economic and non-economic losses, including medical expenses, home modifications, lost wages, assistive devices, pain and suffering, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Seeking the help of an experienced birth injury attorney is crucial in determining the merits of a case, understanding the legal process, and navigating the complexities of the legal system to pursue rightful compensation.
- Consultation with a reputable law firm such as Raynes & Lawn can provide families with essential guidance and support, helping them explore their legal options and pursue justice for the harm caused by birth injuries.
What Are Birth Injuries?
Before talking about compensation in a birth injury case, it’s important to understand what a birth injury is. Birth injuries are physical trauma the mother or baby might suffer during childbirth. Birth injuries are often preventable and result from negligence. By contrast, genetic conditions a baby might be born with are not birth injuries. While they can have equally tragic consequences, they do not result from negligence.
Birth injuries in mothers might include pelvic floor damage, excessive bleeding, nerve damage, spinal cord injuries, brain damage, undiagnosed and untreated infections, and more. Both infants and mothers can suffer from extensive bruising, broken bones, and other temporary or permanent damage. Some children develop cerebral palsy caused by preventable birth injuries, and they might suffer mild to severe disabilities for the rest of their lives.
Children with cerebral palsy might have slight mobility impairments and normal intelligence, but some might have severe mobility impairments and require assistance with feeding, toileting, and moving. Some children with cerebral palsy will also suffer severe intellectual disabilities and seizure disorders.
Another complication of birth injuries some children suffer is a condition called Erb’s palsy. Children with this condition might suffer a loss of sensation, weakness, and paralysis in one arm. Birth injuries can also cause damage to the brain, resulting in behavioral problems, developmental delays, intellectual impairments, or seizure disorders. Some children suffer skull fractures, arm fractures, and other injuries that can have consequences ranging from minor to life-threatening.
Causes of Birth Injuries
Various types of incidents can cause birth injuries. The following are some factors that might result in birth injuries:
- Interruption in the oxygen or blood flow to the infant’s brain
- Undiagnosed/untreated maternal infection
- Untreated preeclampsia
- Overly long and complicated delivery
- Failure to perform an emergency Caesarian section when needed
- Baby too large to fit through the birth canal
- Excessive force applied during delivery
- Baby in the wrong position
- Failure to monitor the infant and mother during labor
Medical Negligence and Birth Injuries
In some cases, infants and mothers suffer birth injuries in circumstances beyond the control of the treating medical professionals. These types of situations are not the result of medical negligence. In other cases, however, birth injuries are caused by medical mistakes made by doctors, midwives, nurses, anesthesiologists, or others involved in the labor and delivery process.
For example, a doctor might apply too much force while using a vacuum extractor to deliver an infant, causing the baby to suffer skull fractures. Another example might involve a mother with an overly large baby who can’t fit through the birth canal. The infant could suffer serious injuries if the doctor fails to perform a Caesarian section.
When birth injuries are caused by medical negligence, the errors might rise to the level of medical malpractice. A hospital malpractice lawyer can consult a medical expert to determine whether the provider’s treatment deviated from the expected medical standard of care and caused your child’s injuries.
Birth Injury Claims
A birth injury claim is a type of medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the family of a child who suffered serious injuries during or following childbirth because of mistakes made by doctors or other healthcare professionals. If you file a birth injury claim, you will have the burden of proving that your child’s birth injury was caused by medical negligence. This means you will have to present evidence to prove each of the following legal elements of medical malpractice:
- Doctor-patient relationship
- Applicable medical standard of care
- Breach of the standard of care by the provider
- Causation of the injuries by the breach
- Actual damages
Your burden of proof extends to each element, which means you must meet your responsibility for all of them. If you fail to prove one element, you will not win your claim even if you prove the remaining elements.
Compensation in a Birth Injury Lawsuit
If you and your medical malpractice attorney are successful in your claim, the compensation you might receive will depend on the losses you have suffered and will likely suffer in the future and the specific actions the doctor took. Some of the types of compensation that might be available include the following:
- Past and future medical expenses related to the injuries
- Home modifications if necessary
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Home care costs
- Travel to medical appointments
- Lost wages
- Assistive devices
- Behavioral and educational interventions
- Therapy costs
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
The medical expenses related to birth injuries can be overwhelming. Some children might require both short and long-term care, specialized treatment, and ongoing therapy. Your child might need to use assistive devices for the rest of their life, see doctors and therapists regularly, and receive educational interventions. These costs can be substantial, but they can also be difficult to calculate over the long term. An experienced birth injury attorney can help determine the past and future costs of your child’s medical and related care by working with experts and analyzing your child’s medical records, doctor’s recommendations, and medical bills.
Your child’s medical expenses are not the only out-of-pocket costs you might have. For example, if your child was left with physical disabilities requiring a wheelchair, you might need to purchase multiple chairs as they grow and have your home modified to make it accessible to your child. You might also need to purchase a specialized vehicle to accommodate your child’s wheelchair.
Your child might also require special education services, intensive psychological and behavioral therapy, and have other costly needs. You might have lost wages because you need to stay home to care for your child.
The non-economic damages you might recover are called pain and suffering damages. These are intangible losses and are more challenging to value. Pain and suffering or non-economic damages compensate victims for the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of their injuries caused by negligence.
This can include damages for the chronic pain many children suffer from birth injuries like cerebral palsy, loss of their ability to enjoy life, disabilities associated with their birth injuries, emotional anguish, and more.
To calculate non-economic damages, many birth injury lawyers and insurance companies first calculate the value of the victim’s total economic losses, including their past, present, and future anticipated expenses. Once they have that total, they will then multiply it by a factor ranging from one to five. A higher factor will typically be used in cases in which the injuries are severe and result in lifelong disabilities. A lower factor might be used when the injuries are less severe.
In addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages might be available. Since these are damages that might be ordered to punish the defendant rather than compensate the victim, they are only awarded in cases involving egregious or willful acts. In most cases, punitive damages will not be available. However, when they are awarded, Pennsylvania law caps punitive damages at 200% of the plaintiff’s total compensatory damages award. By contrast, compensatory damages are not capped in Pennsylvania.
Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit
If your child suffered birth injuries because of a healthcare provider’s negligence during labor and delivery, you might have grounds to file a birth injury lawsuit. However, you should consult a medical malpractice attorney with substantial experience handling birth injury cases to determine whether your claim has legal merits.
A birth injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn will carefully analyze all of the medical records surrounding your child’s birth, including medical records from pregnancy, labor, delivery, and following birth. Pennsylvania requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to file a certificate of merit when they file malpractice lawsuits.
This requirement means a medical expert will need to review all of the medical records, determine the relevant standard of care the provider should have met, determine whether the provider’s treatment deviated from the standard of care, and figure out whether the deviation (if any) caused your child’s injuries. Your birth injury lawyer will work closely with a medical expert during this process and help you understand the merits of your case and the legal remedies that might be available.
If your claim has legal merits, and the attorney agrees to accept representation, your lawsuit will start by filing a civil complaint in the court with appropriate jurisdiction. The defendant will then be given time to file an answer. Once that occurs, your case will enter the discovery phase, during which both you and the defendant will exchange evidence. The discovery might involve investigations, interrogatories, and depositions.
Settlement or Trial
Even before a formal lawsuit is filed, your attorney will begin negotiating with the provider’s malpractice insurer to reach a settlement. A settlement is an agreed-upon sum to pay for your losses. It is often beneficial to both sides to settle their claims. There is no guarantee of the outcome of a trial, and a settlement means you wouldn’t have to risk a potential loss at trial. For defendants, settling a lawsuit means they can avoid public exposure and avoid potentially losing their claim and being forced to pay more than what they might settle the case for.
While some cases are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed, it is frequently necessary to file a lawsuit and continue negotiating during the discovery process before an insurer will make a fair settlement offer. Settlements are normally less than what might be won at trial, but settling a claim eliminates the risk of losing at trial.
If your case goes to trial, the process can be long and expensive. If you need immediate financial help for your child’s injuries, you might not be in a position to wait for months or years for your case to be resolved at trial.
There are also some situations in which going to trial makes sense. If the evidence in your case is very strong, going to trial might make more sense. If the insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer, it might also make more sense to take your chances at trial. Finally, if you want the medical provider to be held accountable in a public trial for their egregious actions, a trial might be a good idea.
Your attorney will help you understand the pros and cons of accepting a settlement offer vs. going to trial. Ultimately, however, the decision of whether to settle your case or take it to trial will be yours.
When to Talk to a Hospital Malpractice Lawyer
If you think your child’s injuries were caused by negligent medical care during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or shortly after your child’s birth, it’s important to speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. While the statute of limitations for birth injury cases in Pennsylvania is three years from the date your child was injured or the date you discovered your child’s birth injuries were caused by negligence, it’s best to get legal help as soon as you discover the injuries and their possible cause instead of waiting.
Getting help early in the process helps to prevent a few potential issues. First, it allows you to avoid any potential statute of limitation problems. If you try to file a case outside of the statute of limitations, the court will likely dismiss it.
Second, witnesses can lose memories as time passes. Evidence can also be lost. Getting help early allows your lawyer more time to investigate your case, review the medical records, talk to witnesses, and work with a medical expert. All of these factors make it critical for you to get help as early as possible.
Talk to a Birth Injury Lawyer at Raynes & Lawn
If your child suffered birth injuries and you question whether they might have been caused by malpractice, you should consult a lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm of Raynes & Lawn. We have decades of experience fighting for the rights of malpractice victims and can help you learn about your legal options. Call us today at 1-800-535-1797 for a free consultation or fill out the contact form.
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