Few life events are as tragic as the sudden death of a newborn baby. New parents have likely spent months anticipating the birth of their child and had dreams for what their future would be like with their baby. An infant’s sudden death can be especially traumatic when it was caused by a preventable incident. If a healthcare provider was responsible for the death of your baby, you might have a viable medical malpractice claim. While filing a claim against a negligent doctor or another practitioner can’t replace your child, it may provide a mechanism for holding them accountable for their negligent conduct and recovering compensation.
The experienced, compassionate birth injury lawyers at Raynes & Lawn understand the profound loss and grief your family is facing and can provide insight into your legal options. An infant death lawsuit might help to prevent the negligent medical provider from engaging in similar conduct in the future and protect others from potentially tragic losses.
Understanding Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is a recognized legal term for situations in which a party’s negligent, intentional, or reckless conduct or failure to act causes the death of another person. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil tort actions that provide a mechanism for certain surviving family members of the victim to pursue compensation from the party that caused their loved one’s death and hold them accountable for what they did.
Historically, the common law in Pennsylvania did not recognize the right of surviving family members to pursue legal claims against a defendant who caused the death of their loved ones. Instead, an injured victim’s right to pursue damages was extinguished at death. The state legislature recognized that this was unfair and passed the state’s wrongful death statute to provide the legal right for surviving family members to pursue lawsuits against those who caused the deaths of their loved ones.
Infant wrongful death is a subset of wrongful death actions that arise when a child’s death can be attributed to the negligent or wrongful actions of someone else. This type of lawsuit might be filed when a child’s death occurs because of medical negligence, car accidents, accidental poisoning, assaults, or other types of negligent, intentional, or reckless acts.
Attorneys who represent plaintiffs in wrongful death claims represent the child’s parents or guardians when the child’s death was caused by someone else’s wrongful actions or failures to act. A wrongful death lawyer helps the surviving family members file and pursue legal claims against those who were responsible for their child’s death and works to negotiate infant wrongful death settlements and advocate for their rights both outside and inside the court.
Infant wrongful death lawyers keenly understand the emotional and financial fallout families face after losing a child and do everything they can to hold those at fault responsible. They work to recover compensation for their clients to pay for their economic and non-economic damages related to the death of their child.
Common Causes of Infant Death
Neonatal death refers to the death of an infant between birth and 28 days old. A newborn’s death can be caused by several common factors, including the following:
- Congenital birth defects
- Premature birth
- Medication errors
- Maternal or fetal infection
- Disruption of blood and oxygen flow to the baby during birth
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to perform an emergency C-section
- Failure to properly monitor and intervene after signs of fetal distress
Some neonatal deaths can’t be prevented and don’t result from the negligent or careless actions of anyone. However, others are preventable and result from birth injuries caused by medically negligent healthcare providers. Preventable infant deaths might give rise to infant wrongful death lawsuits.
When Infant Deaths Are Preventable
Many neonatal and infant deaths can’t be prevented. However, some newborn deaths are caused by medical errors that give rise to infant death lawsuits. There are multiple ways the labor and delivery process can go wrong, and providers can also make serious mistakes during a mother’s pregnancy that result in the baby’s death.
Some examples of actions that can result in preventable infant death include the following:
• Misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors – When doctors use excessive force while using birth assistive devices to deliver infants, the baby can suffer severe injuries and potentially die.
• Failure to intervene when umbilical cord problems occur – The umbilical cord can wrap around an infant’s neck and strangle them during a long, complicated labor process. The cord can also be kinked or knotted, resulting in a disruption of the blood flow to the baby’s brain and causing severe brain damage from asphyxiation. In some cases, the damage can be so severe that the baby dies. Doctors and nurses must carefully monitor the fetus and promptly intervene when signs of fetal distress occur.
• Failure to properly monitor the mother and infant – Many things can go wrong during a mother’s pregnancy. The mother can develop an infection that could harm the developing fetus, or the mother might develop a pregnancy-related medical condition that could result in death. The infant and mother can both show signs indicating distress that should be caught through careful monitoring. If a doctor fails to appropriately monitor the mother and fetus in advance of labor and delivery and during the process, dangerous conditions could go undiagnosed, and complications could arise that could threaten the lives of both the mother and child.
• Misdiagnosis/failure to diagnose – If an infant is born with a dangerous medical condition and is not properly diagnosed, the infant could die without appropriate treatment. For example, if an infant’s jaundice is not promptly diagnosed and treated, it could develop into kernicterus, which could cause severe brain damage or death. The misdiagnosis of a mother’s infection, placenta previa, gestational diabetes, or other medical conditions could also threaten the life of the baby. Failing to diagnose Rh incompatibility between the mother and infant could also result in the baby’s death.
• Failure to perform an emergency C-section – Multiple situations during labor should prompt a doctor to perform an emergency C-section. The infant might be too large to fit through the mother’s birth canal, experience a disruption in the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, and have other issues. When these and other complications arise, a doctor should perform an emergency C-section to save the lives of the infant and mother.
• Anesthesia errors – An anesthesiologist might deliver too much anesthesia during an epidural to the mother, which could cause infant death.
Other types of accidents can also happen to infants and lead to death, including:
- Failure to properly supervise an infant while caring for them
- Providing an infant with the wrong medication or dose
- Failing to properly secure a child in an infant car seat
- Defective car seats
- Defective strollers
- Defective cribs
- Car accidents
- Drowning accidents
- Child abuse or neglect
Similar to infant deaths caused by medical negligence, the deaths of children caused by the reckless, careless, or intentional actions of others can also lead to wrongful death lawsuits against the responsible parties.
What Is an Infant Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
An infant wrongful death lawsuit is a claim filed against the individual or entity that caused the death of a baby through negligence, carelessness, or intentional acts. This type of legal action might be filed by the child’s parents or guardians to pursue compensation for the losses the family has suffered. It is a civil lawsuit that might be filed even in situations in which the at-fault party is criminally charged for the same incident.
The plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of a child must prove the following legal elements:
- Duty – The plaintiff will need to present evidence that the responsible party owed a legal duty to the child. For a birth injury wrongful death claim, this would mean showing that a provider-patient relationship was established and then presenting expert testimony about the relevant medical standard of care the practitioner should have met. in other types of incidents, all people owe a legal duty to conduct themselves in a manner that is unlikely to cause others to suffer foreseeable injuries.
- Breach of the duty of care – The plaintiff will need to present evidence that the defendant acted or failed to act in a way that violated or breached the duty of care. For a medical provider, this would mean presenting evidence about how the treatment provided by the healthcare professional deviated from the expected standard of care and will likely require expert testimony.
- Causation – Even if you can show the defendant’s conduct was negligent, reckless, or intentional, you won’t prevail with your claim unless you can show evidence of causation. This means that you must prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions caused your child’s injuries and death.
- Damages – The final legal element you’ll need to prove is your damages. These are the losses your family has suffered because of the defendant’s negligent or intentional conduct and your child’s death and include the medical expenses you paid for your child’s care, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and others.
You will need to present evidence to prove each of these legal elements. Some of the types of evidence you might need to gather and present include the following:
- Medical records
- Expert testimony
- Witness statements
- Other evidence
An experienced attorney can help you identify and gather the types of evidence you will need to support your claim.
Determining Whether an Infant’s Death Was Caused by Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice claims are notoriously complex and difficult to prove. To sue a medical doctor or other healthcare providers, you will need to gather and sort through extensive medical records with difficult terminology. You will also need to establish what the expected standard of care is for the medical provider as compared to what a reasonably prudent provider with similar training and education would do in the same treatment conditions. You will also need to show how the provider’s treatment fell below the expected standard of care and caused your child’s death.
A birth injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn will work closely with a medical expert to examine all of the medical records and evidence in your case to make these determinations for you. They will then explain whether your claim is viable and your next steps.
Your lawyer will review what happened to identify all of the relevant factors that could come into play. They will work to figure out why your child’s death occurred and whether the medical provider could be liable. For example, a case involving a stillborn infant might involve looking at what caused the fetus’s death. To have a wrongful death claim, the fetus would need to be viable at the time the incident occurred or at least 24 weeks gestation. If the fetus died in utero before viability, it wouldn’t be deemed a wrongful death.
Even when you believe the healthcare provider was negligent, it can be difficult to prove. This is why you should consult a birth injury attorney about your case.
Reasons to Consider an Infant Death Lawsuit
The primary reason why you might be considering an infant death lawsuit might be your belief that your child’s death was preventable. You likely want the responsible party held accountable for what they did or failed to do.
A secondary reason for pursuing a lawsuit is to prevent similar incidents from happening to other families. When you hold a provider accountable, it can deter them and others from engaging in similarly negligent conduct and prevent the deaths of other children in the future. Other parents might also steer clear of doctors who have had successful malpractice claims filed against them to protect their babies.
The third reason to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit after the preventable death of your baby is to recover compensation for your losses. While you might hesitate to pursue legal action while you are experiencing emotional loss and grief, it’s important to act quickly.
Over time, you and other witnesses can begin to forget important details of what happened. It’s easier to build a strong case when the incident is recent and your memories are fresh. Critical evidence can also be lost with time. Finally, there are statutes of limitations that proscribe filing lawsuits after a certain period has passed. If you wait too long, you might have no legal recourse to hold the provider accountable or recover damages.
Steps to Take
If you believe you have grounds to file an infant death lawsuit, take the following steps:
- Consult an experienced wrongful death and birth injury lawyer as soon as possible.
- Gather evidence, including all medical records and witness statements. Your lawyer can help with this process if necessary.
- File a civil complaint with the appropriate court after your evidence has been collected and analyzed. Your attorney will work with medical experts to review everything and analyze it and will draft and file your civil complaint with the court for you.
- Negotiate with the insurance company to try to reach an infant wrongful death settlement to secure fair compensation for your losses.
- Be prepared to litigate your case in court.
How a Wrongful Death and Birth Injury Attorney Might Help
It’s important to consult an attorney who has experience in representing families in both wrongful death and birth injury cases. An infant wrongful death lawyer can review your case and provide an honest assessment of the viability of your claim. An attorney can explain your legal rights and guide you throughout the process while advocating for you to help you obtain justice.
Some of the ways a wrongful death and birth injury lawyer can help you include the following:
- Gather and analyze the evidence
- Explain your legal options and next steps
- Provide legal guidance and advice
- Value your claim
- Negotiate with the insurance company for you
- Strive to reach a fair settlement agreement
- File a lawsuit in court
- Guide you throughout the claims process
- Handle all of the legal documents and paperwork
- Fight for your legal rights
- Provide compassionate support
- Litigate at trial if necessary
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
While monetary compensation will never replace your baby or make you feel better about your loss, it can help you cover your losses so you don’t also have to worry about your finances during a difficult time.
If you win your claim and prove that a provider’s malpractice caused your infant’s death, you could recover the following types of damages:
- Medical expenses to care for your baby before they died
- Loss of your child’s companionship
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering
Your attorney can explain the various types of damages that might be available in your case and help you understand your claim’s value.
Settlements in Infant Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Most infant wrongful death lawsuits are resolved through settlements. Your attorney can guide you through the process and keep you updated about everything that happens during negotiations. After analyzing the evidence, your attorney will value your claim. This will include an analysis of what a fair settlement offer might look like in your case. This calculation will inform your attorney’s demands for a reasonable settlement offer. Your lawyer will talk to the defendant and the malpractice insurer to try to reach an agreement. If your case is strong and supported by plenty of evidence, the defendant might want to settle instead of risking a loss at trial.
Any settlement offer will be communicated to you by your attorney. Your lawyer will discuss any offer with you and advise you about whether it is fair or if you should instead pursue more. If you don’t agree to a settlement offer, your attorney can continue to negotiate. If the defendant doesn’t offer a fair settlement, you can take your case to court and trial to try to secure a more favorable result.
Criminal Charges vs. Civil Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In cases involving intentional acts that caused a child’s death, criminal charges might be filed against the responsible party. The particular crimes with which a defendant might be charged will depend on the circumstances of your child’s death. When criminal charges are filed, the prosecutor will be required to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction.
The burden of proof is higher in criminal cases than in civil lawsuits since criminal cases can result in imprisonment. Even if your child’s death was caused by intentional acts, you can still pursue a civil wrongful death lawsuit at the same time. This is a good idea to ensure accountability for the defendant even if they are acquitted in the criminal case. Since you will have to meet a lower burden of proof in your wrongful death case than a criminal prosecutor, it is possible to hold a defendant civilly liable for wrongful death even when they are found not guilty in a related criminal case.
If your child’s death resulted from negligence, criminal charges might not be filed. In that situation, your only recourse might be to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Talk to an Experienced Attorney
If you are dealing with the tragic loss of your baby and believe someone else was responsible for their death, you should reach out to the compassionate and knowledgeable lawyers at Raynes & Lawn. We can review what happened in your case and explain the merits of your claim. Contact us for a free case evaluation by calling 1-800-535-1797.
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