Medical Malpractice During Childbirth: A Legal Overview


Mothers and infants can sometimes suffer unavoidable injuries during labor and delivery. However, in other cases, injuries during labor and delivery can be prevented when medical providers provide timely and appropriate care. When injuries are caused by negligence, the parents can pursue compensation through a birth injury claim. Here is some information about the types of preventable injuries that might occur during birth from the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.

Maternal Injuries During Birth

Mothers can suffer injury during labor and delivery that occur because of the negligence of a doctor or another medical provider, including the following:

  • Internal organ damage caused by improper use of surgical instruments during a C-section
  • Infection
  • Ruptured uterus
  • Medical tools left behind after a C-section
  • Untreated preeclampsia causing seizures
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Anesthesia complications

Injuries To The Child

Multiple injuries can affect infants. However, not every birth injury will support a viable malpractice claim.

Bone Fractures

Fractured bones are one of the most common types of birth injuries. The bone of the upper arm and the collarbone is the most likely to be fractured during delivery. In some cases, a genetic condition can cause bones to fracture more easily. Some fractures that might occur during normal childbirth will heal.

Brachial Plexus Palsy

The Brachial Plexus Palsy is a bundle of nerves around an infant’s shoulder. These nerves can be pressured or stretched during childbirth and be damaged. If the brachial plexus is injured during birth, the infant might suffer a loss of movement in the arm or weakness.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum occurs when the infant’s scalp swells. This normally happens when pressure is placed on the infant’s head during a difficult birth. However, it can also occur because of vacuum extraction. There might also be bruising with the swelling, but it frequently resolves after a few days.


Cephalohematoma occurs when bleeding happens under an infant’s scalp and can result from vacuum extraction. In most cases, a cephalohematoma will resolve within a few weeks following birth without treatment.


Birth injuries during labor and delivery can sometimes result in the infant’s death. These types of cases are complex and emotionally difficult and might result in wrongful death lawsuits.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can occur when the blood flow or oxygen to the baby’s brain is cut off for a time during labor and delivery. Children who suffer from HIE might have a range of conditions, including developmental conditions, epilepsy, or cerebral palsy. The severity of the child’s condition will depend on how long the blood flow and oxygen to the baby’s brain were cut off.

Soft Tissue And Skin Injuries

While a baby is being delivered, his or her skin can be injured because of the medical instruments used or by pressure from contractions. Skin injuries during childbirth often include swelling or bruising. The layer of fat under the infant’s skin can also be injured and appear as red, raised areas. In most cases, injuries to the fat layer will resolve without treatment.

Types Of Birth Injuries That Might Result In Malpractice Claims

The previously listed injuries are not always caused by medical malpractice. To determine whether a birth injury was caused by medical negligence, an attorney and medical expert will review what happened and whether the treatment met the relevant standard of care.

The standard of care varies, depending on the medical provider’s field of practice, the geographic area, and the provider’s skill. Doctors are expected to provide treatment that meets the standard of care that reasonably competent doctors in the same field and under the same conditions who practice in the same area would provide. For example, an obstetrician in Philadelphia would be compared to another obstetrician in Philadelphia with the same level of training instead of to a different type of doctor or a physician located in a different city. A qualified medical expert helps to determine the appropriate standard of care, taking into account the information that the medical provider had available at the time the birth injury occurred.

After the attorney and medical expert have established the proper standard of care, the medical provider’s treatment will be measured against it. Medical experts conduct detailed reviews of what happened during labor and delivery and compare it to what a similarly skilled provider would have done in the same situation based on the information that was reasonably available.

If the medical expert finds that the doctor’s care deviated from the expected standard of care, the next step will be determining whether the deviation caused the injury to the baby or mother. For example, if a doctor failed to perform a C-section when complications arose during labor, and the baby was stillborn, that does not necessarily mean that the doctor’s failure to perform a C-section was the reason for the stillbirth. If the baby still would have died even if a C-section had been performed, there would not be grounds to file a medical malpractice claim against the doctor.

If the attorney and medical expert determine that the medical provider’s negligence caused the birth injury, then the lawyer will calculate the losses that resulted. You must have calculable damages to pursue a medical malpractice claim. If you didn’t suffer enough losses to justify the expense and time involved with pursuing a lawsuit, you might decide against filing a claim. However, if you did suffer significant damages, you can expect the defendant will still vigorously dispute your claim.

Talk To A Birth Trauma Attorney

If you or your baby suffered serious birth injuries, and you believe they were the result of medical negligence, you should speak to a child injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn. We can evaluate your case and help you to understand its legal merits. Call us today at 1-800-535-1797 to request a free consultation.




Get Help from an Experienced Injury Attorney

If you have lost your limb in an accident caused by someone else or while working on the job, you should speak to an experienced injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn. Our team of attorneys is experienced in handling catastrophic injury claims, and we work hard to help our clients recover maximal compensation for their injuries and losses. Call us today at 1-800-535-1797 to request a free consultation.

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