Strengthening Your Case: Key Components and Evidence Required in Birth Injury Litigation
As expectant parents look forward to the birth of their child, they often dream about the future and what it might hold. Most parents don’t think that their babies might suffer debilitating birth injuries before, during, or after birth. Unfortunately, birth injuries sometimes occur because of complications during labor or delivery. Birth injuries might result in permanent disabilities that can be difficult to accept and manage.
Birth injuries can result because of multiple factors, including medical malpractice. If a doctor or another healthcare provider negligently causes a baby’s birth injuries, they might be liable to pay damages to the child and family members to compensate them for the losses they have suffered. A medical malpractice attorney at the Philadelphia law firm of Raynes & Lawn will review your case and explain its legal merits. If they agree to accept your case, your Philadelphia birth injury lawyer will conduct an in-depth investigation and work with a medical expert to gather evidence and build a strong liability claim for you. Here is a guide to the important components of a successful claim and the evidence that might be necessary to prove it.
- Birth injury claims hinge on proving a provider-patient relationship, adherence to the medical standard of care, breach of the standard, causation, and damages.
- Vital evidence includes detailed medical records linking care to injuries, defendant’s employment and disciplinary records, eyewitness statements, and expert witness involvement.
- Hospital policies, regulations, records, video evidence, income statements, and medical bills contribute to a robust case.
- Establishing the provider-patient relationship requires signed consent and admissions records.
- Expert witness testimony, reports, and medical records prove the medical standard of care.
Legal Elements of a Birth Injury Malpractice Claim
A birth injury claim must have legal merits, which means that you must be able to prove the legal elements by a preponderance of the evidence. If any of the elements are missing, you won’t have a claim.
Birth injuries are injuries an infant suffers during labor or delivery. In some cases, birth injuries are caused by a medical provider’s negligence. In others, a baby might be injured during a particularly difficult birth even though the medical professionals delivered competent treatment and care. To have a malpractice case, your child’s injuries must have been caused by the negligence of one or more healthcare providers. As the plaintiff, you will have the burden of proof to present evidence showing the existence of each of the following legal elements:
1. Provider-Patient Relationship
To have a claim, a patient-provider relationship must have been established between the medical provider and the patient who was injured. This means that the patient must have sought care and the doctor must have agreed to provide care and taken an affirmative step to deliver it. A provider-patient relationship must have been established before the provider will have a duty of care.
2. Medical Standard of Care
Every medical provider must deliver care meeting a relevant standard of care when a provider-patient relationship has been established. The medical standard of care varies by region and practice type. For example, a general practice doctor would be expected to deliver care with the same competence as a reasonably competent general practice physician would under the same conditions. A general practice physician would not be expected to deliver care meeting the standard that would have been provided by a reasonably competent obstetrician-gynecologist, however.
3. Breach of the Medical Standard of Care
Once the medical standard of care is determined, the next element the patient must establish is that the care the doctor provided deviated from it. This means that the provider delivered care that fell below what a reasonably competent provider in the same field practicing in the same region would have provided in the situation. In other words, this means that a competent practitioner would not have done what the defendant did that led to the child’s injuries.
Proving the provider was negligent is not enough if you can’t prove that their negligence caused your child’s birth injuries. You will need to present evidence that your child suffered injuries and that the negligent care they received caused those injuries. You must show both that the doctor committed a medical error that amounted to medical negligence and that the error caused your child’s injuries.
The final element of a birth injury malpractice case is damages. You must show that the doctor’s negligence caused your child’s injuries and that you suffered economic and/or non-economic losses as a result. Damages might include additional medical expenses incurred to treat your child’s injuries, rehabilitation costs, physical therapy, costs of renovating your home, psychological and emotional trauma, and others.
Proving these elements will require you to present evidence showing that each element more likely than not occurred as you allege. Your birth injury lawyers in Philadelphia will work closely with medical experts and investigators to gather relevant evidence and build a strong case of liability for you.
Types of Evidence in a Birth Injury Malpractice Case
Multiple types of evidence might be important in a birth injury lawsuit. To have a strong case, it will be important to gather as much evidence as possible. The following are some of the key types of evidence that might be important in your case:
Mother’s and Infant’s Medical Records
Medical records can provide information about issues that occurred that could have led to the infant’s birth injuries. Records provide not only the details about the treatments the mother received but also provide insights into how an injury may have occurred. As such, the records must possess information about prenatal care, including examinations, tests, and any medical interventions that were deemed necessary to preserve the health and well-being of both the mother and unborn child.
Equally significant is the documentation of the type and extent of injuries sustained by the infant. These records provide a detailed account of any complications, trauma, or adverse events that occurred during birth. This information is vital for establishing a direct link between the medical care provided and the resulting injuries, forming a key component of the plaintiff’s case in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Beyond the immediate delivery, the medical records also shed light on the subsequent treatment required for the infant’s injuries. This includes ongoing medical care, therapeutic interventions, and potential long-term implications for the child’s health and development. By examining these records, legal professionals and medical experts can assess the full scope of the damages incurred by the infant and construct a compelling narrative of the consequences stemming from the alleged medical malpractice.
Defendant’s Employment and Disciplinary Records
Your Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney will want to get the defendant provider’s employment and disciplinary records. The employment records show whether the provider was an employee of the hospital or medical facility where the birth occurred and will also detail previous complaints that might have been filed. The attorney will also want to look at the provider’s license information to see whether they have received any disciplinary sanctions in the past.
Disciplinary records are a crucial component to any investigation into medical malpractice. An attorney will scrutinize these records to see if previous complaints are indicative of a pattern of negligence or substandard care. This will potentially strengthening a case.
Statements from others involved in the delivery process about what they observed can be important for determining what occurred and where things might have gone wrong. In legal proceedings, eyewitnesses can be called upon to testify, sharing their observations with the court, judge, and jury. Their testimony carries weight, as it provides real-time, unfiltered insights into the dynamics of the delivery process. Through careful examination of these statements, your attorney can construct a narrative that aligns with the events as witnessed by those directly involved, strengthening the overall case.
Expert Witness Reports
Your attorney will work closely with medical experts who will review the medical records to determine the standard of care and whether the defendant’s conduct deviated from it. Experts write reports and can be called to testify to assist the jury and judge with understanding complex medical terms and procedures. To be qualified as an expert, a medical professional must have extensive experience and expertise in their field and can provide helpful insights for a jury.
Some other types of evidence that might be important include the following:
- Hospital policies
- Healthcare regulations
- Hopsital records
- Video evidence
- Income statements
- Medical bills
- Diagnostic test results
Evidence to Prove the Legal Elements of Birth Injury Malpractice
Now, let’s take a look at the evidence required to prove the elements of a birth injury malpractice case. This evidence is critical and will be needed by the lawyer to construct a strong case.
Evidence to Prove the Provider-Patient Relationship
Proving the provider-patient relationship is typically the most straightforward of any of the legal elements. This typically can be accomplished by introducing the following documents into evidence:
- Signed informed consent paperwork
- Admissions records
- Other evidence the doctor took steps to deliver treatment
Evidence to Prove the Medical Standard of Care
To prove the medical standard of care, you will need to hire a medical expert to review your medical records and determine the relevant standard of care the provider should have met. The standard of care varies based on the provider’s field, training, experience, skills, and education and the geographic region in which they practice. The expert will be a professional in the same field as the defendant with extensive experience who can provide an expert opinion on the standard that should have been met.
In Pennsylvania, plaintiffs in all types of medical malpractice lawsuits must retain medical experts who can provide expert opinions about the medical standard of care and how the provider violated it and caused the patient’s injuries. Plaintiffs must file certificates of merit within 60 days of filing their lawsuits through which they certify to the court that a medical expert has reviewed the records and can testify about the standard of care, the doctor’s negligence, and how the negligence caused the patient’s injuries. The following evidence might be used to establish the standard of care in court:
- Expert witness testimony
- Expert witness reports
- Medical records
- Hospital records
- Diagnostic test results
- Eyewitness testimony
Evidence to Prove a Breach of the Standard of Care
A medical expert will review the medical records and professional journals to evaluate the care provided by the doctor and whether it deviated from the expected medical standard of care. They will base their opinion on their education, training, experience, and expertise.
The following evidence might be used to prove a breach of the standard of care:
- Hospital policies and records
- Medical records
- Disciplinary records
- Healthcare regulations
- Expert witness testimony
- Expert witness reports
- Eyewitness statements and testimony
- Test results
The medical expert will write a report detailing the facts, explaining the standard of care, and describing the care a reasonably competent doctor in the same field would have provided under the same treatment circumstances. They will provide an expert opinion informed by medically accepted standards about whether the defendant’s actions breached the medical standard of care.
Using Evidence to Prove Causation
You must present evidence showing that the doctor’s negligence caused your child’s birth injuries. It won’t be enough to prove that the doctor owed a duty of care and violated it by committing medical errors. Instead, you will also need to show that the medical mistakes directly and proximately caused your child’s birth injury. Proving causation can often be complex and might require expert witness testimony, statements and testimony from eyewitnesses, evidence that your child was injured, medical records, and others.
In many cases, the defense will also call expert witnesses who will testify that the doctor’s care was not negligent and/or did not cause the child’s birth injuries. The jury will then need to evaluate the testimony of the experts called by both the plaintiff and defendant and determine how much weight to give to their opinions.
Using Evidence to Prove Damages
To recover compensation, you will need to present evidence showing that you suffered damages. These include the economic and non-economic losses caused by the doctor’s negligence and your child’s injuries and might include the following:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Wage losses (past and future)
- Costs to modify your home to make it accessible
- Cost of home care
- Psychological/emotional trauma
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
The following evidence might be used to prove damages:
- Medical bills
- Wage statements showing missed work to care for your child’s injuries
- Expert testimony about how your child’s injuries might affect them in the future
- Expert testimony about the future medical care needs your child will have
- Bills from rehabilitative care, physical therapy, and other treatments
- Expenses incurred to modify your home
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Birth Injury Lawyer
Proving a birth injury malpractice lawsuit requires extensive evidence and the help of experienced birth injury lawyers in Philadelphia. While a child’s birth injuries can be tragic, you must be able to present evidence proving each of the legal elements of malpractice to succeed with a claim. The Philadelphia birth injury lawyers at the law firm of Raynes & Lawn are compassionate and focused professionals who dedicate themselves to helping malpractice victims and their families recover compensation for their losses. Call us for a free case evaluation today at 1-800-535-1797.
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