What Are Catastrophic Traumatic Birth Injuries?

hospital bed in Philadelphia with a baby in it's bed with a catastrophic birth injury


Catastrophic traumatic birth injuries are severe injuries that occur to a newborn during the labor and delivery process. These injuries can have life-long impacts and often result in disabilities or impairment. Some examples of catastrophic traumatic birth injuries include cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, spinal cord injuries, and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).


Raynes & Lawn Trial Lawyers has decades of experience guiding clients through birth injury cases. Our talented and dedicated attorneys can give you personalized and strategic attention. Call our offices today at 1-800-535-1797 for your free consultation.

Understanding catastrophic traumatic birth injuries


Catastrophic traumatic birth injuries happen when excessive pulling or twisting of the baby occurs during delivery, depriving oxygen and blood flow to the brain. They can also be caused by doctor or hospital negligence if proper protocols are not followed. Warning signs are often missed or ignored, resulting in devastating consequences to the child.


Traumatic birth injury lawyers see cases where even a brief loss of oxygen or blood flow causes permanent brain damage. This can manifest in conditions like cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental delays, vision or hearing impairment, and more. The effects are tragic and preventable.


Common types of catastrophic traumatic birth injuries


Some of the most common yet catastrophic traumatic birth injuries include:

Cerebral palsy


Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders affecting movement, posture, and coordination. It is caused by damage to the developing brain, often due to oxygen deprivation. Stiff, jerky movements, floppy or rigid limbs, drooling, learning disabilities, intellectual impairment, or seizures characterize cerebral palsy.


Brachial plexus injuries


Brachial plexus injuries are nerve injuries causing paralysis or weakness in the arm. These occur when excessive pulling on the head and neck during childbirth severs critical nerves. Symptoms include a limp or paralyzed arm, lack of muscle control, and numbness. Some brachial plexus injuries can be permanent if nerves are completely torn.


Spinal cord injuries


Though rare, spinal cord injuries can happen during delivery if the spinal cord gets stretched or compressed. This can cause weakness, numbness, paralysis, bladder or bowel dysfunction, respiratory failure, and more, depending on the severity.

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)


HIE refers to brain dysfunction caused by oxygen deprivation. It causes the destruction of brain cells leading to disabilities like cerebral palsy, epilepsy, developmental delays, hearing loss, vision problems, or intestinal issues. HIE ranges in severity but can be catastrophic.

What Causes Catastrophic Traumatic Birth Injuries?


Catastrophic traumatic birth injuries stem from excessive pulling, twisting, or compression of a baby’s head, neck, or spine during labor and delivery. However, most result from medical negligence by the delivering doctor or healthcare providers. Common causes include:


  • Improper use of vacuum extractors or forceps during delivery

  • Applying excessive traction or pulling on babies to free stuck shoulders

  • Failing to perform cesarean section when needed

  • Errors in interpreting or ignoring fetal heart rate monitoring

  • Not responding quickly enough to signs of fetal distress

  • Medication errors or improper maternal anesthesia

  • Allowing pregnancies to exceed 40 weeks gestation

  • Failure to treat or diagnose infection in pregnant women

  • Lack of ICU access for distressed newborns


Many catastrophic traumatic birth injuries are avoidable when proper protocols and standards of care are followed. But even small mistakes can lead to devastating harm.


What Are Signs Of A Catastrophic Traumatic Birth Injury?


Not all birth injuries are immediately apparent after delivery. Some manifest weeks, months or years later as missed developmental milestones or disabilities. However, some signs in newborns may indicate an underlying catastrophic injury:


  • Seizures

  • Difficulty breathing, moving limbs

  • No reflexes or shocked nervous system

  • Floppy muscle tone, body stiffness

  • Excessive sleepiness, lack of interest in feeding

  • Inability to swallow or suck properly

  • Irritability, high-pitched crying

  • Poor responsiveness, lack of facial expressions

  • Abnormal head shape or bruising  on head/neck

  • Vision or hearing impairment


Any baby exhibiting these symptoms after a difficult labor or delivery should be evaluated immediately by medical staff and closely monitored. Seeking help from an experienced birth injury lawyer in Pennsylvania is also critical for investigating negligence.


What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Catastrophic Traumatic Birth Injuries?


The outcomes of catastrophic traumatic birth injuries vary based on severity. Effects may include:


  • Lifelong mobility disabilities (cerebral palsy, paralysis)

  • Permanent damage to organs or limbs

  • Severe intellectual disabilities or delays

  • Speech/communication impairments

  • Memory deficits, learning disabilities

  • Epilepsy or seizures

  • Bowel/bladder dysfunction

  • Abnormal curvature of the spine

  • Growth problems

  • Vision or hearing loss

  • Feeding/swallowing difficulties

  • Poor stamina, chronic pain, or fatigue

  • Increased risk of respiratory failure


Sadly, these disabilities require intensive long-term rehabilitation, surgeries, medications, and therapies. Families experience extreme financial strain, paying for substantial medical costs over a child’s lifetime.


How Can Birth Injury Lawyers Help Families?


The aftermath of catastrophic birth injuries is devastating, drastically affecting the child and family. Skilled traumatic birth injury lawyers can help by:


  • Conducting an independent investigation into what happened and determining if malpractice or negligence occurred. Lawyers utilize medical professionals to reconstruct labor details.

  • Assessing long-term costs for medical, therapeutic & accessibility needs

  • Filing a birth injury lawsuit against liable healthcare providers seeking compensation for damages

  • Negotiating fair settlements from medical malpractice insurance policies so families can afford care

  • Legally proving disability to qualify children for government assistance like Medicaid

  • Connecting families to proper healthcare, therapies, resources


5 Faqs About Catastrophic Traumatic Birth Injuries


  1. How Do I Know If My Child’s Injury Qualifies As Catastrophically Traumatic?

If excessive pulling, dropping, or twisting of an infant occurs during delivery, resulting in permanent disability, impairment or drastically shortened life expectancy, the injury is likely catastrophically traumatic.


  1. What Costs Can Families Recover In A Birth Injury Lawsuit?


Families may recover damages like medical bills, rehabilitation costs, surgeries, therapies, special education needs, loss of future income, accessible home/vehicle modifications, and more. Experienced lawyers will calculate lifetime costs.


  1. Is There A Time Limit For Filing A Birth Injury Lawsuit?

Yes, statutes of limitations restrict the time frame families have to pursue legal action, usually 2 years from when an injury was detected (or two years from the child’s 18th birthday). Lawyers can evaluate cases for exceptions.


  1. Will Filing A Birth Injury Lawsuit Negatively Impact My Child’s Healthcare?

No, ethical standards protect patient access to care regardless of lawsuits. However, switching healthcare providers is advisable to prevent bias.


  1. How Can An Investigation Help Determine If My Child’s Injury Was Preventable?

Reconstructing prenatal records, fetal heart rate patterns, delivery room videos and notes can reveal critical moments where medical teams missed signals or performed incorrect interventions resulting in catastrophic injuries.


In many cases, birth injury lawyers can demonstrate how better decisions or swifter responses could have prevented disabilities by avoiding oxygen deprivation or excess pressure on fragile brains and spines.

Finding The Right Birth Injury Lawyer


Securing experienced legal counsel significantly impacts outcomes for families affected by catastrophic traumatic birth injuries. Key lawyer qualities include:


  • Extensive understanding of birth injury cases, labor protocols

  • Access to top medical professionals like obstetricians to evaluate negligence

  • Proven success winning verdicts or settlements for clients

  • Compassion and commitment to guiding families through difficulties

  • Resources to build catastrophic solid injury cases

  • Offering fair contingency fee structures


Families in Pennsylvania suffering from traumatic birth injuries should choose a dedicated lawyer, such as the team at Raynes Lawn Trial Lawyers.


Traumatic birth injury cases profoundly affect children and families. But justice is possible with caring legal guidance. Consultations with qualified lawyers are confidential and explore options for recovering damages vital to securing care and stability. Every baby deserves proper safeguards, yet simple mistakes often shatter innocent lives.


Don’t hesitate to contact our talented and knowledgeable birth injury lawyers at Raynes & Lawn Trial Lawyers to protect your rights and your child’s future. Justice may be a long process, but the outcome and results our attorneys achieve can make a tremendous difference for your family. Call us today at 1(800) 535-1797 for more information.