What Are the Differences Between Birth Defects & Birth Injuries?
Most expectant parents look forward to welcoming their new babies with great anticipation. However, the labor and delivery process also comes with a significant amount of stress. This is especially true when something goes wrong. If your child has a medical condition at birth, you need to understand the differences between a birth defect and a birth injury. A Philadelphia birth injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn can help you understand what to do if your child suffered birth injuries.
Birth defects are congenital or developmental abnormalities that are present at the time an infant is born. A birth defect can affect one or more organs of the body, depending on its type. In some cases, multiple systems and organs will be affected, and some babies might have several defects.
Birth defects are not the result of medical negligence or malpractice and are caused by genetic conditions or exposure to toxins during pregnancy. In many cases, the cause of a birth defect might not be known.
Some common types of birth defects include the following:
- Neural tube defects of the brain and spine
- Failure of a limb to completely form
- Muscular dystrophy
- Down syndrome
- Spina bifida
- Congenital heart defects
- Cleft palate
- Ear defects
- Diaphragmatic hernia
Birth defects might require surgery, rehabilitation, and various types of therapy. However, they generally do not form a basis for a viable malpractice claim.
Infant injury law firms represent families whose children suffered birth injuries caused by medical negligence, but they don’t handle birth defect claims. Birth injuries are injuries that happen to babies before, during, or after the labor and delivery process. Unlike birth defects, birth injuries might be preventable based on the circumstances.
Some of the types of medical negligence that can cause birth injuries include the following:
- Using too much force when delivering the baby
- Misjudging the baby’s size
- Rh incompatibility
- Failing to intervene when a fetus shows signs of distress
- Failing to perform an emergency C-section
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors
- Failing to properly monitor the fetus
- Incorrect dose of anesthesia or Pitocin
The following birth injuries are among the most common:
- Cerebral palsy
- Brain damage
- Fractured bones
- Brachial plexus palsy
- Birth asphyxia
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
- Brain hemorrhage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Facial paralysis
Unlike birth defects, birth injuries might be valid grounds to file a malpractice claim when a medical provider’s care failed to meet the expected standard under the treatment conditions.
To prove that a doctor’s care amounted to medical malpractice, you must present evidence showing each of the following elements:
- A provider-patient relationship was established.
- The provider had an expected standard of care to provide reasonably competent care.
- The provider’s care fell below the expected standard of care.
- The substandard care caused the birth injury.
- Actual damages resulted from the provider’s malpractice.
What to Do If your Baby Has a Medical Condition
If you learn that your baby has a medical condition either immediately after birth or later in childhood, you should talk to a doctor to learn whether the condition was caused by a birth injury or defect. If your baby has a birth defect, you can’t file a medical malpractice claim against the doctor because the defect wasn’t caused by them. However, you might have a claim if the defect was caused by a medication that was improperly prescribed during pregnancy that the doctor knew or should have known was a teratogen. If your child suffered a birth defect, your doctor can provide recommendations and referrals for the types of follow-up care and therapy that your child might need to facilitate their independence and a better quality of life.
By contrast, if you learn that your baby suffered a birth injury, it might have resulted from medical malpractice. To determine whether your child’s birth injury was caused by medical negligence, you will need to have a medical expert review the medical records to determine the standard of care, whether the doctor’s treatment was substandard, and whether their negligence caused your child’s birth injury.
Make sure to get copies of all of the medical records for your child’s treatment and procedures, including conversations you have with various specialists and doctors. Extensive medical documentation can provide important evidence in a malpractice claim.
Find Birth Injury Lawyers Near Me
If you believe your child suffered a birth injury caused by mistakes made by the medical professionals who provided care during or after birth, you should speak to an experienced Philadelphia birth injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn. The attorney will want to review your child’s medical records and consult a medical expert to determine whether you have a viable claim for malpractice.
If you do have a valid birth injury claim, you might be entitled to recover compensation to pay for all of the care your child will need because of their birth injuries as well as other losses. Call us today to request a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.
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