The birth of a newborn child should be a time of celebration for families. Tragically, however, sometimes that joy is overshadowed by fear for the future when a baby suffers injuries during the delivery process. While some infants experience trauma naturally as a result of being born, other times, a birth injury is due to medical malpractice.
One of the most serious injuries an infant can suffer during delivery is a brain injury. Brain injuries can result in lasting damage, with lifelong implications. The most severe brain injury can significantly diminish a child’s overall quality of life. According to the Birth Injury Help Center, around one million infants in the United States are living with brain injuries. If a healthcare professional provided substandard care and caused your infant’s brain injury, you may have a right to seek compensation to help with your child’s medical needs.
To bring a successful medical malpractice claim in South Carolina, you will need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate the incident, identify who is at fault, and pursue the compensation you deserve. Our South Carolina birth injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm have the experience and resources to provide trusted guidance and help you seek answers if your infant was injured during delivery. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Causes of Brain Injuries in Infants
In many cases, damage to an infant’s brain occurs before or during delivery. Some of the most common causes of brain injuries in infants include:
- Lack of oxygen – Most cases of infant brain damage are tied to oxygen deprivation, formally referred to as asphyxia. A lack of oxygen during the prenatal and delivery periods may be a result of medical negligence.
There are two primary types of oxygen deprivation: anoxia is a complete lack of oxygen, while hypoxia is a partial lack of oxygen. A lack of oxygen can cause a non-traumatic brain injury and produce permanent brain damage within a matter of minutes. Oxygen deprivation often leads to lifelong medical issues such as cerebral palsy, a neurological condition affecting coordination and movement.
Some of the most common causes of asphyxia during birth include:
- Problems with the umbilical cord – Before birth, babies receive oxygen through the umbilical cord. If the umbilical cord becomes crimped or pinched before birth, the baby may not receive sufficient oxygen. During delivery, the umbilical cord can become twisted around the infant’s neck.
- Placental abruption – If the placenta separates from the mother’s uterus before birth, the baby may not be able to get the oxygen it needs to survive.
- Getting stuck in the vaginal canal – Sometimes, babies become stuck in the vaginal canal during delivery. The longer an infant remains stuck in the birth canal, the higher the risk of oxygen deprivation. This is an emergency condition that must be addressed right away to prevent brain damage.
- Delivery trauma – At times, doctors must use certain tools to assist in the delivery process, especially if the baby is having a difficult time passing through the birth canal. If doctors apply too much force to extract an infant when using forceps or vacuum tools, they run the risk of causing an injury. When used incorrectly, these tools can cause trauma to the head, resulting in a skull fracture, bleeding on the brain, or other internal damage.
- Infections – If the baby’s mother has a bacterial infection or a virus, the baby can be affected. One of the most common bacterial infections found in the womb or within the amniotic fluid is chorioamnionitis. It can cause dangerous infections in both the mother and the baby. In some cases, early delivery of the baby may be necessary. If a doctor fails to properly diagnose and treat the mother’s condition, or if need be, deliver the baby prematurely, the baby can suffer permanent brain damage.
You may be uncertain whether your infant’s brain injury was caused by medical negligence. The doctor is unlikely to admit to making an error. To get answers, you will need to have an independent investigation by a medical malpractice attorney to determine what happened. If your infant suffered a brain injury because of a medical provider’s negligence, you may be entitled to pursue a malpractice claim to provide compensation for your child’s ongoing medical needs.
Symptoms of Brain Injury in Infants
Some of the common signs of brain injuries in infants include:
- An elongated forehead
- Irregular eye movements
- A misshapen spine
- Neck stiffness and limited range of motion
- Crooked or skewed facial features
Many parents don’t notice signs of brain damage until later development stages. Some of the most common delayed signs of brain damage include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Light sensitivity
- Muscle tremors
- Slowed physical development
- Difficulty with everyday tasks and motor skills
Brain damage can cause cognitive and behavioral issues, such as difficulty focusing, memory issues, trouble speaking and learning words, acting impulsively, and disorientation.
One of the most common effects of a brain injury is cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that affects movement. Cerebral palsy can cause problems with motor skills, irregular arm and leg movements, trouble swallowing, difficulty speaking, languid muscles, drooling, slow growth, and seizures.
Infant Brain Damage Prognosis or Long-Term Consequences
An accurate prognosis of the effects of an infant brain injury may take months to determine.
Most types of brain damage in infants are minor, in which case, the infant’s prognosis, or the likely outcome of their condition, should be mostly positive.
Moderate to severe brain damage, on the other hand, is often not reversible. An infant may live with the complications of the injury throughout their lives.
Some infants with brain damage are later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Others experience cognitive, behavioral, developmental, and physical issues.
Should I File a Claim If My Infant Child Has Brain Damage?
Determining the appropriate steps to take will require a detailed review of your medical records. Some injuries occur despite a doctor’s best efforts to provide attentive care.
Medical providers including doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, birthing centers, and other medical professionals are required to uphold the standard of care when treating patients. If our analysis shows that a doctor’s failure to follow the standard of care expected of a medical professional caused harm to your infant, then filing a medical malpractice claim may be in order. Failure to fulfill that legal obligation constitutes medical negligence.
If a physician’s negligence caused your infant’s brain injury, you might be able to hold the physician liable through a claim against their malpractice insurance policy. If an employee of the hospital where your baby was delivered contributed to the birth injury, you might also be able to hold the hospital or medical facility liable.
You will need to work with an experienced attorney to determine whether medical negligence occurred and who should be held financially responsible.
Types of Compensation I Can Recover
The amount of compensation you may seek for an infant brain injury will depend on a variety of factors. Depending on the circumstances, you may seek financial relief for:
- Medical expenses, including hospital bills, doctor’s visits, surgery costs, rehabilitative care, and prescription medications
- Therapy costs, including speech therapy and physical therapy
- Costs associated with medical equipment, assistive technology, wheelchairs, and scooters
- Expenses of in-home care
- Special education costs
- Other financial losses you suffered
Non-financial losses can be harder to quantify, but an experienced infant brain injury lawyer can help you calculate the total value of your claim.
Information About Settlements
There is no set amount you can expect to receive in a medical malpractice settlement. It depends on many factors including the severity of the infant’s injury and prognosis. After a serious injury, an infant may require years of specialized medical care. A settlement can provide money to pay for the expenses related to your infant’s injury and development.
To pursue a settlement, you will first file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Your attorney will draft a demand letter stating the facts and the amount you are seeking. Once the insurance company responds, you may enter settlement negotiations. Having an attorney negotiate on your behalf will improve your chances of recovering a fair amount.
The majority of medical malpractice cases settle before they go to trial. If the physician or the hospital refuses to accept liability, you may have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and take the at-fault party to court. A judge or jury will then decide whether you should receive a settlement, and if so, what amount you should receive.
Contact Our Trusted Birth Injury Attorneys in South Carolina
Did your infant suffer a brain injury at birth due to medical negligence? If you suspect that occurred, contact the South Carolina birth injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm. Our compassionate attorneys understand how traumatizing it can be to watch your newborn suffer. We are committed to helping families who have been harmed by medical malpractice pursue appropriate financial relief. No amount of money can make up for the preventable injury your newborn has suffered. But a settlement can provide the resources to give your child the best care possible and relieve the financial stress caused by medical bills.
Contact Joye Law Firm today for a free consultation to learn more about how our team could help you.