A child’s birth should be a time of joy and celebration. But sometimes, something goes wrong in the childbirth process and serious injury to the infant or mother results. The injury or death of an infant can leave a family with expensive medical bills in addition to the overwhelming tragedy of the event and the problems that lie ahead. A dedicated and caring lawyer, however, can help you recover the compensation you need to move forward from this matter.
Common Causes of Birth Injuries
Approximately seven in every 1,000 infants born in the U.S. each year suffers some type of birth injury. Regrettably, many of these injuries are preventable and may be permanent.
Not all birth injuries are the fault of the doctor or any other medical professional. For example, problems resulting from abnormal fetal presentation or abnormal fetal descent may be unavoidable. But, sadly, sometimes a medical professional’s negligence during delivery leads to a birth injury.
Often, these injuries are caused by a failure to act, rather than by a deliberate harmful act. Common causes of birth injuries include:
- The failure to monitor the mother;
- A failure to pay proper attention to the fetal heart monitor;
- The improper use of forceps, a vacuum, or other surgical instruments;
- The improper use of force to free an infant’s shoulder that has become stuck behind the mother’s pelvis;
- Incorrect manipulation of an infant’s body during delivery;
- The failure to perform a necessary Caesarian section;
- The improper use of Pitocin or other drugs;
- Gestational diabetes complications;
- The failure to monitor and account for a mother’s or infant’s medical condition; and
- Inadequate communication between doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.
Common Birth Injuries in Newborns
A wide range of injuries may constitute birth injury malpractice, from minor bruising or broken bones to hemorrhages or brain damage. Some injuries heal right away, within the first weeks of an infant’s life. Others are permanent and cause lifelong disability. Those who have suffered birth injuries may require surgery, years of physical therapy, and lifelong assistance in performing basic daily tasks. Birth injuries can affect the child and the child’s family for life, and can also be very expensive.
Common birth injuries include:
- Broken bones: Broken bones may be caused by the undue use of force during delivery. Skull and other fractures can result from the improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction, especially if an infant’s shoulder is stuck behind the mother’s pelvis.
- Bruising injuries: Bruising injuries can include caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma, or the bruising, bleeding, and swelling of the infant’s head. Bruising, facial paralysis, and other forceps injuries may result from excessive force in delivery. Subconjunctival hemorrhage, or broken blood vessels in eyes, may also be caused by a doctor’s carelessness.
- Brain damage: An infant’s brain injury could have been caused by the oxygen or blood supply being cut off during birth, physical trauma in the delivery process, or infections in the mother’s body. intellectual disabilities are among of the most common brain injuries. Others include, developmental delays, abnormal temperament, and cranial deformities.
- Cerebral palsy: Cerebral palsy is one of the most common birth injuries. It is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system, generally caused by delayed delivery and lack of oxygen, head trauma during delivery, or extremely premature birth, which can be caused by a failure to diagnose a medical condition. Cerebral palsy is characterized by poor reflexes, poor motor development, muscle spasms, difficulty in walking and speaking, general lack of coordination, deformed bones or joints, and learning disabilities.
- Brachial plexus injuries (palsy): Brachial plexus injuries are injuries to the nerves of the lower neck. Klumpke’s paralysis is a brachial plexus injury characterized by the paralysis of hands or arms, and is sometimes accompanied by a drooping eye on the opposite side of the body from the paralysis. Horner’s syndrome is another common brachial plexus injury and involves droopiness of the eyes and other eye issues.
- Shoulder dystocia: Shoulder dystocia occurs when the head is delivered but the shoulder of the infant gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvis. It can cause brachial plexus injuries or damage to the nerves in the shoulder or upper arm. Erb’s palsy is the most common type of shoulder dystocia injury. It could cause the arm not to grow fully or may result in diminished use of the arm.
- Acquired dystonia: Acquired dystonia is a neurological movement disorder. It involves muscle contractions that cause involuntary movements, twisting of the limbs, and abnormal postures. Dystonia can be caused by hypoxia or neonatal brain hemorrhage.
- Oxygen deprivation injuries: Oxygen deprivation injuries, or hypoxia, result when the infant’s brain does not get sufficient oxygen, so brain cells are destroyed. This can be caused by failing to monitor the fetus, to timely perform a C-section, or to diagnose a medical condition. Injuries resulting from hypoxia can include seizures, developmental delays, and cerebral palsy. Additionally, one in three infant deaths is caused by hypoxia.
- Abruptio placentae: Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus during pregnancy. Placental abruption requires immediate treatment for the mother and child, so the mother’s physician needs to treat the condition quickly. It can result in loss of oxygen and growth and developmental delays.
- Injuries to the mother: A common injury to the mother is preeclampsia, which can have life-threatening consequences if untreated. Preeclampsia can cause placental abruption, hemolysis, deprivation of oxygen to the baby, blood vessel disorders, and eclampsia, which includes seizures. Preeclampsia is not curable, but it is treatable, and mothers with preeclampsia should be monitored. Other possible injuries to the mother include chorioamnionitis, infection, loss of vision, and others.
What Can I Recover in a Birth Injury Claim?
When a birth injury is caused by a medical professional’s negligence, the family of the injured infant can recover money damages to compensate the child and the parents for their loss. Birth injuries are often extremely expensive, especially if they result in lifelong medical conditions. Financial damages may include past and future medical expenses, physical therapy, and the cost of a caretaker for the child.
Noneconomic losses are also compensable. They may include damages for pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and wrongful death, among others.
Contact Our Clinton Birth Injury Law Firm Today
An experienced legal team is necessary to properly litigate a birth injury claim. Pediatric specialists and other medical experts will speak with the attending doctors and nurses, review witness testimony and medical records to find inconsistencies, and examine the injured child to reach a diagnosis, and provide expert testimony. We will research the hospital and doctors’ backgrounds to search for any prior incidents of malpractice. We collect medical records, doctors’ notes, and reports to build the strongest case possible for you and your child.
Our legal team has been protecting the injured in South Carolina since 1968. Several of our lawyers have been honored to be listed as Super Lawyers and given an AV Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating available for ethics and legal skills. Our legal team is prepared to fight to protect you and your family and help you to obtain the compensation you need to get your life back on track.