Birth injuries – injuries to the newborn that occur as part of the labor and delivery process – can happen for a variety of reasons. Due to the excellent work of obstetrical providers in this country, most American children are born safe and healthy. Even among those children who are born with disabilities, most are not caused by medical negligence. When a birth injury is caused by medical negligence, however, you have the option and legal right to hold the responsible individual accountable and consider a birth injury lawsuit.
If you have a child who you are concerned may have suffered a birth injury due to medical negligence, the first thing you need to do is find a law firm with experience with birth injury litigation. That is because birth injury claims are not only time consuming and extremely expensive to litigate, but they are among the most complex medical malpractice claims to pursue.
Although there are medical negligence cases involving the failure to diagnose certain diseases, injuries and illnesses to the fetus in the prenatal period (for instance, failure to detect anatomic defects on prenatal ultrasound), those types of malpractice cases are different than birth injury cases, which are the focus of this blog article. We are referring to a broad range of injuries to the infant that happen during the labor and delivery process and which are usually caused by either: 1) fetal oxygen deprivation; or 2) trauma during delivery.
Fetal oxygen deprivation can result in hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a type of brain damage that occurs when a baby suffers prolonged and/or significant oxygen deprivation at or around the time of delivery. HIE can be prevented in some cases when signs of fetal oxygen deprivation are recognized and obstetrical staff take quick action—such as performing an emergency C-section—to deliver the baby. Sadly, when fetal oxygen deprivation is not recognized and/or acted upon quickly, HIE brain damage can happen. This type of damage can then cause cerebral palsy, a lifelong and debilitating condition of the human nervous system.
Traumatic birth injuries are injuries that occur as a result of mechanical/physical forces during delivery such as compression or traction. The most common areas affected by traumatic birth injuries are the child’s brain, spine, nerves and bones. A baby’s size (larger baby), position (breech), and neurological fragility can complicate the birthing process. If not handled appropriately by medical professionals, traumatic injury can result. Traumatic birth injuries can include hemorrhages inside the baby’s skull or brain and brachial plexus injuries. Brachial plexus injuries, sometimes referred to as Erb’s palsies, are injuries from trauma to the brachial plexus nerves near the baby’s cervical spine. They can be caused by the obstetrical provider pulling on a baby’s head when the baby is stuck in the birth canal during shoulder dystocia.
The severity of birth injuries can vary from minor to catastrophic. Some birth injuries are evident immediately after birth when a baby has difficulty breathing and requires NICU care. Others are not identified for years until the child begins to miss developmental milestones. For the parents of a disabled child, it must be recognized that a lawyer with experience handling birth injury cases often offers not only the best chance of obtaining compensation for the enormous medical expenses often required for children with birth injuries, but also in getting real answers about what happened to their child and why. There is sometimes reticence among medical professionals to discuss the causes of injury to infants, and a lawyer with experience in birth injury cases can give you honest answers, even if that answer is that there was no medical negligence. Asking an experienced and ethical lawyer to assist you with a thorough investigation will allow you to know that you did everything you could to get answers for your child.
If you are the parent of a disabled child and are concerned that an event during labor and delivery was the cause, contact the attorneys at Decof, Decof & Barry, P.C. to discuss your case. We have over 40 years of experience investigating these cases and obtaining successful results for injured children and their families.