The birth of a child is usually a time for celebration, but if a child is born with brain damage, cerebral palsy or any other disability, it can be a moment of fright, uncertainty and sadness. When a birth injury does occur, a family should consult with birth injury lawyers to discuss the facts of their case and to explore their legal options.
About seven in every 1,000 births in America result in a birth injury. Birth injury attorneys may advise you that these injuries may have stemmed from a mother’s illness, drug use, complications during the delivery, or negligence by the physician, hospital, nurse or other staff.
Examples of common types of birth injuries include the following:
Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that can be caused during the birthing process. It can result from oxygen deprivation. Its symptoms include loss of muscle control or nerve functions and is permanent, although there are varying degrees of severity. If the symptoms are not detected soon after birth, other signs such as exaggerated reflexes will usually be manifested before the child is three years of age. The condition is not amenable to recovery, although therapy can improve the child’s ability to cope with the disability.
Cerebral palsy can be caused by a physician’s failure to promptly take measures to deliver the child, which is being deprived of oxygen by being in the birth canal for too long, or by the improper use of forceps that damages the brain.
In these cases, the family should contact a cerebral palsy attorney as soon as possible to determine if the physician and/or hospital should be held accountable for the child’s condition. Only an experienced cerebral palsy lawyer can review the hospital and birth records to determine if further review is needed or if legal action should be considered.
This is a condition in which the child experiences weakness or paralysis of the arm. It is also known as “brachial plexus injury” and caused by pulling can be or traction during a vaginal delivery that can result in stretching of the nerves around the shoulder.
The nerves affected are in the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves controlling the signals emanating from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand.
A complete brachial plexus injury is when damage occurs to the five nerves of the brachial plexus and paralysis of the arm can occur if the damage is extensive. The most severe type is an avulsion, or a severing of the nerve root from the spinal cord. If the nerve is partially damaged, it is an incomplete avulsion in which there is a better chance of recovery.
Although many children do recover, a good number will have to undergo surgery with a poor prognosis for full recovery.
The improper use of forceps during birth can put excessive pressure on the facial nerves. If nerves are torn, the paralysis can be permanent.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
This is a condition characterized by the lack of oxygen to the brain. Brain cells begin to die off as a result of oxygen deprivation. This can occur as the result of respiratory failure, a blocked or ruptured blood vessel, and complications from general anesthesia and other factors. It is not uncommon for death to occur from the lack of oxygen or to result in mental retardation, developmental delay or cerebral palsy.
Responsibility for a birth injury may be difficult to determine as many different parties or entities may be involved. A family that suspects a birth injury needs to consult with birth injury lawyers to determine if the injury was preventable and the parties responsible.
All physicians must meet a certain minimum standard of care defined as the conduct of a reasonable physician practicing under similar conditions and circumstances in that community. The physician may also be responsible for the conduct of nurses, interns, residents and other staff under his or her supervision during the birthing process. A failure to detect, monitor or to diagnose a problem delivery in a timely manner can be grounds for medical malpractice.
Hospitals are also held to standards of care to their patients. They are responsible for the hiring, training and supervision of their staff as well as for staff hired as independent contractors.
Nurses may be held liable for their negligence separate from that of the physician if a birth injury occurs. Nurses are responsible for monitoring the mother’s and the fetus’ condition as well as detecting patterns and changes in heart rates that are indications of infection or lack of oxygen.
Steps to Take
A birth injury requires the experience of birth injury lawyers and cerebral palsy lawyers to thoroughly review the hospital records. Often, an attorney will use an expert, such as other physicians and nurses, to carefully pore over these documents to detect any possible medical errors that were preventable.
There is a time limit for filing a birth injury lawsuit. Therefore, it is essential that the child’s family consult with birth injury attorneys as soon as they suspect a problem or if their child was born with any of the conditions described above.
Insurance issues, time limits, and the requirements for filing a lawsuit can be complicated. Birth injury lawyers can use their experience and resources to help you navigate through an already difficult time.
If you or someone you love has suffered from an injury which occurred during the birthing process, we want to hear your story. Our experienced accident attorneys will review the facts and assist you with your case from beginning to end. We know how to investigate and aggressively pursue medical malpractice claims and we will fight for your rights.