Babies and mothers commonly suffer injuries during childbirth. Many injuries occur because of the physical challenges of labor, but some are preventable and caused by a medical provider’s mistakes or carelessness.
If you or your newborn sustained injuries immediately before, during, or after childbirth, negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse, or another healthcare worker could be to blame. If that is the case, you could have the right to seek financial compensation for the stress, expense, pain, and suffering you or your baby endured. An experienced birth injury attorney can help you explore your options.
Birth Injuries and Medical Negligence
Childbirth whether natural (vaginal) or by Caesarian section is a physically demanding process that subjects babies and mothers to significant strains. Babies commonly suffer birth injuries during their trip through the birth canal, especially when they’re larger or positioned awkwardly in utero. Mothers, too, frequently sustain injuries from the extreme pressures labor places on their bodies.
But new moms and medical professionals know that there’s a difference between the expected impact of the birthing process and preventable trauma resulting from a failure of someone on the labor and delivery team to do their job correctly. Many birth injuries to babies and mothers can result from medical negligence.
Injuries to Babies
Some of the same injuries babies frequently suffer naturally during a vaginal birth can also occur because of medical errors and carelessness. Head injuries like cuts, bruising, bleeding, facial nerve injuries that cause temporary or lasting paralysis, and hemorrhaging outside or inside the skull can result from a baby being pressed against a mother’s pelvic bones during labor.
However, the same injuries could occur if a provider unnecessarily or improperly uses forceps or other tools to extract the newborn from the birth canal. Broken bones and brachial plexus (neck and shoulder nerve) injuries can occur from pressures on the baby’s body during natural birth but could also result from a provider’s aggressive or unskilled attempts to reposition a baby.
Other birth injuries frequently reflect a medical team’s negligence in assessing potential risk factors like prematurity or maternal obesity, monitoring the baby’s or mother’s health condition, or performing a vaginal or C-section delivery. For instance, perinatal asphyxia (disruption of the baby’s blood or oxygen supply during labor and delivery) often results from a maternal or fetal health problem or birth-related emergency that a medical provider should spot and know how to correct before it causes severe harm.
Medical errors or lapses in judgment in those situations can lead to the baby suffering a brain injury that causes a stroke, coma, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, or even death. Similarly, a spinal cord injury during birth rarely happens organically and may indicate a medical professional’s tragic mishandling of the fetus or misdiagnosis of a high-risk health condition.
Injuries to Mothers
Mothers frequently sustain injuries like vaginal tears, nerve damage, and even broken bones during childbirth. If medical providers fail to treat common maternal birth injuries, new moms could suffer acute emergencies like uncontrolled bleeding and infections or lasting problems like incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Reasonably skilled medical workers must also be prepared to treat potentially serious labor and delivery complications like a uterine rupture, placental abruption, or cardiovascular events. The negligent failure to recognize and protect against these conditions can cause severe harm or even death to a new mother.
The High Costs of Birth Injuries Caused by Medical Negligence
Injuries to children and mothers during childbirth tend to inflict extreme physical, emotional, and financial pain. That trauma falls not just on the physically injured victims of medical negligence but also on their families, loved ones, and communities.
The Physical Toll of Birth Injuries
Newborns who sustain birth injuries caused by medical negligence stand a good chance of suffering from severe pain and discomfort. Additionally, they frequently face other physical struggles that might delay their development or burden them with disabilities.
For example, a child’s birth injury can result in partial or total paralysis, impaired brain function, damage to vital organs, or physical deformities all due to a medical professional’s lapse in judgment or careless mistake.
Injured mothers face similar physical hardships when medical negligence strikes during labor and delivery. They may struggle with long-term incontinence and other complications from pelvic trauma. Undiagnosed and untreated complications during childbirth can cause strokes or cardiac arrest, leaving a mother with a brain injury or clinging to life. Childbirth injuries resulting from negligence such as surgical errors during a C-section might rob a mother of the ability to bear children in the future.
The Emotional Toll of Birth Injuries
It is difficult to measure a baby’s emotional suffering from a birth injury caused by negligence, but it undoubtedly happens. Clearer is the suffering a child endures from living with the long-term consequences of a medical error. Birth injury-related health problems, mobility challenges, and developmental delays commonly lead to childhood depression, anxiety, and social struggles.
Mothers who suffer injuries in childbirth also suffer a heavy emotional toll. A maternal birth injury can spark anxiety and may deepen a pregnancy-related depression. The long-term effects of a birth injury to a mother may also lead to substance abuse or self-harm.
And it’s not just injured children and moms who suffer emotionally from a birth injury caused by medical negligence. Fathers, siblings, grandparents, and others grieve a birth injury’s profound impact. The stress of treating and managing a loved one’s birth injury, and the anger and frustration that comes from knowing it was preventable, can disrupt familial and intimate relationships and have long-lasting consequences for everyone affected.
The Financial Toll of Birth Injuries
The massive financial impact of a birth injury can last a lifetime. The expense of treating an injury to a baby or new mother routinely reaches into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of which the family will have to pay if insurance does not cover it. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Birth injuries to children or moms may also have lasting consequences that require years of treatment and support, costing beyond what insurance covers. They might also result in disabilities that limit a victim’s future earning potential or career opportunities or may require a parent or spouse to leave the workforce to provide full-time care. Entire families suffer profound financial consequences when medical negligence causes harm.
So do communities. Preventable birth injuries prevent victims and caregivers from reaching their full potential in life. They cause anguish and disruption, expanding outward like ripples on a pond, affecting the people around the victim. And they raise insurance premiums and care costs for everyone.
Seeking Justice and Compensation for Preventable Birth Injuries
The court system cannot magically cure a birth injury or erase the pain and suffering medical negligence causes. But it can achieve a measure of justice for victims, families, and communities affected by a healthcare worker’s careless or reckless mistakes. Through detailed investigation, careful preparation, and aggressive advocacy, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can force medical providers to bear the cost of their errors and pay fair compensation to those they’ve harmed.
Overview of Legal Liability for Medical Negligence
Healthcare providers individuals and organizations alike owe a special duty to the people they treat. By law, they must always provide a minimum acceptable standard of care to their patients. Carelessly, recklessly, or intentionally falling below that standard constitutes medical negligence, also known as medical malpractice.
The medical standard of care is at once a firm and flexible concept. We expect licensed medical professionals to possess certain skills and competencies while recognizing that the quality of care they can provide might also depend on the setting and circumstances in which a patient seeks treatment. The minimum acceptable standard of labor and delivery care demanded of a big city OB/GYN specializing in high-risk pregnancies differs from that of an EMT who must deliver a baby in the back seat of a car stranded in a snowstorm.
Put another way, not every poor labor and delivery outcome constitutes medical negligence. The law does not blame doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers for every birth injury, because even the best care can’t prevent some harm babies and moms might suffer. But the law does hold providers accountable for birth injuries they could and should have prevented by providing the level of care we reasonably expect of them under the circumstances.
Compensation for a Preventable Birth Injury
A medical malpractice lawyer’s job is to secure financial compensation for victims of birth injuries caused by a medical provider unacceptably falling short of the minimum standard of labor and delivery care. The lawyer, often working with one or more medical experts, compiles evidence of the provider’s failures and presents arguments to insurance companies and courts for why the provider should pay for the resulting harm.
Every birth injury negligence case differs.
But generally, a successful medical negligence claim for a birth injury can secure compensation for:
- The immediate medical costs of treating a birth injury, include emergency care, hospital stays, surgeries, and medications.
- The long-term medical expenses related to supporting or living with a birth injury, such as rehabilitation, therapy (physical, mental health, and occupational), medical and mobility equipment, and in-home care.
- Other expenses flow directly from a birth injury, such as the cost of everyday support services like transportation or childcare or of modifying living spaces to accommodate a birth injury-related disability.
- Wages lost from missing work while healing from a birth injury or tending to an injured baby.
- Lost future income or earnings potentially attributable to a birth injury-related disability.
- Physical pain, emotional suffering, inconvenience, diminished quality of life, and harm to a family or intimate relationships.
Depending on the circumstances, compensation for these damages can reach hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of dollars. Additionally, in some cases, a medical provider’s failure to meet the minimum standard of care was so outrageous that a lawyer can secure extra compensation for victims in the form of punitive damages.
How do you know if medical negligence caused a birth injury?
It’s rarely obvious that medical negligence caused a birth injury to you or your baby. Medical providers often point out that birth injuries commonly happen during labor and delivery, even when everything goes right. But they also have a strong financial incentive not to admit something went wrong.
The most reliable way to find out if a birth injury resulted from medical negligence is to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as you become aware of the harm you or your baby suffered. A lawyer can take prompt action to secure important medical records and analyze what happened. The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the better the chances of revealing negligence at the root of a birth injury.
If an attorney spots telltale signs of medical negligence, you can decide whether to authorize a deeper dive into the facts and legal action to enforce your rights.
With your permission, an attorney can often:
- Interview medical staff on the labor and delivery team.
- Consult with medical experts about your case.
- Demand compensation from a provider’s medical malpractice insurance carrier.
- Take the necessary steps under your state’s laws to preserve your potential rights to file a medical negligence lawsuit.
- Prepare and file a birth injury lawsuit on your behalf.
- Negotiate a fair out-of-court settlement of your birth injury claim.
- Take your case to trial to seek a jury award of damages for the preventable birth injuries you or your baby suffered.
Attorneys cannot guarantee results in medical negligence cases. But you can give yourself the strongest chance of getting justice and damages for a birth injury if you entrust your case to a lawyer with an established track record of success in medical negligence cases.
Contact an Experienced Birth Injury Medical Negligence Attorney Today
Do not wait to seek legal help if you suspect a birth injury caused by medical negligence. You may have only limited time to take legal action to preserve your rights and protect your future.
Contact an experienced medical negligence attorney today for a free, confidential, no-obligation case consultation about your child’s birth injury.