Any parent preparing for a new baby hopes that their child is healthy and happy for the rest of his or her life. They expect that the healthcare providers overseeing their care as well as the care of their unborn child are doing their best. They also expect that the hospital where they deliver will be prepared for the task ahead.
Sadly, infants are born in the United States every day with medical conditions and injuries. Sometimes the baby is born with an undiagnosed birth defect, while other times the physician or staff at the hospital cause the injury.
While to err is human, these errors leave parents devastated and often managing the financial devastation that comes along with a birth injury by themselves. That is why the law allows these victims to file a birth injury lawsuit against the physicians responsible. When injuries or defects occur due to medical negligence, parents can hold the physician, hospital, or another healthcare provider accountable financially.
Is a Birth Defect an Injury?
No, a defect itself is not an injury. Instead, birth defects come from a baby’s DNA and are determined long before the baby is born. Defects such as Down Syndrome or a heart murmur cannot be caused by a physician’s negligence, in most cases. However, there are some instances where a defect is the result of a doctor’s negligence.
For example, when a physician fails to diagnose and treat an infection in an unborn child or the mother, that infection could cause a defect that was preventable. Therefore, in this case, the physician would be responsible for the defect.
Birth injuries are physical injuries that occur during labor and delivery, and most of the time they are preventable. These injuries can occur during improper handling of the baby, poor monitoring for fetal distress, and failure to perform a cesarean surgery when necessary.
Birth Injuries are More Common than You Think
There is a great deal that can go wrong during those nine months of pregnancy or those few hours of labor. In fact, one article from the United States Library of Medicine found that something as simple as too much pressure on an infant during delivery can lead to facial nerve disorders.
Birth injuries are more common than you think. In fact, the incidence rate of birth injury is 7 per 1,000 births in the United States, and there are an estimated 2,333 birth injuries in the United States every month – which equates to about 3 injuries per hour.
Most Common Types of Birth Injuries
A variety of actions or inactions can lead to birth injuries. While a vast majority of these occur during labor and delivery, some occur early in the pregnancy.
Common complications and injuries include:
- Brachial Plexus Injury – A brachial plexus injury, known as Klumpke’s Palsy or Erb’s Palsy, occurs in 1 out of 1,000 births in the United States and is the result of improper care during delivery. A person’s brachial plexus consists of five nerve groups in a single network that runs from the fingers to the spinal cord into the thoracic vertebrae and cervical vertebrae. Ruptures or tears of these nerves lead to this condition.
- Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy occurs when the infant suffers irreversible damage to the brain. Symptoms include impaired movement and motor function disabilities. Typically, this injury occurs when the infant suffers trauma, oxygen deprivation or is born prematurely.
- Spina Bifida – When the baby’s spine and brain’s neural tube suffers defects, it can lead to malformations on the base of the spine causing spina bifida. Physicians should monitor the mother’s folic acid levels and encourage more folic acid to prevent such damage.
- Overdoses of Folic Acid – While mothers need folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, too much could lead to a disorder, miscarriage or premature birth.
- Shoulder Dystocia – Infants too large to be born naturally may become stuck on their mother’s pelvic bone, leading to shoulder dystocia. Often the child will need his or her collarbone broken to safely remove the infant, but the baby could suffer from oxygen deprivation, reduced blood flow, and permanent injuries.
- Pulmonary Hypertension – When a baby cannot breathe after delivery, they may have pulmonary hypertension, which is caused by blood circulation failing to pass through the lungs and the pulmonary artery failing to function.
- Cephalohematoma – When forceps or other birthing devices are used too forcefully, a child may suffer from bleeding in between the skull and subepidermal membrane.
- Developmental Delays – These injuries are not seen right away, but often occur from a lack of oxygen during labor or delivery.
Are all Birth Injuries Preventable?
In most cases, a birth injury should never happen. When a physician monitors their patient throughout the pregnancy and during delivery, they can predict potential issues and resolve them quickly. It is when a physician makes the wrong decision or fails to recognize distress that injuries occur.
Also, miscommunication is a common reason for these defect and injury cases. Whether it is the doctor and hospital or the patient and doctor, a slight miscommunication can still lead to a tragic injury.
Assessing the Options for Compensation
The last thing on your mind after your delivery is filing a lawsuit, even when an injury occurs. After all, you need to treat your baby, yourself, and figure out where you go from here. Months afterward, you may realize how difficult it is to treat your infant’s injury.
Not only may you be unable to work, but your child may require specialized, costly care for the rest of his or her life. At this point, you must consider your options for compensation. When you find yourself unsure where to go next, speak with a medical malpractice attorney.
Do You Need a Malpractice or Birth Injury Attorney?
If you suspect that you and/or your child was the victim of medical negligence, you need an attorney. An attorney can help investigate the errors and determine if negligence was to blame. Some birth injuries occur with no known reason, and some will happen even when physicians and nursing staff perform as they should. Other times, healthcare mistakes lead to these tragedies. The only way to know if you truly have a case is to consult with a malpractice attorney.
Your attorney does more than just seek compensation. They do multiple things for you so that the entire process is as easy as possible for you and your family.
- An attorney investigates. The attorney has a team of investigators, including medical professionals ready to consult on your case. This helps you gather evidence faster to present your claim.
- An attorney assembles a care plan. Your attorney can help you make a care plan for your child, which also helps you plan financially for your child’s care after the lawsuit is over.
- An attorney helps you seek compensation. You may not be aware of all the costs associated with your child’s long-term care needs. However, an attorney experienced in birth injuries is more than aware and can help you seek that compensation – and ensure you get the maximum amount possible to care for your child.
The Statute of Limitations for a Birth Injury Case
The law limits how long you have to file a lawsuit in a birth injury case. In the state of Connecticut, you have a maximum of three years to file your lawsuit from the date of the injury, but your lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of discovery. Unlike other states, in Connecticut the statute of limitations is not postponed until the child is no longer a minor. Therefore, do not assume you have until your child is 18 years old to file your lawsuit – if you do, it will be too late.
Pursuing a Claim
You find yourself in a difficult position. You know your child has needs, but you are too busy caring for those needs to handle the magnitude of a lawsuit. That is why an attorney is needed in this process. Your attorney will help you through time-consuming tasks so that you can focus on what matters the most: taking care of your child.
Your attorney is likely to take the case on a contingency basis – which means that you owe nothing until you get compensation. Your attorney will pay all upfront expenses, and if you do not recover compensation, you owe your attorney nothing.
Speak with a Birth Injury Attorney in Connecticut Today
If your newborn has suffered a birth injury, and you suspect that injury was caused by someone’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation against the at-fault party.