The birth of a child is an exciting event for new parents and family members. In some cases, a delivery team member’s error can cause a severe birth injury that lasts a lifetime. Birth injuries are defined as an impairment of the newborn’s body function or structure due to an adverse event at birth. These include conditions like broken bones, brain bleeds, and injured nerves. The number of birth injuries per 1,000 live births is estimated to be between 0.2 and 37.
The experienced birth injury lawyers at the law firm of Nessler & Associates can help you take legal action against the medical professionals who caused your child’s preventable birth injury. If healthcare professionals did not fulfill their duty of care while assisting in your child’s birth, your lawyer can file a medical malpractice suit on your behalf.
What Causes Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can be caused by physical trauma or medical negligence before, during, or after delivery. Some causes of injury during birth can be prevented, and some arise from complications during delivery. Your doctor may have missed one of the preventable causes of injury.
Failing to recognize fetal macrosomia
When babies weigh over 8 pounds and 13 ounces, they have a higher risk of birth injuries. A healthcare provider who underestimates the baby’s birth weight may not be prepared for complications during vaginal delivery.
Premature babies born before 37 weeks of gestation are more fragile and susceptible to injury because of their underdeveloped immune systems and internal organs. As a result, they are susceptible to infections, birth trauma, and oxygen deprivation, which are factors in birth injuries.
Dystocia is when the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the birth canal. The medical team can request extra medical equipment and other medical personnel. They can also reposition the baby with rotation maneuvers to ease delivery.
In emergencies, they may have to fracture the clavicle to allow birth. This type of fracture can result in nerve damage in the shoulders, causing weakness and paralysis.
Failure to monitor the mother and baby before and after
A medical professional should always watch for the health conditions of both the mother and baby. Babies born to morbidly obese mothers, or those with a body mass index of over 40, have twice the risk of birth injuries. If a baby is positioned buttocks-first, there is a risk of hypoxic brain injury or lack of oxygen to the brain.
In the event of a placenta detachment from the uterus before delivery, the baby can suffer from oxygen deprivation. The medical team must always use their medical training and knowledge to take precautionary measures to save the baby from fetal distress and ensure the mother is safe.
Use of excessive force
Prolonged labor increases the odds the medical team will need to use medical devices, such as forceps or vacuum extractors. These devices can cause birth injuries, such as bleeding and bruising to the head.
The misuse of forceps and vacuum extraction can bruise the baby’s face or head. Sometimes, they can cause facial nerve palsy or paralysis of the facial muscles. If the nerve damage is caused by bruising, the paralysis will resolve independently, but if the nerves are damaged directly, the damage is likely permanent. Possible injuries include minor bruising, nerve damage, bleeding in the brain, and skull fractures.
The most common medication errors during labor and delivery are missed doses and giving the wrong drug. Some drugs commonly used in labor and delivery, such as Oxytocin, are classified as high-alert medications since they can cause significant damage if not appropriately administered.
Types of Birth Injuries
When the delivery team neglects to follow proper procedures and makes medical mistakes during the birthing process, the child can suffer serious injuries. These injuries include brachial plexus palsy, broken bones, and spinal cord damage.
Brachial plexus palsy
Brachial palsy happens when the nerves in the arms and hands are damaged during the delivery process. The incidence of brachial palsy occurs in up to 2.5 per 1,000 live births.
This condition is most commonly associated with shoulder dystocia, breech births, large body size, and assisted delivery. Symptoms of brachial plexus palsy include the inability of the baby to flex their hand or rotate their arm.
Bruising and swelling from the injuries should resolve in a few months. However, torn nerves may result in permanent damage.
There are two types of brachial plexus injury:
- Erbs-Duchenne palsy affects upper arm strength in the arm and shoulder. It is the most common form of brachial plexus palsy.
- Klumpke’s palsy paralyzes the hand muscles, inhibits the grasp reflex, and affects sensation on the ulnar surface of the arm.
- The baby may also experience total arm paralysis, resulting from injury to all the nerve roots leading to the brachial plexus. Phrenic nerve damage leads to rapid breathing with uneven chest motion.
Doctors usually respond to brachial plexus injuries with conservative treatment, including physical therapy. Parents should perform a range of motion exercises to protect the arm’s function during healing. Rarely do severe cases result in permanent weakness on the affected side.
Significant swelling of the baby’s scalp can happen naturally during a vaginal delivery but is more common when using a vacuum extractor. Swelling after vacuum use may be accompanied by bruising or a cut. It usually resolves independently, but complications include dying tissues and systemic infections.
A clavicle fracture is the most common fracture seen in the delivery process and happens in 15 out of every 1,000 births. It occurs naturally if the shoulder gets stuck during delivery or the baby is in a breech presentation. Sometimes, a difficult assisted delivery will cause a broken collarbone.
Spinal cord injuries
If the spine’s nerves are damaged during birth, the baby can develop numbness and paralysis. Some doctors may use excessive force on a baby’s neck or head, causing spinal cord damage. In addition, they may overlook conditions causing spinal damage, such as spina bifida, and neglect to recommend folic acid to the mother to prevent spina bifida before and during pregnancy.
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) results from inadequate oxygen or blood delivery to the brain, causing an injury or brain damage. HIE can cause cerebral palsy, visual impairment, seizures, mental retardation, learning impairment, and epilepsy. HIE requires careful monitoring and management to prevent subsequent inflammation from worsening the damage.
Birth injuries caused by medical negligence can leave families struggling financially and emotionally for years to come. A birth injury lawyer at Nessler & Associates believes the team that delivered your child should be held liable for their negligence.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Baby Has a Birth Injury
Some birth injury victims don’t show signs of injury for months. You must contact your pediatrician to seek medical care if your newborn child has:
- Soft bulges on the head
- The inability to suck
- An arched back while crying
- Spastic motions or seizures
Also, tell your pediatrician if your baby doesn’t smile, makes no direct eye contact, or does not make any gurgling noises in the first two months. Remember to save your medical bills related to your child’s treatment for their birth injuries.
Keep records of all medical records relating to the delivery of your baby, including medical bills and medication costs. Photos may show the procedures taken during delivery, and videos may feature audio of the medical team’s conversations.
You can then contact a birth injury lawyer from Nessler & Associates to help you with the legal process of filing a birth injury claim.
Who May be Held Liable in a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
Birth injury cases may have multiple liable parties involving attending doctors and nurses at the time of delivery. Hospitals can also be held liable for their negligence in protecting patients from injury and performing clinical testing.
The court usually decides negligence in a birth injury case based on whether the medical providers and the hospital complied with the medical standard of care. This means that if they did not meet the minimum standards for care set by their medical specialty organization, they could be found liable for damages.
An experienced birth injury attorney with Nessler & Associates can work with you to help you understand the legal process involved in a medical malpractice claim. Your attorney can help you navigate the medical malpractice laws and the damages you may receive for your child’s birth injuries and medical treatment.
Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Laws
The state of Illinois does not have a cap for damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. You can seek economic and non-economic damages. Compensation in a medical malpractice claim include the following costs:
- Hospital costs
- Follow-up doctor visits
- Rehabilitation including physical therapy and occupational therapy
- Ongoing care related to the injury. Spinal cord injuries may require assistive medical devices such as wheelchairs and home modifications to allow your child mobility.
Non-economic damages include:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of bodily function
- Physical pain and suffering
A Birth Injury Lawyer Can Help Your Case
The insurance companies may claim you caused the preventable injury by disregarding the doctor’s instructions or skipping appointments. They will use anything they can to minimize their liability.
An experienced personal injury attorney knows the tactics these companies use and how to fight back. They can help you in the following ways:
- Investigate your claim by examining all the records and interviewing the witnesses.
- Consult with medical experts to determine the cause of the birth injury. These experts can determine if the birth injury was preventable if the delivery team followed standard protocols and provided proper care for your baby.
- Refer to economic experts to describe the non-economic losses you have suffered. This allows the lawyer to calculate a fair settlement.
- If the insurance companies refuse to offer a fair settlement, your lawyer can take them to court. They can call on expert witnesses to testify to the cause of the injury, its effects on the baby’s entire life, and the non-financial losses you’ve suffered.
Contact Our Experienced Birth Injury Lawyers Today
The birth injury attorneys at Nessler & Associates can work hard on your behalf to put together a birth injury claim and help you get financial compensation. You can rely on our knowledge and experience in medical malpractice, particularly birth injury cases, to help you pursue legal action.
Call our law firm at (800) 727-8010 to schedule a free initial consultation.