Pittsburgh Birth Injury Attorneys
When parents joyously await the birth of a baby, they are devastated when they discover that the baby suffers from an illness or defect that will need long-term treatment and may result in permanent disabilities. To discover that this condition was caused by something a doctor or delivery nurse did during labor can be even more devastating. If a member of the delivery team acted negligently or carelessly and that resulted in damage to your baby, you may have a strong claim for medical negligence. While a financial settlement will not change what happened, it will help you get the care and treatment your newborn deserves.
What Is a Birth Injury?
It is important to understand the difference between an injury caused by medical staff during labor and delivery and a genetic disorder. The delivery team is not responsible for an illness or defect the baby had in utero. However, if someone’s actions caused harm to an otherwise healthy baby during delivery, he or she can be held responsible. The most common birth injuries resulting in medical malpractice claims include the following:
- Cerebral palsy. Caused by brain damage occurring just before or during birth, cerebral palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle tone, and reflex. Individuals can suffer severe physical impairment for which there is no cure or treatment. Lack of oxygen during delivery can cause cerebral palsy in newborns. If a doctor fails to monitor the baby for fetal distress during labor, he may be responsible for the resulting injury.
- Brachial plexus injury. When the nerves in the neck and shoulder area are damaged or severed during delivery, the result can be an inability to use the muscles of the upper arm, shoulder, and hand. Depending on the severity of the injury, damage could be temporary or the child could suffer from a loss of arm function for life. Two types of brachial plexus injury include Erb’s palsy, affecting the upper arm, and Klumpke’s palsy, affecting the nerves of the lower arm.
- Fractures. A baby may suffer bone fractures during a difficult delivery, particularly if forceps or a vacuum extractor are used. A common birth injury is a broken clavicle, which may heal—but will cause the baby unnecessary pain and suffering. Babies should not suffer broken bones while being born.
- Facial paralysis. When facial nerves are stretched or torn during a difficult delivery, the baby can lose function of facial muscles, resulting in paralysis and a changed appearance. Sometimes the paralysis is temporary and dissipates over time, other times it is permanent.
- Brain damage. When forceps are used improperly during delivery, the baby’s soft skull can be crushed, causing brain bleeds and brain damage. The damage could result in cerebral palsy, seizures, or developmental delays. Bruising on the scalp and swelling of the head can be indications of brain damage following a forceps delivery.
- Spinal cord damage. Misuse of forceps in extreme cases can cause damage to the baby’s spinal cord, resulting in limb paralysis or neurological damage. This is one of the most extreme birth injuries and it will take a medical expert to connect the damage to what happened during delivery.
Many of these injuries can be avoided with a timely Caesarian section, but doctors often avoid this costly procedure. When a newborn suffers unnecessarily or is permanently disabled because of a botched delivery, the medical team should be held accountable.
Contact a Birth Injury Attorney as Soon as Possible
While it is true that sometimes there are bad medical outcomes and no one is to blame, if a doctor takes an action that another doctor in his shoes likely would not have taken—or does not take an action that another doctor reasonably would have taken—that doctor is likely guilty of malpractice. By pursuing a birth malpractice lawsuit, you are not only holding that doctor accountable for his mistake, but you are ensuring the long-term financial security of your injured child. It is important that the investigation into the possibility of malpractice begin as soon as possible. If something goes wrong during your baby’s delivery, do not sign anything for the hospital or agree to any amount of money before you talk to an experienced birth injury attorney. Call us to share your story and we will let you know whether you have a malpractice claim.
Frequently Asked Birth Injury Questions
What types of birth injuries could be caused by failure to respond to fetal distress?
Doctors, nurses, and other OB/GYN personnel often use fetal monitoring devices to evaluate an unborn baby’s wellbeing at prenatal checkups, and during the labor and delivery process.
Fetal monitoring allows medical providers to watch for signs that an unborn baby may be in distress, such as decreased or fluctuating heart rate, hypoxia, stained amniotic fluid, oligohydraminos (amniotic fluid deficiency), and placental abruption.
When fetal distress is detected and the cause is treated in a timely manner, birth injuries may be avoided. However, if doctors and nurses fail to recognize fetal distress or treat its cause, serious birth injuries may be the result.
Birth injuries associated with a failure to respond to fetal distress include:
- Fetal bone fractures
- Fetal organ damage
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, which is brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation
- Developmental delays
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy
Many of these conditions may result in the need for expensive long-term and sometimes lifelong medical treatment. If the birth injuries were directly caused by medical negligence, victims may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, medical malpractice birth injury victims may have grounds for legal action against the negligent doctor, nurse, or other medical provider, as well as the hospital or medical facility where that defendant works or has privileges.
Is the doctor or hospital accountable for my child’s birth injury?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children born in the United States each year is just shy of 4 million. While the vast majority of these infants are delivered safely, approximately 28,000 sustain birth injuries.
Not all birth injuries can be avoided, but many are preventable and the result of negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, hospital, or other medical provider or facility.
When a doctor or another health care worker causes a birth injury, filing a medical malpractice birth injury lawsuit can help hold the responsible party accountable. In some cases, negligent medical professionals and the health care facilities that employee them or grant them privileges may share in liability.
Nurses, doctors and other medical staff tasked with caring for the mother and child during pregnancy, labor and delivery may potentially be held liable for birth injuries caused by:
- Use of excessive force
- Incorrect use of forceps and vacuum extractors
- Administration of dangerous medications
- Administration of incorrect medication dosages
- Lack of oxygen
- Failing to recognize and address fetal distress
- Delayed cesarean section procedure
A hospital or other health care facility may share liability for birth injuries if it failed to confirm a medical professional’s training and credentials before hiring him or granting him privileges to practice at the facility. A facility could also be liable if it failed to ensure that a sufficient number of doctors and other health care providers are present to ensure the best patient care.
What if I am injured while giving birth?
Nearly 4 million babies are born each year in the United States. However, though pregnancy, labor, and delivery are extremely routine, they’re not without risk.
In fact, approximately 700 women die due to pregnancy or delivery complications annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many more suffer serious injuries.
While some pregnancy or delivery injuries and complications are unavoidable, others were preventable with the proper prenatal and childbirth care.
When doctors, nurses, and other medical providers make serious errors or fail to take appropriate actions, the consequences to both the mother and child can be devastating.
Examples of birth injuries to mothers that may be caused by negligent health care workers include:
- Preeclampsia. If undiagnosed or untreated, high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a condition known as preeclampsia, which might cause seizures, cognitive problems, or the death of the mother and/or child.
- C-section complications. Delayed C-sections or improperly-performed surgical births can result in broken pelvic bones, injuries to the uterus or bladder, or subsequent infections.
- Episiotomy complications. Making a small incision in the vaginal tissue during childbirth may aid in delivery, but if performed or sutured incorrectly, episiotomies may cause excessive bleeding or nerve damage, or lead to infection.
- Anesthesia complications. Many women opt for spinal epidurals, narcotics, or other anesthesia options to ease the pain of childbirth. While under the effects of these treatments, vitals such as heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure must be closely monitored to prevent injury.
Mothers who’ve sustained a serious birth injury due to a medical provider’s negligence may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, and be entitled to compensation for injuries and other losses.
What compensation can I get if my newborn is permanently injured during the labor and delivery process?
Welcoming a new baby is one of the most joyous occasions a family can experience.
However, when a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional fails to provide an acceptable standard of care during the pregnancy or labor and delivery process, serious birth injuries can result.
Sadly, some of these injuries can cause permanent health problems or impairments.
Examples of permanent birth injuries related to medical malpractice include:
- Perinatal asphyxia. When an infant is deprived of oxygen during labor or delivery, the resulting long-term impairments can include seizures, cerebral palsy, and developmental disabilities.
- Intracranial hemorrhage. Often caused by the misuse of labor and delivery tools such as forceps and vacuum extractors, an intracranial hemorrhage is bleeding between the skull and brain which, if serious, can lead to physical and intellectual impairments.
- Cerebral palsy. This occurs when an infant sustains a brain injury in the womb or during labor and delivery. Cerebral palsy can cause an array of impairments, including problems with balance and muscle control, exaggerated reflexes, and other complications.
- Facial nerve palsy. Damage to these nerves during labor or delivery can result in permanently paralyzed facial muscles.
- Spinal cord injuries. Tearing or bruising of the spinal cord during labor and delivery can result in intellectual disabilities, partial or total paralysis, and even death.
- Fetal or maternal death. Serious birth injuries may result in the death of the mother or child.
Any of the above permanent birth injuries can result in crushing medical debt. Pennsylvania law allows the parents of children who suffered birth injuries as a result of medical malpractice to seek compensation for a wide range of economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses related to the birth injury, including doctor and hospital visits, medications, therapies, assistive devices, and daily assistive care
- Compensation for lost lifetime earnings for children who will be unable to work due to their birth injuries
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Loss of quality or enjoyment of life
- Physical impairment
- Permanent disability
My infant suffered an injury during delivery. How do I know if I have a birth injury case?
A birth injury is caused during labor or shortly after delivery. If your infant suffered a birth injury, he or she could have to deal with the life-long consequences of suffering with a brain injury, cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy or other medical conditions. These devastating medical conditions can affect his mobility, ability to reason, concentration, memory, vision, hearing, and more.
What makes birth injury cases so tragic is that a newborn would have most likely been healthy if a doctor, nurse, or other medical provider had not committed medical malpractice.
How to Determine If You Have a Birth Injury Claim
It can be difficult to build a case for birth injury negligence, because not all injuries are caused by medical malpractice. You need the assistance of our experienced Pittsburgh birth injury attorneys who can review your infant’s medical records, hire the necessary experts, and evaluate the circumstances regarding your baby’s birth to determine whether you have a claim.
However, you can get an idea about whether you have a valid case by understanding what needs to be proven in order to pursue a claim against a doctor, nurse, health care provider, or hospital for malpractice. You would need to show the following:
- Doctor-patient relationship. You must show that there was a doctor-patient relationship between the mother, baby, and doctor. If your doctor was treating you during the labor and delivery of your baby, you should be able to establish this.
- Breach of duty of care. A key element of your claim is a physician, nurse, or another member of the birthing team breached the applicable standard of care that a reasonable professional would have followed in a situation similar to yours. In order to establish this, your attorney would most likely need to retain an expert witness.
- Damages. You must establish that your baby suffered injuries, and they were caused by a medical professional’s malpractice.
Common Mistakes That May Lead to a Birth Injury Claim
There are many medical mistakes that can result in an infant suffering a birth injury. Ways that a medical professional may have committed malpractice include:
- Failing to recognize fetal distress and take actions to stabilize the condition
- Incorrectly using forceps during delivery
- Applying excessive force
- Failing to recognize and respond to your fetus experiencing a lack of oxygen
- Failing to follow up with you and your baby after delivery
- Administering dangerous drugs or the wrong dosage of a medication
- Failing to perform a cesarean section when necessary