On some occasions during childbirth, the newborn may suffer physical injury. When that injury is the result of medical negligence or malpractice, it is known as a birth injury. The doctor or nurse who was involved may be brought to court and held responsible.
Birth problems in the United States have been greatly reduced in recent years due to increased medical knowledge and competence and good prenatal checkups. However, in many births, there are certain risk factors that doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel must be aware of to reduce the possibility of problems such as injuries. They include prolonged labor, premature birth, unusual fetal position such as a breech birth, and abnormally large or small birth weight. Obesity in the mother can also be a risk factor at birth.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries range from mild to permanent and tragic. Bruises on the face, which may be the result of passing through the birth canal, usually disappear without complication. However, in cases where a lack of oxygen caused permanent brain and muscle damage, the result may be a life spent in a wheelchair. The more common types of birth injuries include:
- Broken bones, usually involving the collarbone or clavicle during delivery; healing usually occurs quickly.
- Erb’s palsy, or brachial palsy, which affects the nerves that control the arms and hands; normal movement usually returns in a few months. However, in some cases the injury may be permanent and result in loss of use of an arm.
- Cerebral palsy (CP), caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain before or during birth; may result in permanently impaired physical movement, brain function,and sight.
- Injury to the spinal cord, which may cause permanent paralysis.
If your child has suffered any type of birth injury, you may believe that one or more of the medical staff was responsible through negligence or misconduct. In that case, you may seek the services of a birth injury lawyer to file a medical malpractice claim.
If you decide to contact a birth injury lawyer, what can you expect he or she will do in your case? Let us use cerebral palsy after childbirth as an example. On average, this disorder that impairs the brain and nervous system occurs in about 1 in every 300 births, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)). In many cases, it is caused by the negligence of medical personnel. Mild or severe, cerebral palsy will affect that child throughout his or her life. Treating this condition will be difficult and expensive. Your birth injury lawyer will fight for the support and compensation to which you are entitled as a result of medical incompetence or negligence.
Your birth injury lawyer will protect your rights and the rights of your child to get the compensation that is deserved. In order to file a claim, the attorney must be able to show the following:
- The medical personnel you are suing are the ones directly responsible for the injury.
- Negligence led to the injury. Such negligence might include failure to perform a necessary C-section, failure to monitor the baby, failure to warn the mother of any high pregnancy risks, administering the wrong medication before, during, and after birth, and using forceps improperly. In other words, an acceptable standard of care was not used.
- The injured party is entitled to compensation.
- Incompetence or neglect by the medical personnel led directly to the birth injuryas opposed to a natural cause such as very prolonged labor.
The first and third points are fairly easy to prove and usually are not contested, so the basis of work for the birth injury lawyer centers on the second and fourth points. The accepted standard of care today is usually based on national standards as well as the usual standards of local doctors. If the doctor in your case failed to meet those standards, that is negligence.The fourth point is usually the most contested and expensive part of any medical malpractice case since the birth injury lawyer must show that the injury was directly the result of substandard care. It isn’t proof enough just to show that a doctor or nurse made a mistake. It must be shown that the mistake actually caused the damage.
To prove the fourth point, your birth injury lawyer may bring in an expert witness who will explain in testimony how the negligence of the doctor or nurse in question caused the injury. These experts also usually explain the standard of care that directly applies to your case and how it was violated. Such a witness is often another doctor or someone in the medical field.