Nine long months have passed while you anxiously awaited the arrival of your little bundle of joy. You remember feeling the first kick and imagining the perfect little life is inside of you. Unfortunately, things didn’t play out the way you expected, and complications at your child’s birth caused serious, life-altering injuries or death to your newborn.
In an instant, what should be one of the happiest moments of your life may end up leaving you with despair and heartache. What makes your despair and pain even worse is that it was due to someone else’s mistake and lack of due care. Injuries to your baby caused during delivery can require life-long care and can seriously impact your child’s quality of life. Babies may sustain fractured bones, nerve damage, cerebral palsy, or paralysis from mistakes made at birth. While you expect the greatest care to be given to you and your baby in a hospital, terrible mistakes and oversight can leave you or your baby with a devastating injury and huge medical costs and result in the shattering of one’s hopes and dreams for their family.
Injuries sustained during childbirth can cause long-term effects to a newborn. Many issues are outgrown eventually, but some injuries are permanent and cause ongoing disabilities that will likely affect your child for the rest of their life.
Many childbirth injuries are not caused by random chance or by unavoidable mistakes, but rather by injuries that the baby suffers during the birth procedure. If your child was severely injured at birth due to negligence or other improper acts by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professionals, you may wonder how you will support your child’s additional needs and cover your hospital bills. However, you may be entitled to compensation for a birth injury. The attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm have more than three decades of experience with severe personal injuries and wrongful deaths and may be able to fight for you. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation, call (215) 709-6940 today. You could also contact the firm online to schedule your free case review.
Are All Birth Injuries “Medical Malpractice”?
Many people seem to think that all bad medical results constitute medical malpractice. While such a legal framework would be favorable to the victims of a medical mistake, the law is more complexed and nuanced. Essentially, while an injury, death, or bad medical outcome is an element of a medical malpractice claim it takes more than an injury to give rise to a compensable birth injury or another medical malpractice claim. The “something more” is a deviation from an accepted standard of medical care. Thus, there must be not only an injury but also a breach in the duty to provide medical care. Furthermore, several other legal elements – such as causation – must be proven by the injury victim in a birth injury case. Working with strategic and aggressive lawyers who understand the types of evidence and expert witnesses required to prove your case can increase the likelihood of a financial recovery to support your child.
What is a Birth Injury?
Birth injuries occur when a healthy baby sustains traumatic injuries during the birthing process. Examples of birth injuries include nerve damage, broken bones, oxygen deprivation to the brain or other internal organs, and hemorrhaging. Note, however, that maternal birth injuries are also possible. For example, if a doctor does not consider the safety of a mother during delivery, she could sustain serious injuries such as vaginal tears, internal hemorrhaging, and many other medical issues that could turn fatal.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
Unfortunately, there are an array of injuries that can be inflicted on a baby during the birthing process. These injuries can vary in severity, but the bottom line is that they are avoidable but for a medical professional’s negligence or other improper actions. Birth injuries caused by medical malpractice can include:
- Erb’s Palsy – Erb’s Palsy is an injury to the brachial plexus nerves that run through the arm and other areas of the body. If a newborn develops Erb’s Palsy, they could have experienced a loss of sensation in certain areas of the body or could even have severe trouble with fine motor skills.
- Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy is often the result of a child sustaining trauma to the head during delivery. When this happens, the child could experience issues with walking, eating, and could miss one or more developmental milestones.
- Shoulder Dystocia – Shoulder dystocia is a condition where an infant’s shoulders become trapped in the birth canal, which could cause bone fractures or a brachial plexus injury.
- Cord Prolapse – An umbilical cord prolapse happens when the umbilical cord slips outside of the womb before the infant is delivered. As a result, the oxygen and nutrients the child needs for a safe delivery will be impeded, which can result in brain damage and other serious issues.
- Group B Strep Infections – It is the obligation of a medical practitioner to monitor a mother and a child to ensure that the pregnancy is not threatened due to an infection. Unfortunately, some doctors will fail to diagnose conditions like Group B strep that could seriously affect a child and mother.
- Failure to respond to fetal distress or monitor the condition of the baby
- Misuse of forceps
- Inappropriate administration of Pitocin
- Failure to observe or respond to umbilical cord entrapment
- Failure to appropriately respond to bleeding
- Failure to attempt to delay premature labor
- Failure to control high blood pressure, eclampsia, or seizures of the mother
- Allowing labor to go on too long
- Failure to administer oxygen during labor
- Delay in performing C-section
- Failure to recognize or treat placental abruption
- Failing to properly treat shoulder dystocia
- Failure to provide antibiotics when needed
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many birth injuries that could result from medical malpractice, such as bone fractures, hemorrhaging, sepsis, cephalohematoma, and many others.
Negligence and malpractice on the part of an obstetrician, nurse, midwife, anesthesiologist, paramedic, or another medical professional could lead to catastrophic birth injuries to your child. Failing to monitor the baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels could lead to oxygen deprivation and a catastrophic brain injury with grave, life-long consequences. Lack of oxygen to the baby during birth can cause cerebral palsy, which causes delays in motor development, and problems swallowing, communicating, and walking. A physician’s incorrect use of forceps may cause facial paralysis and bruising to your baby. Failure to correctly identify and treat shoulder dystocia often leads to Erb’s Palsy or brachial plexus injuries and result in permanent paralysis.
What is the Difference Between a Birth “Injury” and a Birth “Defect”?
There is, unfortunately, an array of things that can go wrong at the birth of a child. However, compensable birth injuries occur when a healthy baby sustains traumatic injuries during the birthing process. Birth injuries are distinguishable from birth defects.
A birth defect is an abnormality affecting a bodily function or body structure that arises due to the genetic composition of the parents and other factors during the pregnancy. Birth injuries, on the other hand, are caused during labor and delivery, often in the birth canal.
Is the Doctor Responsible for a Birth Injury in Philadelphia?
Birth injuries may be caused by negligence on the part of multiple parties. Understanding who is responsible for your injuries will help you determine who could be held liable for your injuries you or your child may have suffered.
As you might expect, the medical practitioners that provided you with treatment would be one party that could be held liable for malpractice. For example, if your doctor’s misuse of forceps caused your child to sustain severe bruising to the head, this would be grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against them. However, note that a medical practitioner is not the only party that could be held accountable for medical malpractice.
A medical practitioner’s employer could also be named as a party in a medical malpractice lawsuit in some circumstances. Typically, an employer could be held vicariously liable for the actions of an employee through the doctrine of respondeat superior. The doctrine of respondeat superior will allow a victim of medical malpractice to hold an employer liable for the actions of an employee that occurred within the scope of their employment. For example, if your doctor prescribed you the incorrect medication while working as an employee of a hospital, the hospital could be sued for their mistake.
In some cases, nurses and other staff could be responsible for a birth injury under some circumstances. However, many plaintiffs prefer to seek a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital or other parties that would have the capacity to easily pay a victim for injuries and other losses.
If you or your child was a victim of a birth injury, our Philadelphia birth injury lawyers are here to provide you with the legal representation that you deserve.
What Should You Do After a Birth Injury in Philadelphia?
It is very important that your baby receives proper medical care and attention for the illness or injury that he or she suffers as a result of a birth injury. Similarly, if a mother is injured or contracts an illness due to a birth injury, it is vital that she receive adequate medical treatment as well. In addition, you may want to contact a Philadelphia PA birth injury lawyer who can help you hold negligent parties liable for the birth injury and obtain compensation on your behalf.
The birth injury to your child may have happened due to one of these potential deviations from the accepted medical standard of care. However, it is also possible that your child’s birth injury occurred in a different fashion. If you work with us as a client, our birth injury and medical malpractice lawyers will fight to obtain the evidence we need to determine what went wrong and to hold the responsible parties financially accountable.
To learn more about when to file your birth injury lawsuit in Philadelphia, you should continue reading and work with an experienced Philadelphia birth injury attorney today.
Suing a Doctor for Injuries During Childbirth in Philadelphia
Your baby could suffer serious injuries if your doctor’s care is not up to the standards that it should be. While no doctor goes to work hoping to cause injuries to their patients, many doctors may make mistakes or cause complications by accident, through inattention, or through misuse of medical tools.
Many childbirth injuries are caused by doctors failing to make the proper decisions at the proper time. Delivering a baby is a difficult task and requires a lot of waiting to see how things turn out. However, it is up to the doctor to make timely decisions to react to emergency situations. If your baby has their umbilical cord wrapped around their neck or they are in a breech position, your doctor might need to order an emergency C-section. Similarly, if the baby gets stuck in the birth canal during the delivery, your doctor may need to act quickly and use forceps to affect a delivery. If your doctor fails to make these decisions – or makes these decisions even though they are not medically advisable – your baby could be injured.
Your doctor is also required to use the proper care and skill when handling your baby and performing a delivery. This means that they should not press too hard on sensitive areas or cause other problems by injuring the child with mishandled forceps, dropping the baby onto the floor, or crushing the child’s skull. Many of these injuries sound harsh, but they are indeed potential injuries that could occur in the delivery room.
If your doctor did commit these kinds of errors during your child’s birth, you may be entitled to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against them. These lawsuits can recover compensation for the damages you and your baby face because of the doctor’s mistakes.
Proving Medical Negligence in a Childbirth Injury Case in Philadelphia
If your doctor was responsible for your baby’s injuries in Philadelphia, you may need to prove your case in court before you can get compensation. Most cases are resolved out of court through negotiations with the defendant doctor’s lawyers and medical malpractice insurance team. These parties will often settle claims, paying you damages without objecting to the case in court and fighting the case before a jury. However, if they are unwilling to admit fault and pay the damages they owe you, your lawyer may need to prove your case to a judge and jury to get you the compensation you need.
When proving a medical malpractice case, the core of the case will usually be built around the concept of negligence. In negligence lawsuits, the victim must show that the at-fault party owed them a duty, and they failed to uphold that duty, which caused the victim’s injuries and damages. In a childbirth injury case, the duty is essentially their duty to provide reasonably sound medical advice and care during the delivery.
To prove what your doctor should have done differently, your lawyer will often call on a medical expert. In fact, in Pennsylvania a medical expert is a necessary part of the case, and an expert needs to certify the claim before the courts will even hear the case. Your expert can testify as to what your doctor did wrong and how they should have handled the care differently. This kind of testimony usually comes from their training and experience performing similar procedures, which gives the medical expert specific insight into what the proper care should have looked like given the information and options your doctor had at the time of the injury.
You will also prove your case by producing testimony and evidence about the child’s injuries, the events leading up to the injury, and the care that followed the injury. In many cases, the other medical professionals – other doctors and nurses in the room – can be called to testify truthfully to what went wrong during the procedure. Doctors who provided second opinions or treated the injuries can testify as to what harm was done and what the ongoing care needs and prognosis will look like.
In many cases, you can claim damages for the medical bills your child faced because of their childbirth injuries as well as future damages the child and your family will face. If your child suffers from cerebral palsy, brain injuries, spinal injuries, or other childbirth injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives, they could require ongoing medical care, therapy, damages for lost wages and disability benefits, and compensation for the pain and mental/emotional suffering of the injury.
When to File a Birth Injury Lawsuit in Philadelphia
A mother that sustains a maternal injury or learns that her child has sustained a birth injury should be aware that the State of Pennsylvania has a strict filing deadline for personal injury lawsuits due to the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations law imposes a time limit on how long a potential plaintiff has to file a civil claim with a court of law.
The filing deadline imposed by the statute of limitations could vary depending on the circumstances of a plaintiff’s case and the laws of the state. Many people are unaware that the statute of limitations could change from state to state, which means that you may have more time to file a certain type of civil lawsuit in New Jersey than you would have in Pennsylvania. That is why it is important to work with an experienced birth injury lawyer that understands the law in the state where you need to file your case.
A birth injury lawsuit would fall under the umbrella of a medical malpractice claim. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years from the date of the injury. Pennsylvania also follows the discovery rule for medical malpractice, which means that the filing deadline may not begin until the victim discovers the injury or should have discovered the injury. For example, if a mother did not discover their child’s injury until they began to miss developmental milestones, the mother would have two years from the date of discovery to file their case with a court of law.
Additionally, the statute of limitations is tolled for infants until they reach the age of 18. This means that a minor would have until the age of 20 to file their birth injury lawsuit. It is also possible for a parent or legal guardian to file a lawsuit on behalf of the child.
If you do not file your birth injury lawsuit within two years, your claim could be barred entirely due to a violation of the statute of limitations. As a result, you would be unable to claim damages for your injuries from a negligent doctor or hospital. Our firm is here to ensure that your case is promptly filed with the appropriate court of law.
Our Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorneys Can Help
Birth injuries are not your fault, and you may be entitled to compensation for injuries caused by a medical professional’s mistake. Birth injuries can cause enormous despair and suffering to the mother, father, and child. Some injuries are severe, cause permanent disabilities, and require lifelong medical care. Unfortunately, that care can be prohibitively expensive and cause even more anxiety for the parents.
If your child has suffered an injury during birth or labor, the experienced PA medical malpractice lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to help you. Our team of lawyers has over three decades of experience litigating birth injury and medical malpractice claims. In every case, we seek out qualified and credible doctors, nurses, and other medical experts who work to get to the bottom of what went wrong.
We understand the pain, anguish, and devastation birth injuries cause, and we will fight to hold negligent medical professionals accountable for their mistakes. Contact one of our birth injury lawyers by calling (215) 709-6940 today for a no-obligation, confidential consultation.