People hire a birth injury attorney to help them determine whether negligence or medical malpractice caused their baby to suffer injuries. A lawyer can help identify the cause of a birth injury and file medical malpractice claims against the responsible party or parties. When settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, medical malpractice claims often evolve into medical malpractice lawsuits that must be decided in court. Birth injury attorneys will obtain medical records that track treatments and mistakes in care, and opinions from medical experts that help demonstrate negligence or malpractice occurred, increasing the chances of winning the case.
What You Should Know About Birth Injuries
A birth injury describes any type of harm caused to a baby before, during, or shortly after the delivery process. Due to the stress and contractions during delivery, many babies suffer from minor injuries, but most of these injuries heal without any type of treatment. In other cases, babies suffer serious birth injuries that make it necessary to seek prompt and proper medical treatment to prevent more serious consequences that may cause life-long disabilities to the child.
In the United States, 28,000 infants are born with some type of birth injury every year. That equates to 2,300 infants per month, or 538 infants per week, or 76 infants per day, or 3 infants per hour. When you break it down this way, you can see that birth injuries occur at alarming rates every year.
Birth injury statistics show that most birth injuries occur in private for-profit and private non-profit hospitals. They also show that birth injuries are higher for infant boys (66.8%) compared to injuries for infant girls (50.9%). Mothers with birthing tool-assisted deliveries suffer more birth injuries than mothers with non-instrument-assisted vaginal births. The bottom line is that expecting parents should be informed by their doctor about the risks of birth injuries that can occur before, during, and after childbirth.
Common Reasons People Hire a Birth Injury Attorney
There are a variety of reasons that people may hire a birth injury attorney, but most reasons involve negligent actions by a medical professional that caused the injury. What are the common causes of birth injuries that cause people to hire a birth injury attorney?
Delayed Response to Fetal Distress
The term fetal distress is commonly used to describe fetal hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the fetus), which can result in fetal damage or death if oxygen levels don’t rise, or if the fetus is not promptly delivered. The main way that doctors diagnose fetal distress is by monitoring fetal movement or fetal heart rate. Throughout labor, doctors identify fetal distress based on an abnormal heart rate pattern in the fetus. It is usually monitored continuously with electronic fetal heart monitoring or a handheld Doppler ultrasound device used every 15 minutes during early labor and after each contraction during late labor. Fetal distress may occur when the pregnancy lasts too long or when there are other complications during labor.
When a delayed response to fetal distress occurs, low oxygen levels can cause harm to the baby, most commonly brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. If a significant abnormality in the fetal heart rate is detected, the doctor can usually correct it by giving the mother oxygen, increasing intravenous fluids to the mother, or turning the mother on one side or the other.
Failure to Monitor Mother and Baby
During labor and delivery, the doctor is supposed to monitor both the mother and the baby. If the doctor fails to do this, there are a number of things that go wrong and cause harm. One of the biggest risks is cerebral palsy caused by brain injuries. Cerebral palsy caused by failure to monitor both mother and baby can be caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, bleeding in the brain, fever, and infection, and heart attack or stroke.
Improper Use of Forceps or Vacuum Extraction
In some deliveries, doctors use forceps or vacuum extraction to help with the delivery of the baby. Forceps are hinged, handheld instruments commonly used in medicine to assist in difficult vaginal deliveries. Today, vacuum extraction procedures have replaced most forceps, but they are used for the same purpose. In both types of procedures, the doctor applies forceps or vacuum extraction to the baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. This is typically done during a contraction while the mother pushes. Improper use of either type of instrument can cause birth injuries to the baby including bleeding in the head, skull fractures, facial palsy, and seizures.
Incorrect Incisions During Cesarean Section (C-section)
Whether the mother chooses to deliver by cesarean section or is forced to have it due to medical problems during delivery, the doctor must make a precise incision for the surgery to succeed. If the doctor makes an incorrect incision, it can result in problems for both the mother and the baby. An incorrect incision during a C-section can cause a domino effect, keeping the mother in and out of hospitals for months or years with serious infections.
An incorrect incision during a C-section can also cause a laceration of the fetus which can result in extensive blood loss, tissue damage, fetal infections, and death of the baby. Although C-sections are common, an incorrect incision or a slip of the scalpel can result in serious injuries or death.
Failure to Perform a Timely Cesarean Section (C-section)
In some cases of labor and delivery, an emergency that requires a C-section may arise. Due to emergency conditions, the doctor may not have enough time to administer epidural or spinal anesthesia, so general anesthesia may be required instead. Unfortunately, complications of general anesthesia are considerably greater than those seen with epidural or spinal anesthesia. Failure to perform a timely C-section can result in severe allergic reactions to anesthesia; internal bleeding, postpartum hemorrhage, postpartum infections and sepsis, endometriosis, and emergency hysterectomy.
A Birth Injury Attorney Can Help You Find Out What Happened
When a birth injury occurs, you can hire a birth injury attorney to help you get the justice you deserve. Although some minor birth injuries may heal over time, severe birth injuries can prevent a child’s normal physical and mental development, causing life-long impairments and disabilities. The most common types of birth injuries include:
- Brain damage – caused by bleeding in the skull or the brain
- Cerebral palsy – causes loss of muscle control and impaired movement and speech
- Erb’s palsy (brachial plexus palsy) – causes paralysis of a hand, arm, or shoulder
- Facial paralysis – causes facial paralysis and prevents eye closure on the side of the face that’s injured
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – causes feeding problems, hearing and vision problems, and seizures
- Newborn cephalohematoma – causes pressure on the brain, swelling of the brain, brain damage, seizures, and depression in the head.
A fracture of the baby’s clavicle or collarbone is the most common type of fracture that occurs during labor and delivery. The fracture prevents the movement of the baby’s arm on the side of the break. The good news is that healing occurs quickly, as a new bone usually forms within 10 days of the injury.
If your child suffers a birth injury, a Chicago birth injury attorney can help you find out what happened. If the injury was caused by a doctor’s negligent actions, your attorney can file a medical malpractice lawsuit in civil court to recover damages. However, to recover compensation for injuries, a birth injury lawyer must prove medical negligence on the part of the doctor or medical professional responsible for the negligent actions. Proof is often established by reviewing medical records, examining photos, and talking to other medical professionals or witnesses who were present during labor and delivery.
Filing a Birth Injury Claim
A birth injury lawsuit is considered a form of medical malpractice. In Illinois, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed according to the statute of limitations, which is within two years of the date of the negligent action, omission, or injury, or within two years of discovery of the negligent actions.
If you discover the injury later on, you have no longer than four years in which to file your claim. For cases in which the medical malpractice plaintiff was a minor at the time the injury occurred, the deadline is extended to eight years from the date of the injury. However, the lawsuit may not be filed after the plaintiff’s twenty-second birthday.
After the Illinois medical malpractice statute of limitations has passed, a patient no longer has the right to file a medical malpractice claim or receive any type of compensation for injuries. Since time is critical, it’s important to hire a birth injury attorney who can help you file a claim as soon as possible.
Hiring a Birth Injury Attorney Can Help You Recover Damages to Help With Your Child’s Medical Care
If you hire a birth injury lawyer to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and oversee your case, you are much more likely to have successful results. If you win your case, you’re entitled to recover damages to help with your child’s medical care.
A birth injury can cause serious physical, emotional, and financial hardship. When birth injuries happen as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, compensation can help with medical, educational, and rehabilitation expenses for your child. If your child suffers from an avoidable birth injury caused by negligent actions, recoverable damages in a birth injury case may include:
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Educational expenses
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
If your child suffered impairments or disabilities from his or her birth injury, he or she is entitled to compensation to cover the costs of assistive devices such as braces, crutches, canes, wheelchairs, hearing and vision aids, and communication devices.
Although rare, when a medical professional commits medical malpractice in an egregious manner, punitive damages may be awarded by the court. These damages are intended solely to punish the medical professional for his or her egregious conduct, which may include treating a patient while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, lying to a patient, omitting important information, or willfully committing a negligent action.
Some states place limits on how much a patient can receive in damages as a victim of medical malpractice. However, in 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court declared the damages cap to be unconstitutional. Since then, there has been no cap on any form of damages in a medical malpractice case in Illinois.
When Should You Hire a Birth Injury Attorney?
As soon as you realize that your child has suffered a birth injury before, during, or after labor or delivery, it’s time to hire a birth injury attorney. If you don’t realize the injury until later, contact a birth injury attorney as soon as you do. Since birth injury cases and medical malpractice cases are often complex, the sooner you take legal action, the sooner you can file a claim for damages.
Typically, personal injury lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means there are no up-front costs or legal fees to get things started. If your lawyer wins the case, he or she receives a percentage of your monetary award for damages in a civil lawsuit or a settlement agreement. If your lawyer loses the case, there is no fee. A contingency fee arrangement allows you to receive quality legal representation as soon as possible without substantial up-front payments and fees.
Since birth injury cases that involve negligence can be complicated and require proof of negligence to move forward, it’s best to schedule a consultation with a Chicago birth injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will need to gather and review medical records, establish important timelines, file legal actions, and prepare your case for a civil court lawsuit.
If the at-fault medical professional’s insurance provider wants to settle the case out of court, your attorney will need time to meet with the necessary parties to establish a fair settlement agreement that covers your damages. All of this takes time, so it’s important to hire a birth injury attorney quickly and move forward.