In birth injury cases, the court and attorneys involved can calculate compensation based on the economic, non-economic, and punitive damages resulting from the actions of negligent medical professionals.
If your child sustains birth injuries before, during, or immediately after birth, you may wonder how is birth injury compensation calculated and do you have entitlement to any. If a medical professional engaged in improper conduct while delivering the child may have grounds to seek damages. It’s important to understand the different types of birth injuries that can develop and the kinds of compensation you may be able to recover.
What Birth Injuries Qualify for Compensation?
There are several types of birth injuries that can occur. In some cases, these injuries are minor and unavoidable when delivering the child. Others, however, are more extensive and result from negligent practices that may warrant compensation. Serious birth injuries have the ability to cause long-term damage that may affect the child for the rest of his or her life. If negligence is behind these injuries, parents may be able to recover compensation in a birth injury case.
The following are some common types of birth injuries that may qualify for compensation.
Brachial palsy develops due to injuries to the brachial plexus, which impacts a cluster of nerves in the hands and arms. This injury prevents the baby from being able to move his or her arm properly. While bruising and swelling in the affected area could heal within months after the injury, brachial palsy can be permanent if the brachial plexus nerves tear. This injury may occur if shoulder dystocia occurs while delivering the child.
This involves soft tissue swelling in a baby’s scalp. Babies may experience a combination of swelling and bruising, with swelling reducing within a few days in most cases. This injury tends to occur when using vacuum extraction as the baby moves through the birth canal.
Babies may also sustain fractures during birth, often to the collarbone or clavicle. If the clavicle is fractured, the baby will likely be unable to move the affected arm. A fractured clavicle tends to heal quickly, with a lump developing within around 10 days. Fractures often develop when there are issues with the infant’s shoulder placement during delivery, but they could also develop if the doctor uses vacuum extraction, forceps, or too much force during delivery.
If the baby doesn’t receive a sufficient level of oxygen throughout delivery, cerebral palsy may develop. Unlike brachial palsy, this injury is permanent and will affect the child for the remainder of his or her life. Cerebral palsy is also common, with this condition impacting around one to four out of every 1,000 children born.
When a child experiences pressure on the face during birth, injuries to facial nerves may develop and result in paralysis. If a child sustains this injury, he or she will be unable to move the affected side of the face. In cases in which the injury involves a torn nerve, surgery may be necessary, but bruising tends to heal within weeks. In many cases, these injuries develop when doctors use forceps during delivery.
This type of injury involves broken blood vessels in one or both of the child’s eyes. The affected eye will have a visible band of red in the white area of the eye, but this injury is only temporary and doesn’t result in any permanent damage.
Bruising and Marks from Forceps or Vacuum Extraction
When babies pass through the birth canal during delivery, they may sustain bruising on the head or face. Additionally, forceps may leave temporary bruises or marks, and vacuum extraction could cause bruising or even a cut on the baby’s head.
In the event of these injuries, the child should receive treatment as soon as possible. Without proper care, injuries could worsen and result in permanent damage.
How to Determine the Value of a Birth Injury Case
The value of a birth injury case will depend on the specific damages involved. Birth injury cases, like other types of medical malpractice cases, often involve a variety of economic and non-economic damages. Before calculating compensation, it’s important to understand the types of recoverable damages in a birth injury case.
These damages are more easily calculated than other types of damages because they have a specific dollar amount attached to them. They account for the financial losses that a victim’s loved ones sustain as a result of a birth injury.
Some examples of economic damages include:
- Medical expenses for treating the birth injury
- Long-term treatment that the child may require for the rest of his or her lifetime
- Equipment to help accommodate the child, including wheelchairs
- Modifications to the home that accommodate the child, such as ramps for wheelchairs
- Physical therapy
- Therapies and special education services for children with cognitive disabilities
In addition to economic damages, birth injury cases may involve non-economic damages. These are harder to calculate than economic damages because of their less tangible nature. They don’t come with a set dollar amount, but they can include significant pain and suffering, for which victims and their loved ones can receive compensation.
Non-economic damages in these cases may include pain and suffering to the child and parents, amputations, disfigurement, loss of companionship, partial or total paralysis, and psychological distress.
In rare instances, the court may award punitive damages. While economic and non-economic damages intend to compensate victims and their families, punitive damages have the purpose of punishing defendants for gross negligence or malicious acts. The goal is to prevent the same level of improper conduct from taking place again in the future, either at the hands of the defendant or potential future defendants.
How Birth Injury Compensation Is Calculated
Based on the damages involved in a birth injury case, you can work with a birth injury lawyer to begin calculating compensation.
Calculating the economic or special damages in any type of injury case is straightforward. These damages come with quantifiable costs that appear in the documentation. However, you will need to gather as much of this documentation as you can to prove these damages. The documentation used to help calculate economic damages could include medical records and bills, receipts for treatment and assistive devices, and other types of documents detailing costs.
Non-economic damages aren’t as easy to calculate and require strategies for accurately quantifying them. In many cases, attorneys and courts may use the multiplier method to calculate these damages. This entails multiplying the total cost of economic damages by a factor ranging from 1.5 to 5. The more severe the injuries, the higher the number of the multiplier. For instance, an extensive birth injury could result in economic damages totaling $50,000, in which case a multiplier of four would lead to a total of $250,000 in compensation for non-economic damages.
When calculating the damages in these cases, attorneys may also look at what juries have awarded for similar cases. For example, if a child sustains an injury that leads to cerebral palsy, the attorney may look into other cases involving cerebral palsy to determine how much the jury is likely to award. This could help get a better idea of how much victims can expect to receive in these cases.
When You Should a File Birth Injury Lawsuit
If your child has sustained birth injuries, and you believe that you are eligible to receive compensation due to a physician’s negligence or malicious acts, you shouldn’t wait to file a lawsuit.
Like other types of lawsuits, birth injury suits have a statute of limitations that could prevent you from filing a lawsuit after a certain time. The statute of limitations is different in every state, making it important to know what your state’s statute is and to file before the time runs out.
If you decide to file a lawsuit, speak with a birth injury attorney to determine what options are available to you. A lawyer can help determine if you have a valid case and provide representation in a lawsuit. An attorney can also calculate all the damages involved, including economic and non-economic damages. If the defendant in a case acted with gross negligence or malicious intent, your attorney may even be able to fight for the recovery of punitive damages.
Additionally, attorneys can help collect sufficient evidence to prove negligence and show the extent of the injury, including all medical records, expert witness testimony, and other pertinent documentation.
Regardless of the nature of your case, you should determine how much the case is worth and take all damages into account when calculating compensation. A lawyer may be able to assist with determining how is birth injury compensation calculated and ensure your case accounts for the full impact of the birth injury. You may then build a case that helps you recover full compensation from negligent physicians and other medical staff who contributed to a birth injury.