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.