Bethesda Birth Injury Lawyer
Injuries during the birth can be one of the most devastating and tragic experiences for any parent. As a parent we want to ensure that our baby is always healthy and safe, and the idea of someone causing harm to our child is unbearable. If your child suffered an injury during birth due to the medical providers negligence, you may have a medical malpractice claim for compensation. Our Bethesda Birth Injury lawyers have over 15 years of experience helping families receive compensation for harm done to the mother and child during birth.
Why You Need a Birth Injury Attorney?
Maternal birth injuries are a growing problem in hospitals, as well. Emergencies during labor include cardiac arrest, difficulty breathing, and even kidney failure. An incorrectly placed epidural can cause nerve damage and even paralysis, and complications from a Caesarian section, or C-section, may also occur. Hemorrhaging due to placental abruption, placenta previa, or a ruptured uterus are also problems a laboring mother may face. If a maternal injury occurred during the delivery process and was either caused by a nurse or doctor, or was negligently overlooked, a birth injury attorney can help the mother get the compensation she deserves for her injury, pain and suffering, and any long-term effects that may result. However, since birth injuries fall into medical malpractice, the process is a lot more extent then a normal personal injury claim. Reason being, is that you have many things you need to proof in order for the court to determine that the medical practitioner was at fault. The process alone, can be a very hard one and the chances of winning the case is very low as determining breach of duty is more difficult. Often times, lawyers need to present a specialized medical testimony to the court, that can provide medical proof that the defendant was at fault.
Common Birth Injuries in Hospitals
A birth injury is defined as any injury or damage that occurs during pregnancy, delivery, or immediately after, including those caused by trauma. Some of the most common forms of birth injury include those related to the baby not receiving enough oxygen leading up to or after birth, pinched or damaged nerves, and even illnesses passed on from the mother during labor and delivery. Below are some of these injuries in greater detail.
- Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy affects movement and muscle coordination. This birth injury is m most often caused by the infant not receiving enough oxygen during delivery. Some characteristics include abnormal muscle tone, unsteady gait, tight or contracted joints, and uncontrollable, spastic movements.
- Erb’s Palsy: Erb’s palsy affects the brachial plexus, or the shoulder and its nerves, of the infant. During birth, a doctor may use excessive pulling force on the infant’s head, which puts stress on the shoulder nerves if they become lodged against the mother’s pelvic bone. Depending on how much force is used, it can shock the nerves, or even tear or completely separate them from the spinal cord. Erb’s palsy is typically identified by limp, flopping arms, paralysis of the arm and/or hand, loss of sensation in the limb, and missing Moro reflex. Some forms may resolve in around three months, while others are severe to the point of permanency.
- Kernicterus: Kernicterus begins as something much more common – simply an excess of bilirubin in the blood, which gives the baby a more yellow appearance, otherwise known as jaundice. The problem stems from negligence on the doctor’s part. If they do not recognize the signs of jaundice or allow it to go untreated for too long, the excess bilirubin will actually cause permanent brain damage.
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome: Meconium is the tar-like substance that the newborn infant will pass as their first bowel movement after birth. MAS, or meconium aspiration syndrome, can happen at any point during labor or delivery. If the fetus is in distress, they might evacuate their bowels and inhale meconium through the amniotic fluid. Once it gets into the lungs, complications such as pneumonia and difficulty breathing can develop. Signs of inhalation of meconium can include rapid breathing, slow heartbeat, a barrel-shaped chest, and a low Apgar score.
- Cephalohematoma: Cephalohematomas are bruises that form in the soft tissue of the newborn’s head due to poor delivery techniques or as a byproduct of other trauma sustained before, during, or after birth. Vacuum extraction and forceps delivery are some of the most common causes of cephalohematomas. These generally resolve on their own but can be an indicator of other birth injury or trauma.
- Neonatal Stroke: Neonatal stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain has been cut off. It can be difficult to diagnose infant or fetal stroke, but some signs that one has occurred include difficulty breathing and eating, seizures, and developmental delays. Treatment should be administered as soon as possible, but if it isn’t, it can have lasting consequences on motor skills and development.
- Infections: many times, infections such as the common cold won’t affect a fetus. Others, however, are a much bigger threat. Urinary Tract Infections, Group B Strep (GBS), and sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes simplex and syphilis can all be passed to the fetus before or during labor. When bacteria travel up the cervix and into the uterus, it infects the amnion and chorion, called chorioamnionitis. This can cause neonatal stroke and infections, such as meningitis, in the fetus if preventative measures like antibiotics and early delivery are not taken.
- Drugs: certain drugs taken during pregnancy, such as Zofran, can lead to congenital birth defects, early delivery, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
What Must Be Proven In a Birth Injury Claim?
The first step in a birth injury claim is to identify the doctor’s or hospital’s negligence as the cause of your child’s birth injuries. To claim compensation, you must establish the existence of the following four elements in your case:
- Doctor-patient relationship: You must show that a professional relationship existed between you and the doctor or hospital. That requires proving you were a patient, which can be done with medical records, hospital bills, or other documentation. Establishing that a doctor-patient relationship existed proves that the doctor or hospital owed you a duty of professional care.
- Breach of duty of care: The second element you must prove is negligence or breach of duty of care. You must demonstrate that the healthcare provider failed to perform in accordance with the established standard of care under the circumstances. Breach of duty of care (medical negligence) during pregnancy, labor, or delivery can cause trauma to the mother and serious birth injury to the child.
- Causation: This is the link between the healthcare provider’s breach of duty and your child’s birth injuries. You must show the infant’s injuries were the direct result of what the doctor or hospital did or failed to do. A common defense is that the child would have suffered the birth injury or birth defect anyway, without the healthcare provider’s negligence. It is up to you to show that the injuries would not have occurred without medical malpractice. Medical expert testimony may be needed to help prove the causal link.
- Damages: This is the final element in a birth injury claim. You must prove that the doctor’s or hospital’s acts or omissions caused your family real and specific damages. These damages may include medical bills, physical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of quality of life, and other losses. Medical records, medical bills, and photographs can be used to help prove your damages. This is an important part of the claim process. If your case goes to trial, the jury determines the amount of pain and suffering damages. Our attorneys can demonstrate the tremendous impact your child’s birth injuries have had on your family’s lives.
Keep in mind that an expert witness testimony is always key in medical malpractice cases, as they can provide professional proof that the defendant (medical practitioner) breached his/her duty.
Statute of Limitations for a Bethesda Birth Injury
While Birth injuries fall under the larger category of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations for birth injuries is actually more extended than your average medical malpractice case. Most medical malpractice cases have an SOL of three to five years for filing a claim, however, a parent with a child who has suffered a birth injury has until the child turns eleven to file a birth injury claim. Another important fact is that if a medical provider can determine that the child’s reproductive system was injured, or if a foreign object was left inside the child, then the time frame is extended until the child is sixteen years old.
Contact an Experienced Birth Injury Attorney
The birth of a child is supposed to be one of the most joyous events in a family’s lives. When either the infant, the mother, or both are injured, especially at the negligence of the hospital or healthcare provider, it can be devastating. Contact our skilled Bethesda Birth Injury Attorneys at Malloy Law Offices, LLC today for your free consultation. Let the burden of handling your case be on our shoulders while you focus on healing.