The birth of a child is a joyous occasion for families. This joy, however, can quickly turn to ashes in parents’ mouths when the birth becomes difficult or traumatic.
This is why we rely on healthcare providers—to use their decades of medical experience to alleviate any complications that arise in the delivery room. Sadly, though, this does not always happen. In fact, medical practitioners themselves may be the direct cause of an error during the birthing process.
A birth injury is an example of this, and it may have lifelong implications for the mother and child.
What is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is any harm that happens to a baby during the labor and delivery process. Birth injuries differ from birth defects in that they happen while a baby is being born, as opposed to when they are still in the womb. Additionally, birth injuries are largely preventable while birth defects are not.
What Causes Birth Injuries?
Medical malpractice is a leading cause of birth injuries. Whether it’s from erroneous reactions to fetal distress, oxygen deprivation, or the incorrect use of birth-assistance tools, many birth injuries happen at the hands of healthcare providers who should have known better.
Medical practitioners are expected to use their decades of education, training, and experience to respond to events in the delivery room appropriately. When they fail in this fundamental duty, it may be considered medical malpractice.
Examples of medical malpractice in the delivery room include:
Failure to monitor the infant for signs of fetal distress
Failure to respond to signs of fetal distress appropriately
Improper use of birth-assistance devices, such as a forceps vacuum
Common Types of Birth Injuries
These critical errors in the delivery room can leave mothers and infants with lifelong injuries, including the following:
Cerebral palsy affects a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture. It’s often caused by a lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain or trauma to the head during the labor and delivery process.
The common symptoms of CP include:
Poor balance and coordination
A child with CP may require the use of special equipment to walk, or may not be able to walk at all. Everyone with CP has issues with movement and coordination; some CP patients also have related conditions including intellectual disability, seizures, problems with vision, hearing, or speech, and more.
Erb’s palsy typically involves permanent damage to nerves within the baby’s shoulder, arm, wrist, and hands. It may occur as a result of the baby’s shoulder getting caught behind the mother’s pubic bone or by the baby’s nerves being stretched and permanently damaged during delivery.
The common symptoms of Erb’s palsy include:
Weakness in one arm
Arm bent at the elbow and held against the body
Decreased grip strength in the affected hand
Partial or total paralysis of the affected arm
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a severe birth injury in which a baby’s brain does not receive enough oxygen and blood during the birthing process. This can be traumatic for the infant, even if the oxygen deprivation only lasts a few seconds.
The common consequences of HIE include:
Lack of motor skills
Birth Injuries to the Mother
Birth injuries don’t just happen to babies; mothers can also suffer from medical malpractice in the delivery room. These may include the following:
Abnormal uterine bleeding
Broken bones or bruising
These serious injuries can have catastrophic or fatal consequences for the mother. It’s important for birthing mothers to realize that their injuries are just as important as their child’s, and to seek justice against any medical providers that caused them harm.
How Birth Trauma Can Affect a Child’s Development
Birth trauma can affect a child’s physical, mental, and emotional development in a variety of ways. Sadly, many birth injuries do not resolve on their own (or even with treatment) and children are left with the consequences of a healthcare provider’s negligence for the remainder of their lives.
These consequences may include the following:
Restricted movement and coordination
The need for mobility assistive devices
Long-term medical care and rehabilitative treatment
Birth injuries often lead to conditions that have no cure. Rather, children must undergo extensive physical therapy or other treatments to manage their conditions.
This may lead to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in unexpected medical bills for families, and emotional distress for a child who cannot participate in activities other children their age do.
This injustice cannot go unanswered. The negligent medical provider must be held accountable for the physical, emotional, and financial turmoil they have caused. You should not have to pay for their errors out of your own pocket.
We’re here to help you hold reckless doctors, large hospitals, and self-interested insurance companies responsible for their actions.
Can You Sue After a Birth Injury?
You may recover compensation from a negligent medical provider (and the hospital that employed them) through a birth injury claim and, if their settlement offer does not suffice, a lawsuit.
The statute of limitations for such a claim varies from state to state. In Maryland, you have five years from the date of the injury or three years from the discovery of medical malpractice to file a medical malpractice and birth injury claim. If your child passed away as a result of a birth injury, you must file suit within three years of their passing.
These deadlines are complex and can vary depending on certain situations, which is why it’s vital for you to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to understand all your options.
Proving Medical Malpractice
In order to demonstrate that medical malpractice caused your child’s birth injury, you and your attorney will need to prove what’s known as the “four D’s of medical malpractice.”
These include the following:
Duty: The medical provider owed you and your child a certain standard of care.
Dereliction: The medical provider failed to uphold this standard of care.
Damages: You and/or your child suffered harm.
Direct cause: The medical provider’s failure to uphold the standard of care directly caused you and/or your child’s injury.
With the help of your attorney, you may be able to recover compensation from any and all negligent parties for the following damages:
Past and future medical bills
Past and future lost wages (involving injuries to the mother)
Pain and suffering
Did Your Child Suffer a Birth Injury? Contact Us Today
If you or your child suffered an injury during the labor and delivery process caused by a healthcare provider’s negligence, our Baltimore birth injury attorneys are here to help.
Our team at Brown & Barron, LLC is comprised of trusted, experienced, and skilled personal injury attorneys who understand that nothing is quite as heartbreaking as realizing your child was harmed during the birthing process.
We’re backed by decades of experience and have helped countless clients across the state seek justice in the wake of a tragedy.
We encourage you to contact us today at (410) 698-1717 to schedule a free consultation.