Having a child is a life-changing experience and should be a joyous time for families. But sometimes, something goes wrong before, during, or soon after childbirth and the baby or mother suffers a birth injury. When this happens, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, upset and stressed due to the unknown.
How will a birth injury affect your child’s life, in both the short- and long-term? How will it impact your family’s ability to care for a child or mother with injuries?
Some birth injuries are completely unavoidable and the fault of no one, but some are due to medical malpractice. Whether injuries were sustained from the misuse of forceps during delivery, improper monitoring of the baby’s vitals or missed signs of maternal infection, a health care professional could be at fault.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney can evaluate birth injury cases, explain possible legal options, and help families seek compensation and accountability for negligence. The first step is to understand the common types of birth injuries, how they occur, and who may be at fault for fetal or maternal trauma during childbirth.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can occur during different stages and types of childbirth, including c-sections, lengthy labor, breech babies, and vacuum births. Women with small pelvises, babies born prematurely, maternal and fetal hemorrhaging, clavicle fractures, and paralysis can lead to temporary and permanent symptoms.
Some of the common types of birth injuries include:
- Brachial palsy (injuries to the nerves that allow the arms and hands to move)
- Bruising from forceps
- Cephalohematoma (bleeding between layers of the skull that’s reabsorbed in weeks or months, it’s often identified when a lump appears on the head)
- Cerebral palsy (abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a child’s ability to control muscles)
- Facial paralysis
- Fractures (typically the clavicle)
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage (small blood vessels in the baby’s eyes are broken during delivery, it dissipates in about a week and doesn’t cause eye damage)
Some injuries happen when certain tools are used to aid in the delivery. For example, caput succedaneum, a birth injury that involves swelling in the baby’s scalp, is more likely to occur when a vacuum is used to extract the baby from the birth canal. The vacuum can also cause possible lacerations on the scalp.
Often, a birth injury will correct itself over weeks or months following childbirth. Facial paralysis, caused when the baby’s facial nerves encounter pressure, may be temporary. However, even if the symptoms are short-lived, medical malpractice or medical negligence could still be the cause of birth injuries, regardless of whether they’re temporary, permanent, short- or long-term.
Another example is the use of forceps during delivery. Risks from forceps include brain and eye damage, skull fractures, brain bleeds, and facial palsy. Birth injuries from forceps could occur due to improper use or inexperience or when the instrument is used at the wrong time during childbirth.
In addition to birth injuries sustained to babies, maternal injuries can also occur. Mothers across New Jersey have suffered birth trauma and injuries that could and should have been prevented by their delivery doctor or medical staff. Medical malpractice cases involving maternal injuries have included incontinence from forceps, damage to the bladder, and extensive blood loss.
There are several factors and considerations when determining if medical negligence caused a birth injury:
- Communications with the medical team, including informed consent and options for medications and procedures
- Diagnosis, both misdiagnosis and failures to diagnose
- Medications given to the mother, and if there were known risks to the baby
- Monitoring of the baby and mother before, during and soon after childbirth
- Delivery methods and procedures
- Adequate experience of doctors and others involved
A consultation with a New Jersey birth injury lawyer can help determine whether a medical negligence lawsuit could be filed against the doctor or health professional involved.
Causes of Medical Malpractice
There are three common causes of medical malpractice. The first involves failure to diagnose. This is when a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis or no diagnosis, and the patient is later injured due to that failure. It considers if another doctor with the same qualifications would have done the same – if the standard of care was met. If a doctor misdiagnoses a mother or baby, which ultimately leads to a birth injury or death, there might be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The second common cause of medical malpractice is negligence within the differential diagnosis process. This is when a doctor’s process to determine what is wrong is inadequate, and the patient suffers an injury later on.
Medical malpractice could also occur if complications during treatment or surgery could have been avoided or prevented. Once again, negligence, in this case, is based on whether or not the birth injury would have occurred if another doctor or health professional with the same expertise would have provided the same treatment and care.
When to Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Birth Injuries
Every birth injury is unique to the situation, and they are not only traumatic but can lead to lifelong conditions and illnesses. Birth injuries can impact the baby, mother, and/or family on a mental, physical, emotional, and financial level.
It can be difficult to know if a medical malpractice lawsuit is possible when a birth injury occurs. It’s important to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation if you or a loved one suffered a birth injury. The team of New Jersey attorneys at D’Arcy Johnson Day can review your birth injury case to determine if medical negligence occurred. We’ll seek the best outcome to ensure your family is compensated for the trauma, suffering, and financial implications of your birth injury. For a free legal consultation, fill out our online form or call us toll-free at 866-327-2952.
As a partner with D'Arcy Johnson Day, Andrew D'Arcy has been involved in some of the nation’s most high-profile cases and investigations. His practice includes serious automobile accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death and product defect cases. Andrew has been personally responsible for numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of his clients. He has been recognized by his peers as an "AV" rated attorney, the highest possible rating given by Martindale-Hubbell publication. Andrew has been named a "Super Lawyer" by New Jersey Monthly magazine each year consistently since 2013.