The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion. Unfortunately, medical errors can put the health and even the lives of a mother and her baby at risk. The results can be tragic, creating lifelong impairments for the child, life-threatening complications for mom, or a combination of the two.
Birth injuries are some of the most heartbreaking types of medical malpractice. To make matters worse, these errors can be very difficult to prove.
If you suspect that medical negligence resulted in severe injuries to you or your child, contact Ventura Law today by calling (203) 800-8000 for a free review of your case. Our firm has been serving clients in Connecticut and New York for more than 60 years.
What Causes a Birth Injury?
Unfortunately, birth injuries can take many different forms. The error may occur when the woman is in the early stages of pregna
ncy, up through the actual birth.
In many cases, birth injuries are the result of negligence on the part of doctors, nurses, OBGYNs, and other professionals involved in the delivery process. Common examples of negligence that result in birth injuries include:
- Failure to detect issues in prenatal ultrasound, genetic screenings, and other tests
- Failure to monitor an expectant mother for signs of preeclampsia, eclampsia, and other complications
- Failure to induce labor using Pitocin (oxytocin)
- Failure to perform maneuvers that reposition baby for safer delivery
- Misuse of vacuum extractors and forceps
- Failure to order a cesarean section in a timely fashion
Failures in one or more of these areas can result in a host of serious complications that may make the pregnancy and delivery more dangerous. In addition, lapses in monitoring the health of mother and child after delivery (such as failure to monitor the baby’s apgar score or missing jaundice and other symptoms of illness or infection) can also pose serious dangers after the fact.
infection) can also pose serious dangers after the fact.
What Is an Example of Birth Injury?
Birth injuries can affect the mother, the child, or both. Depending on when in the pregnancy the malpractice occurs, both may be at risk.
Examples of birth injury affecting the child include:
- Hypoxia, or lack of oxygen reaching the brain
- Cerebral palsy
- Shoulder dystocia
- Erb’s palsy
- Klumpke’s palsy
- Bone fractures
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Injury to nerves in the face, resulting in drooping, weakness, or paralysis
- Meconium aspiration (occurs when babies breathe in amniotic fluid and waste in the womb)
Mothers may also suffer adverse effects due to birth injury complications, including:
- Excessive or uncontrolled bleeding during delivery
- Surgical or anesthesia complications during an epidural or C-section procedure
- Seizures from unmanaged eclampsia
- Blood clots forming after delivery
- Undiagnosed postpartum depression, which can result in emotional distress, intrusive thoughts, and self-harm or harming one’s baby
We explore some of the major birth injuries in greater detail below.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a significant complication of delivery error. It is caused by damage to the developing brain.
Although CP can form during a baby’s development as a result of genetic factors, a significant number of cases occur due to trauma sustained during birth. Causes may include:
- Insufficient oxygen reaching the baby’s brain (hypoxia) due to umbilical cord complications, malpositioning within the birth canal, or failure to perform a C-section
- Injury to the brain or head from negligent use of instruments such as vacuum extraction devices and forceps
- Blood loss stemming from a ruptured placenta and other complications
After a baby is born, the risk of cerebral palsy is not mitigated entirely. Postnatal infection, meningitis, and other illnesses can adversely affect the baby’s brain, potentially resulting in CP.
The face and head are key areas of concern during natural birth, but the baby’s shoulders require special care as well. As one of the widest parts of the child, the likelihood is high for the baby to get “stuck” as the shoulders pass through the birth canal.
Doctors and other staff members are trained to employ special techniques to free the baby’s arms and shoulders without causing damage. If they don’t perform the necessary maneuvers or execute them poorly, lasting damage to the child’s upper extremities (known as a brachial plexus injury) can occur.
Some of the most serious complications of shoulder dystocia are:
Erb’s palsy occurs when the roots for nerves that control the upper arm are compromised. Children who suffer injury to the upper brachial plexus during birth may experience:
- Weakness in the impacted arm
- Impaired function
- Diminished sensation
- Paralysis of the affected arm
The nerve injuries responsible for Erb’s palsy differ in severity. In the most extreme case, nerves are torn from the spinal cord (avulsion). Nerve avulsion may result in prolonged weakness and even lifelong impairment of the injured arm.
The primary difference between Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy is the area affected. The brachial plexus injury resulting in Klumpke’s palsy impacts the hand and forearm, rather than the upper arm trauma associated with Erb’s palsy.
Tactile stimulation is an important facet of a baby’s development. As a result, the deficits from Klumpke’s palsy can be debilitating not only due to pain and physical limitations but from a cognitive standpoint as well.
How Do You Build a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
One of the most complicated aspects of any medical malpractice case is proving the negligence of one or more parties involved in the care of you and or your child. In the simplest terms, malpractice occurs when:
- A medical professional violates the duty of care owed to a patient
- That violation constitutes a breach of the standards established by the medical profession
- Given the same situation, a competent medical professional would not have committed the same error
So-called “simple” mistakes may not qualify as malpractice. In addition, the law may permit greater latitude for doctors, specialists, and other staff providing care in extraordinary circumstances, such as emergency C-sections and medical crises.
Our lawyers will investigate the entire course of medical treatment during pregnancy, the delivery, and aftercare for signs of negligence. We will identify all negligent parties, which may include:
- The G.P. or OBGYN you saw for prenatal care
- Doctors involved in delivery and aftercare
- Nurses and medical assistants
In some cases, the hospital as a whole may also be liable. This liability may stem from unsanitary conditions, overlooking prior employee errors that compromise patient safety, and other negligence that contributed to the birth injury.
What Compensation Is Available in a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
Many states across the country have introduced caps on the damages available for verdicts in medical malpractice claims. These statutes are particularly disadvantageous for families in birth injury cases, where the lifetime cost could be tens of millions of dollars.
Thankfully for those affected by birth injuries and complications, neither Connecticut nor New York has instituted medical malpractice damage caps.
In building your birth injury lawsuit, Ventura Law will pursue the maximum amount of compensation for you, your child, and your family. This may include:
- Medical expenses for prenatal care, delivery, the hospital stay, and followup appointments for you and your child
- Income you lost from time you and your spouse missed from work
- Pain and suffering for the mother, the child, or both
- Projected costs for medical expenses, rehabilitation, home and vehicle modifications, and more
Birth injury cases are unique in the realm of personal injury in that the victims have almost their entire lives ahead of them. Parents who were so hopeful for a healthy baby now must face decades of unexpected physical, emotional, and financial hardship.
As a result, it is important to hire a law firm that has experience and knowledge of malpractice cases. A favorable outcome will compensate you for damages you have already incurred, as well as the costs you may expect to have.
Calculating these costs yourself is virtually impossible. Our lawyers will rely on their extensive experience with birth injury cases and gather testimony from expert witnesses to support a claim that fairly compensates you and your family.
Statute of Limitations in Birth Injury Cases
Another complicated question in a lot of birth injury lawsuits is the timeline in which you can file your claim. All states have statutes of limitations that specify how soon you must file a personal injury lawsuit. In Connecticut, the statute of limitations on personal injury and medical malpractice matters is 2 years. In New York, the statute of limitations is 2 years and 6 months, with some exceptions.
However, a birth injury may be undetectable for several years after a child is born. The symptoms of cerebral palsy, for example, only become apparent over time as the child develops.
As a result, the statute of limitations in birth injury cases may be flexible – to a point:
- In Connecticut:
“The law requires that a medical malpractice lawsuit be initiated within two years from the date when the injury is first sustained or discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered.”
- In New York:
“… if you are a minor when the malpractice occurs … A minor must file a medical malpractice action within 10 years of the date of the malpractice”
New York state law also specifies that legal actions for fatal medical malpractice “must be filed within 2 years of the death of the patient.”
Fatal Birth Injuries
The absolute worst outcome in any birth injury case is the death of the baby, the mother, or both. Unfortunately, maternal and newborn deaths during delivery are shockingly common in the United States as a whole:
- USA Today discovered that around 700 mothers die each year in the U.S. while giving birth.
- 11,000 newborns in the United States die on their first day of life, according to NBC News
Nobody wants to end up a statistic, especially one of these grim numbers. If, however, the worst happens and you lose a member of your family to negligence, the attorneys at Ventura Law can pursue a wrongful death case on your behalf.
Wrongful death claims seek to compensate eligible family members for the financial losses they’ve sustained, as well as damages related to the emotional toll of the loss. In the case of a child who dies as a result of a birth injury, these may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (that is, the loss of the joy of the relationship with the child)
- Loss of earning potential (i.e., the income and other financial contributions the child may have brought to the family had he or she lived)
It might seem impossible or even cruel to calculate the damage to your family wrought by the death of a child. Monetary compensation will not bring your loved one back, but it can provide valuable support in a time of immense hardship.
Just compensation in your case may make the difference in being able to take time off of work and grieve with the ones you love, instead of being forced to soldier forward when your bereavement leave expires.
Why Choose Ventura Law for Your Birth Injury Case
Our law firm was founded in 1957 to provide people from all backgrounds and all walks of life with access to qualified and compassionate legal representation. Key to our more than 60 years of results for clients is getting to know each person who hires us: their goals, their concerns, their questions, and everything in between.
When we know the client, our lawyers and staff are able to serve them most effectively. This is especially true in birth injury cases, which often involve a lifetime of unknowns for parents, children, and other loved ones.
In this trying time for your family, Ventura Law is a worry-free partner inside and outside of the courtroom. We are proud to be part of the communities we serve in Connecticut and New York. You can count on us to treat you with respect, and handle your case with the diligence it deserves.
Contact Ventura Law in Connecticut or New York Today
Most birth injury lawsuits begin when the parents of a newborn or toddler realize their child is struggling or suffering in some way. We realize that concerns about your child may evolve gradually as new information emerges. With our complimentary, no-obligation consultation, you can speak to our lawyers free of charge without committing to legal action.
When you are ready, Ventura Law is here to help you. Please call (203) 800-8000 or complete our online form. Our law firm has offices in Danbury, Bridgeport, Hartford, and Norwalk, Connecticut. We also have an office in New York City to serve clients throughout the Tri-State area.