A birth injury is an injury to an infant that takes place during pregnancy, delivery or shortly after birth. In the United States, 7 out of 1,000 babies endure birth injuries. Birthing injuries can range from broken bones, injury to nerves and brain damage. The most common brain injury to occur during birth is due to oxygen deprivation.
Statute of Limitations
If your infant was injured during birth, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is two years from the injury to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the injury was not discovered until years later, the law allows you to file a malpractice claim up to seven years after the medical error occurred. This is due to the discovery rule that allows victims extra time to file a claim if the injury was not discovered until years later. For example, if your infant endured brain trauma during birth, was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy as a result without symptoms showing until years later, you could file a claim up to seven years after the injury occurred.
Common Reasons for Birth Injuries
Oxygen Deprivation – 2 out of every 1,000 babies suffer from oxygen deprivation at birth. Oxygen deprivation occurs when there is not enough oxygen traveling to the infant’s brain which can result in serious brain damage and cerebral palsy.
Medical Malpractice – Your healthcare professional is required to monitor the expectant mother during her pregnancy to avoid serious complications and treat them promptly if any arise. Failure to monitor outside toxins or poor nutrition could lead to serious complications during pregnancy. Additionally, excessive force using vacuum extraction of the newborn can lead to serious head, neck and shoulder injuries. Failure to properly use medical equipment can result in head trauma to the infant which can then turn into hearing loss or development of cerebral palsy.
Delayed Birth – If the labor process is taking too long, the infant can get injured if they have a hard time getting out of their mother’s birth canal. Common injuries from delayed birth can include oxygen deprivation and nerve damage.
Medications – Doctors must know which medications are harmful to pregnant mothers and advise against them. Failure to do so could put the unborn child at risk of developing serious diseases. Some acne and seizure medicines have been linked to congenial heart disease in newborn babies.
Birth Injury Lawsuit Process
If you believe your child endured a birthing injury due to your medical professional’s negligent behavior, you might file a medical malpractice lawsuit to claim compensation for your child’s medical expenses. As with any other medical malpractice case, you must prove that you had a doctor-patient relationship, your doctor did not uphold the medical standard of care and that negligence caused your infant’s birth injury.
The first element to prove is that you had a relationship with your doctor. This means that your doctor agreed to treat you and therefor has a responsibility to provide you with adequate care throughout your pregnancy. Your medical professional is required to uphold the medical standard of care. Essentially, this means that your doctor must provide you with the same competent care that another doctor in a similar field would have provided you. For example, as a pregnant mother your doctor should conduct routine checkups to ensure you and the baby are safe throughout your pregnancy. Failure to discover and properly treat any infection or risk factor could have long-term negative effects on the infant. You must also prove that the medical professional’s failure to provide proper care lead to your infant’s injury.
If it’s been determined the hospital was negligent, a representative of the hospital or an insurance agent might reach out to discuss settlement options. Often times these representatives will want to settle out of court to save money and their reputation. If you are quick to settle, you might not recover as much as you could.
Once an attorney is obtained, the lawsuit process will begin and your legal team will gather all documents regarding your infant’s injury. These documents can include medical records, witnesses at the time of the incident and any other important documents. While your legal team is putting the lawsuit into action, it is recommended to keep all documentation of any medical expenses for your infant’s injury as evidence. Children who endure birthing injuries might not show symptoms of serious injury for months to years. It’s recommended to speak with an attorney immediately upon discovery of a birth injury to begin the claims process.