At Anapol Weiss, we know how devastating birth injuries can be for the child and parents. Birth injuries cause long-lasting physical, psychological, and cognitive effects. If your loved one is suffering lifelong repercussions from a negligence-related birth injury, now is the time to take a stand. Enlist the help of our experienced Philadelphia birth injury attorney about the well-being of our clients and want to help them seek the recovery they deserve. During pregnancy, labor, and birth, health care professionals must do their utmost to ensure the safety of both mother and child. Prenatal care and infant delivery require careful monitoring of fetal heart rate, proper use of birthing tools, and the competence to know when to order a cesarean section. A mistake at any point during the process can result in birth injuries.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Birth Injury Lawyer
Our team can launch a full-scale investigation into the incident in question, hire prominent expert witnesses, and take from in-depth research and comparable past cases to help your case. No matter what it takes, we’ll work tirelessly on your behalf. To schedule a free consultation about your birth injury claim, call (866) 735-2792 or contact us online.
According to a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects affect one in every 33 babies. At Anapol Weiss, we have decades of experience handling birth injury claims. Our Philadelphia birth injury lawyers will work on your case until we get the job done. Our firm works closely with medical experts to examine every aspect of a birth injury case.
How to File a Birth Injury Claim in Philadelphia
Each state has its own rules and restrictions for bringing birth injury claims. In Pennsylvania, one must file within two years of the date of the injury. If the plaintiff did not discover the injury until later (as may be the case with many developmental birth injuries), the countdown begins on the date of discovery.
A plaintiff also has two years after the date he/she knows or reasonably should know the conduct that caused the injury and the relationship between the conduct and the injury. Regardless of these three factors, a plaintiff has seven years from the date the injury occurred to bring a claim. If the plaintiff is a minor, he/she has seven years after his/her 20th birthday to file a claim, no matter when the incident occurred.
Within 60 days of the initial filing of the claim with the Pennsylvania courts, the plaintiff must submit an affidavit or certificate of merit. The affidavit must have an attorney’s signature and a written statement from an expert that supports the merit of the plaintiff’s claim. Seek help from an attorney to create your affidavit of merit during the filing process. An attorney can help you locate an appropriate expert and sign your document to make it qualify.
Negligence and Birth Injuries in Philadelphia
Not all birth injuries result from medical malpractice. However, there are many situations in which a doctor’s negligence is the main cause of fetal injury. In these cases, the parents of the injured child have the right to bring a medical malpractice claim against the responsible party. Anytime a doctor, hospital, or a member of the medical staff fails to use reasonable care that results in any of these outcomes, there may be grounds for a civil claim:
- Injury to mother or child
- Wrongful birth
- Wrongful pregnancy
Injuries to mother or child can run the gamut from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries in the infant, and from excessive blood loss to internal injuries in the mother. Wrongful birth cases can occur if the parents would have ended or avoided pregnancy had they known about birth defects. Wrongful pregnancy describes a failed attempt to end or avoid a pregnancy. In any of these situations in Philadelphia, injured parties should seek help from Anapol Weiss.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries take many shapes and forms. Some birth injuries cause temporary harms, while others lead to permanent damages or death. Many birth injuries have varying symptoms on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, birth injuries are immediately evident, while at other times symptoms take years to surface. As soon as you suspect a negligence-related birth injury, contact an attorney. Examples of birth injuries include:
- Bone fractures
- Brachial plexus injuries
- Brain hemorrhage
- Cerebral palsy
- Facial paralysis
- Perinatal asphyxia
- Severe jaundice
- Shoulder dystocia
- Spinal cord injuries
Improper or negligent handling of birth-assisting tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors has led to thousands of birth injuries around the world. In other cases, a doctor’s incompetence or failure to properly react to an emergency can cause birth injuries. Surgical errors during C-sections can also occur. All these represent common situations in which the injured parties have the right to sue the doctor, hospital, and/or a third party.
Categories of Birth Injuries
Understanding the multifaceted symptoms and outcomes of each of these injuries takes testimony from experts. Many of these injuries can result in lifelong health consequences such as cognitive difficulties, learning impairments, and loss of motor function and skill. Sadly, many birth injuries are avoidable with proper medical care during pregnancy and delivery. Here’s a more in-depth overview of some main categories of birth injuries:
Brain injuries may develop due to lack of oxygen to the brain during labor and delivery. Oxygen deprivation can lead to brain damage or electrical disorders such as cerebral palsy (CP). CP is the leading brain-related birth injury. Oxygen deprivation and CP can occur when physicians fail to detect maternal infections, fail to carry out emergency C-sections, fail to treat a prolapsed umbilical cord, or fail to use birthing tools correctly.
Muscle-related injuries such as limited movement or paralysis can stem from medical negligence such as causing broken bones, bruising, or lacerations to the infant during birth. Skull fractures or cephalohematoma (bruising between the skull and outer layers of skin) may occur in these situations. With proper care during labor and birth, physicians can avoid physical injuries such as:
Sometimes, an infection in the mother can cause injuries to the unborn child. It is a physician’s job to detect and treat maternal issues such as infections before they cause harm to the baby. Infections that can pass to the infant include strep and meningitis. Physicians must also recommend the proper supplements to prevent issues such as anemia, folic acid deficiency, and spina bifida.
The Lasting Effects of Birth Injuries
Infants with birth injuries or trauma may display physical, cognitive, and psychological disorders. Labor complications leading to oxygen deprivation or loss of blood supply to the brain can lead to brain damage and developmental delays. Brain injuries can cause issues with body functions and cognitive abilities.
Brachial plexus injuries, on the other hand, can cause lifelong paralysis in the shoulder or arm – often due to shoulder dystocia (when the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery). It is imperative for physicians to act quickly and appropriately in emergency situations to prevent this lasting damage.
Even in the absence of physical or cognitive injuries, traumatic births may affect an infant psychologically. Researchers are still exploring the potential effects of traumatic births in children as they grow older. Developmental disabilities from birth injuries might include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, Asperger’s syndrome, behavior problems, delayed language development, hearing loss, and speech problems.
Who Is at Fault for a Birth Injury?
Determining fault after a birth injury can be difficult. There are many people involved in the prenatal care, labor, and delivery of a child. One must look at the hospital or facility itself, as well as the products and equipment used. It takes a skilled team of attorneys to investigate a birth injury and identify the possible defendant(s). Parties may be able to sue the doctor, nurse, a staff member, the facility, a manufacturer, or a combination of parties causing a birth injury.
If a negligent physician is at fault, one must look at whether he/she is an independent contractor or an employee of the facility. Many doctors are independent contractors who work for themselves and not the facility. If this is the case, a plaintiff may only be able to sue the individual doctor. As an employee, the doctor and/or the hospital may act as defendants. A hospital may be liable for the negligence of its employees based on strict liability laws or due to negligent hiring or training practices. Assigning and proving fault takes a team of dedicated attorneys.
When Birth Injuries are Caused by Negligence
To have a medical malpractice claim in Philadelphia, the plaintiff must prove a physician’s negligence caused the birth injuries. It is not enough to prove the plaintiff suffered damages or the defendant was negligent – there must be a connection between the two. For plaintiffs to receive compensation for their damages, they must prove these four elements:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed.
- The doctor breached his/her duties of care.
- The breach resulted in the patient’s harms.
- The patient suffered specific damages.
The doctor’s breach of duty, and its subsequent harms, is at the center of birth injury claims. Plaintiffs must have evidence that the doctor acted in a way that another reasonably competent medical professional would not have in similar circumstances. Typically, plaintiffs use expert witness testimony to prove this element during a case. In fact, the Pennsylvania courts require expert testimony unless it is unnecessary to pursue the claim.
Who Qualifies as an Expert Witness?
An “expert” is a physician actively engaged in practicing who has experience in the field at hand, with a similar specialty as the defendant, and who is board certified. The court can waive these requirements if the expert can prove sufficient experience or knowledge from actively practicing or teaching medicine within five years of the date of the injury. Expert testimony can make the defendant’s breach clear to the judge or jury, as well as the connection between the breach and the plaintiff’s injuries.