When you’re expecting, the last thing you want to happen is for something to go wrong during the birthing process. You’re planning for a child, and you never expect your baby to be anything less than perfect. Unfortunately, when there are birthing complications, sometimes birth injuries occur. Birth injuries are devastating to parents, and can cause a lot of additional medical expenses. While a birth injury lawsuit can’t help your child’s condition, know that if the injury occurred at the fault of a medical professional, you’re entitled to fair compensation. This can help bring about a sense of justice, and can take care of the medical expenses that add up as a result of the injury.
We understand that a birth injury is a devastating situation, and it can be difficult to know what to do, or where to turn. If you believe your child’s birth injury occurred at the fault of a medical professional, or at the fault of the hospital itself, you deserve, and are entitled to compensation. Here’s everything you need to know about birth injuries, and the legal process that follows:
What’s the difference between birth injuries and birth defects?
Birth injuries are different than birth defects in that birth injuries occur during the birth of a child. Birth defects are conditions that already exist prior to the birth of the child. Birth injuries sometimes happen naturally, and can be unavoidable, but in other situations, they can be caused by negligent health professionals. If your baby sustained a birth injury at the fault of the hospital, nurse, or doctor that helped deliver him or her, your family deserves compensation.
Here’s a list of common birth injuries:
Anoxia – Anoxia literally means the absence of all oxygen. In a medical sense, and specifically related to infants, anoxia occurs when something happens during the birthing process that cuts off the baby’s oxygen supply. This could mean a pinched umbilical cord, or it could be more severe. In severe cases, the doctor is likely to order an emergency C-section. If the doctor does not, and your child suffers brain damage as a result, it’s likely that the doctor’s poor choice could have lead to your baby’s injury.
Hypoxia – While anoxia means the total absence of all oxygen, hypoxia means low levels of oxygen. Generally speaking, hypoxia is less serious than anoxia, but it can still be very dangerous, and cause brain damage. The most common instance of hypoxia occurs when infants are born preterm. Since their lungs aren’t developed enough, the baby can’t manage breathing on his or her own. There are many cases of hypoxia that occur because a physician failed to diagnose an issue that occurred before the birthing process even began.
Cerebral Palsy (CP) – Cerebral Palsy is the leading brain-related injury that’s associated with birth trauma; it affects around 800,000 children. In the most general terms, CP is caused by anoxia or hypoxia, as it is a result of depleted oxygen to the brain. CP can occur for a number of reasons, but generally oxygen deprivation, infant stroke, infant infection, and maternal infections are causes. There are many cases where proper measures taken by the physician could have prevented CP. If a physician fails to monitor fetal distress, and take appropriate next steps, the infant could develop CP.
Bone fractures – While no parent wants to imagine their child in pain, bone breaks and fractures do happen. Unfortunately, when infants are born their bones and skin are still extremely fragile, which puts them at a higher risk for broken bones and fractures. In most birthing situations, light bruising is to be expected, but when broken bones or fractures occur, it’s usually at the fault of someone helping deliver the baby. If there are complications in the birth, or the physician detects maternal or fetal distress, they should do their best to expedite the process safely, usually through an emergency c-section. The c-section is the quickest and safest way to deliver the baby without harm to the infant itself, or the mother. However, in some situations, physicians do not make this call, and have to resort to other options. If the physician uses birth assisting tools with too much force, or pulls improperly on the baby, the child could develop broken or fractured bones.
Spinal cord injuries – While spinal cord injuries during the birthing process are rare, they do occur from time to time, and they are very serious injuries. Depending how severely the spinal cord is affected, the infant could experience symptoms ranging from paralysis to spasms, pain, difficulty breathing, or just general weakness. These injuries are generally caused from stressful or difficult deliveries where the baby’s trunk is overstretched or improperly rotated, placing undue pressure on the child’s spine. Spinal cord injuries can be very severe, and cause long term damage that would require regular medical attention.
Brachial Plexus Injury – A group of nerves that runs from the spine through the neck and arms, the brachial plexus can sometimes be damaged during difficult deliveries. While there are multiple types of injuries associated with a brachial plexus injury, general symptoms include: limited or no movement on the affected arm or side, a claw-like hand appearance, muscle weakness in the affected area, loss of motor function in the affected arm, or abnormal muscle contractions. Depending on the severity of the case, symptoms may disappear, or conversely they could worsen as the child gets older. While most causes of brachial plexus injury have to do with the size of the child, or a difficult delivery, sometimes it occurs because of a physician error.
Whatever injury your child has suffered, if it happened as a result of physician or medical staff incompetence or negligence, you’re eligible for compensation. No child should be subjected to undue pain and suffering at the hands of a medical professional. What’s more, the continuing medical bills that pile up as you attempt to help your child can be stressful, and more than you can handle. A medical malpractice suit will see that those responsible for your child’s injury are brought to justice, and you receive compensation for the medical bills, pain and suffering incurred as a result of the injury.
What will a birth injury lawyer do to help me and my baby?
We understand that fighting for compensation cannot reverse your child’s birth injury, but it can help pay for current, past, and future medical bills, as well as pain and suffering associated with the birth injury. A dedicated medical malpractice attorney can help ensure that you receive the compensation you and your child deserve. Medical malpractice suits are tricky, as hospitals often have teams of lawyers at their disposal, because they want to avoid any kind of bad press. Only a dedicated, experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to really benefit your case.
A good birth injury lawyer will first set up an initial consultation with you, to discuss your case and evaluate if you actually have a case. It’s a good idea to bring as much relevant documentation as you can to this initial consultation to help the process move along a little more quickly. From there, an experienced birth injury attorney will move on to the pre-litigation process, where they collect more information, develop a witness and expert list, and essentially set everything up for your case.
At this point, your attorney may propose a settlement amount to the defense. By making a settlement, no one has to go to trial, and you get the compensation you deserve without any additional hassle. Both you and the defendant must agree to the settlement amount before the process is complete.
In the event that a settlement isn’t reached, the process will start heading to trial. Your attorney will file a formal complaint, whereafter the defense will be able to see the evidence, witness list, and any other information gathered by your attorney. Once the defense sees the evidence against them, they’re likely to decide to negotiate a settlement instead of going to trial. While this is usually the case, from time to time the defendant will go all the way to court, to fight the case in trial. In this situation, your attorney will represent you in court, until a decision on your case is made. Though a trial can be stressful and drawn out, it’s good to note that the defense can still settle all the way up to the last week of a trial. That means that you may still be able to avoid parts of the trial.
Your experienced birth injury attorney will be able to handle this entire process, so long as you have a competent attorney that understands birth injury and medical malpractice law.
Is a birth injury lawyer expensive?
Every attorney has their own rates. Generally these rates are based on their experience and specialty, but it’s impossible to determine a lawyer’s prices without talking to them first. What’s important to know is that most reputable birth injury attorneys operate on a contingency basis. This means that they will only take money if they win the case. It’s in your best interest to choose an attorney that specializes in birth injury cases, and who operates on a contingency fee. Attorneys who do so typically have the funds to pay upfront for court fees, and gathering information and witnesses, which means they’re good at their job.
This also provides you with the security of knowing that your attorney will be working in your best interest, and that you won’t have to pay if you don’t win your case or settle. When you do win or settle, your attorney will probably take out a percentage of that for payment. The percentage they take out depends on their normal fees, in combination with any office expenses, court costs, and copies of additional medical and witness reports.
If you don’t have the money to handle both medical expenses and legal fees, it’s important that you know you don’t have to choose. A decent birth injury lawyer won’t ask for payment until after your case has been won.
How long will my birth injury lawyer work on my case?
Medical malpractice lawsuits can take a long time. First of all, you may not notice the effects of the birth injury until a year down the road. Once you finally find a lawyer, it takes time to gather information and present it to the defense. It’s good to know that when you enter into a medical malpractice, birth injury lawsuit, you probably won’t resolve the issue in a few months. While the total length of your case will depend on your specific situation, it’s important to know that a good birth injury lawyer will stick with your case until it’s completely resolved. They will make sure everything about your case is thoroughly investigated, and presented properly, no matter how long it takes.
How much compensation can I expect from my birth injury suit?
Since no two cases are exactly alike, it’s impossible to give you an exact number. If an attorney promises you a definite number before your case even starts, that should be a red flag. No case is easily estimated, and there are many tiny details that go into every individual case that will affect the compensation you will receive. If any attorney promises or guarantees a specific number, or says that you’re sure to win, you should try to find a different attorney. Nothing in a civil suit is set in stone, even if you have a very good case. With that being said, typical cases entitle the plaintiff to compensation regarding:
- Medical expenses of the past and present, as well as estimated future costs
- Rehab and therapy costs
- Lost wages incurred as a result of the injury
- Emotional pain and anxiety
- Physical pain and trauma that occurred from the injury
- Cost of special education, as well as in-home care
- Punitive damages
Please note that it’s not guaranteed that you will receive damages for all of the above categories. While some cases are awarded compensation for all of the above, other cases may only win damages for some of the above reasons. Additionally, laws for birth injury compensation claims are different in every state, so you may be entitled to something different in your state. The above reasons are listed as a general guide as to what you may be entitled to in your settlement or in the event that you win your case.
Birth injury cases are scary, and more than anything, they’re upsetting. You or your child was harmed as a result of a negligent physician or medical staff member. While nothing can be done to reverse the actions that already occurred, your birth injury case may help others in the same situation, by alerting others to the incompetent personnel. Additionally, when you receive compensation, you’ll be able to pay for the medical bills that continue to stack up.
If you or your child were injured during the birthing process, at the fault of a physician, hospital, or any other medical professional, call the Epstein Law Firm. We’ve worked in medical malpractice for decades, and are confident we can handle your birth injury case. Give our office a call at 773-522-7000, or schedule your free initial consultation online today!
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