LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Jesse M. Reiter | Aug 9, 2013

Was Your Child's Birth Injury Preventable? How to Identify Medical Negligence and Get Legal Help.

Every parent looks forward to the birth of a child. Plans for the future are made and the arrival of a healthy newborn is anticipated. Sometimes however, complications arise during labor and delivery and the baby suffers serious and permanent injuries.

Parents are left devastated. They wonder if these injuries could have been prevented and who can help them sort through what happened. Below is information to assist families with answers to these difficult questions.

Birth injuries are often preventable

Complications can occur during any labor and delivery. Physicians, nurses and other hospital staff are trained to anticipate problems and to quickly resolve them in order to ensure the safety of both the mother and the baby. This is not only necessary, medical professionals are, in fact, obligated to do this under the standards of medical care. Situations in which the standards of care are not followed, constitute negligence. Some examples include:

  • Failure to diagnose or treat a complication either prior to or during labor and delivery. This would include not identifying problems like preeclampsia (high blood pressure), cephalopelvic disproportion (baby’s head too large to fit through mother’s pelvis), or gestational diabetes.

  • Failure to properly monitor a labor and delivery. Sometimes obstetricians and nurses fail to pay proper attention to fetal monitors or improperly interpret monitor tracings and the baby suffers oxygen deprivation as a result.

  • Failure to perform a necessary procedure or test such blood tests, ultrasounds or brain cooling treatments.

  • Failure to inform the mother of risks and benefits of a procedure, test or medication. For example, Pitocin is frequently administered to help induce or speed up a labor. However, it has serious side effects if administered improperly. A mother must be made aware of these dangers.

  • Delayed treatment like not timely ordering or performing a necessary C-section.

  • Failure to inform the mother of the need for, or options associated with, a procedure or test.

  • Providing the incorrect treatment.

  • Improper use of delivery tools. Vacuum extractors and forceps are often used for difficult births. When a medical practitioner misuses them and injury results, it is negligence.

Common types of birth injuries

Birth injuries can range from mild to severe and can affect a child in several different ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, cognitively. Some of the most common types of injuries include:

  • Brain damage from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) or birth asphyxia. HIE, commonly known as birth asphyxia, is a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the baby’s brain at or near the time of birth. This lack of oxygen and subsequent cell death (brain damage), results in mental and physical disabilities.

  • Cerebral Palsy (CP). This is a group of disorders that involve brain and nervous system functions. Movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking can all be impaired.

  • Seizure disorders. Seizures occur when nerve cells in the brain fire abnormally due to nerve damage, oxygen deprivation, high fever, or problems in brain chemistry. They often happen to birth injured children immediately following birth.

  • Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injuries. Brachial plexus injury, or Erb’s palsy, is a weakening or paralysis of the arm caused by injury to the arm’s upper group of main nerves. It is usually caused by trauma from a birth in which the baby’s shoulders have difficulty passing below the mother’s pubic bone.

  • Intracranial hemorrhages (brain bleeds). This is where head trauma causes bleeding inside the skull. Many brain bleeds are a result of mismanaged labor and deliveries and medical errors.

  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Where to turn for help

If your child has been afflicted with any of the conditions above, you should seek legal assistance immediately. A qualified attorney will review your child’s medical records, determine if negligence caused the injury and, if so, obtain the compensation your child deserves.

Most people, however, have never had to hire an attorney and aren’t sure how to proceed. The process of retaining a lawyer is simply a matter of identifying who has the best skills to represent your child and with whom you feel most comfortable working.

Start by identifying a list of qualified birth injury attorneys and then schedule consultations with each. Inquire about their knowledge of birth injury law, experience, qualifications, and their records of verdicts and settlements. Some questions you should ask:

  • What percentage of your cases are birth injury cases? Ideally, you want to choose a lawyer or firm that specializes in these kinds of cases.
  • Will my case be referred out to another firm? Some firms that don’t handle a lot of birth injury cases will refer your case to an entirely different firm in exchange for a portion of the settlement.
  • What is your record of verdicts and settlements?
  • How will you communicate with me throughout the litigation process? How involved will I and my child be in this process?
  • Do you have knowledge and experience in cases involving the medical conditions that my child has?
  • What is the statute of limitations for my case? Can I still file a claim?
  • Do you have client references?

Compare the meetings and responses of each attorney. Determine who you believe is the most qualified and with whom you are most comfortable discussing your child’s case. If you have questions about this information or about your child’s injury, feel free to call me, Jesse Reiter. I’m happy to speak to you and help in any way that I can. Call my office toll-free (888) 419-BABY. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centersis a nationally recognized firm specializing in birth injury law.

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