What Causes Birth Injuries?
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for over 250,000 deaths each year. Countless others are injured by medical malpractice or mistakes made by doctors and other hospital staff. These medical errors are also the cause of birth injuries.
Birth injuries are avoidable with proper medical care, but if doctors make careless mistakes before, during, or after delivery, the baby is the one who suffers.
Common Causes of Long-term birth injuries
Some of the most common events that result in life-changing disabilities include:
- Improper use of forceps/vacuum extraction
- Making an error during surgery
- Misdiagnosing a serious medical condition
- Not properly assessing risk factors beforehand
- Using excessive force to deliver the baby
If you suspect that your child is the victim of a birth injury, you need to know your legal rights and options. You and your child should not have to endure long-term suffering or health issues due to a medical error that was beyond your control.
For many families affected by birth traumas, filing a birth injury lawsuit is often the first step on the road toward healing. Legal rights, however, are time-sensitive due to statutes of limitations. Given these limitations, it is important to reach out to an experienced law firm as soon as possible. Case managers can help determine if legal action is the right path for your unique situation.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect the brain and nervous system. It develops when a child’s brain suffers extreme damage before or during birth.
Cerebral palsy can affect a child’s:
- Ability to eat
- Limb control
- Mental skills
- Motor skills
Cerebral palsy has no cure, and its symptoms often need to be managed with the help of professionals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average lifetime cost for someone with cerebral palsy is over $1 Million.
Cerebral palsy brings undeserved pain and suffering to the affected person and their loved ones. If your baby has received a diagnosis, you may feel frustrated, confused, and scared. You are not alone. According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF), over 17 million people around the world live with cerebral palsy.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is the direct result of brain damage before or during birth. Cerebral palsy causes can be a physical injury before, during, or shortly after delivery or an undetected illness. In these cases, the baby’s brain would have formed normally had this damage not occurred.
Types of Birth Injuries That May Lead to Cerebral Palsy
There are multiple ways that a child can develop cerebral palsy, including several birth injuries or types of negligence.
- Fetal distress (lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain)
- Jaundice that is not properly treated
- Intracranial hemorrhages
- Untreated neonatal infections
- Other medical errors before, during, or shortly after childbirth
If a doctor fails to properly diagnose any of these conditions, they may be responsible for your baby’s injuries. It is the duty of your medical team to keep you and your child as safe as possible. If they did not do this, your child may need long-term care for their condition.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
The symptoms of cerebral palsy will vary based on where the baby’s head and brain were affected. This is because the damage is usually contained to one portion of the brain. Some children with cerebral palsy may only experience mild symptoms, while others may need around-the-clock care.
Common symptoms include:
- Mental impairments
- Muscles that are locked up, floppy, or shaky
- Problems with spine and joints
- Speech and eating impairments
- Visual problems
The cranial or brain injuries that cause cerebral palsy cannot be cured, so the symptoms will not go away with time. However, some symptoms can benefit from effective treatment.
For example, extremely stiff muscles can benefit from physical therapy. Your child could also work with a speech therapist if they have trouble communicating. Early therapy can prevent these conditions from worsening over time.
What Is Erb's Palsy?
Erb’s palsy is a form of paralysis (palsy) that affects the bundle of nerves near a baby’s neck. This bundle of nerves is called the brachial plexus. Doctors who struggle during delivery may pull on a baby’s neck or limbs. This causes the nerves in the brachial plexus to stretch and tear.
When brachial plexus nerves are damaged, it affects the baby’s ability to control their shoulders, arms, or hands. Around 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 babies are born with Erb’s palsy.
Erb's Palsy Symptoms
There are a number of common symptoms of Erb's Palsy.
- Numbness, lack of feeling, or a tingling sensation
- Partial or total paralysis
Erb’s palsy is best treated with therapy as soon as the nerve injury condition is diagnosed. Researchers estimate that over 80% of babies with mild Erb’s palsy can make a full recovery. However, recovery may take several months or years.
In more severe cases, in which the nerves are severed, symptoms may never go away. An Erb's Palsy lawyer can help victims pursue financial compensation.
Signs and Symptoms of a Birth Injury
Identifying a birth injury in your child is no easy task. Many birth injuries go unnoticed for months or years. They are sometimes mistaken for other conditions, such as spinal cord injuries or neurological disorders.
However, your child may have a birth injury if they:
- Cannot move one of their limbs
- Have hearing or vision issues
- Have problems with their muscle tone (stiff or weak muscles/limbs)
- Miss common milestones for their age (i.e., not rolling over, smiling, standing)
- Prefer one arm/hand over the other
Birth Injury Financial Support
Medicare and Medicaid for Birth Injuries
Managing birth injuries can be very costly, and you may not be able to afford all of the necessary treatments on your own. Fortunately, families affected by birth injuries can receive government aid through Medicare and Medicaid.
Medicare and Medicaid can help pay for:
- At-home health care
- Communication equipment
- Counseling services
- Doctor visits
- Drugs and medications
- Mental health services
- Medication and medical equipment
- Transportation needs
- Treatment programs
Each form of federal assistance has its own set of qualifications that determine who can receive benefits. Medicare was established so that the elderly and those with severe disabilities can receive medical care.
Medicaid qualifications vary for each state, but generally speaking, the family must have a low source of income in order to receive these benefits.
However, Medicare and Medicaid cover only what is considered “medically necessary.” This means that you still may have to pay for some medical expenses by yourself. You may need to pay out-of-pocket for items such as specialized mobility equipment, physical therapy, and some prescription drugs. Fortunately, there are other ways that you can afford treatments.
Birth Injury Legal Options
If your child was unexpectedly diagnosed with a birth injury, you may feel powerless or even hopeless. Birth injuries bring emotional and financial stress to even the most well-prepared families.
Birth Injury Lawsuits
Compensation from a legal claim may be able to help ease your burdens. When you file a legal claim with the help of a proven birth injury law firm, you will work alongside an experienced and dedicated legal team. This team examines if the doctors and nurses who delivered your child may be responsible for their injuries.
If successful, a birth injury lawsuit verdict or settlement could allow your family to receive financial compensation.
This compensation can help pay for:
- Adaptive equipment (such as wheelchairs and walkers)
- Doctor visits
- Therapy sessions
- Other costs
Sokolove Law Provides Legal Aid for Birth Injuries
Sokolove Law has lawyers with experience handling birth injury claims. Our lawyers understand the suffering that families affected by birth injuries go through. They will work with you to understand your unique situation and maximize the value of your claim.
For example, our team recently received a verdict of $950,000 for a 5-year-old girl with Erb’s palsy in New Jersey. Though each case is different, and previous results do not guarantee future outcomes, our lawyers will do their best to maximize a case’s chance of receiving compensation.
Our case managers are ready to speak with you and help answer your questions. Call Sokolove Law today at (800) 995-1212 or start a free case review.
Birth Injury FAQs
What is a birth injury?
A birth injury can be any type of injury that occurred during pregnancy, labor, and delivery or shortly after birth. Common birth injuries include bruising from forceps, fractures of the clavicle or collarbone, and brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy). Birth injuries can also cause cerebral palsy, a movement disorder caused by an injury to the movement areas of the brain.
Will my child get better?
Many babies who suffer a birth injury can eventually recover from their condition, depending on the severity. However, some birth injuries can cause serious, permanent damage in a child, leaving him or her with lifelong mental or physical disabilities.
Was my child’s injury preventable?
The natural childbirth contractions and contortions can be hard on a small infant, and the potential for a birth injury is always there. However, in some circumstances, it is revealed that medical negligence or improper care provided by a doctor, midwife, or nurse during labor and delivery was the likely cause of the birth injury.
Some births are complicated and injuries are not always due to medical negligence. The key is to determine whether the medical professionals provided appropriate medical care to you and your baby during delivery.
What is the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect?
Birth injuries are generally caused by something that went wrong during the delivery of the child. Birth defects usually involve harm to a baby that arose prior to birth, due to something that happened during or before the pregnancy.
What is the cost of care for a child with a birth injury?
For many families, taking care of a disabled child can be costly. Medications, counseling, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, schooling, assistive devices and special recreational activities are often unexpected and overwhelming expenses.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average lifetime cost for one person with Cerebral Palsy is estimated at $921,000. This figure represents costs above and beyond those experienced by a person who does not have a disability.
These are a few examples of common costs associated with caring for a child with a birth injury:
- Direct Non-Medical Costs: Home modifications, car modifications, special education
- Direct Medical Costs: Doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, inpatient hospital stays
- Indirect Costs: The value of lost wages when a person dies early, cannot work or is limited in the amount of work he or she can do.
This does not include expenses such as:
- Hospital outpatient visits
- Emergency department visits
- Residential care
- Family-out-of-pocket expenses (equipment, leg braces, walker or wheelchair, housing modifications, medications)
I think my child has a birth injury. What should I do?
Birth injuries have time limitations, meaning that after a certain period of time passes, you can no longer pursue a birth injury lawsuit — whether someone was responsible for the birth injury or not. This time period varies drastically on a state-by-state basis, so it’s essential to consult with a lawyer early on who may be able to help determine if the injury was a result of negligence.
What is birth asphyxia?
Asphyxia refers to a lack of oxygen and blood flowing to the brain. When this abnormality happens during a difficult delivery, it’s referred to as birth asphyxia. Even mild oxygen deprivation during or after birth can lead to a number of developmental delays and medical conditions, like cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
Where can I find more information about birth injuries?
Visit these national resources for additional information and support: