If you have been told that your child has suffered from a birth injury, getting answers is not always easy, especially if there are questions involving medical negligence or improper medical care that may have led to your child’s birth injury. The following are questions our Registered Nurse Case Managers are frequently asked:
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 are causes of birth injuries?
Birth injuries can be attributed to a number of causes, including medical error or negligence that occurs during the birthing process. Malpractice, or medical negligence, happens when a doctor, or other health care provider, deviates from accepted standards of practice, and causes harm to a patient. Birth injuries can be caused by malpractice in a variety of scenarios:
- Failure to accurately interpret fetal ultrasounds
- Failure to promptly recognize signs of fetal distress seen on the fetal heart monitor and provide the appropriate treatment
- Failure to expedite delivery of the baby, or to perform a cesarean section (C-section), when the condition of the baby and/or mother requires it
- Improper use of delivery instruments such as forceps or vacuum
- Improper use of Pitocin, a drug which is used to induce or facilitate labor
- Failure to properly resuscitate or care for the newborn after delivery
Medical negligence may also be due to a physician’s improper management of a complicated pregnancy or delivery situation such as:
- Abnormal maternal bleeding or fetal bleeding
- Compressed or prolapsed umbilical cord
- Prolonged labor
- Detached placenta (placental abruption)
- Inadequate pelvis size for vaginal delivery
- Maternal infections
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 can a birth injury lawyer do for me?
An experienced birth injury attorney can help determine the origin of the birth injury, by examining the circumstances and procedures of a birth to establish the possibility and responsibility for preventable birth injuries. Seeking answers from medical practitioners or institutions can prove difficult without the help of a lawyer.
Will my physician get in trouble?
It’s understandable to be concerned about getting your physician or healthcare provider in trouble by taking the next step and contacting us. We take each and every inquiry that we receive very seriously. Significant research and evaluation goes into each case before a decision is made to file a lawsuit in court. The initial steps are focused on information gathering, reviewing and getting expert opinions on the case.
The legal process feels overwhelming – I’m not sure I have the time and support to take on a lawsuit.
You are your child’s best advocate. The implications of a birth injury on you, your child and your family can be overwhelming with long term impacts. You may be entitled to assistance. Remember, you are not obligated to pursue a lawsuit by contacting us. It costs nothing to call us and our consultation is at no cost to you.
If I do proceed, who will I be bringing a lawsuit against?
Birth Injury lawsuits are generally brought against the healthcare provider(s) whose substandard care or mistakes may have led to your child’s birth injury. This can be an individual healthcare provider such as a doctor or nurse, or a company (examples are hospitals or drug companies), who gave substandard care to a mother or child at any time prenatally, during the labor and delivery, and/or after delivery while the child was in the nursery.
Where can I find more information about birth injuries?
Visit these national resources for additional information and support:
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides detailed information on Cerebral Palsy and Erb’s Palsy.
- The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics provides statistics on the incidence of abnormal conditions among newborns. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/nvsr59_07.pdf
- The CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCCBD) promotes health and seeks to protect those most vulnerable to health problems http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/index.html
- The Pathways Awareness Foundation, supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, provides free downloadable you can use to see how your infant or toddler is developing. https://pathways.org/milestones/checklists/
Is there financial assistance and support available?
Children with birth injuries have unique health care needs. Families often need help in exercising their child’s rights and to find means to pay for care. Without access to the proper medical services, they are at a higher risk of developing complications and illnesses related to their condition. Listed here are several resources where families can pursue financial assistance:
- Learn about qualifying subsidized healthcare through Medicaid for your disabled child. Medicaid is a federal and state program designed to help fund medical care for people with low income and limited resources. It covers certain disabled children ages 3 to 21, the elderly, pregnant women, blind individuals and disabled adults. Under Medicaid, a qualified child with cerebral palsy is fully covered for all services considered medically necessary by the child’s health care provider. https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid-chip-program-information/by-topics/eligibility/eligibility.html
- Supplemental Security Income for Children with Disabilities - A child with disabilities may be eligible for assistance under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. SSI is a cash assistance program which is funded and administered by the federal government. Its primary purpose is to provide a minimum level of income to people who are unable to work to support themselves.
It’s natural to have questions and even upon getting answers, to still need more information – we understand. If you believe your child’s birth injury is a result of medical neglect or improper care, talk with one of our Registered Nurse Case Managers. We will help you to think back to your experience before, during, and after your child’s birth to assist in determining whether the medical professionals provided appropriate medical care to you and your baby.
While nothing can compensate for the heartache and grief, you may deserve compensation for medical errors that caused your child’s birth injury – compensation that can help pay for medical expenses and long term care. This support can help relieve some of the financial burden associated with your child’s disabilities.