Seven out of every 1,000 births in the U.S. are affected by birth trauma. Many birth injuries are due to unforeseen medical reasons, but over 150,000 are avoidable yearly.
Knowing that a trusted healthcare professional caused a child’s health concerns can be unbearable, but there are routes to justice that lead to compensation for distraught parents and young victims.
If you suspect your child’s birth injury resulted from a doctor’s mistake, a Virginia medical malpractices attorney specializing in medical malpractice cases can make sense of the medical and legal terminology you’re dealing with.
What Are Birth Injuries?
Babies are born through a narrow birth canal that isn’t easy to maneuver. Sometimes they get hurt. Birth injuries are those suffered during labor and delivery. They can happen naturally or through some misdeed from the medical team.
Many birth injuries involve brain trauma, profoundly impacting a child’s development and growth. Some may lead to lasting muscle and nerve impairments, requiring lifelong medical treatments and therapies.
If your child was affected by the mistakes of the medical team during birth, a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice can help you get compensation for damages.
What Causes Birth Injuries?
Birth trauma, also known as birth injury, is caused by various factors.
Some common causes are:
- Difficult or extended labor: Prolonged or intensive labor can increase the risk of birth trauma. The baby’s position, size, and the mother’s pelvis shape can all play a part in a difficult labor.
- Instrument-assisted delivery: Using forceps or vacuum extraction during delivery can result in injuries to the baby, such as bruising, lacerations, or nerve damage.
- Cesarean section (C-Section): While C-sections are generally safe, surgical complications can injure the mother and baby. Waiting too long to have a C-section can result in trauma.
- Breech birth: Babies in a breech position (feet or buttocks first) can sustain birth trauma due to the challenges of delivering in this position.
- High birth weight: Babies with macrosomia, or a high birth weight, may have difficulty passing through the birth canal.
- Premature birth: Premature babies have underdeveloped organs and delivery or medical interventions may injure them.
- Multiple births: Twins, triplets, or more, may increase likelihood of birth trauma due to the complicated delivery process.
- Maternal health conditions: Maternal health issues, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, increase the risk of birth trauma. Doctors must inform the mother when these circumstances are present.
- Medical interventions: Medications to induce or augment labor and other medical interventions may lead to complications or birth trauma.
- Inadequate prenatal care: Insufficient prenatal care can result in undetected issues contributing to birth trauma.
- Complications with the umbilical cord: A compressed or prolapsed umbilical cord can lead to asphyxiation and resulting birth traumas.
- Jaundice and infections: When jaundice and infections go untreated, it can cause health issues.
Most birth traumas are related to a medical mistake. If a medical professional caused an infant’s birth injury, the family might seek financial compensation with a medical malpractice lawsuit.
You need a medical malpractice attorney with years of experience for your lawsuit to succeed. If your child received a birth injury, a lawyer can provide reliable legal guidance and restore some comfort to your life.
What Are the Most Common Birth Injuries?
Birth injuries differ from congenital conditions. Inherited disorders come from the child’s family or an otherwise predisposed situation, while medical mistakes typically cause birth injuries.
Some birth injuries are minor issues that fade within a few hours, some last days or weeks, and some are more severe and last a lifetime.
Caput succedaneum: Caput is a substantial swelling of the soft tissues of the scalp that grows during the journey through the birth canal. Babies delivered by vacuum extraction are at higher risk of having this condition. Some also experience bruising or cuts in the area. The swelling usually disappears in a few days without problems.
Cephalohematoma: Cephalohematoma is bleeding between the bone and its fibrous covering. It manifests as a raised lump on the baby’s head several hours after birth. The body reabsorbs the blood over time.
Most cephalohematomas take two weeks to three months to completely disappear. If it’s large, some babies may develop jaundice while the red blood cells break down.
Bruising or forceps marks: Bruising on the face or head from passing through the birth canal and contact with the mother’s pelvic bones is typical.
Forceps used with delivery can leave temporary bruises on the baby’s head. Babies delivered by vacuum extraction may also have scalp bruising or lacerations.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage: Subconjunctival hemorrhage is small broken blood vessels in a baby’s eyes appearing as a bright red band in the white part of one or both eyes. This is very common and does not cause damage. It is usually gone in a week to ten days.
Facial paralysis: Pressure on a baby’s face during birth can cause injury to the facial nerve. It can also occur by using forceps during delivery.
It’s most apparent when the baby cries. There is no movement on one side of the face, and the eye cannot close. When the nerve is only bruised, paralysis typically improves in a few weeks. A torn nerve may require surgery to correct.
Brachial palsy: Brachial palsy occurs due to injuries to the cluster of nerves in the arms and hands (brachial plexus). It is most common when the baby’s shoulder gets caught on the mother’s pubic bone, a condition called shoulder dystocia.
The infant loses the capability to flex and rotate the arm. Movement usually returns within a few months if the injury causes only bruising and swelling around the nerves. Permanent nerve damage can result if the nerves are torn.
Fractures: Clavicle fractures are common during childbirth, usually due to difficulty delivering the baby’s shoulder. A lump may form on the clavicle in the first ten days.
A growth plate fracture requires immediate treatment, as it can affect bone growth and result in misalignment or shortening. These fractures occur in the soft and weak sections of a child’s bones. If it happens during birth, one end of an arm or leg bone will swell.
A femur fracture is a broken thigh bone. It can occur if the delivery twists the leg.
Perinatal asphyxia: Perinatal asphyxia happens when the baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen in the blood during labor. It can lead to shock, seizures, and coma.
Spinal cord damage: Clumsy or inexperienced forceps use during delivery could injure the baby’s delicate spinal cord, causing nerve damage, neurological issues, and permanent paralysis.
Who Is Liable for a Birth Injury in Virginia?
Any healthcare provider or medical worker who supplied substandard care that resulted in a birth injury can be held liable. This might include doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and entire facilities.
Mismanaged hospitals result in birth injury by employing inadequately trained staff, using outdated and poorly maintained equipment, and overworking their physicians to fatigued states.
Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Virginia
Every state has a statute of limitations. It gives you two years to file a parental claim.
The continuing treatment rule can alter the statute of limitations in Virginia. It says that if you consistently received treatment from a healthcare provider for the same health issue, you must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of your last treatment instead of when the mistake initially occurred.
Gathering evidence and filing a medical malpractice claim can confuse anyone. Add the complexities of the statute of limitations, and it can make anyone’s head spin. Hiring a lawyer to help navigate the legal confusion increases your chances of getting adequate compensation.
What Factors Will a Birth Injury Claim Consider?
You must prove four elements of negligence to win a birth injury claim.
- Duty of care: Healthcare professionals must provide appropriate medical care.
- Breach: The medical professional’s acts fell beneath the accepted standard of care. They failed to uphold their duty to their patient.
- Causation: The doctor might say it wasn’t their fault and that other things they couldn’t control caused the harm. To prove the doctor was at fault, parents must show that the injury wouldn’t have happened if the doctor hadn’t made a mistake. They also must show that it was obvious that the doctor’s mistake would hurt the baby, such as a doctor mishandling tools during the birth that led to broken bones.
- Damages: Damages are monetary compensation for the injuries the child suffered. The claimant must show the doctor’s negligent actions caused the child’s suffering and injury.
A skilled lawyer will know how to prove these essential factors and collect the evidence you need to get it done.
What Evidence Do You Need to Win a Birth Injury Case?
Various forms of evidence can help establish healthcare providers’ negligence when a newborn is hurt during birth.
These cases involve allegations of medical malpractice, and you need evidence to support the claims.
- Medical records: Medical records are a primary source of evidence. They include prenatal, labor and delivery, postnatal records, and records of the child’s condition at birth. These records help establish the standard of care and whether medical staff breached it.
- Expert testimony: Medical professionals in obstetrics and neonatology can testify to the standard of care, deviations from it, and the link between medical negligence and birth injury.
- Eyewitness testimony: Nurses, other healthcare providers, or family members present during the birth may testify about what they observed during labor and delivery.
- Documentation: Any written notes, memos, or communications among medical professionals that may suggest negligence or deviation from the standard of care can be necessary evidence.
- Imaging and diagnostic tests: Imaging, such as ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs, as well as diagnostic tests, can provide valuable evidence of the child’s condition and any birth injuries.
- Fetal monitoring strips: Continuous fetal monitoring strips, if available, can show changes in the fetal heart rate and may demonstrate potential signs of distress during labor.
- Photos and videos: Visual evidence, such as photographs and videos of the birth process, can support claims of medical negligence.
- Hospital policies: Hospital policies and protocols related to childbirth and neonatal care may differ from accepted standards.
- Pre-existing medical conditions: A lawyer may use the medical history of the mother and child, including any pre-existing medical conditions or risk factors, as evidence.
- Expert reports and medical studies: Reports from medical experts and relevant medical literature support or challenge claims.
You need a thorough investigation and legal expertise to get through complex birth injury cases. The specific evidence and legal strategies used depend on the circumstances of the case.
If you believe you have a birth injury case in Virginia, talk with a qualified medical malpractice attorney who can guide you through the process and help you gather and present the necessary evidence.
Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act
The Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act was passed in 1987. Parents can use it to pay for the medical and other expenses of children with severe neurological injuries resulting from birth trauma.
A lawyer can tell you if your claim qualifies under this act and if it will sufficiently compensate you for your issue.
How a Virginia Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help
A medical malpractice attorney can help you recover the damages you need to fully compensate for all your costs and associated changes in your life after a birth injury.
Your attorney takes your place in the claim and handles all the negotiations with the insurance companies and their lawyers, who work against you receiving total compensation.
Contact Emroch and Kilduff at (804) 358-1568 to discuss how we can get your case started today.