Doctors and medical staff are responsible for monitoring women closely during their pregnancy and the labor and delivery process. This monitoring is to ensure the health and well-being of the mother and baby and to minimize the possibility of birth injuries and other issues.
However, the facts have shown that this does not always happen. Human error in the medical field is more common than most realize.
Negligent doctors, nurses, and other medical staff exist and make careless errors while falling below the standard of care. This, unfortunately, leads to health risks for mothers and babies.
At The Law Offices of Joseph J. Perrini, III, we understand the impact of a birth injury. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion turns into one full of worry and concern.
When you contact our law office, you can speak to our experienced personal injury lawyers to discuss your situation. With our help, we can hold negligent doctors and medical staff liable for their negligence that led to your baby’s birth injury.
Understanding Birth Injuries
Birth injuries are physical injuries that occur to a newborn or mother during the labor and delivery process. These injuries can range from minor to severe and may impact the child’s health and development. Common birth injuries include the following:
Brachial Plexus Injuries
A brachial plexus injury is a birth injury that affects the network of nerves controlling the arm, hand, and shoulder muscles. This injury can occur during childbirth when excessive force is applied to the baby’s head, neck, or shoulders, stretching or damaging the brachial plexus nerves.
Depending on the severity of the injury, symptoms can range from mild weakness or limited mobility in the affected arm to complete paralysis. Brachial plexus injuries may require surgical intervention and extensive physical therapy to restore function.
Cerebral palsy is a group of lifelong neurological disorders that affect muscle coordination and movement. It is often the result of brain damage or abnormal brain development before, during, or shortly after birth.
Children with cerebral palsy may experience a range of symptoms, including muscle stiffness, weakness, and impaired coordination. The severity of cerebral palsy varies, with some individuals able to lead relatively independent lives and others requiring ongoing medical and therapeutic support.
Facial Nerve Injuries
Facial nerve injuries in newborns can occur during childbirth due to pressure or trauma to the baby’s head or face. The facial nerve, the seventh cranial nerve, controls facial expressions and movement. When this nerve is damaged, it can lead to facial paralysis or weakness on one side of the face.
Symptoms may include drooping of the eyelid and corner of the mouth, difficulty closing the eye, and altered facial expressions. Facial nerve injuries can have significant cosmetic and functional consequences. Treatment may involve physical therapy, medication, and, in some cases, surgery to repair or reposition the affected nerve.
Causes of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can result from various factors, including:
Medical negligence in childbirth refers to mistakes or substandard care provided by healthcare professionals during the entire process of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. This encompasses a wide range of potential errors, including:
- Inadequate prenatal monitoring: Healthcare providers may fail to perform necessary prenatal tests, leading to a failure in identifying or managing maternal or fetal health issues.
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis: Medical professionals might misdiagnose a medical condition during pregnancy, leading to incorrect or delayed treatment.
- Medication errors: Administering incorrect medications or dosage during pregnancy or labor can have serious consequences for both the mother and the baby.
- Mismanagement of labor and delivery: This includes errors such as incorrect interpretation of fetal monitoring, inappropriate delay in performing a cesarean section, or improper techniques during childbirth.
Medical negligence can result in birth injuries, maternal complications, and long-term health issues for both mother and child. When healthcare providers deviate from the accepted standard of care, they may be held legally responsible for the harm caused.
Difficult deliveries refer to situations during childbirth where labor and delivery become prolonged or complicated. These scenarios can arise for various reasons, including:
- Fetal distress: When the baby’s vital signs, such as heart rate, indicate distress or compromise, it can lead to a longer and more complex delivery.
- Failure to progress: Labor may stall, and the cervix may not dilate at the expected rate, requiring interventions or extended labor.
- Large baby or malpresentation: If the baby is unusually large or not positioned correctly in the birth canal, it can lead to a challenging delivery.
- Maternal health issues: Pre-existing maternal health conditions or complications during labor, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, can contribute to difficult deliveries.
Prolonged or complicated deliveries can increase the risk of birth injuries to both the baby and the mother. Healthcare providers must carefully assess and manage these situations, often requiring interventions such as forceps or vacuum extraction to assist in the delivery process.
Fetal distress occurs when a baby’s vital signs, particularly heart rate, indicate not receiving sufficient oxygen during labor. Failure to continuously and accurately monitor these vital signs is a form of medical negligence.
Monitoring is critical because it allows healthcare providers to detect and respond promptly to signs of distress. Factors contributing to fetal distress may include:
- Uterine rupture or placental abruption.
- Umbilical cord compression.
- Maternal hypertension or diabetes.
- Infection or meconium aspiration.
Failing to monitor fetal vital signs adequately can result in birth asphyxia, brain damage, or even stillbirth. Timely recognition of fetal distress is crucial to making informed decisions about interventions, including the possibility of an emergency cesarean section, to protect the baby’s well-being.
Instrumental deliveries involve medical instruments, such as forceps or vacuum extractors, to assist in the baby’s delivery when labor is prolonged or complications arise. This intervention is typically reserved for situations where the baby needs to be delivered quickly and the mother is unable to push effectively.
Forceps and vacuum extraction differ in terms of the instruments used:
- Forceps: These are spoon-shaped devices carefully applied to the baby’s head to guide it through the birth canal during contractions.
- Vacuum Extraction: A vacuum device is attached to the baby’s head, creating suction, which assists in pulling the baby out during contractions.
While instrumental deliveries can be life-saving and necessary sometimes, they also carry risks. If not used correctly or if performed without a valid medical indication, they can result in birth injuries, including bruising, lacerations, or even neurological damage to the baby.
Healthcare providers must exercise great care and judgment when deciding to employ instrumental deliveries and ensure they are performed safely and appropriately.
Medical Malpractice and Birth Injuries
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider’s actions or negligence deviate from the standard of care, harming the patient. In the context of birth injuries, medical malpractice can involve:
- Failure to diagnose or treat prenatal conditions.
- Mismanagement of labor and delivery.
- Failure to perform a timely cesarean section when necessary.
Proving Medical Malpractice
To succeed in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff (the injured party) must establish the following elements:
- Existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
- Proof of medical negligence.
- Causation between negligence and the birth injury.
- Damages suffered as a result of the injury.
Legal Remedies in New York
If you believe your child was injured by the negligence of a doctor or medical worker, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim. When doing this, knowing the laws that apply to this is essential.
New York’s Statute of Limitations
Families must know New York’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. In New York, a lawsuit must be filed within two and a half years from the date of the alleged malpractice or the end of continuous treatment for the same condition.
Compensation for Birth Injuries
Families pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit in New York may be eligible for compensation that covers:
- Medical expenses related to the birth injury.
- Rehabilitation and therapy costs.
- Pain and suffering endured by the child and family.
- Future medical and educational expenses.
The Importance of Legal Representation
Navigating a medical malpractice lawsuit can be complex, especially when dealing with the emotional and physical toll of a birth injury. Legal representation is essential to:
- Investigate the case thoroughly.
- Gather evidence of medical negligence.
- Consult medical experts to establish negligence.
- Advocate for fair compensation on your behalf.
Choosing the Right Attorney
When selecting an attorney for your birth injury case, consider their experience in medical malpractice, track record of success, and commitment to your family’s well-being. The right attorney will guide you through every step of the legal process.
Contact Us for Help with a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Birth injuries are devastating events that can change the course of a child’s life and impact their family profoundly. When these injuries occur due to medical negligence, pursuing justice through a medical malpractice lawsuit becomes a legal right and a means of securing a better future for the affected child.
If your family has been affected by a birth injury, it’s essential to seek legal counsel promptly to explore your options and hold those responsible accountable. By understanding birth injuries and the legal recourse available in New York, you can take the first steps toward ensuring your child receives the care and support they need.