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Birth Injuries
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New York Birth Injury Lawyers

The birth of a baby is a joyous event, and we all hope our babies are delivered by competent doctors and caring nurses. Unfortunately, that isn’t always what happens. Delivering a baby is difficult even in the best of circumstances. Sometimes doctors must make hard choices during the delivery for the best interests of the baby and the mother.

If a birth injury is due to a medical professional’s negligence or carelessness during the delivery, the baby may face a lifetime of complications.

If you believe your child’s birth injury was due to negligence during delivery, you have a right to seek compensation on behalf of the pain and suffering your baby endured.

Proving that medical malpractice caused a birth injury may require the assistance of skilled legal professionals who understand what can happen during the birth and the distinction between negligence and necessity. At Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law, our attorneys have that specialized ability. Call us at 800-724-6529 for a confidential consultation on your case.

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Types of Birth Injuries

Sometimes birth injuries are due to congenital issues the baby has before birth. In other cases, mishandling during the birth process can cause or aggravate these conditions. During delivery, the baby is cut off from the support of the placenta for blood and oxygen but hasn’t yet exited the birth canal to breathe on its own. This interval is when most serious injuries occur.

  • Hypoxia. A medical term for “lack of oxygen,” hypoxia happens when the umbilical cord is pinched or trapped during the delivery. This condition is believed to cause other birth injuries.
    • Cerebral palsy. This is a developmental disorder that affects the baby’s mental and physical development. It is thought to be caused by prolonged hypoxia. If the baby is deprived of oxygen during delivery, especially if the umbilical cord is compromised, the risk of cerebral palsy increases. 
    • Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy. This imposing term is a medical way of saying “lack of oxygen causing brain death.” In some cases, the baby’s oxygen levels drop drastically just before delivery. An emergency C-section can sometimes prevent this from worsening. 
  • Erb’s palsy. Also known as “brachial plexus.” This nerve damage is caused by the baby’s arm and shoulder being forcibly twisted during delivery. Although it can be treated, it can lead to paralysis, muscle weakness, and difficulty moving the arm.
    • Klumpke’s palsy may result from the same cause. This damage affects the wrist and hand.
  • Shoulder dystocia. The head is the biggest part of the baby, but the shoulders and collarbones are the widest part. Babies born with “linebacker shoulders” may become trapped in the birth canal. This can lead to shoulder fractures or nerve damage for the baby. The mother can suffer uterine tears or rupture unless the labor is relieved immediately. 
  • Broken bones. Babies’ bones are difficult to break. They are soft and flexible to help ease the delivery. However, the shoulder and long bones of the arms and legs can be broken during delivery if the baby is in an awkward position. Most such breaks can be treated and heal quickly.
    • Growth-plate fractures. Bones grow fastest at the ends. A fracture in the growth plate can have a later impact on the baby’s development because a scar will form in the plate.

All these injuries can have lifelong consequences for the baby and place a special burden on the parents who must care for the child for the remainder of the child’s life.

Causes of Birth Injuries

Nobody likes to think that their doctor, especially their baby’s doctor, has been careless or negligent. Negligence in medical malpractice cases means that the doctor failed to adhere to the minimum standard of care expected from a professional. Birth injuries can also be due to actions by the nurses, aides, or other medical personnel during the delivery.

Delayed C-section.

A caesarian, or C-section, is an operation whereby the baby is surgically removed from the uterus instead of being delivered vaginally. Both mothers and doctors prefer vaginal delivery because it can be risky to use anesthetic while the umbilical cord is attached. C-sections are usually scheduled in advance of delivery when the mother will be unable to have a safe delivery.

Malpresentations (breech or lateral birth), heart trouble or blood pressure increase (eclampsia), and difficulties with the placenta (placenta previa or abruptio placenta) may all be reasons to schedule a C-section. During delivery, other conditions may require an emergency C-section.

Fetal distress.

The doctor should be monitoring the baby’s heart rate and oxygen level during the delivery. If these drop too low abruptly during the delivery, a C-section likely should be performed.

Prolapsed umbilical cords.

The cord spends most of gestation floating freely in the uterus. Sometimes, the umbilical cord precedes the baby through the birth canal. The cord can become trapped against the baby’s body during the birth.

Malpresentations can happen quite late in gestation.

If it appears the baby has turned or shifted so that ordinary delivery could be compromised, then a C-section likely needs to be performed.

Failure of labor.

In some cases, the labor may have gone on too long, or it appears it is not progressing. If the labor lasts too long, it can have serious consequences for the baby and the mother.

Improper use of delivery tools.

Although forceps are used much less frequently than they used to be, doctors sometimes use them to assist or encourage the delivery. Vacuum extractors can be used to help pull the baby through the birth canal. Any type of device introduced into the birth canal has the potential to injure the baby. Too much force used to help extract the infant can lead to broken bones or other damage.

Improper use of Pitocin.

This medication is used to induce labor, but as with any medication, it must be used carefully to avoid risk to the baby. Overuse, delayed use, or repeated use can have a negative effect on the mother and the baby.

Failing to monitor the baby’s progress.

The doctor or nurse should attach a fetal monitor to the baby at the beginning of delivery. Then it is up to the medical staff to make sure that the baby is doing well throughout the labor and delivery, which can take several hours. Failing to monitor the baby, or lack of communication between staff members, can lead to serious complications.

No matter what the cause, having your baby suffer injury because of careless or negligent behavior by medical professionals can be devastating. If you believe your baby was injured due to negligence, your next step is to demonstrate how it happened. For this, you’ll probably need an attorney.

new born baby

Proving Birth Injury Malpractice

To determine whether the doctor behaved carelessly or not during delivery, your attorney first needs to review the documents about the baby’s birth.

Delivery room records and notes

Most of a baby’s delivery consists of the mother lying in the delivery room and being checked on by nurses. The staff is responsible for monitoring the baby’s progress and the mother’s health. Any lapse in the monitoring or changes that were unnoticed or not communicated could be indicative of negligence.

Fetal monitoring records

When fetal monitoring is used, a small electrode will be placed on the baby’s skull before it is delivered. Like an EKG or other medical monitor, this creates electronic records of the baby’s health throughout the delivery. Any signs of stress or other problems should be noted and have been followed up.

Birth devices use

Just like everything else in the hospital, the use of any tools or devices must be tracked and recorded for billing purposes. Any equipment used during the delivery should be noted on the records. If the doctor used the device correctly, but the device itself malfunctioned, then the negligence may lie with the maintenance or manufacture of the device.

Doctor’s notes

Your attorney will obtain your medical records, and these should have notations by the doctor if anything unusual or hazardous happened during the delivery. Any communications between the doctor and other staff should also be noted in these notes. If fetal distress was recorded but not passed along to the doctor, then the negligence occurred due to lack of communication.

Once we have all this information, your attorney will create a timeline of the delivery and review all the actions taken by the medical professionals handling the delivery. If it appears that there were lapses in communication, signs of distress, or other problems with the delivery, your attorney will have a basis to pursue a case.

What Can I Expect in a Birth Injury Case?

Just like any personal injury case, compensation for a birth injury includes money for medical bills, physical and emotional suffering, and other losses. In a birth injury case, the harm that was done may last for a lifetime. A baby suffering from a broken bone or shoulder injury leading to nerve damage may require multiple surgeries and doctor visits to fully correct the problem. If your baby suffered a more serious consequence, such as cerebral palsy, the compensation could be much higher.

A baby who has a more serious condition may need a lifetime’s worth of medical care, therapy, and specialized devices to ensure they lead a happy and comfortable life. Parents may need additional support if one of them must leave a job to care for the infant or require emotional or psychological support to cope with the stress of raising a special-needs child.

Some of the compensation you can recover includes:

Compensation for the immediate medical costs of the childbirth and injuries to the infant and the mother. This can include NICU treatment and care until the infant can go home.

Future medical expenses. These can include long-term medical treatment (such as repeat surgeries), physical and cognitive therapy, in-home care, medical devices, and equipment that must be adjusted as the child grows (braces, wheelchairs, and so forth), modifications to the home or car to accommodate the baby, and other medical expenses.

Loss of parental income, if the parent or parents must leave work to care for the infant.

Medical costs of a child and a mother’s injuries.

Future medical expenses, including long-term care for a child’s injuries, medical equipment, modifications to a home and vehicle, physical and cognitive therapy, and other expenses.

A Life Care Plan. This is a long-term plan developed with doctors, therapists, and financial specialists to estimate how much care the baby is likely to need and the probable progression of the child’s condition.

Pain and suffering experienced by the child.

A birth injury case must take into account that the child will live with this condition for the rest of their life. If the injury or condition is serious enough, the child may be unable to attend school or work later in life. In a situation where the condition was caused by another person’s careless or negligent act, the child is entitled to the quality of life they would have had if they had not suffered this injury.

When You Need a Birth Injury Lawyer

If you believe your child was injured during birth due to the negligence of the medical staff, you may wonder how to proceed. The knowledge and details necessary to bring a successful birth injury case may be beyond the skills of a layperson, especially if you are still trying to manage the issues involved in your child’s care.

When you contact Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law, the first thing we will do is perform an extensive review of the details surrounding the birth of your baby. We will gather the documentary evidence, medical records, and other notes about the birth and locate any discrepancies in the delivery. There are many people involved in delivering a baby, and all of them should be accounted for in developing the case.

Witnesses and other staff need to be interviewed and sometimes deposed to get other parts of the story. A deposition is a legal proceeding where a witness is questioned by your attorney about the case. This process can help locate other witnesses and fill out details of the case that might otherwise not be discoverable. Part of this process will be creating a Life Care Plan for your child to estimate the amount of compensation needed.

Following the investigation and discovery process, your attorney will negotiate with the hospital or doctor to attempt a resolution without litigation. Going to court is a costly and time-consuming process, and when a child is involved, time is of the essence. Once a Life Care Plan has been developed, your attorney will have a figure to present to the other side’s attorneys.

Pre-trial negotiation is an essential part of the process. As much as you may want to get the negligent person into court, your attorney needs to show that you have tried all other methods to resolve the case and have been unsuccessful. In some cases where the negligence has been unusually egregious, or the facts are so clear that litigation would be useless, the other side may agree to at least part of the compensation requested.

If no resolution is possible, our team will prepare for court. All this information will be assembled into a comprehensive document called a Complaint. The Complaint is filed with the court and served on the other party or their attorneys. Then the case will eventually go before a judge or jury to determine the facts and award compensation.

If your baby has suffered a birth injury and you believe it was due to negligence or malpractice on the part of the medical professionals, you should contact our legal team right away. In New York, a personal injury case must be filed within three years of the date of injury. A medical malpractice case must be filed within 30 months. 

Since your child needs care immediately, you need to act right away. Call Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law at 800-724-6529 for a confidential consultation. We want to see you and your baby get the compensation you deserve for the injury your child suffered. Call us today. You can also fill out our intake form and a member of our team will call you.

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