Even a pregnancy that progresses seemingly without a problem can end in disaster during the birthing process. All too often, either mother or child can end up suffering severe injuries because of medical negligence. After discovering that your child has suffered from birth injuries, you may have many questions, including who bears liability for your child's injuries and what you might need to do next to acquire the compensation your family may deserve for those injuries. To learn more about your family's rights and how to navigate the complex birth injury claim process, contact a birth injury lawyer for a free consultation today.
How Medical Negligence Can Result in Birth Injuries
Negligence from your medical care provider can result in birth injuries in various ways.
Failure to Monitor the Pregnancy
During pregnancy, most mothers will make multiple visits to their medical care providers. They may spend considerable time getting checked over, having their blood pressure monitored, going in for ultrasounds, or having blood work done to establish the health of both mother and child throughout the pregnancy.
Care providers need to check in on mother and child regularly to ensure that the pregnancy progresses as well as possible and that neither mother nor child suffers any adverse health outcomes throughout the process.
Some care providers, however, fail to monitor the pregnancy properly. They may cancel appointments or fail to conduct necessary testing. Minority women in particular may not receive the support they need throughout their pregnancies. Even when they receive care from a prenatal provider, minority women may have their concerns ignored more often, which may increase the risk of negative outcomes for their pregnancy.
A doctor who fails to properly monitor a pregnancy, including failing to listen to a mother's concerns and take necessary steps to test for any potential problems, may bear liability for any damages or injuries caused by that lack of prenatal care. For example, preeclampsia, or high maternal blood pressure, can cause significant complications for both mother and child. A doctor who fails to monitor the pregnancy properly might not notice the mother's changing blood pressure until it has already caused serious injury to either mother or baby.
Failure to Monitor Mother or Child During Childbirth
Mothers have the right to decide where to have their babies: in a hospital, in a birthing center, or at home, for example. However, if a medical care provider oversees the birthing process, they bear responsibility for monitoring and ensuring neither mother nor infant faces unnecessary danger or complications.
Monitoring infant heart rate, for example, can provide the care provider with essential information about the infant's status during the delivery and could indicate when medical intervention could prove necessary to protect the health of either mother or child.
Monitoring during childbirth may, in some cases, depend heavily on the nurses who oversee the birthing process. Nurses may need to keep an eye on maternal distress and monitor the infant to decrease the risk of negative outcomes during childbirth.
Sometimes, however, nurses may have too many patients to oversee on their shifts or fail to check in on their patients often enough to judge the progression of childbirth. As a result, maternal or fetal distress may continue longer than anticipated without the nurse or doctor noticing.
Failure to Intervene When Needed
During the birthing process, mother and child may need interventions to help protect their health. Unfortunately, sometimes, doctors may wait too long to provide those essential interventions. Inadequate staffing can make it more difficult to ensure that the hospital or birthing center has providers on hand to handle those needs. In addition, some care providers may wait too long to move forward with needed interventions, even based on the current health and status of either mother or child.
Instituting Unnecessary Interventions
Doctors may, in some cases, choose to intervene too early. Sometimes those interventions can result in catastrophic injury to either mother or child. While items like forceps or vacuums can help aid delivery, they may also pose unexpected dangers and, in some cases, result in injury.
Doctors may choose to use unnecessary interventions for several reasons. Some may try to speed up the birthing process unnecessarily. Others may decide to use unnecessary interventions to avoid the possibility of injury, although neither mother nor child shows any indication of problems during the delivery process.
Physician or Nurse Error
Most care providers involved in the birthing process will exercise all due care to help avoid the risk of serious injury to either mother or child. However, in some cases, an error can still occur. Exhausted doctors and nurses, in particular, may be more likely to commit dangerous errors that could result in devastating injury to the infant or the mother. For example, a nurse or doctor might inadvertently drop the infant, leading to brain damage or bleeding.
Who Bears Liability for Birth Injuries?
The party that bears liability for birth injuries may depend on how the incident occurred and what damage the infant suffered. Often, birth injuries result in substantial trauma, including injuries that can impact the rest of the infant's life and change the course of the family's plans. Determining who bears liability for the incident can help many families recover compensation for the devastating injuries sustained by their children.
The Doctor Who Committed an Act of Negligence
In some cases, the doctor who committed an act of negligence in the patient's care may bear direct liability for the incident. Usually, the family will pursue compensation through that doctor's medical malpractice insurance.
The Facility Where the Incident Occurred
If a nurse commits an error that results in birth injury, or if the doctor who caused the error works as a direct employee of the hospital, the hospital or care facility where the error occurred may bear direct liability for the injuries sustained by the child. Like individual care providers, hospitals usually carry insurance policies that will offer protection in the event of a medical malpractice event.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Help with a Birth Injury Claim?
Working with a lawyer can offer several advantages to your birth injury claim if you have a child who suffered serious injuries during childbirth.
Determine Whether Medical Negligence Occurred
You may know that your child suffered a serious injury during the birthing process, but you may not know whether you can reasonably expect compensation for your child's injuries. Did your child suffer those injuries directly from medical negligence, or did outside factors beyond the control of the care provider contribute to your child's injuries?
A lawyer can help you evaluate whether the mother or child suffered an injury due to medical negligence, either during pregnancy or childbirth, by asking several key questions.
Did the doctor have any evidence of potential problems?
To establish medical negligence, you may need to show that the mother or child presented with signs of potential problems but that the doctor ignored those problems and did not provide care to help move forward after the incident. For example, the doctor might have ignored decreased fetal movement, changes in fetal heart rate, or signs of increasing blood pressure in the mother.
Did the doctor fail to act according to the basic medical protocol for dealing with those specific symptoms?
Doctors may need to take specific steps to deal with potential problems during childbirth or pregnancy. For example, dropping fetal heart rate could indicate that the doctor must ensure delivery occurs soon after. Excessive maternal bleeding could indicate the need for an immediate C-section. If a doctor fails to follow the necessary steps that another doctor would have to ensure the protection of the mother or child, you may have the right to a medical negligence claim.
Did the doctor's negligence lead to negative outcomes for either mother or child?
To file a claim for medical negligence during childbirth, you may need to establish that a family member suffered direct damages because of the doctor's negligence. Even if a woman feels neglected during the birthing process, including feeling unable to get the support she needs or not getting pain relief promptly, the family may not have suffered direct damages because of the incident. On the other hand, if either mother or child suffered an injury because of the care provider's negligence, the family might have grounds for a claim.
Learn What Compensation to Expect
Birth injuries can prove incredibly expensive immediately after an injury and for the rest of the child's life. Many children who suffer serious birth injuries will require ongoing care for the rest of their lives. They may need substantial support or a high level of care, including a private in-home caregiver. Many parents worry about their children's future following severe birth injuries.
How much compensation should you expect for those losses? The doctor or hospital's medical malpractice insurance provider will often issue a settlement offer before you know if it fairly reflects the compensation you should reasonably expect for your losses. How much compensation should you expect to receive?
In general, a fair settlement will include compensation for:
- Your child's increased medical bills
- Potential future medical needs
- The child's overall suffering
A lawyer can help you look closely at the financial losses your family has suffered because of the incident and pursue the compensation your family may deserve. Those funds can help provide a higher standard of care for your child, which may help increase the overall quality of life for the child and every family member.
Get Help Through the Claim Process
Medical malpractice claims can prove incredibly complicated. You may have to take more steps during a medical malpractice claim than you would during other types of personal injury claims. An experienced birth injury lawyer can help guide you through that process, decreasing your stress and raising the odds that your family will get the compensation you need.
The Medical Review Board
Sometimes, before you can file a medical malpractice claim, you will need to put the claim through a medical review board. The medical review board may look for reasons why the doctor or care provider did not commit an act of malpractice in dealing with your child's injuries. A lawyer can help establish what negligence took place and present your claim clearly to the board so you can proceed with your claim.
To file a medical malpractice claim, you will need to have an expert witness testify regarding your child's injuries. The medical expert, often a doctor or former doctor, will need to testify that your care provider committed an act of negligence in treating you and that, in the same circumstances, another care provider would have offered a higher standard of care. An expert witness may also testify that the negligence of your care provider likely caused the conditions your child now has to endure.
Finding an expert witness can prove very difficult. Many doctors do not want to testify against other care providers. A lawyer may have better connections to potential expert witnesses who can help establish the negligent actions of your doctor.
A Lawyer Can Help with Your Birth Injury Claim
Did an act of medical negligence lead to birth injuries for your child? You may have grounds for a birth injury claim. Contact a birth injury lawyer with experience dealing with various birth injuries to learn more about your family's rights and how to navigate the complex birth injury claim process.