Birth Injury Lawyers
When many moms and dads to be imagine the birth experience, they picture meeting their baby for the first time – what he or she will look like, what it will feel like to hold her for the first time, what his first cries will sound like. They may plan for the kind of birth they want or their baby's first outfit.
Unfortunately, for thousands of families, the reality of giving birth can be much more complicated – and sometimes traumatic – than that. This is especially true if you or your baby suffers from a serious birth injury.
Even more tragic is that many birth injuries suffered by infants and mothers before, during, and after labor and delivery are caused by medical malpractice – a healthcare provider's inexperience or negligence. This means that these injuries are preventable. If you think this describes your experience, you may have a birth injury malpractice case and be entitled to legal compensation.
Birth injury cases are complex – and extremely emotionally difficult – so we have provided the information below to try and answer some of the questions you may have. You can also feel free to get in touch with us – we're available 24/7 at 412-394-1000.
What Is a Birth Injury Lawyer?
The first job of a birth injury attorney is to review your information, including medical records, to determine if you have a case. If your lawyer decides to proceed, additional evidence is gathered – an experienced birth injury law firm will compile witness and expert lists, thoroughly investigate all details related to your case, and more.
From there, your attorney will either seek a settlement or enter the litigation process. In general, it is rare for cases to proceed to litigation. However, each case is unique, and a qualified attorney will involve you in every step of the process and advise you on the best option for your situation.
What Is the Difference Between a Birth Defect and a Birth Injury?
Birth defects can be caused by genetic factors, environmental factors, or issues with chromosomes. For the most part, they are based on your child's DNA. In some rare instances, birth defects are caused by external factors – which could be the result of improper medical care. In these cases, the birth defect could have been preventable.
Birth injuries, however, are health problems a child is born with that are almost always preventable. These injuries often happen when there is a complication during the birth process. The most common causes of birth injuries are:
- Administration of the wrong type or amount of a drug
- Pulling or twisting the baby improperly during delivery
- Improper use of birth-assisting tools such as forceps
- Failure to monitor the mother and/or infant during labor
- Failure to schedule and perform an emergency cesarean section (C-section)
- Failure to diagnose an illness or disease that should have been treated
What Are the Common Complications of the Birth Process?
Most times, the birth process is relatively uncomplicated. However, complications can occur that require appropriate and timely medical intervention. Some of these complications include:
1. Fetal Distress
Causes of fetal distress can include:
- Low levels of amniotic fluid
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Lack of oxygen to the baby
- Pregnancies that go past 42 weeks gestation
2. Failure to Progress
Failure to progress is defined as labor that lasts more than 20 hours for first-time mothers and labor that lasts more than 14 hours for women who have previously given birth. Women whose labors are defined as failing to progress may receive labor-inducing medications or may undergo a C-section.
3. Shoulder Dystocia
This condition occurs when the baby's shoulders become stuck. Medical providers can use several techniques to free the shoulders, such as pressure to the mother's abdomen, manually turning the baby's shoulders, or performing an episiotomy.
The presence and treatment of shoulder dystocia can carry risks such as:
- Injury to the shoulder, arms, and hand
- Decreased oxygen to the baby's brain
- Brachial plexus injury (damage to the nerves that run from the spine and through the neck into the arms)
- Heavy postpartum bleeding
4. Perinatal Asphyxia
This condition results from a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the baby. Unborn babies can show symptoms of perinatal asphyxia that include low heart rate. Babies who have the condition at birth may have poor skin color, low heart rate, weak breathing, or meconium-stained amniotic fluid.
5. Excessive Bleeding
There are medical conditions that make a woman more prone to excessive bleeding, also called postpartum hemorrhage, including:
- Placental abruption
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Placenta previa
- Multiple gestation pregnancy
- Prolonged labor
- Labor-inducing medications
- Forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery
- Use of general anesthesia
6. Placenta Previa
This condition occurs when the placenta covers the opening of the cervix. A C-section is normally performed to deliver the baby in these cases. The primary symptom of placenta previa is bleeding during the second half of pregnancy. Severe bleeding may require a blood transfusion.
The positioning of the baby may lead to birth complications. Depending on the position of the baby, health care providers may attempt manual position changes, episiotomy, C-section, or the use of forceps.
8. Cephalopelvic Disproportion
Cephalopelvic disproportion means the baby's head is too large to fit through the mother's pelvis. In most instances, a C-section is performed.
9. Rapid Labor
Rapid labor is defined as labor that lasts for 3-5 hours (as opposed to the typical 6-18 hours). In the mother, rapid labor increases the risk of tearing and laceration, postpartum shock, and hemorrhage. For the baby, it can lead to the aspiration of amniotic fluid.
10. Uterine Rupture
Uterine ruptures can occur if the scar from a previous C-section tears during labor. If this happens, a C-section is required. The most common symptom of uterine rupture is an increased fetal heart rate. Other symptoms include vaginal bleeding, irregular contractions, and lasting pain between contractions.
What Are the Most Common Birth Complications?
Most pregnancies and births progress without major issues. Some people, however, experience complications during pregnancy and labor that can lead to childbirth injuries or maternal injury. Early detection and proper prenatal care are key to reducing the risk involved with pregnancy and delivery complications.
The most common pregnancy complications include:
- Preterm labor
- High blood pressure
- Gestational diabetes
The most common labor complications include:
- Breech position (when the baby's feet are in position to be delivered first)
- Placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix)
- Low birth weight
Sometimes these complications – and how they are (or are not) treated – can lead to birth injuries. Common birth injuries include bruising, fractures, and temporary facial paralysis. More serious injuries can include:
- Cerebral palsy caused by birth injury
- Seizure disorders
- Forceps birth injuries such as maternal fecal and/or urinary incontinence, maternal bladder injuries, infant skull fractures, and infant brain damage
What Are Some Examples of Birth Defects?
Birth defects can be divided into two broad categories: Structural Birth Defects and Functional/Developmental Birth Defects. Some birth defects may cause both structural and functional issues.
Structural birth defects indicate a problem with the structure of the body – a part of the body is missing or malformed. For example:
- Heart defects
- Cleft lip or cleft palate
- Neural tube defects
- Limb abnormalities such as club foot
Functional or developmental birth defects affect how a body part or system works. These include:
- Nervous system or brain disorders
- Sensory problems such as deafness and blindness
- Degenerative disorders such as muscular dystrophy
- Metabolic disorders
What Are the Most Common Birth Defects?
There are more than 4,000 different types of birth defects, and they are the leading cause of death for infants during the first year or life. Birth defects can be minor or they can require serious medical treatment.
Heart defects are the most common type of structural defect. Others include: spina bifida, clubfoot, congenital dislocated hip, and cleft palate.
Some of the most common developmental birth defects include Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal disease that affects the central nervous system, and phenylketonuria (PKU), which affects the way the body processes protein.
What Is the Leading Cause of Birth Defects?
In many instances, doctors don't know what causes birth defects. When the cause is known, it typically falls into one of these categories:
Environmental – alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and infections like rubella and chickenpox
Genetic – a chromosomal error that occurs during conception
Combination – caused by environmental and genetic factors
Again, in some instances birth defects are preventable, especially when there is a failure to diagnose a health condition or issue that would have been treatable. If you think that your child's birth defect was a cause of medical malpractice, you should contact an experienced attorney right away.
Birth Injury Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is the time during which you can file a birth injury lawsuit – or any kind of personal injury claim. The specific amount of time you have depends on your claim and the state in which you live (or the state where the injury took place). If you don't file your claim within the statute of limitations deadline, it won't be accepted.
In Pennsylvania, a personal injury action – including birth injuries – must be filed within two years of the date when the injury occurred. Pennsylvania does have a “discovery rule,” however, which means that the statute of limitations begins at the time the injury is discovered or should have been discovered. In some cases, it can take time for birth injuries to become apparent, so the discovery rule would extend the statute of limitations.
You should contact an experienced attorney as soon as you are aware of a birth injury to make sure your claim is filed within your state's statute of limitations.
Contacting the Right Birth Injury Lawyer
Birth injuries are among the most complicated medical malpractice cases and often involve medical experts, complex legal paperwork, and strict deadlines. They are also some of the most traumatic experiences. Don't go it alone and risk your family's financial future and emotional well-being. You need a legal team that will do all the heavy lifting so you can concentrate on your family.
You can contact us today for a free case review – we're available 24/7, and there's never a fee unless we get money for you. 412-394-1000.