Birth Injuries Lawyers Representing NJ Families
More than 11,000 babies are born daily in the U.S., according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Thousands of women enter the maternity ward each day, trusting doctors to help them through labor and childbirth. Unfortunately, difficult childbirth and prenatal risk factors lead to birth injuries in 6-8 out of every 1,000 births.
Up to 88 infants born every day—adding up to 32,120 per year—undergo some sort of birth injury. Some perinatal injuries are common and resolve themselves within a few weeks of birth, but others can be life-threatening or lead to prolonged medical disorders.
The most common causes of birth injury include:
- Large babies, usually those exceeding 4,000 grams (8 pounds, 13 ounces)
- Prematurity, meaning babies born before 37 weeks
- Cephalopelvic disproportion, meaning the mother’s pelvis is an inadequate shape or size for delivery
- Difficult or prolonged childbirth
- Abnormal birthing presentation
Nearly half of all birth injuries are avoidable with identification and anticipation of prenatal risk factors. Cesarean delivery can mitigate the possibility of birth injury, but it is not suitable for all instances.
According to Merck Manuals, the most common birth injuries are:
- Swelling and bruising of the scalp
- Cephalohematomas, or an accumulation of blood below one of the skull bones
- Intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage, or the breakage of blood vessels in the eyes
- Brachial palsy (Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy), or the injury of the group of nerves that supplies the arms and hands
- Facial paralysis, caused by pressure on the baby’s face or the use of forceps
The above injuries are generally easy to treat and resolve themselves within a short time, but additional complications could require surgical treatment or lead to long-term effects. More rare birth injuries, like the ones listed below, can be life-altering and even life-threatening.
Nerve injuries can occur during difficult deliveries, causing weakness in certain muscles, temporary paralysis, or difficulty breathing. While these injuries usually correct themselves within a few weeks, some nerve injuries—like spinal cord damage or paralysis of the diaphragm—can require surgery or cause permanent paralysis.
Perinatal Asphyxia occurs when too little blood blows to the newborn’s tissues or when there is not enough oxygen in the blood due to injury around the time of birth. Perinatal asphyxia can affect brain, kidney, and lung functions. Although the majority of survivors can lead healthy lives, others can experience neurological damage anywhere from mild learning disorders to cerebral palsy.
Bone injuries can occur during difficult deliveries. A fractured clavicle is most common, and in very rare cases, infants can suffer a fractured humerus (upper arm bone), femur (upper leg bone), or skull.
Brain injuries occur as a result of oxygen deprivation to the baby. Twisting or compression of the umbilical cord, as well as the mother’s blood loss, can deprive the baby of oxygen and lead to seizures or mental disabilities. Cerebral palsy is one type of brain injury that occurs due to severe oxygen deprivation or significant head trauma during labor or delivery.
Not all birth injuries are a result of medical malpractice; childbirth problems can arise despite a doctor’s best efforts and attention to warning signs. However, if certain risk factors or warning signs were present and the doctor failed to act on them, there could be grounds for a malpractice suit.
Medical errors that could constitute malpractice include:
- Failure to anticipate birth complications, especially regarding a larger baby or health problems in the mother
- Failure to respond adequately to bleeding
- Failing to see or respond to umbilical cord entrapment
- Failure to respond to fetal distress, like irregular fetal heartbeat
- Delay in ordering C-section when necessary
- Misuse of forceps or a vacuum extractor
- Inappropriate administration of hormones (designed to speed up labor)
- Mistakes made during circumcision
- Failure to properly treat an infection
Another form of medical malpractice is the failure to pre-screen and identify certain birth defects during pregnancy. Blood tests and ultrasounds can detect Down syndrome, neural tube defects, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, Thalassemia, and sickle cell anemia before birth. A delayed diagnosis, such as when a doctor waits until birth to diagnose the baby with cystic fibrosis when it could have been diagnosed during pregnancy, is sometimes grounds for a malpractice suit.
Additionally, doctors should identify medical conditions of the mother that will affect pregnancy and delivery, such as Rh incompatibility, hypoglycemia, anemia, gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia. Failure to identify these conditions, or any conditions that could be contagious to the fetus, can lead to birth injury.
For malpractice to occur, the doctor must have acted negligently. If a competent doctor in the same specialty would have handled the situation differently—and with a better result—there is potential for a malpractice suit. However, it’s important to remember that many birth injuries are unpreventable and not caused by doctor negligence.
If you believe you or a loved one were victims of medical malpractice that led to birth injury, contact us for a consultation. Every case is different, and monetary damages are awarded differently based on severity of injuries, family situation, medical bills, and other factors.
In malpractice cases, monetary damages can be potentially recovered for:
- medical expenses, both in the past and future
- pain and suffering
- costs of specialized care, including caregivers, equipment, therapy, and education
- future loss of earnings
If you are interested in pursuing a birth injury case, be sure to retain all prenatal and perinatal medical records. In order to file a birth injury suit, the process must be initiated by the time the victim turns 13. The specifics of each situation will determine how long the case takes, what amount of damages you should pursue, and whether we should pursue a trial or out-of-court settlement.
Contact Maggiano Law for a confidential consultation about your situation. No fees are assessed until we win your case, and the consultation is completely free. Complete the case inquiry form or call 1-201-585-9111 to get started and recover you and your family’s losses.