Birth injury is the term used to reference a profound injury or death that occurs as a consequence of trauma to the infant or mother during the birth process. It can result from medical mistakes, malpractice, negligence or flawed hospital policies. In general, it can be said that a birth injury results when a professional medical person does not use an appropriate degree of care and skill reasonably expected from a medical professional under the same or similar circumstances.
Without question, it is understandable that new parents are devastated when their child suffers such a catastrophic trauma. Questions arise in their minds as they wonder how this could have happened, what actually did happen, and whether the disastrous injury could have been prevented.
The myriad causes of birth injury include such health complications as preeclampsia, infections, fetal or maternal bleeding, umbilical cord complications, and fetal distress. In addition, negligent prenatal care can cause serious harm to the baby and the mother. For example, if a mother’s ongoing high blood pressure is not properly diagnosed, or if medical personnel fail to notice the umbilical cord around the baby’s neck in prenatal ultrasound tests, such negligence can result in devastating consequences for the infant.
Preterm labor can arise when a medical condition with the baby or the expectant mother is not detected by the doctor or is overlooked or not properly treated. Some of the standard causes of preterm labor are amniotic complications, membranes rupturing, or internal damage that produces early labor. If the physician does not provide the best care at this point, he or she may be found legally responsible for ensuing damage to the mother and the baby.
Common Birth Injuries
When something goes wrong during the prenatal stage of labor or delivery, the tragic effect can be organ, nerve, bone or brain damage to the infant. Some common birth injuries include:
- Infantile seizures
- Spinal cord injuries
- Skull crush injury
- Birth hypoxia (not enough oxygen at birth)
- Cerebral palsy
- Brachial plexus birth injury (Erb’s Palsy)
- Bone fractures
- Brain damage
Signs of Brain Damage
If a brain injury occurs during labor and delivery, the infant may immediately show signs, but the baby might not show any symptoms until much later. If oxygen was inadequate during the birth process, the baby may be born with very little or no respiratory effort, or there may be no heartbeat or the infant may need resuscitation to stimulate breathing and heart activity. Early signs that the baby has brain damage may include:
- Difficulty feeding
- Floppiness (“rag doll”)
- Lethargy (excessively sleepy, or difficulty arousing)
- Extremely irritable
The temperament of a baby can also indicate that the infant has suffered a brain injury. Babies who display a high degree of sensitivity and are extremely fussy may be showing clues that they were injured at birth. In addition, if the infant doesn’t feed well, shakes or stares off into space or has sleeping disorders, these may be indications of injury.
Sometimes, no early signs of brain injury will be apparent, and difficulties will not appear until the infant does not reach developmental milestones properly. If the child does not roll over, sit up, crawl and pull up to stand at an appropriate age, these can be indicators that something is wrong developmentally. Further concern should arise if the baby has difficulty holding onto objects and doesn’t walk or feed himself at age-appropriate times.
Because the brain is the information-processing portion of the body, when it is damaged, there can be a wide array of cognitive symptoms. A child whose brain was damaged at birth may have trouble concentrating, remembering information and processing it, and he or she may have problems controlling impulses and regulating emotions. This child may have difficulty understanding language and communicating with others. Therapy of various kinds can potentially help such a child immensely, but the cost of therapy can become astronomical when treatments are required for a long period of time.
Seek Legal Advice
Attorneys who specialize in birth injuries can be a lifeline for parents dealing with the aftermath of birth trauma to their child. It is extremely important that parents in this situation know when to talk to a Pennsylvania birth injury attorney. Time may be of the essence. It is not necessary for parents in this situation to handle the matter alone or wonder if there can be any legal remedy. It is advisable to put fear behind, immediately explore the options and speak with an attorney who is highly experienced in this type of case.
The standard of health care in the U.S. is high, and if parents have not received the benefit of this high standard of care in the birth of their child, they may have a rightful claim against the doctor or medical facility and personnel who took part in the delivery of their baby. An experienced birth injury lawyer will sit down with the parents to learn all of the pertinent details of what happened. The attorney will gather and review the medical information and records to help determine whether medical mistakes were made and what caused the injury to their baby. The child has legal rights, and the parents also have legal rights.
Financial Needs and Compensation
Due to the nature of many birth injuries, a child’s life will be much more complicated and costly than it would have been normally. For example, cerebral palsy can produce the need for extra doctor visits, therapy, special medical devices and more. The cost of these necessities should not have to be borne alone by the parents of a child who was injured at birth by the negligence of medical professionals. Financial compensation for the child’s ongoing medical needs may be legally available to help ensure that the staggering cost is covered. Parents should not have to decide between the care of their injured child and putting food on the table. An experienced birth injury attorney can help these families receive the compensation they deserve to meet the extenuating financial demands, thereby ensuring that the injured child can be properly cared for during his or her lifetime.