Most of us never consider the hazards associated with childbirth because it’s such a common occurrence. A newborn brings much joy to a family, but when injuries occur during childbirth, an infant might have medical problems that last a lifetime and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care. Although some birth complications and injuries occur naturally, the vast majority of them can be prevented. When a preventable birth injury occurs, it is often the result of the negligence of a medical professional.
If you believe that your infant has suffered a birth injury because of the action or inaction of a medical professional, contact the Bronx birth injury lawyers at Ivan Diamond, Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer in the Bronx at (718) 588-2000 for a free consultation to discuss your case.
What Kinds of Injuries Might Occur During Birth?
Birth injuries are physical or developmental damage that an infant suffers as a result of the trauma of being born. According to Stanford’s Children’s Health, the most common birth injuries include:
- Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 85 percent and 90 percent of those who have CP, have congenital CP, which is caused by brain damage before or during childbirth. One example of this damages is birth asphyxia, the loss of oxygen to the brain. Between 6 percent and 8 percent of all CP cases are a result of a lack of oxygen to a newborn during birth. Brain damage that happens anytime while the brain is still developing might result in acquired cerebral palsy.
- Caput succedaneum is a cranial injury that might occur when a medical professional misuses or overuses an extraction vacuum. This condition is swelling on the newborn’s scalp that develops during the birthing process and sometimes also results in multiple bruises.
- Brachial plexus palsy, also called Erb’s Palsy, is a nerve condition that impacts one or both shoulders of a newborn. The brachial plexus is the group of nerves that controls function in the shoulders, arms, and hands. Although shoulder problems are typical, loss of movement might extend to the arm and hand and most infants need surgery in their first year. Erb’s Palsy is typically a result of the newborn being forced through the birth canal; breach births put newborns at higher risk for lifelong problems.
- Epidural and other medication-related injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and coma might occur during labor and delivery.
- Cephalohematoma is another cranial injury that appears within a few hours after birth as a bump on the infant’s head that is caused by bleeding under the newborn’s skull.
- Horner’s is facial paralysis resulting from pressure on the baby’s face during labor or birth. The pressure bruises and sometimes tears facial nerves causing temporary or permanent paralysis. Facial paralysis is often caused by the misuse of birthing tools.
- Fractures are common childbirth injuries. Newborns are especially at risk for a broken collarbone which typically occurs when there is a breech delivery. Newborns are also at risk for broken bones from shoulder dystocia, which occurs when an infant’s arm or shoulder are stuck in the mother’s pelvis during the delivery process.
- Spinal cord injuries also might occur during a breech delivery when the infant is rotated in the birth canal prior to delivery. Misuse of instruments that cause a blunt force trauma might also lead to spinal cord injuries.
Pregnancy Complications that Lead to Birth Injuries
In addition to birth injuries that occur during labor and delivery, there are several complications during pregnancy that might also result in injury to the fetus. Doctors must recognize the symptoms and treat these conditions to avoid injury or death in the worst-case scenarios.
- Placental abruption. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta partially or completely breaks away from the wall of the uterus prior to birth. This stops or decreases the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus and causes heavy bleeding in the mother. Failure to treat placental abruption might be fatal for the mother and fetus.
- Placenta previa. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta partially or completely covers the mother’s cervix, causing heavy bleeding during pregnancy and childbirth. If left untreated, placenta previa might lead to a placental abruption or other complications.
- Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a potentially fatal pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and damage to liver and kidneys. A common symptom of preeclampsia is protein in the mother’s urine. Doctors must act quickly and choose to deliver the baby, or both the mother’s and the fetus’s life are at risk.
Medical Malpractice that Leads to Injury in Newborns
Some birth injuries are a result of naturally occurring processes and sometimes don’t have a good explanation. While a medical professional can actively make an error that causes an injury, lack of action might also cause injuries. The delivery doctor and affiliate facility may bear legal responsibility for these negligent acts during pregnancy and childbirth. Nurses, medical assistants, and others might also share liability in certain cases. Medical malpractice during pregnancy and childbirth include the following examples of negligent acts that might lead to birth injuries:
- Poor prenatal care and/or testing
- Failure to diagnose and/or treat fetal distress during pregnancy, labor, and delivery
- Poor administration of an epidural or medications such as oxytocin/Pitocin
- Failure to perform a cesarean section when natural childbirth is no longer an option
- Poor use of birthing tools including extraction vacuums and forceps
- Failure to monitor the baby’s oxygen intake during labor and delivery
- Cutting the infant off from nutrients and oxygen too soon by cutting the umbilical cord too early
New York has a two and a half-year statute of limitations to take legal action for medical malpractice. When the victim is a minor, the window is extended until two and half years after the victim turns 18. If you choose not to take action on behalf of your child, in other words, your child may have the opportunity to do so as an adult; however, the compounding medical bills and lost wages from taking care of an injured child add up quickly, and waiting 18-plus years to take action may lead to the loss of critical evidence. Taking action sooner than later is often in the child’s and family’s best interest. Some injuries take time to present with symptoms, however, so the extended statute of limitations gives an opportunity to hold those accountable for a child’s injuries if symptoms don’t appear until later on in childhood.
Immediate Symptoms of Birth Injuries
Many symptoms of birth injuries present immediately or soon after birth, with some more obvious than others. Symptoms can be characterized into three groups: action-related symptoms, health-related symptoms, and symptoms related to muscle and bone. These categories are not mutually exclusive; newborns might have symptoms from one or more categories at the same time.
- Action-related warning signs include a baby that arches its back while crying; has difficulty breathing, sucking, eating, and swallowing; excessively drools; is excessively fussy; grunts; vomits; has seizures; and, is sensitive to light.
- Health-related warning signs include anemia, changes in vision, fever, hearing loss, dizziness, low heart rate, low blood oxygen levels, regular coughing, inability to gain weight, constipation, wheezing, and abnormal skin coloring.
- Muscle and bone warning signs include cranial fractures, spams, extreme muscular stiffness or looseness, weak reflex, hairy patch on back, writhing motions, favoring one side of the body, and an arm and/or hand curled towards the body.
Delayed Birth Injury Symptoms by Milestones
Symptoms and warning signs of a potential birth injury may show up after a newborn goes home from the hospital. Parents, caregivers, and doctors can spot symptoms, which are often associated with developmental milestones of a child. If your baby, toddler, or young child misses multiple milestones, it might indicate a brain injury. You should seek medical attention immediately and consult with an experienced birth injury attorney. Here are some of the most common milestones by age:
- Two to four-month-old babies will turn their head at sound, smile, coo, follow people with their eyes. They also recognize faces, hold up their head and reach and grab for objects. During belly time, your baby will typically push up at this age.
- Six to nine-month-old babies look around a lot and will bring objects to their face and mouth as well as using both hands to pass objects back and forth and inspect them. At this age, your baby should be able to roll from front to back, sit upright, bounce with assistance and put weight on legs when standing with assistance. They should also be able to understand some words and sounds.
- A one-year-old can explore and find hidden things in the home. If he or she isn’t already walking independently, they should be able to walk with assistance. They have most likely begun to speak a few words and understand simple instructions.
- At 18 months, a baby can hold onto objects without assistance and use things like crayons, spoons, and cups. They walk and stand at this age. They should also have an increased vocabulary and be able to point to objects.
- Toddlers that are from two to three years old know names of body parts and family members, including their own name and age. They can also get dressed without help, run and kick a ball, complete sentences and understand nursery rhymes.
- Young children from age four to five years should begin to socialize and cooperate with their peers. Their coordination has developed so they can hop and stand on one foot. They can use scissors, go to the bathroom, and climb without assistance. At this age, children should have basic language skills and be able to repeat their favorite stories.
Seeking Compensation for Birth Injuries
If your child was injured during pregnancy, labor, or deliver because of the negligence of a medical professional, you might be eligible to recover damages for the losses that you and your child have and will incur because of the injury. Medical malpractice claims are notoriously complex, especially in New York where the plaintiff must provide a certificate of merit that verifies the viability of the claim. New York, however, does not place a cap on damages like many other states do, and victims of medical malpractice may recover:
- Medical costs including emergency services, long-term hospitalization, surgeries, doctor visits, physical therapy, medication, diagnostic testing, and more
- Future medical expenses if the injury results in a permanent disability or a condition with a long recovery time
- Lost wages from missing work due to caring for your infant or child
- Lost future income, referred to as lost earning capacity, for your infant if the injury prevents them from functioning or gaining meaningful employment later in life
- Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages that pertain to your individual circumstances
Contact a Skilled Bronx Birth Injury Lawyer Today
Your doctor owes you a high level of care during the prenatal and delivery process. Doctors who fail to recognize that a mother’s birth canal is too narrow to safely deliver an infant, fail to realize an infant’s birth weight may cause problems, or have given a pregnant mother certain medications could be responsible for the child’s birth injury. If you are uncertain if your child’s illness or injury was caused by a physician’s neglect, discuss all of the aspects of your situation with a birth injury lawyer.
Parenthood is a joyful time and when you have to watch your infant suffer because a doctor made a mistake, it is devastating. No amount of money will ever compensate for the pain you are feeling as you watch your infant struggle with the burden of injuries or illnesses that could have been prevented with proper care. Yet, you will likely continue to deal with high medical costs as you continue to care for your baby. Attorney Ivan M. Diamond is a Bronx personal injury lawyer committed to ensuring your baby receives the medical attention needed without a financial burden to your family. Call him at (718) 588-2000 or send a confidential email to have him review your case free of charge.
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