Giving birth is an exciting, albeit frightening time. The joy and anxiety of becoming a new parent are momentarily overshadowed by the complexities of the birth process. Bringing the baby into the world safe and unharmed is the immediate goal. However, there are many complications that can arise during the birth process, many of which have the potential to seriously harm both mother and child.
One of the most common birth injuries is when the baby does not get enough oxygen. This is known as intrapartum asphyxia, and prolonged oxygen deprivation can cause serious injuries to the brain of the infant, such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE. HIE occurs in approximately 1.5-2.5 per 1000 full term births in developed countries. This type of brain injury happens when too much brain tissue is damaged from the lack of oxygen. This lack of oxygen is a leading cause of death among new babies and infants. As many as 40-60% of babies with HIE die during the first two years of their lives or live with significant disabilities. When babies survive, it can cause problems like developmental delays, cognitive impairment, seizures, and in some rare cases, cerebral palsy.
Your Options for Compensation
Many cases of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy are completely preventable with vigilant and appropriate medical care during the birthing process. However, many mothers and babies are victims of medical malpractice, where a physician or other medical professional fails to properly diagnose and treat a condition that is known to cause oxygen deprivation.
If your child was harmed as a result of being deprived of oxygen during the birthing process, you may be eligible for compensation. In cases where families face extensive medical bills, lost wages in order to care for their child, and emotional trauma, compensation can help mitigate these costs.
Don't wait to get legal help if you suspect that your child's brain injury was caused by lack of oxygen during birth and could have been prevented. Contact Attorney Ivan M. Diamond today at 877-960-1702 to discuss your case in detail. As an experienced birth injury lawyer, Ivan can provide you with the zealous legal support you need to obtain the full and fair compensation your family needs after being devastated by a preventable brain injury.
Who Is Responsible for My Child’s Birth Injury?
It will be our firm’s job to determine liability for your child’s birth injury due to a lack of oxygen.
Potential defendants in your case may include:
- A doctor who provided prenatal care
- The doctor who oversaw the delivery of your child
- Any medical device manufacturer whose product caused a birth injury
- The facility that provided your prenatal care
- The facility where you delivered your child
Multiple parties may be liable for your child’s oxygen-related injury. For example, a hospital may be liable for the failures that occur within its walls, while an individual physician can also be liable.
What Is the Standard for Liability in Birth Injury Cases?
Negligence is generally the standard for liability in birth injury cases. Someone is negligent when they fail to take reasonable action to prevent harm to others.
Other liability standards may apply to your birth injury case. For example, a medical facility may be liable for any negligence that occurs on its premises, and this includes mistakes during labor and delivery that lead to a lack of oxygen. This standard is known as vicarious liability.
As your attorneys, we’ll use our legal knowledge to determine liability for your child’s injuries.
Types of Negligence That Can Lead to a Birth Injury
When examining your case, we may first consider the actions (or failures to act) of the physician who delivered your child.
A physician may have contributed to your child’s birth injury by:
- Being careless in delivering your child: Brain damage from oxygen deprivation can cause cerebral palsy—one type of birth injury we commonly see among clients. A doctor who lacks the necessary care when delivering a child can cause a head injury or other type of birth injury.
- Failing to respond quickly or appropriately to dangerous birth conditions: If your child was in danger during labor, it was your doctor’s responsibility to respond calmly, urgently, and appropriately. If they panicked, ordered an inappropriate course of action, or acted in any other way that reduced oxygen flow to your child, the doctor may have been negligent.
- Failing to properly monitor your child’s health: If your doctor was unaware of conditions that threatened your child’s health and oxygen levels, this can be negligence. Obstetricians must constantly monitor the health of both mother and child for signs of danger.
- Using medical equipment unnecessarily or improperly: If your doctor used forceps or another medical device in a way that harmed your child, they may be liable for the resulting birth injury.
Negligence can occur even before you go into labor. If a doctor failed to recognize birth injury risk factors, misdiagnosed a condition, did not warn you of risk factors for certain procedures, or failed you in another way, then they may be liable for your damages.
Recoverable Damages in a Birth Injury Case
Every birth injury requires careful evaluation. Working with you, medical experts, and others with insight into your damages, we’ll create a complete record of your damages.
Recoverable losses may include:
- The cost of any medical care deemed to be negligent, whether it is prenatal care, the delivery of your child, or other medical services
- Emergency care for your child’s birth injury
- Hospitalization of your child following their birth injury
- Any long-term care that your child needs—in-home caregiving, medical equipment, rehabilitation, or otherwise
- Your pain and suffering, as well as your child’s pain and suffering
- Lost income and earning power, should your child’s birth injury affect you professionally
- Counseling for any trauma that your child’s birth injury has caused you
- The cost of housing and feeding your child, if their birth injury will require them to live with you into adulthood
Every birth injury case requires a detailed investigation of past and future damages. The attorneys, investigators, and paralegals from a trusted law firm will complete this investigation for you. They’ll determine the monetary cost of your current and future damages.
Causes of HIE
There are numerous risk factors that could result in oxygen deprivation to a baby during the birthing process. While the risk these issues pose can be mitigated with adequate medical care, quick, and accurate action isn't always taken by medical professionals. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy can occur in the following scenarios:
- Sudden low maternal blood pressure
- Rupture of the mother's uterus
- Abruption of the placenta
- Umbilical cord injuries, or a prolapsed umbilical cord
- Fetal or maternal heart problems
- Decreased maternal lung oxygen
- Changes to the shape of the baby's cranium in the birth canal
- Stress to the mother and baby during delivery
- Fetal stroke, which may be caused by abnormalities in the blood, weak blood vessels, maternal pelvic inflammatory disease or other infection, and maternal hypotension or hypertension
There are many ways that even critical situations can be handled appropriately during labor and delivery. For example, a mother with low oxygen levels may be placed on oxygen during the birthing process, and blood pressure may be controlled with certain medications. An emergency c-section may be warranted if it is clear that the stress of delivery would compromise the baby's ability to get adequate oxygen. However, failure to adequately handle these matters can lead to unnecessary and lifelong complications.
Lack of Oxygen Symptoms
When emotions are running high after a birth and there are many things going on at once, it's can be difficult to determine whether a baby has been potentially harmed by oxygen deprivation. There are numerous symptoms of this condition in newborns, and it's critical to be aware of them so the baby can receive treatment as quickly as possible.
- A low APGAR score
- Seizures in the first 24 hours after birth
- Dysfunction of vital organs, including the kidneys, heart, and lungs
Often, a baby will not exhibit clear symptoms of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy at birth. Instead, he or she may exhibit symptoms later on in their infancy, such as:
- Poor motor coordination
- Delay in reaching developmental milestones
- Poor growth or failure to thrive
Often, the true extent of the brain injury will not be able to be determined until the child has reached 3-4 years of age. If you suspect your child has suffered an HIE or was deprived oxygen at birth, it is critical to begin diagnostic testing and medical treatment immediately. Since brain tissue damage cannot be reversed, treatment typically focuses on symptom management, including managing blood glucose, blood pressure, and seizures with medication.
Should I Hire an Attorney After My Child’s Birth Injury?
We generally advise that those with an injured child hire a lawyer to assist them. Your child may need extensive care, and they certainly need you in this time of need. If you try to handle a birth injury lawsuit right now, then you may have less time to devote to your child.
Birth injury victims also hire attorneys to handle their cases because:
- They don’t have any legal experience
- They don’t know what to expect from a birth injury case
- They value the training and experience that a personal injury lawyer provides
- They don’t want to face the stress or traumatic details of a birth injury lawsuit
Those who fight their own birth injury cases face insurmountable financial risks. When you hire our firm, we pay all upfront costs for your case. We'll hire any necessary experts, pay administrative fees, and handle all other expenses. If you don't hire a lawyer for your case, then you may have to pay these costs on your own.
What Will an Attorney Do for My Child and Family?
The right legal team will complete every step of your birth injury case. From evaluating your child's accident to identifying liability and pursuing a settlement, they should do it all.
Lawyers generally help families of injured children by:
- Gathering all paperwork related to your child’s birth injury
- Identifying every party with liability for your child’s injury
- Hiring medical experts to help with your case
- Obtaining evidence of negligence that caused your child’s injury
- Filing your lawsuit
- Leading settlement negotiations
- Evaluating all settlement offers that you receive
- Completing your trial, if going to court is necessary
Your lawyer will also defend your rights throughout the legal process.