Head injury is the most common injury that occurs during childbirth, according to Merck Manuals. It can lead to various physical, cognitive, and psychological problems in newborns. While it is common for babies to sustain benign injuries during birth, they usually heal over days or weeks. But the consequences of other birth-related injuries may be permanent. These are typically the result of medical negligence before, during, or after the delivery of a baby.
If you suspect that your little one has suffered birth injuries due to medical malpractice, consider taking legal action against the negligent healthcare providers responsible for your newborn’s preventable injuries. The settlement may help ease your financial burden associated with providing short- and long-term care for your baby.
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Which Type of Birth Injury Occurs Most Commonly?
The most common type of birth injury includes damage to the scalp, skull, brain, tissues, or blood vessels in the baby’s head. The head encases one of the most important organs in the body – the brain. Any damage to it can produce devastating consequences. Does traumatic birth affect the baby later in life? This question haunts all parents who must face such situations. The answer is that most traumatic births and birth injuries have a strong impact on a child’s life and development. While some birth injuries have permanent effects, others heal in time with the proper treatments and care.
Three types of head trauma often seen in infants with birth injuries are:
- Subgaleal hematoma: This occurs when emissary veins rupture outside the baby’s skull, causing blood to leak. It can lead to severe blood loss, hypovolemic shock, and even death. Subgaleal hemorrhage results from the improper use of tools, such as a vacuum extractor or obstetrical forceps during delivery.
- Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL): This refers to the damage of the white matter in the brain, which results in the death of injured cells leaving behind empty spaces in the brain. PVL affects very premature infants and increases their risk of motor, cognitive, vision, and hearing impairment. It can also lead to cerebral palsy. Undiagnosed maternal infection, fetus infection, or lack of oxygenated blood to the periventricular region of the baby’s brain may cause PVL.
- Hydrocephalus: This is a medical condition where cerebrospinal fluid floods the ventricular cavities, raising the internal pressure within the brain and damaging brain tissue. Hydrocephalus typically results from head trauma during childbirth.
What Are the Common Causes of Birth Injury?
Some common causes of preventable birth injuries are:
- Improper instrument use, such as a vacuum and forceps during delivery
- Delayed birth that increases pressure inside the infant’s brain, leading to high blood pressure and fetal distress. This can cause stroke and heart problems.
- Oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery
- Failure to diagnose infections in mother or the baby
- Failure to monitor the baby and the baby’s mother following childbirth
- Excessive force during delivery
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What Are the Signs and symptoms of a Birth Injury?
Early signs that indicate a birth injury shortly following delivery include:
- Sleeping and feeding problems
- Sluggishness or lethargy
- Pale or blue skin color
- Nausea or vomiting
- Breathing problems
- Baby’s muscle definition is hypertonic (stiff) or hypotonic (loose)
- High-pitched crying
- Irregular spine
- Arched back when crying
- Facial paralysis
Sometimes, it may take months or years for children to exhibit birth injury symptoms. Consult a physician if you see the following symptoms in your child:
- Missing key milestones, such as sitting up, crawling, and walking
- Speech-language impairment
- Sensory processing disorders
- Vision and hearing impairments
- Weak reflexes or an inability to grasp objects
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Who Is Financially Liable for a Birth Injury?
It takes more than a physician to address the care of a mother and her baby. If the birth injuries that your baby sustained were preventable and stemmed from your healthcare team’s negligent actions, you could pursue a claim or lawsuit to recover compensation from the at-fault parties, such as:
- Family physician: Some primary care physicians may provide prenatal care, but they do not specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. If they fail to refer you to the correct specialist, many foreseeable complications can go undetected and untreated.
- OB/GYN: An obstetrician-gynecologist is a physician that specializes in all aspects of pregnancy and the female reproductive system. Preventable birth injuries often arise from an unchecked maternal infection, delayed treatment, a failure to schedule an emergency C-section (cesarean section), the improper use of vacuum extractor, and forceps, which are performed by/under an OB/GYN’s orders.
- Anesthesiologist: Anesthesiologists are often present during labor and delivery. They assist in administering anesthesia and analgesics and monitor the mother’s vital signs during the operation. Giving someone an incorrect dosage can produce complications, such as septic meningitis, Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs), respiratory distress, or cardiac arrest in the mother; in babies, it can cause hypoxia, leading to brain damage.
- Hospitals: Under the respondeat superior doctrine, you could hold hospitals accountable for their employee’s negligence if the action occurred within the scope of their employment. Following the “corporate negligence” doctrine, liability also falls on the hospital if it fails to investigate the background and credentials of one of its members before hiring or where it knew the employee was incompetent and still let them treat patients.
An Attorney Will Identify All Liable Parties Responsible for a Birth Injury
Other medical facilities and healthcare workers, such as pediatricians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical technicians, medical equipment manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies, can also be held liable if their negligent act harmed your baby.
A birth injury attorney can investigate your child’s medical record and the healthcare team that attended to your labor and delivery. They can also collect medical practitioners and medical expert eyewitness statements to prove liability.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Birth Injury Claim?
Florida has implemented the Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA), which compensates children who sustain certain neurological injuries with a lump-sum payment. The benefit of this program is that families can get a financial settlement without litigation.
To obtain NICA benefits, you must prove the injuries occurred during labor, delivery, or shortly during the post-delivery period. The physician must also be a NICA member. You also must meet other requirements listed under Florida Statutes § 766.302(2). That said, you do not have to prove the negligence of the at-fault parties.
NICA Limits Birth Injury Benefits
NICA caps its claim compensation to $100,000 regardless of the injury’s severity. The compensation is further limited to $10,000 if the infant dies. It does not pay for any expenses that insurance or prepaid health plans cover. Neither will it pay for disfigurement, non-economic damages, nor past and future medical expenses.
The expenses a NICA claim covers include:
- Child’s medical care
- Medically necessary supplies
Accepting NICA Benefits Means You Give Up Your Right to Sue
Keep in mind that once you receive NICA compensation, you cannot file a lawsuit against a medical professional or institution responsible for your baby’s birth injury. If a claim is not eligible for NICA compensation, you can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit that allows you to recover damages, such as:
- Your baby’s medical expenses
- Rehabilitation services
- Childcare costs
- Home and vehicle accessibility expenses for a child with a disability
- Loss of a parent’s income while taking care of the injured child
- A child’s pain and suffering and your mental anguish
Filing a NICA claim or a lawsuit is a hard decision because you must consider several moving parts. A birth injury attorney can extensively evaluate your case and help you explore all your legal options.
Call Us for a Free Case Review
If your child has sustained a birth injury, and you believe it resulted from a healthcare team’s mistake, call the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine at 1-800-747-3733 today. We will provide a free case review to determine whether a medical professional failed to deliver the expected standard of care to you and your baby.
We can also guide you through every step of filing a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit and, if necessary, represent you in court. Our services are available to residents throughout Florida.