Birth injuries have the potential to be among the most challenging and devastating medical conditions imaginable. Indeed, when you read or hear the words “birth injuries,” you likely and understandably imagine the worst. The reality is that birth injuries run the proverbial gambit from incredibly serious and life-altering to far less impactful and transitory or temporary. In the broader scheme, you are well-served have a keener understanding of birth injuries. These FAQs are designed to answer the most important questions associated with birth injuries.
What is the definition of a birth injury?
Many people hear or read the term “birth injury” and may not know precisely what is meant by the phrase. At its essence, a birth injury is damage caused to or experienced by a baby before, during, or just after the delivery process.
What are some of the more commonplace types of birth injuries?
The stark reality is that birth injuries do come in many forms. With that said, there are some types of birth injuries that occur more frequently. These include:
- Brachial plexus injury
- Brain damage
- Bone fractures
- Meconium aspiration syndrome
Are most instances of brain injury caused during delivery the result of trauma?
While it is true that some birth injuries involving brain damage are the result of trauma, oxygen deprivation is far more likely the cause of harm caused to the brain before and during the delivery process. Oxygen can be cut off or markedly reduced to a child’s brain during birth and delivery in a number of different ways. These include situations in which the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around a child’s neck as well as circumstances in which a child remains in the womb for an excessive period of time following the rupture of the amniotic sac.
When does traumatic brain injury occur during birth and delivery?
There are two more common sets of circumstances when a baby experiences traumatic brain injury during the birth and delivery process. First, if forceps are utilized to assist in delivery, the potential for traumatic brain injury exists due to the soft nature of an unborn and recently born baby’s skull. Second, if a vacuum delivery device is utilized during the delivery process, an error in such a procedure can result in traumatic brain injury.
Do cases of birth-related brain injury always result in major impairment to a child?
Fortunately, not all cases of birth-related brain injury result in permanent, major impairment to a child. There are many situations in which a birth-related brain injury occurs that impact a baby on a temporary or transitory basis. There are other instances in which there may be some sort of impairment, but it can be addressed medically and otherwise. With these notations presented, the grim reality is that serious birth-related brain damage can have profound, debilitating, lifelong consequences in some cases.
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy can occur as a result of oxygen deprivation during childbirth and delivery. This deprivation can cause abnormal development to parts of the brain that control posture, movement, and balance. Diagnosed cases of cerebral palsy run from less severe or moderate to severe, identified by different levels of impairment.
What is a brachial plexus injury?
Brachial plexus injury warrants special attention in this discussion. A Brachial plexus injury is among the most common types of birth injuries. Medically speaking, the brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that extend from the neck to the hand. These nerves control the motion of the arm and hand. Brachial plexus injuries occur as a result of the twisting and stretching that might occur during the delivery process. This type of injury is said to occur between one to three times in every 1,000 births. Most cases are not particularly serious and any damage heals. In severe cases, a person ends up with permanent impairment and lacks full use of a shoulder, arm, and hand.
Is a birth injury the same thing as a birth defect?
One of the key reasons why some level of confusion exists regarding birth injuries is that they oftentimes become confused with birth defects. Medically and legally, birth injuries and birth defects are not the same things. As explained a moment ago, a birth injury is damage caused to a baby before, during, or directly after delivery. On the other hand, a birth defect is a condition or illness that forms or develops while a baby is in the womb, in advance of the labor and delivery process.
How many birth injuries occur in the United States each year?
An alarming number of birth injuries occur in the United States each year. Approximately 28,000 babies experience a birth injury annually in the country. That breaks down to about 2,300 infants that have a birth injury on a monthly basis, about 540 weekly, 75 daily, or three babies born every hour in the US that will experience a birth injury.
How often is medical negligence or malpractice the cause of birth injuries?
Medical errors, medical negligence, or medical malpractice typically are at the root of birth injuries, commonly is a primary or at least contributing cause to birth injuries. In other words, a physician or other medical provider has committed an error or made a mistake in the time period leading up to delivery, during delivery, or directly after birth that has resulted in an injury to a newborn child.
Who legally is responsible for birth injuries?
In the final analysis, the specific facts and circumstances of a case determine who or what entity legally is responsible for causing birth injuries. With that said, there are medical providers who most frequently are identified as being responsible for taking actions or failing to take actions that result in birth injuries:
- Physician or OBG-YN
- Hospital or medical center
In most cases involving a birth injury, more than one party likely will be deemed legally liable or responsible for causing birth injuries. For example, if a birth injury occurs during delivery at a hospital or medical center, responsible parties are apt to include the attending physician, the hospital, and oftentimes the anesthesiologist.
When should a parent seek legal advice about a birth injury?
Of course, when a birth injury occurs, obtaining immediate and proper medical care and treatment is the paramount concern. With that said, a parent is also wise to consult with legal counsel when a birth injury occurs. A parent really does stand in the shoes of a child when it comes not only to medical decision-making but also in regard to protecting an injured child’s vital legal rights.
As a matter of practice, a medical malpractice attorney who pursues cases involving birth injuries will schedule an initial consultation and case evaluation at no cost and no obligation to a prospective client. In addition, the common practice is for a medical malpractice lawyer to utilize a contingency fee structure when it comes to payment for services. In basic terms, a medical malpractice lawyer is not paid a fee unless a successful conclusion to an insurance claim or lawsuit is reached on behalf of a client.