Every day, thousands of expectant parents trust in the skill, training and basic competence of healthcare professionals. As the delivery date approaches, we turn to doctors, obstetricians and nurses to ensure that our children are born safely, without sustaining undue harm. Sometimes, that’s not what happens.
Infants suffer birth injuries at an alarming rate – before, during or after delivery. While these injuries are often sustained in a split-second, many children will be left with severe and life-long consequences. In some cases, birth injuries are the result of medical negligence, and families have every right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Birth Injury Lawsuits
Birth injuries can result in a wide-range of serious medical conditions, from developmental delays to neurological disorders like cerebral palsy. In rare, but tragic, cases, a doctor’s incompetence will lead to an infant’s death.
No matter the diagnosis, we believe that every birth injury is cause for concern. Your family deserves answers. What really happened in the delivery room? Did the doctors and nurses attending your child’s birth do everything in their power to avoid harm? Or were your child’s injuries preventable?
We tend to put medical professionals on a pedestal. But we shouldn’t. Doctors make mistakes, and those errors can have lasting – and costly – implications for families. Raising a child with special needs is difficult. Everyday, our experienced birth injury malpractice lawyers speak with families who are struggling to bear increasing medical expenses, while offering their children the best lives possible. We think every child, and every family, deserves strong support.
Birth Injuries & Medical Malpractice
In some cases, even the brightest doctors, employing all of the experience and skill at their disposal, are unable to avoid harm befalling a child. Pregnancy and childbirth are complex medical situations, after all, and complications do happen.
But that isn’t always true. Hundreds, if not thousands, of severe birth injuries are caused by medical malpractice every year:
- failing to order a necessary cesarean section
- using forceps or vacuum extractors with excessive force
- failing to properly diagnose maternal or fetal health conditions
- misdiagnosing complications of labor
- prescribing harmful medications to a mother
- failing to diagnose fetal distress
Parents in New York, and all across the country, have every right to hold negligent healthcare practitioners accountable by filing a birth injury lawsuit. If your child’s injuries were caused by medical negligence, your family can pursue significant financial compensation and justice.
What Is Medical Negligence?
While we can’t demand the best doctors in the world, we can expect healthcare practitioners to follow the current standards and best practices within their industry. Medical negligence, and thus malpractice, is what occurs when a doctor or nurse falls below this “standard of care,” acting or failing to act appropriately in a medical setting.
These concepts are critical to every medical malpractice lawsuit, including ones that involve birth injuries. In order to secure compensation, families will have to prove three separate things:
- a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional owed the child a duty of care
- that healthcare professional violated their duty, acting in a way that similar, competent medical practitioners would not have under similar circumstances
- the doctor’s violation of the standard of care caused harm to the child
To learn more about winning a medical malpractice lawsuit, click here.
We believe that all children deserve outstanding care, and New York law holds medical professionals to a strict standard. But winning a birth injury lawsuit isn’t simple.
Working With Medical Experts
Our medical malpractice lawyers rely on the expertise and guidance of trusted medical experts to help us build a case.
Working closely with these independent medical professionals, our attorneys will develop a detailed account of the “standard of care” that should have been followed during your pregnancy. Then, we’ll identify the moments in which your birth team failed to uphold this standard, errors that resulted in your child’s birth injuries.
Five Common Birth Injuries
Many children suffer minor injuries – like bruising and swelling – during labor and delivery. Minor traumas can occur even during appropriately-managed births, as a child is pushed through the birth canal.
When infants are deprived of oxygen during labor or delivery, the risk of severe brain damage is high. The danger is only increased after a sudden decrease in blood circulation.
Researchers use the term hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy to describe forms of brain injury caused by birth asphyxia and improper blood flow. While most children survive periods of oxygen deprivation, many will be left with permanent medical conditions, including cerebral palsy and autism. As many as 1 in 5 children who suffer severe birth asphyxia will die as a result.
You can learn more about hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy at Medscape.
Cerebral palsy, a movement disorder that can result in paralysis, seizures and cognitive impairments, is often caused by a sudden decrease in the amount of oxygen reaching a child’s brain during delivery.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus is a collection of nerves that begin in the neck and run down the arm. Injuring these nerves can result in complete paralysis or long-term weakness, along with movement impairments. Erb’s palsy, a form of arm paralysis, is one common example.
Shoulder dystocia is the leading cause of brachial plexus injuries. In this form of abnormal presentation, a child’s head emerges from the birth canal, but one of their shoulders remains stuck behind the mother’s pelvis. Some obstetricians resort to manual force, attempting to pull a child through the birth canal. While gentle pressure is sometimes the only option, excessive pulling is likely to cause serious harm.
In long, difficult deliveries, many obstetricians rely on birth-assistive tools – like forceps and vacuum extractors – to pull a newborn through the birth canal. Of course, this is extremely delicate work, requiring intense caution on the part of a medical practitioner. While blunt force injuries are rare, many children will suffer nerve damage due to the improper use of forceps and vacuum extractors. Intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain, is another risk, especially with the use of vacuum extraction.
During childbirth, infants can suffer broken bones, injuries that may inhibit proper body development and result in long-term impairment.
In difficult deliveries, obstetricians often attempt to manually reposition a child within the birth canal, taking hold of delicate arms, shoulders or legs. Fractures are especially frequent in cases of shoulder dystocia, as well as infants who present in the breech position.
Statute Of Limitations On Birth Injury Malpractice
Every state has its own “statute of limitations” on medical malpractice lawsuits – a legal time limit that can restrict the amount of time parents have to file suit. In New York, families have 2.5 years from the actual date of malpractice to file a birth injury lawsuit.
In most cases, however, this statute of limitations can be “tolled,” or paused, until the injured child turns 18. Thus the statute of limitations would begin to run on the child’s 18th birthday, and continue to run for 2.5 years after that. But a second law, known as the “statute of repose,” cuts this extension short. New York’s statute of repose says that no lawsuit can be filed longer than 10 years after the date of actual malpractice. In other words, most families will have until their child’s 10th birthday to file a birth injury lawsuit.
Wrongful death lawsuits involving infants are governed by a separate statute of limitations. In order to file a viable malpractice lawsuit for the death of an infant, parents generally have only two years after the date of death to pursue legal action.
There are few exceptions to the statute of limitations in New York, so time is of the essence. Wait too long before contacting an attorney and your family may lose the right to pursue justice.
Contact Our Experienced Birth Injury Attorneys
Our attorneys always work on a contingency-fee basis. That means you owe us nothing until we secure compensation in your case. Learning more about your legal options comes at no charge. Just call today or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.