There is nothing more exciting than bringing a new child into the world. Unfortunately, the process of labor and delivery is highly complicated and extremely unpredictable. So we have to be able to trust that our doctors and medical professionals will guide us through the process of childbirth with the highest standards of care. Doctors must be able to make split-second decisions to protect the health and safety of the newborn.
Normally, this is exactly what happens. The doctors and nurses guiding women through pregnancy and delivery are generally among the best physicians in the world. Thankfully. But, in a minority of cases, physicians and other health care providers make mistakes with our unborn children that have fatal or life-altering consequences.
If your child has suffered harm from a medical error during the birthing process, call our Maryland birth injury attorneys at 800-553-8082 or get more information about your case on-line.
- A closer look at the settlement value of birth injury cases
Let's start with the statistics. Nationally, plaintiffs win approximately 29% of birth injury cases at trial. Maryland, based on our experiences and looking following the verdicts in these cases, is probably higher.
This might sound like a low number but, statistically, is has a high relative success rate. Only 21% of verdicts in all medical malpractice cases nationally end in a plaintiffs' verdict.
What does this tell us about your case? Nothing. Because what is not included in these statistics is how many viable birth injury cases reach an out-of-court settlement. There is no statistical data on this. But the answer is: a lot.Child Brain Injury Birth Complications
Undoubtedly, the most severe birth injuries are those that affect a child's brain. The most feared injuries are those that result from a lack of oxygen during delivery (hypoxia) or bleeding within the skull or brain. This is almost invariably the trigger that causes birth injuries and irreversible brain damage. An infant's lack of oxygen - a deprivation that adults can often readily shrug off - can cause a lifetime of damage and need for medical and other care.
A shortage of oxygen can be caused by many things, including an unusual birth position, the placenta separating from the uterus wall too early, a problem with circulation in the umbilical cord, or labor that is too long or too short. What we see over and over again is objective signs and symptoms that the infant is in distress yet nothing is done to come to the child's aid.
Most birth injury medical malpractice claims that stem from this injury allege that doctors or medical professionals failed to anticipate, recognize or react to these dangerous scenarios. Use of excessive force, failure to adequately anticipate the size of the child, and failure to order a C-section are other factors that can lead to birth injuries.
Approximately 9.5% of medical malpractice lawsuits involve misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose problems involving the birth of a child. Here are the types of cases that make up the majority of those birth injury malpractice lawsuits in Maryland:Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term to describe a functional disorder caused by damage to the brain during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after birth that can be related to this shortage of oxygen during delivery. CP is caused by faulty development of or damage to motor areas in the baby's brain that disrupt the brain's ability to control the body's movements or posture. Some children who suffer from cerebral palsy can still live normal or relatively normal lives. Regrettably, other kids are more severely affected. For almost all children with cerebral palsy, therapy intervention can help.
How cerebral palsy impacts a child depends on which part of the brain has suffered an injury. The physical and mental symptoms vary wildly. Children with cerebral palsy commonly have problems with vision, hearing, coordinated movement, walking, vision, hearing, posture, speech or learning.Erb's Palsy
Erb's palsy (also called Brachial Plexus palsy) is another birth injury that is caused by trauma to the unborn child. Children who suffer from Erb's palsy often suffer a loss of control and sensation in their neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
Erb's palsy can be caused by medical malpractice, usually during the delivery of the baby. What often happens is that the child's shoulder gets stuck under the mother's pubic bone following the delivery of the head. Sometimes, the OB/GYN delivering the baby will panic and will apply excessive force on the baby to dislodge the shoulder. When this happens, damage may occur to the nerve bundles located in the shoulder region causing Erb's palsy.Kernicterus
Kernicterus is a post-birth injury that rarely occurs in the absence of medical malpractice. Kernicterus is the result of too much bilirubin in the child's blood which causes extreme jaundice. Properly treated and diagnosed by the OB/GYN or pediatricians after birth, kernicterus can usually be handled without a birth injury to the child. Untreated, kernicterus can cause permanent brain damage.
In medical malpractice cases involving allegations of a birth injury as the result of kernicterus, the battle usually centers around whether the child's bilirubin level produced brain damage and, if it did, whether the doctor's failure to act on the child's symptoms would have averted the child's birth injury. It always comes back to that same question: what would a prudent doctor have done and would it have made a difference?How Birth Injuries Occur?
There are a lot of things that can go wrong during a delivery of a child. Some of these have nothing to do with the delivering OB making a mistake. But there are so leitmotifs in these case that we see over and over:
- Failure to Order a Caesarian Section: There is no medical dispute that there are situations where a C-sections becomes medically necessary. Courts have ordered women to get a C-section against their wishes in some cases. So clearly there are cases such as when the baby's heart rate drops dramatically, the cord is wrapped around the baby's neck, or there is a placental abruption where the doctors need to step in and recommend immediate surgical delivery. Any meaningful delay can change a child's life forever.
- Forceps Errors: Sometimes, forceps are needed when the birth is not progressing as it should, often because the child is awkwardly positioned in the mother's womb. But this tool has to be used with great care, or there is a great risk of injury to the mother and the child, including oxygen deprivation that can lead to cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.
- Ignoring Fetal Heart Monitor: The fetal heart monitor issue comes back to the same place as most of these other errors: hypoxia. Oxygen to the brain is critical for the fetus at this stage of their lives. Critical is not a strong enough word. If there is something awry with the fetal heart rate and action is not taken, it can lead to brain damages, cerebral palsy, and a host of other problems.
- Failure to Detect Prolapsed Umbilical Cord: This is when the umbilical cord is wrapped around the infant's neck or head that can stop the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. The problems here are a failure to detect the problem and failing to perform a C-section quickly to protect the child.
- Vacuum Errors: Malpractice cases involving vacuum errors are similar to forceps errors. When there is a little trouble getting the child out of the womb, doctors should be concerned. But they can't panic. A vacuum is a fine tool but, like any tool, it has to be used properly and too many delivering doctors either do not know how to use it or use it improperly in the heat of the moment. If it is used improperly or the vacuum itself is defective, it can cause injury or death to the child.
- Shoulder dystocia
- Placental abruption
- Herpes encephalitis
- Caput Succedaneum
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR or FGR)
- Perinatal Encephalopathy
- Uterine rupture
- Placenta previa
- Hypoglycemia induced brain injury
- Infant subgaleal hematoma (brain bleed)
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
- Negligent use of forceps
- Misuse of Pitocin
Birth injuries are not always the result of medical malpractice. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. But, sometimes, far too often, a doctor's mistake caused the injuries.
The stakes in birth injury cases are extremely high. There is no damage cap on the recoverable economic damages for past and future medical bills and the cost of maintaining the child for the remainder of the child's. Damages are often measured in tens of millions of dollars.
Birth injury lawsuits are also very complex. It matters who you hire as an attorney. You need skilled birth injury malpractice attorney to fight for you. If you want to investigate your potential claim, we will discuss your case with you at no charge so you can learn more about what you are facing. Call our Maryland birth injury malpractice lawyers at 800-553-8082 today or get a free online consultation.
- Birth injury lawsuits in Maryland (an overview of the process of bringing a birth injury claim)
- An example birth injury case filed by Miller & Zois
- Malpractice during pregnancy that causes birth injuries
- Sample failure to perform c-section lawsuit
- Sample cerebral palsy lawsuit
- Nursing negligence birth injury claim