So many people look forward to starting a family; and, thankfully science has provided us with more options than ever to make that happen. While we can document each ultrasound, each belly growth, each milestone along the way during pregnancy, all of this is done looking forward to childbirth and the miraculous arrival of our new family member. Unfortunately, not all birth experiences go as planned, with some deviating from a carefully arranged birth plan while others veer into truly perilous territory. If the unthinkable comes to pass and your baby is injured during childbirth, you may be wondering what you can do if your child suffered a birth injury in a hospital.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries are usually physical and occur when a child is born. Not every single birth injury is avoidable, but many are. While sadly, many types of injuries can occur during pregnancy and childbirth, some of the most common types of birth injuries include:
- Forceps or vacuum injury: During childbirth, when a baby becomes stuck, a medical provider may use forceps and/or a vacuum to assist with delivery. When those devices are used incorrectly or in the wrong circumstances, injuries will follow.
- Head and/or brain injury: A baby that suffers a head or brain injury may require lifelong medical care and never be able to function as it should have.
- Fracture of clavicle or collarbone: A broken collarbone is the most common birth injury resulting from medical malpractice. These injuries are particularly common when a baby’s shoulders are stuck behind the mother’s pelvis, known as shoulder dystocia.
- Facial nerve injury: When a baby’s facial nerves are injured during birth – also known as Bell’s palsy – this is most commonly caused by rough treatment by doctors, the use of forceps, or other types of medical negligence. While many children do recover control over their facial movements, some are affected for life.
- Cerebral Palsy: CP limits a child’s muscle control and often comes with delays in speech and other developmental milestones. This condition has no cure.
- Oxygen deprivation: Hypoxia occurs when a baby does not receive sufficient oxygen. The severity of the resulting damage depends on how long the baby’s brain was deprived of oxygen. A hypoxic event during childbirth is very serious and can even lead to death.
- Spinal cord injury: A baby’s spine can be damaged by a rough delivery, often with devastating results such as loss of movement in one limb or even paralysis.
- Erb’s Palsy: Paralysis of the arm, shoulder, or hand caused by an injury to the brachial plexus nerves during labor.
What Constitutes Childbirth Medical Malpractice
While birth injury claims do fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice, they are handled differently in Texas in several important ways. First of all, since the injured party is a minor, they are not bound by the normal two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases – they have until they reach age 18 plus two years to file a lawsuit related to their birth injury. Waiting that long has serious drawbacks, including the potential loss or destruction of evidence such as hospital records, medical bills, and healthcare professional notes, not to mention the inability to have the baby examined by a professional at the precise time the injury occurred. In addition to having an extended statute wherein an injured child can file a lawsuit, birth injury claims are also not subject to the Texas damages caps placed on other types of medical negligence cases. This means that a birth injury in a hospital can provide for your child’s medical and other needs for life if handled appropriately by an experienced trial lawyer, whereas other victims of medical malpractice in Texas have their damages capped at $250,000 in many cases regardless of how severe the bad act or the resulting injury.
Doctors and nurses and other medical professionals are only human and do make mistakes, so what actually rises to the level of constituting birth injury malpractice? There are four elements a plaintiff must prove to hold a negligent party responsible for birth injury damages:
- Duty: The plaintiff must prove that the party or parties who injured the child owed that child a legal duty of care. A person delivering healthcare services in a hospital owes their patients a duty of care to provide the quality of medical services consistent with those of a reasonable provider similarly situated.
- Breach: If your medical provider’s care was not up to the standard of their legal duty, this means they breached their standard of care to the patient. A medical provider breaches their duty when they act or fail to act in a way that a reasonable or and prudent party would not have acted in the same situation.
- Cause: The legally obligated medical provider’s breach of their duty of care must have been the actual cause of the birth injury. Causation is the link between the defendant’s breach and your child’s injuries and is often proven through the use of expert testimony.
- Harm: While doctors can make mistakes, in order for those mistakes to be actionable, they must cause damages. Birth injury damages include physical injuries, pain and suffering, a lifetime of medical care, medical bills, and other economic losses, and more.
Houston Birth Injury Lawyers
If your child suffered a serious birth injury as the result of a delivery room or other hospital error, The Krist Law Firm will fight for justice for you, your child, and your family. You can call our experienced Houston birth injury lawyers at 281-283-8500 today for a free consultation. You may also contact us by email for answers to your questions and a lawyer’s thoughts regarding your concerns.