The birth of a child is usually a joyful time. However, according to the CDC, about 1 in 33 babies is born with a birth defect each year, and birth defects account for 20 percent of infant deaths. In addition, per 1,000 live births, roughly 6 to 8 birth injuries occur, although birth injury causes fewer than 2 percent of neonatal deaths and stillbirths.
The difference between a birth defect and a birth injury can be an important one in a legal sense, as a baby suffering from a significant medical problem can require a lifetime of expensive medical care and support. If the baby’s condition is a result of medical negligence, then the medical provider and/or hospital can be held responsible for compensating the family for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of future earning capacity.
A birth defect is considered a condition that arose prior to a child’s birth. Some well-known birth defects, such as Down’s Syndrome, are caused by genetic factors, while others can arise from environmental factors, such as chemicals a mother was exposed to or medication she was prescribed during pregnancy. If the birth defect was potentially caused by such exposure, or was caused by a failure of the doctor to adhere to a generally accepted standard of care (such as a failure to prescribe prenatal vitamins resulting in a case of spina bifida due to lack of folic acid), then you may have recourse to legal action. A doctor can also be held accountable for failing to identify a detectable birth defect before delivery. However, the cause of many birth defects is unknown, and in such cases, or in cases where the defect is not the direct result of medical negligence, you may have no right to compensation.
A birth injury, by contrast, is considered an injury that occurs to an otherwise healthy child during the process of birth itself. Many of these injuries are considered preventable. Common causes of birth injuries are improper use of extraction tools such as forceps or vacuum extraction devices, failure to monitor the baby for distress properly during delivery, or failure to perform a C-section in a timely manner (or at all) when indicated. While some birth injuries may be mild, such as bruising, others can be quite severe, such as broken bones, nerve damage, or cerebral palsy resulting from a lack of oxygen during birth.
As with any medical malpractice claim, a birth defect or injury case is a challenging proposition that should not be undertaken without expert legal help. Consulting an attorney is essential; an experienced lawyer can bring in medical experts to evaluate the ways in which your medical provider’s care did not meet the expected level of care, and help establish that their actions, or inactions, led to the birth defect or injury. An attorney can also help you navigate the complex rules regarding medical malpractice cases, which can be considerably different from state to state. The compensation you are awarded can be critical for your child’s rehabilitation and providing the best possible quality of life.
The experienced legal team at Hodes, Milman and Liebeck can fight for your family’s rights to help you provide for the long-term needs of your child. Contact us at hmlm.com or call (949) 640-8222 for a complimentary case evaluation.