Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Birth Injuries
Have questions about what to do if you have been injured in a car or truck wreck in Tennessee or one of the neighboring states? Don’t know how to proceed if a medical error or birth injury has harmed or killed a loved one in Memphis or another Tennessee location? The experienced trial attorneys at the Holton Law Firm have the answers you need. If you do not see your question answered here, contact our office to learn more about your individual case.
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What is the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect?
Of the nearly four million babies born in the United States each year, approximately 150,000 are diagnosed with a birth injury or birth defect, according to statistics from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. When parents learn that their newborn has been diagnosed with a birth injury or defect, it's important that they understand the differences between these diagnoses.
Birth defects are physical or biochemical abnormalities that occur during the infant's development. These abnormalities can be caused by genetics or other factors such as the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, or certain prescription medications during pregnancy, and they may result in lifelong physical or mental disabilities. Common birth defects include:
- Congenital heart disease
- Down syndrome
- Cleft lip and palate
- Spina bifida
- Club foot
Birth injuries are injuries and traumas sustained by otherwise healthy infants during the labor and delivery process, often as the result of a doctor or nurse's mistake. Birth injuries are particularly common in cases involving prolonged labor, delayed delivery, or instrument-assisted delivery. Common birth injuries caused by medical negligence include:
- Brain injuries such as Cerebral palsy
- Brachial plexus injuries such as Erb's palsy and Klumpke's palsy
- Broken bones such as clavicle fractures
- Cephalohematoma (bleeding underneath the cranium)
- Caput succedaneum (severe swelling of the scalp tissue)
The biggest difference between birth defects and birth injuries is that birth defects aren’t normally linked to a medical mishap and are not usually legally actionable. Exceptions may include cases where a birth defect is thought to have been caused by the use of a prescription drug linked to an increased risk of birth defects.
Experienced Representation for Birth Injury Plaintiffs
If your infant was diagnosed with a birth injury that you believe was caused by a mistake made by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional during the labor and delivery process, you may be entitled to seek compensation. The knowledgeable birth injury attorneys with Holton Law Firm can help you explore your legal options. Contact Holton Law Firm today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case analysis.
What steps should I take after a cerebral palsy diagnosis?
Finding out your child has a disability that requires life-long care can be traumatic and frightening for parents. Understanding the disability, the challenges it presents, and the legal options available to you can help you decide what to do after a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a serious central nervous system disability that can have wide-ranging, adverse effects on a child and will often impact movement and posture, as well as cognitive development. This disease and its treatments can be incredibly costly, as people with this disability often require a number of supportive care services, including special medical care, tailored education and social services, and the use of assistive devices such as braces, walkers, and wheelchairs.
Over a lifetime, these necessary services cost an average of $921,000 per person, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), published in 2003.
Caring for someone with cerebral palsy can be extremely expensive. However, if your child's cerebral palsy was caused by oxygen deprivation during the birth process, you may be eligible to seek compensation for medical malpractice related to a birth injury.
After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
When you're faced with a cerebral palsy diagnosis, take the following steps to help ensure your child is able to receive the appropriate care:
- Find the right pediatrician. Look for a doctor who has experience treating children with cerebral palsy and can develop a treatment plan that meets your needs, as well as address any concerns you may have.
- Hire an attorney. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you pursue compensation for your child's birth injury and work to ensure you receive a fair settlement offer.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you're considering taking legal action in a birth injury case, the skilled personal injury attorneys with the Holton Law Firm can provide the honest, yet aggressive, representation you need. Contact our Memphis law office today to schedule a free initial consultation about your case. You can also request a free copy of our eBook, Answers to Parents' Questions About Birth Injuries, for more information.
Can a doctor’s mistake cause both birth defects and birth injuries?
Birth-related medical malpractice happens when a medical professional or a hospital fails to use reasonable care during a woman’s pregnancy and the labor and delivery of her child. When anyone on the medical staff acts negligently, it can cause a birth defect and/or a birth injury that may affect a child for the rest of his life.
Birth Defects and Medical Negligence
Every 4.5 seconds, a baby with a birth defect is born in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A birth defect is a structural change that occurs at birth and can impact almost any part of a baby’s body. This change may affect how the body part looks, functions, or both. It can last a lifetime or even end in death.
One common birth defect is cerebral palsy, and a child with this condition will typically have difficulty controlling muscle motion. A newborn may suffer from cerebral palsy for a variety of reasons, including not getting enough oxygen flow to the brain (referred to as hypoxia) or enough oxygen to the body (referred to as asphyxia). Umbilical cord problems and excessive hemorrhaging during pregnancy or delivery can also cause cerebral palsy. Often, a doctor’s mistake or series of mistakes is the cause of a birth defect that could have been prevented.
Birth Injuries and Medical Negligence
Birth injuries can also be caused by medical negligence. These injuries include:
- Muscular injuries
- Skeletal injuries
- Nerve damage
- Brain damage
Some of these may result from an unavoidable complication, but most occur because a doctor:
- Uses excessive force to pull or rotate the baby
- Uses extraction tools improperly such as forceps or a vacuum
- Fails to monitor the vital signs of the fetus or mother, or both
- Fails to give a cesarean section when necessary
- Gives the wrong dose or wrong medication
A Team Committed to Your Case
If you believe a doctor, nurse, or other medical staff member injured your baby or is responsible for a birth defect, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney. At the Holton Law Firm, we want to put our combined years of experience to work for you. To begin a conversation with a member of our team, contact us today.
What is Klumpke’s palsy?
A doctor must meet an expected standard of care each time he cares for a patient, which includes making good decisions during a complex birth. If the doctor who delivered your child used excessive force or pulled the baby from the birth canal by an arm extended above the baby’s head, damage to the child’s nerves can result—known as Klumpke’s palsy. It’s important to understand this condition, how you can identify it, and how a lawyer can help determine if you have a birth injury lawsuit.
Understanding Klumpke’s Palsy
Also known as Klumpke’s paralysis or Dejerine-Klumpke palsy, Klumpke’s palsy is a condition resulting from injury to a newborn’s brachial plexus—the network of nerves sending signals from your spine to your hand, arm, and shoulder. This injury occurs when:
- The nerves are totally severed from the spine
- The nerves are torn at an area not connected to the spine
- The nerves are overstretched
- The nerves were injured but did not heal properly
This type of birth injury usually occurs during a vaginal delivery, and it could be the result of a doctor’s negligence. Common symptoms of this injury include:
- Rigid, claw-like hands
- Asymmetrical posturing
- Bent arm held close to the body
- Weak muscle on the affected side
- Diminished sensation or function in the arm, or total paralysis
- Excessive pain
Although not every birth injury is caused by a doctor’s negligence, it’s possible your baby’s Klumpke’s palsy was preventable. A delivery becomes more complicated and difficult if:
- The baby is large
- The baby has a large head
- The mother has a small pelvis
These scenarios may lead a doctor to use more force when helping the baby exit the birth canal and pull too hard or pull on the baby’s arm, which is often extended over the baby’s head. This extra force can lead to injuries resulting in Klumpke’s palsy.
Effects of Klumpke’s Palsy Could Last a Lifetime
Determining whether you have a potential birth injury lawsuit is important because the effects of an injury leading to Klumpke’s palsy could last the rest of your child’s life. Many injuries to the brachial plexus will heal with no complications. However, other injuries may lead to long-lasting or permanent consequences—which means your baby could need continued medical attention. Common complications associated with Klumpke’s palsy include:
- Pain. It’s not uncommon that nerve damage results in pain. This may be connected to how the nerves heal and if any scar tissue exists.
- Stiffness. Because the pain limits mobility during the healing process, it’s possible joints and muscles will become stiff and difficult to move, or they may even stay rigid after the injury is healed.
- Permanent disability. The nerves in the brachial plexus could heal improperly, failing to restore connectivity with the brain and losing functionality entirely.
- Loss of feeling. It’s possible that scar tissue or improper healing will result in loss of feeling in the shoulder, arm, and hands.
- Atrophy. Nerves can take a while to heal, and it’s important to keep in mind that some nerves must regrow. As this happens, your baby’s muscle might atrophy—which could mean muscle deterioration or prolonged weakness.
During childbirth, if a baby’s nerves were simply stretched, the injury typically heals more easily. If the baby’s nerves were torn, the injury may be improved by engaging in prescribed physical therapy to keep the joint active and get blood flowing to the area. Additionally, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove scar tissue if he believes the injury isn’t healing as well as it needs to.
Your Baby Deserves Quality Representation
If your baby suffered injuries during delivery, you should speak with an attorney. The legal team at The Holton Law Firm can review your case, help determine if you have a birth injury case, and provide superior representation, if necessary. To get started on your case, contact a team member today by calling our toll-free phone number.
What is gestational diabetes and What Risks are Involved?
A 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that gestational diabetes (GD) affects between 1 to 14 percent of births each year in the U.S. If you’re pregnant, it’s important to understand the risks of GD and how it can impact you and your baby.
Gestational Diabetes Defined
Gestational diabetes usually occurs with women in late pregnancy who have never had diabetes. It’s often marked by high blood sugar levels and low insulin production, and these changes can affect how a woman’s body processes and uses sugar. Usually, women who experience GD will see their blood sugar return to normal after delivery, but these women are also at a high risk of developing Type II diabetes.
Risk Factors of Gestational Diabetes
Any woman can develop GD, but some women may be more susceptible than others. High risk factors include:
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Being aged 25 or older
- Being overweight, specifically with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more
- Having a personal history of polycystic ovary syndrome
- Having a personal history of gestational diabetes
- Having a personal history of delivering large babies
- Taking certain medications such as antipsychotics or beta-blockers
- Being of non-white genetic heritage
Complications for the Baby
It’s very common for women who have GD to deliver babies who are healthy; however, if you don’t manage your condition, it can be problematic for your child. If you have GD, your baby could be at an increased risk of:
- Excessive birth weight and size. Typically, a baby’s head is the largest presenting body part, but GD can lead to enlarged chest and shoulders, as well as cause excessive birth weight.
- Pre-term birth. If the mother has high blood sugar, it may increase her risk of delivering early. Babies who are born prematurely may suffer from respiratory distress syndrome. This condition makes it difficult for babies to breathe normally.
- Type II diabetes later. Babies whose mothers experienced GD may be more prone to obesity later in life and, therefore, may have a higher risk for developing Type II diabetes.
- Hypoglycemia. If a baby’s insulin production is high because his mother’s is low, he may experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) at birth, which can be normalized through feedings and medications.
When You Need Legal Help
If medical professionals failed to test you for GD or failed to manage your case properly, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or those to your newborn. To ask questions and learn more about how to proceed with a birth injury lawsuit, call the experienced team at the Holton Law Firm. You can reach us at 888-443-4387.
What is a breech baby?
If a baby is breech—positioned to exit the birth canal feet or buttocks first—a doctor may have to change his delivery method. Although only 3 – 4 percent of full-term births involve a breech position, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), mistakes or unpreparedness in delivery of a breech baby can lead to brain trauma, bleeding, asphyxia, lifelong disability, and even death.
Types of Breech Positions
As a pregnancy nears its end, a baby naturally shifts to accommodate for a safe vaginal birth—a position in which a baby would exit the birth canal head first. However, when a baby positions itself to exit buttocks or feet first, this is when a breech presentation occurs. Usually, a doctor will suggest a cesarean section (C-section) in the event of a breech baby. There are three types of breech positions:
- Frank breech: The most common type of breech position is a frank breech that occurs when a baby pikes and prepares to exit the birth canal buttocks first.
- Complete breech: When the baby’s body contorts into a cannonball shape—hinged both at the knees and the hips into a tuck—and prepares to exit buttocks first, a complete breech occurs.
- Footling (incomplete) breech: As the name suggests, a footling breech happens when one foot or both feet will exit first. This can often mean a baby’s hips enter into a problematic position, as well.
Why Do Breech Positions Occur?
Ultrasound technology helps the medical staff determine the breech position, and then the doctor will inform the parents-to-be about alternative measures. However, medical professionals can’t usually explain why breech positions occur. Risk factors include previous pregnancies, a small pelvis, and a history of premature delivery, and breech deliveries can lead to serious complications, including:
- Fetal distress. This can occur when there are issues with the umbilical cord. Complications can include the cord becoming compressed or wrapping around the child’s neck.
- Nerve damage. This can occur from excessive compression during attempts to dislodge the baby from the mother’s birth canal.
- Head and spine injury. This can occur when the baby’s head becomes stuck in a small birth canal, sometimes leading to bleeding and permanent disability.
- Low APGAR scoring. This can indicate a traumatic birth.
How an Attorney Can Help Your Family
If your baby suffered a traumatic birth injury because a doctor mishandled a breech position, the attorneys at the Holton Law Firm can help. To speak with an experienced attorney about your case, fill out the online contact form on our website.
Do I have a birth injury case?
For every 1,000 babies born in the U.S., nearly 6 die in their first year, according to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sometimes, babies are born with birth injuries that may be caused by medical negligence—which occurs when a doctor fails to meet accepted standards of practice when caring for patients. If your difficult delivery resulted in injuries to your newborn, you might wonder if you have a negligence case. There are many factors a lawyer will consider when making a determination of medical negligence.
Your First Steps
If you and your delivery staff know something is wrong when your baby is born, the first priority is to ensure the baby is given proper treatment and medical attention. Then, if you have questions about what mistakes may have transpired during labor, speak with a trusted attorney as soon as possible. The best way to determine the validity of your case is to speak with someone who has decades of experience handling birth injury lawsuits.
Building a Birth Injury Case
The cost of caring for an injured child can be expensive, so building a case for fair compensation is essential. However, in order to sue for birth injury, you and your lawyer must work together to prove negligence. To prove your case, your lawyer can gather important evidence by:
- Investigating the circumstances surrounding the delivery
- Examining the quality of neonatal care
- Evaluating the significance of any abnormalities during labor
- Establishing the doctor’s response to any problems with delivery
- Determining the child’s condition right after birth and currently
- Identifying any consequences of the child’s injury
- Examining medical records
- Consulting with other medical experts to identify evidence of negligence
Seek Counsel for Your Case
Again, speaking with a lawyer is the most effective method of determining whether or not a doctor’s mistakes caused your newborn’s injuries. The Holton Law Firm has been trying birth injury lawsuits since the 1980s, and we can assist you with your case, too. Call 888-443-4387 to speak with a member of our team.
What Happens If a Child Is Born With Birth Asphyxia?
Birth asphyxia is a complication that can occur during labor and cause mild to fatal injuries to a baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that two-thirds of newborn deaths are preventable if effective treatments are implemented at birth and in the first week of life; however, sometimes doctors and medical staff make mistakes with these treatments. When mistakes cause birth asphyxia, you may want to seek compensation by hiring an attorney to file a birth injury lawsuit.
Birth Asphyxia Defined
The word asphyxia refers to a lack of oxygen. A baby’s brain, muscles, and organs depend on a consistent flow of oxygen, and this is key to a safe and successful delivery. However, complications can arise during labor that cause asphyxia, including:
- Long or difficult delivery
- Blocked airway
- Malformed or underdeveloped airway
- Pinched or kinked umbilical cord
- Insufficient blood oxygenation in the mother
Diagnosing Birth Asphyxia
After a tough delivery, a doctor might suspect birth asphyxia if a baby is weak or not breathing, appears pale or blue, has trouble flexing muscles, or reacts slowly. However, officially diagnosing birth asphyxia to begin treatment often involves:
- APGAR Scoring
- Cord Blood Gasses Measurement
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
After birth asphyxia, a baby can face short- and long-term consequences, including severe brain injury, paralysis, cognitive deficiencies, and even death. Families affected by asphyxia should consult with a lawyer to discuss the possibility of proving:
- A doctor made a mistake during labor, causing asphyxia
- The asphyxia directly led to the baby’s injury or disability
Legal Assistance You Can Rely On
If you believe your baby’s birth asphyxia and resulting injuries were directly caused by the delivering doctor and medical staff, you should speak with an attorney. The Holton Law Firm has been a trusted source of legal help in our community for decades, and we can assist with your birth injury lawsuit, too. Get started by filling out the online contact form on our website.
What is neonatal head cooling?
Nearly four million babies are born each year in the U.S. And while childbirth is a common occurrence, delivering an infant can sometimes be challenging and difficult, causing complications later on. The World Health Organization reports that three-quarters of all newborn deaths occur in the first week of life. And some of these can be attributed to brain damage during the birth process. However, doctors can slow the effects of swelling and injury by using neonatal head cooling.
What You Need to Know About Neonatal Head Cooling
Neonatal head cooling is a somewhat new treatment through which doctors cool a newborn’s head immediately after a traumatic delivery. If a baby experienced a lack of oxygen during birth, otherwise known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) caused by asphyxia, the brain can experience irreversible damage. The treatment, which helps to slow the death of brain cells, includes:
- Placing a thermal cap on the baby’s head or placing the baby on a cooling blanket
- Reducing the temperature to around 33 degrees Fahrenheit
- Monitoring the infant for approximately three days
Babies who have experienced the following are eligible for neonatal head cooling treatment to prevent the progression of brain swelling and cell death, which can lead to long-term damage or death:
- An APGAR score of less than 5 in the 10 minutes following birth
- Delivery in week 36 of pregnancy or later
- Serious abnormal brain functioning
- Significant lack of oxygen during delivery, rendering the infant unconscious
Head Cooling Might Mean Birth Injury
Even though head cooling is a relatively new treatment option supported by positive results from preliminary research, some risks are involved. Additionally, there’s more potential for a birth injury case involving head cooling. For example, a birth injury suit might result from:
- A medical mistake warranting head cooling treatment
- Failure to treat brain damage with head cooling
- Improper administration of head cooling
- Delaying of head cooling treatment
- Missed diagnosis of HIE, causing a failure to treat
Because medical personnel must meet a standard of care when delivering a child, failing to meet that standard in any way can lead to a birth injury lawsuit.
Legal Help Is Available
If you suspect your baby was injured as a result of head cooling or a medical mistake created the need for head cooling treatment, it’s important you seek help from a trusted birth injury attorney. The legal team at Holton Law Firm is ready to advocate for you and your baby, and we invite you to review our free guide, Answers to Parents’ Questions About Birth Injuries.
What Is an Emergency C-Section?
In 2014, 32.2 percent of all births occurred by cesarean section, or C-section, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In some cases, performing an unplanned or emergency C-section can prevent life-threatening complications for both mother and child. However, this type of surgery also comes with some risks.
Why Doctors Perform an Emergency C-Section
An emergency C-section is a method of delivery when doctor’s take the baby through incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. Doctors perform emergency C-sections to avoid life-threatening injuries to the baby and the mother. Here is a brief look at some reasons why doctors may choose this method of delivery:
- Failure to Progress. Sometimes, labor stalls and the baby doesn’t progress down the birth canal. This can pose significant risks to the mother and child.
- Lack of oxygen. During labor, a baby needs sufficient oxygen before there is a risk of brain damage. Sometimes, performing a C-section can get that oxygen to a baby more quickly. Estimates show that a baby has only 15 minutes without adequate oxygen before serious damage occurs.
- Abnormal fetus position. If the fetus is positioned abnormally in the uterus, a vaginal birth might not be a viable option.
- Small or abnormal pelvis. Some women have undersized or abnormally shaped pelvic bones, which can complicate the process by which the baby exits through the birth canal.
- Large infant. If the mother has a small pelvis, and the baby is large in size, a vaginal birth may be impossible without injuries to both.
- Umbilical cord concerns. If the umbilical cord exits through a mother’s cervix before the baby, or if the umbilical cord becomes pinched or compressed, a C-section might be a safer procedure for birth.
- Previous C-section. Women who’ve experienced a C-section can still give birth vaginally, but a doctor may suggest a second to prevent injury to the mother.
Risks Associated With C-Sections
Though a C-section can save the lives of both the mother and her baby, it can be a dangerous procedure. If a baby is experiencing fetal distress, and a doctor is not present and prepared to perform a C-section, or the medical staff delays the procedure, risk of injury might increase. Common injuries associated with C-sections include:
- Breathing problems that develop as the baby grows
- Injury to the baby, usually by surgical tools
- Infection in the mother
- Excessive uterine bleeding after delivery
- Blood clots
- Increased risk of complications during future C-sections
We Can Help
If you believe the medical staff did not handle your emergency C-section properly and you or your child suffered injuries, you need experienced help. The team at the Holton Law Firm provides excellent legal help while also serving each client on a personal level. If you have questions, reach out to us by filling out our online contact form.