Parents want and expect their newborn to be healthy, but not all babies are born without problems. Approximately 150,000 babies are born with birth defects or injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When a newborn is diagnosed with health complications, the days and weeks that follow can be filled with consultations, emergency surgeries, and a lot of questions. Many don’t understand the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury; some want to know if the injury could have been prevented; and most are concerned about paying for treatment to help make their baby well.
If your baby's birth defect or birth injury was caused by medical negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. Here's what you need to know if you're considering taking legal action.
What Is a Birth Defect?
Birth defects are problems that occur while the baby is developing in the womb. These abnormalities and defects can affect any part of the infant's body and can range in severity from minor to significant and even life-threatening. Birth defects can be caused by genetic mutations, the mother's health, and toxins or medications that the baby and mother are exposed to during pregnancy. Common birth defects include:
- Congenital heart defects
- Spina bifida
- Down syndrome
- Cleft lip or palate
- Missing or undeveloped limbs
- Sickle cell disease
What Is a Birth Injury?
Birth defects happen before the baby is born, but birth injuries occur during the labor and delivery process. While some birth injuries are unavoidable, others are caused by the actions or inaction of the doctors and other medical professionals caring for the mother and child. Common birth injuries include:
- Bone fractures
- Brachial plexus injuries (damage to the nerves in the upper spine, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands)
- Cerebral palsy
- Meconium aspiration syndrome (meconium present in the lungs before, during, or after delivery)
- Caput succedaneum (swelling, bruising, or discoloration of the scalp)
- Intracranial hemorrhage or subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the skull)
- Facial paralysis
- Spinal cord injuries
- Perinatal asphyxia (insufficient oxygen)
Common Causes of Malpractice-Related Birth Injuries
When preventable birth injuries occur due to medical negligence, the causes tend to fall into one of two categories: prolonged labor or delayed delivery, or forceps or vacuum-assisted births. Prolonging labor and delivery can sometimes cause a baby to experience distress or a lack of oxygen, which can put the child at risk for serious birth injuries or death. Sometimes during a difficult or long birth, the doctor might use birthing instruments like forceps or a vacuum to assist delivery. If the doctor is too rough with these instruments, birth injuries can be the result.
Is It Medical Malpractice?
Not all birth injuries amount to medical malpractice. Actionable medical malpractice birth injury claims must demonstrate the following elements:
- Duty of care. The medical professional in question was treating the mother or child during labor or delivery (or whenever the birth injury occurred).
- Breach of duty of care. The doctor, nurse, or other medical professional failed to provide the accepted standard of care.
- Causation. In breaching the duty to provide an appropriate standard of care, the medical professional caused a birth injury.
- Damage. The birth injury resulted in economic losses such as medical bills or non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
Do You Need a Birth Injury Lawyer?
If your child sustained a birth injury or was diagnosed with a birth defect you believe was caused by medical negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. Holton Law Firm's experienced birth injury lawyers can help you explore your legal options. Call our Memphis law office today to schedule a free initial case consultation.