Birth injuries are among the costliest mistakes a medical practitioner can make. In addition to subjecting a child to a life that may not ever be what it should have been, the family of a child with birth injuries may face a lifetime of expenses and heartache.
After putting your faith in your obstetrician, nurses and others, it is devastating to learn that your child has suffered a birth injury and potential disability. You don’t have to face these terrible circumstances alone. The North Carolina birth injury lawyers at Hardison & Cochran are concerned about you and your child. We want to help your family recover from this ordeal and be well-positioned financially for the years ahead.
If your infant child has been injured due to the negligence of a medical care provider during delivery, the most important thing is to focus on getting proper care for your baby. Once you’re ready to discuss your legal options, call the Raleigh personal injury lawyers at Hardison & Cochran toll-free at 800-434-8399 or fill out our online contact form. You’ll get a response within 24 hours about a free initial legal consultation.
Our attorneys have experience with birth injuries and other medical malpractice cases, and we represent clients throughout North Carolina, including Raleigh, Cary, Wake County, Durham, Research Triangle Park and the rest of the Triangle, Fayetteville, Dunn, Southern Pines and the Sandhills, Greensboro and the Triad, Wilmington, and Person County. Let us help you today.
How Common are Birth Injuries?
Birth injury is damage that occurs during the birthing process, usually during transit through the birth canal. Too much pressure or twisting of the child’s body can cause traumatic injury. Some birth injuries occur just before birth (neonatal injury) and some occur just after the infant is born (post-natal injury).
About two out of every 1,000 children born in the United States suffer some sort of birth injury. This is according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Many newborns have minor injuries during birth, which often resolve without treatment. Head injury is the most common birth-related injury. Sometimes nerves are damaged, bones are broken, or both. Sometimes the child is deprived of oxygen during the birthing process, which can cause brain damage.
What Causes Birth Injury?
The primary causes of birth injuries are rough handling of the infant during a difficult delivery and a lack of oxygen to the child’s brain before the child can breathe on his or her own. Most of these types of traumatic birth injuries are preventable.
A difficult delivery may pose a risk of injury to a baby who is overly large or is in an abnormal position in the uterus before birth. The obstetrician may try to reposition the child, deliver the child despite the awkward position or opt to deliver the child by Caesarian delivery (C-section).
Compression or traction during delivery can pinch or crush the umbilical cord, which supplies oxygen to the baby prior to birth. The umbilical cord also may become wrapped around the baby’s neck and strangle the child.
In years past, doctors regularly used forceps to pull the baby out of the womb in difficult deliveries. Forceps are surgical instruments with rounded edges that fit around a fetus’s head. Today, because forceps have a high risk of causing birth injury, they are primarily used only in the final stages of delivery.
Common Birth Injuries
In addition to soft tissue injuries, like lacerations, abrasions, hemorrhages and fractures, common birth injuries that are potentially disabling include:
- Subgaleal hemorrhage. A subgaleal hemorrhage is bleeding directly under the scalp above the thick fibrous covering (periosteum) covering the skull bones. It can spread, and lead to significant blood loss and shock, which may require a blood transfusion and can be fatal. The use of forceps or a vacuum extractor may cause a subgaleal hemorrhage. It may also result from a blood clotting problem. A cephalhematoma is blood accumulation below the periosteum that disappears on its own over weeks to months and almost never requires treatment.
- Intracranial hemorrhage. Bleeding in and around the brain is caused by rupture of blood vessels and can take on several forms. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding below the innermost of the two membranes that cover the brain. Subdural hemorrhage is bleeding between the outer and the inner layers of the brain covering. Infants with bleeding on the brain can be sluggish (lethargic), feed poorly and/or have seizures.
- Facial nerve injury. If pressure is applied to a baby’s face during delivery, the facial nerve may be injured. A facial nerve injury is evident when the newborn cries and the face appears lopsided (asymmetric). If the nerve is only bruised, the child’s facial paralysis will probably improve in a few weeks. A torn nerve may require surgery.
- Brachial plexus injuries. The brachial plexus is a large group of nerves between the neck and shoulders that lead to each arm. If an infant’s arm is stretched during delivery it can damage the brachial plexus. This can cause weakness or paralysis in part or all of the baby’s arm and hand. The weakness of the shoulder and elbow is called Erb palsy, and weakness of the hand and wrist is called Klumpke palsy. Children with brachial plexus injury will need physical therapy. Potentially need surgery to graft or transfer nerves and/or muscle to bypass paralysis.
- Phrenic nerve injury. The phrenic nerve serves the diaphragm, the muscular wall that separates the organs of the chest from those of the abdomen and assists in breathing. If the phrenic nerve is damaged, it can cause paralysis of the diaphragm on the same side. Such a newborn may have difficulty breathing and sometimes requires assistance with breathing. Injury of the phrenic nerve usually resolves completely within a few weeks.
- Cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of incurable disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Head trauma or a lack of oxygen during birth, or an infection that develops soon after birth, can cause cerebral palsy. Individuals with cerebral palsy may be unable to walk or care for themselves. In some cases may suffer hearing or vision loss, epilepsy or intellectual deficiencies.
- Preeclampsia. Extremely high blood pressure in the mother before, during or after giving birth is known as preeclampsia. It can cause cardiac arrest, seizures or stroke. But its symptoms are often dismissed by doctors as routine discomforts of pregnancy. These symptoms include swelling, rapid weight gain, upper stomach discomfort, vomiting, headache and anxiety. Doctors who fail to distinguish preeclampsia from chronic high blood pressure or symptoms of pregnancy may not react in time to prevent injury or death.
Seeking Legal Compensation for Birth Injury
Medical professionals are obligated to provide care that meets the recognized standard of care. standards. If a doctor deviates from the accepted standard of care by acting or not acting as most reasonable professionals would, it can lead to serious injury. Medical personnel may be held legally liable for the harm caused.
Birth injuries are typically caused by neglecting to follow proper procedures, failing to recognize and address complications properly, or taking too long to make decisions, such as to schedule a C-section. Some obstetric personnel make errors because of a lack of training or experience, poor supervision, a reluctance to request assistance, or a combination thereof.
Anyone who was involved in the medical care of the expectant mother and child during delivery, birth or shortly afterward (neonatal care) may be held responsible for a birth injury if their negligence led to lasting injury. There may be systemic problems with the policies, procedures, or equipment at the medical center or birthing center where your child was born that led to harming to your child. In such a case, the institution’s owners may be held liable.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit over a birth injury caused by medical error or negligence, a child’s parents would seek compensation on behalf of their child, as well as for their expenses and mental anguish.
A child with a significant birth injury will need physical therapy, medical treatment and assistive devices throughout childhood and into adulthood. The child may require special education beyond what public schools can offer. As an adult, the injured child’s occupational opportunities may be limited. This will cause future income losses that should be considered in a claim.
In cases of full disability, we would work with expert consultants to prepare a life care plan for the child. A life care plan is a detailed, lifetime projection of a disabled person’s ongoing needs and their costs.
Contact a Raleigh, NC Birth Injury Attorney
Welcoming a new child into your life should be a joyous occasion. The last thing anyone would want is to find out their baby has been injured and potentially disabled because of a medical care provider’s negligence.
The attorneys at Hardison & Cochran are here to assist you with the legal ramifications if your child or you were injured during childbirth. We’re concerned for your child’s welfare. We will do what’s necessary to make sure your family receives the justice you deserve.
If you believe your child has suffered a preventable birth injury in North Carolina, call the experienced attorneys of Hardison & Cochran toll-free at 800-434-8399 or fill out our online contact form. We’ll respond to you within 24 hours. Let us help you today.