Birth Injuries FAQs
You need a lawyer if your child has been injured through medical negligence. Consulting with an attorney does not necessarily mean you are going to sue anyone. However, it is a good idea to consult with a birth injury attorney if you believe you might have a case. The Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, will be able to assess your case in the first meeting and advise you of your rights and options for litigating the case.
Call us now at (585) 546-8120 or 315-314-5390 or contact us using our online contact form. All calls and inquiries receive a response the same day, usually within one hour. There is no cost for a case review.
Birth defects are typically caused by something that happened before or during the pregnancy, such as exposure to a toxin or a genetic problem during development. Birth injuries occur as a result of a problem during delivery.
How can my attorney work to prove that the doctor’s negligence was the cause of my child’s birth injury?
Evidence including medical records, neonatal records, a fetal heart monitor strip, newborn records and labor and delivery records can all be valuable in proving that your doctor was negligent. You should obtain copies of imaging studies, including CT scans, ultrasounds and MRIs, to better understand what went wrong. Your attorney can help you to obtain the necessary records and documents from the hospital. You will also need medical experts to review them and determine whether the doctor made an unacceptable mistake.
If you suspect that your child was harmed as a result of medical negligence before, during or after birth, you should consult with a Rochester birth injury attorney from The Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the sooner you can begin to build your case and gather the evidence that you need. There is also a deadline, called the statute of limitations, for filing a birth injury claim in New York. Your attorney will ensure that you meet the deadline and protect your rights.
Some birth injuries are fatal and others cause permanent impairment. For example, cerebral palsy cannot be cured, and a child will cope with its effects throughout his or her life. However, the symptoms of cerebral palsy can be treated to varying degrees of success with speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and other interventions.
Often, the medical treatment required for a child who suffers from any type of birth injury will be extremely expensive, and it is important that parents obtain compensation from the doctor or hospital responsible for the injuries so that they will have the money they need to pay for their child’s care.
Doctors aren’t expected to be perfect, but they are expected to provide a level of care commensurate with what an average skilled physician with the same background and experience would provide. Typically, this means that the doctor should make appropriate choices about when to perform a C-section, should perform a Woods or McRoberts maneuver to resolve shoulder dystocia, and/or should perform a vaginal delivery with an episiotomy if necessary.
The most common mistake occurs when the doctor or anyone on the medical team fails to respond to unexpected circumstances or signs of trouble during birth. For example, doctors or care providers might not react appropriately if the baby is larger than anticipated, if the baby shifts positions unexpectedly, or if other complications develop, such as:
- Bleeding, distress or oxygen deprivation of the mother or infant.
- Compression of the umbilical cord.
- The umbilical cord becoming trapped.
- An excessively long labor.
- A breech baby (the bottom is facing the birth canal instead of the head).
- Fetal distress.
- Excessive water retention by the mother.
- Shoulder dystocia (the baby’s shoulder is caught behind the pubic bone).
Other potential examples of medical negligence include a delay in deciding to perform a necessary C-section, misuse of the vacuum extractor or forceps, and inadequate prenatal care.
A baby’s nerves can be damaged by any excessive stress to the neck during the labor and delivery process. Typically, this trauma occurs during labor as a result of excessive force used by the physician or because of improper use of the vacuum or forceps. Speaking with an attorney is the best way to determine if medical malpractice was a factor.
What factors may indicate that my child’s cerebral palsy occurred as a result of medical malpractice?
Some of the signs that medical malpractice was a factor in causing your child’s cerebral palsy include:
- Poor APGAR scores.
- Blue skin, suggesting oxygen deprivation in the baby.
- Lower than normal umbilical cord blood gases.
- Meconium aspiration.
- Seizures shortly after birth.
- Poor muscle control or difficulty feeding after birth due to a poor sucking response.
A prolonged labor in which the baby is not delivered within 24 hours of the water breaking can also be a risk factor for cerebral palsy. If the baby is full-term but is placed in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) or if the baby needs to be resuscitated after birth, these are also potential signs that negligence during birth resulted in cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy occurs as a result of injury to the cerebrum, the part of the brain that controls higher mental faculties, sensations and voluntary muscle movements. There are a number of possible causes of cerebral palsy, including the failure to treat seizures post-delivery, failure to detect that the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, failure to perform a Caesarean section in a timely manner, improper use of forceps, failure to treat fetal distress, failure to monitor the vital signs of the baby or mother, and failure to diagnose and treat meningitis or jaundice. If you suspect that your physician made an error that caused your child’s cerebral palsy, you should speak with an experienced Rochester birth injury attorney. A lawyer can review your case and put you in touch with medical experts who can give you answers.
Other types of birth injuries include:
- Fractures (fractures of the clavicle or collarbone are the most common).
- Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the baby’s head).
- Spinal cord trauma.
- Cranial nerve trauma.
- Swelling, bleeding, bruising or discoloration of the scalp.
- Depressed skull fractures.
- Bruising/forceps marks.
- Facial paralysis.
- Temporary body paralysis.
- Group B strep infections.
- Spasticity (a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted).
- Soft tissue injuries.
- Skin irritation.
Birth injuries that often occur during pregnancy and labor include:
- Cerebral palsy – This condition includes a number of neurological problems. Patients can experience difficulty controlling movements, abnormal posture, intellectual problems, hearing or vision problems, seizures and speech problems. Cases range from moderate to severe, and a patient may require lifelong assistance.
- Erb’s palsy – This is a type of brachial plexus injury. A child with Erb’s palsy sustains nerve damage in the shoulder and may experience weakness, numbness or even complete paralysis of the arm. Erb’s palsy injuries are classified according to their severity. Aversion rupture is the most severe and occurs when the nerves are torn away at the spinal area. Neuroma occurs when the nerves tear and the scar tissue that forms while the nerves are healing disables the arm. Ruptures occur when the nerves tear at other locations not in direct proximity to the spine.
- Brain injury – Improper vacuum extractions or the improper use of forceps can cause brain injury, as can a lack of oxygen to the brain that occurs during birth. The extent of brain damage varies depending upon both the cause and the areas of the brain affected. Brain injury can result in death or permanent cognitive impairment.
- Shoulder dystocia – When a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, delivery can be impeded and shoulder dystocia can result. If not diagnosed properly during labor, both mother and baby are at risk. The baby can develop Erb’s palsy or break an arm or clavicle, and a mother may experience vaginal tearing and excessive blood loss.
- Stillbirth – Stillbirth means that a child has been born dead. This can happen for any number of reasons, including deprivation of oxygen to the brain during delivery or improper prenatal care.
- Meconium aspiration – Meconium is the baby’s first feces, which are normally passed in the womb during pregnancy and in the first few days after birth. A baby can inhale meconium mixed with amniotic fluid before, during or after labor. This can become trapped as the baby breathes out and can partially block the airways, making breathing difficult.
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) – This condition occurs when an infant’s circulatory system doesn’t function properly. Blood pressure can become elevated, and blood can fill the lungs. The condition can be fatal or can cause seizures, neurological problems and chronic lung disease.
- Untreated jaundice – Severe jaundice can result in bilirubin passing into the brain, which is toxic to the brain. The baby may have difficulty eating and may arch the neck and body backwards. A fever, vomiting, listlessness and high-pitched crying are all symptoms of this condition. When permanent damage to the brain results from untreated jaundice, a syndrome called kernicterus can cause intellectual problems, hearing loss, a permanent upward gaze and difficulty controlling body movements.
- Retinopathy – Retinopathy is a vision problem that occurs in premature infants if the vessels in their eyes do not properly develop.
- Cephalohematoma – This condition can result from the excessive use of forceps or from the use of a vacuum. It is characterized by a collection of blood underneath the child’s scalp, which can take several months to heal.
- Bone fractures – Aggressive pulling and shoulder dystocia can cause bone fractures.
- Excessive bleeding – This can put the mother at serious risk of death and result in the baby being in peril if not delivered promptly.