What Are My Rights if Medical Negligence Caused My Child’s Birth Injuries?

Birth injuries are one of the most expensive mistakes a healthcare professional can make. Along with potentially forcing a child to endure a life where they are unable to reach their full potential, the parents of a child with birth trauma can face a lifetime of heartache and medical bills. When you put your trust in a doctor, nurse, midwife, or other medical professional, it can be devastating to discover that your baby has sustained a potential disability. If your newborn was injured due to medical negligence during childbirth, you have the right to pursue compensation for your damages. Your priority should be seeking proper medical care for your child. When you are ready to learn about your legal options, schedule a free consultation with the experienced Outer Banks medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp.   

How Often Do Birth Injuries Occur?

As defined by the National Vital Statistics Report, a birth injury is “an impairment of the neonate’s body function or structure due to an adverse event that occurred at birth.” Excessive twisting or pressure on an infant’s body can result in a traumatic injury. Birth injuries are split into two groups: neonatal (occurring just before birth) and post-natal (occurring just after birth). The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that, in the United States, an estimated two out of 1,000 babies experience some form of birth injury.  

How Do Birth Injuries Happen?

The leading causes of preventable birth trauma are an inadequate flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain and aggressive handling during a difficult delivery. A difficult birth can pose a serious risk of injury to a newborn who is abnormally positioned in the mother’s uterus or is unusually large. An obstetrician might be unsuccessful in their attempts to rearrange the baby, deliver the baby in spite of its abnormal positioning, or wait too long to order an emergency C-section. 

Traction or compression during childbirth can crush or pinch the umbilical cord, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the baby. The umbilical cord can also wrap itself around the infant’s neck, potentially strangling them if the condition is not managed properly. 

What Are the Most Common Birth Injuries?

Besides soft tissue injuries, such as abrasions, lacerations, fractures, and hemorrhages, common but potentially disabling birth injuries include:

  • Intracranial hemorrhage: Bleeding near or inside the brain is the result of ruptured blood vessels and can present in multiple forms. A subdural hemorrhage occurs when blood collects just underneath the outermost layer of the dura mater (the membrane surrounding the brain). A subarachnoid hemorrhage is active bleeding in the area between the brain and the dura mater. Symptoms of intracranial hemorrhages include lethargy, seizures, and difficulty swallowing. 
  • Subgaleal hemorrhage: A subgaleal hemorrhage is a rare but potentially deadly condition that occurs when the emissary veins, the connection between the scalp veins and the dural sinuses, rupture leading to shock and considerable blood loss. A subgaleal hemorrhage may require a blood transfusion and could be fatal. They are often the result of a vacuum extractor or forceps being used with undue force.  
  • Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is maternal high blood pressure at any point during gestation or delivery. Preeclampsia can lead to stroke, seizures, or cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, its symptoms, which include weight gain, edema, stomach pain, anxiety, headaches, and vomiting, are often dismissed by medical professionals as normal discomforts of pregnancy. When an obstetrician fails to distinguish pregnancy symptoms or chronic high blood pressure from preeclampsia, other serious medical conditions, such as preterm birth, placental abruption, and stillbirth, can occur.   
  • Cerebral palsy: Cerebral palsy is a cluster of conditions that impact a person’s posture, balance, and ability to move and it is the number one childhood motor disability. Insufficient oxygen, head trauma, or certain infections developing just after birth, can all cause cerebral palsy. This condition varies in severity, with some patients not being able to walk or even take care of themselves. In many cerebral palsy cases, patients experience vision or hearing loss, intellectual deficiencies, or epilepsy. 
  • Brachial plexus injuries: The brachial plexus is a collection of nerves between the shoulders and neck that connect to each arm. If a newborn’s arm is yanked during childbirth, it could damage the brachial plexus. Brachial plexus injuries can lead to paralysis or muscle weakness in all or part of the child’s hand and arm. Muscle weakness in the wrist and hand is known as Klumpke palsy, and muscle weakness in the elbow and shoulder is called Erb’s palsy. Children with brachial plexus injuries will need ongoing physical therapy and may require surgery to transfer or graft muscle and nerves to prevent paralysis.  

If an obstetrician, nurse, or other medical professional failed to meet the required standard of care, and your child was harmed as a result, contact an Outer Banks medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. 

Legal Recourse for Birth Injuries

Healthcare professionals are bound to provide medical care that upholds the accepted standard of care. When a physician deviates from this standard by failing to act as a reasonable healthcare professional would, serious injuries are often the result.  

Although there are, sadly, some circumstances in which birth injuries are unavoidable, they are most often the result of failure to adhere to proper medical procedures, failure to promptly identify and manage complications, or postponing critical decisions, such as scheduling an emergency C-section. Obstetric personnel can also make mistakes due to a lack of experience or training, inadequate supervision, a disinclination to request help or a combination thereof.

Anyone involved in the care of the mother and child before, during, or just after birth could be held liable for a birth trauma if their negligence was a contributing factor. There could be systemic issues with the equipment, procedures, or policies at the hospital or medical facility where your baby was born that played a role in your child’s birth injury. If this is the case, the institution could be held liable.

In a birth injury lawsuit born of medical malpractice or medical error, parents seek financial compensation on their child’s behalf, as well as for their damages and emotional trauma. A child with severe birth injuries will require assistive devices, medical treatment, and physical therapy into adulthood. They may also need specialized education well beyond what any public school is able to offer. As an adult, their job opportunities could be severely limited, causing diminished earning capacity that must be considered in a claim. 

All We Do Is Injury Law

If your child was injured due to medical negligence, you likely have a valid North Carolina birth injury medical malpractice claim. Multiple medical professionals are involved in the birthing process, one or more of whom could be liable if your child sustained a preventable and catastrophic birth injury.

The Outer Banks, NC medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have been helping families harmed by medical negligence pursue justice since 1985. If your child’s birth injury was the result of medical malpractice, we can investigate the incident, identify all responsible parties, and fight to obtain maximum compensation for your damages. Our understanding of medical malpractice laws and commitment to our client’s best interests is what helped us achieve a $2.3 million jury verdict for a child who sustained a severe brachial plexus injury when an attending midwife failed to respond properly to shoulder dystocia. If you would like to discuss your potential birth injury case with one of our skilled Outer Banks medical malpractice attorneys, schedule a free consultation by calling (833) 997-1774 or by filling out our quick contact form. We serve clients across the Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills areas.