Approximately 83,000 babies are born each year in Indiana hospitals and birthing centers, according to Indiana’s State Information Center. Most deliveries are a cause for celebration. But sometimes, a baby may suffer a serious birth injury during delivery or as a result of negligent prenatal care.
New parents who have experienced the trauma of a birth injury may wonder what they could have done to prevent the injury and whether the doctor or delivery team was at fault.
Unfortunately, some birth injuries occur despite the best care. Others occur because signs and symptoms were missed pre-natally or the delivery staff failed to respond promptly to signs of a difficult delivery. No parent can know with certainty whether a birth injury was preventable without qualified legal assistance.
What Is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is considered any type of physical harm that impacts an infant during the birthing process or near the time of birth. Birth injuries can have a wide range of side effects and complications. Some can be relatively minor and leave no significant impact on the baby or the future of their development. However, some birth injuries are extremely serious and can cause permanent disabilities that will impact a child either physically or mentally for the rest of their life.
It is also important to differentiate between a birth injury and a birth defect. The two terms are not interchangeable. A birth defect forms while the fetus is still in the womb, typically within the first three months of pregnancy. Defects may be the result of an untreated infection, drug or alcohol use, or a genetic defect.
In many situations, birth injuries are preventable. Medical professionals must be diligent about the care a mother and the unborn child receive immediately before and during the birthing process to avoid birth injuries. This includes careful monitoring of the labor process and quickly responding to changes or problems in labor and delivery.
Causes of Birth Injuries
There are many different causes of birth injuries. The primary cause of these types of injuries is medical negligence and a failure to provide an acceptable standard of care to patients. Medical negligence may occur when a health care provider fails to diagnose a potential complication, incorrectly using medical equipment, or not ordering a cesarean section in a timely manner, just to name a few examples.
Some of the most common causes of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice include:
- Oxygen deprivation or asphyxia
- Medication errors
- Administration of defective drugs or improper doses
- Incorrect use of medical instruments, including forceps and vacuum extractors
- Failure to detect the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck
- Failure to monitor vital signs during pregnancy, labor, or delivery
- Failure to diagnose or treat infections or placental abruption
- Failure to order a C-section when necessary
- Failure to identify or treat high-risk deliveries
- Failure to monitor the fetus’ condition
- Failure to perform sufficient prenatal testing
- Failure to follow proper delivery procedures
- Undiagnosed or untreated infection before delivery
- Failure to diagnose maternal medical conditions, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
- Failure to respond to signs of fetal distress
Conditions Caused by Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can result in complicated and lifelong medical consequences for the infant. Serious medical conditions caused by birth injuries impact the child’s life expectancy and the quality of the child’s life. Additionally, these conditions also significantly impact the lives of family members and siblings.
In addition to the physical and emotional toll that these medical conditions can take on the infant and their families, many families are forced to endure a lifetime of serious financial consequences as well.
For example, a person with cerebral palsy can expect to pay an average of $921,000 in related costs over their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For many people, continued care and medical costs associated with treating birth injury conditions can become astronomical.
Some of the conditions that can result from serious birth injuries include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Traumatic brain injury
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy
- Infant cephalohematoma
- Intraventricular hemorrhage
- Group B Strep Infection
Medical Malpractice Involving Birth Injuries
Medical malpractice is a complicated area of Indiana law. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, delivery team, or birthing center fails to deliver the recognized standard of medical care and causes an injury.
The facts involving birth injuries vary greatly. With any delivery, a doctor who is carefully monitoring a mother and baby should anticipate certain complications and act quickly to avoid childbirth injuries. When they fail to do so, catastrophic results can occur.
What Are Common Birth Injuries?
When delivery becomes complicated or difficult, the doctor may use forceps or other birth-assisting tools to help get the baby out. Although these tools have been common practice in delivery rooms for years, it is not uncommon for mothers and their newborns to sustain an injury from their use. Newborns are most likely to suffer broken collarbones or similar injuries. Bone fractures during delivery will generally heal on their own with proper treatment and care.
Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI)
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, brachial plexus injury (BPI) is a term used to describe a series of conditions affecting the brachial plexus nerve network in the upper limbs. The majority of BPIs are caused as a result of trauma such as shoulder dystocia which can occur during the delivery process. If a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck or lodged on the mother’s pubic bone (shoulder dystocia) it may lead to the brachial plexus nerves being stretched, torn, compressed, or separated during delivery.
Damage to the brachial plexus can cause a loss of feeling or motion in the child’s neck, shoulder, arm, or hand. In some instances, this injury might lead to permanent paralysis.
When too much pressure is applied to the top of a baby’s head during a difficult or long delivery, it may cause bruising, discoloration, swelling, or a lump on the scalp. This condition is known as Caput Succedaneum. Although it may cause temporary discomfort to the child, Caput Succedaneum is not generally life-threatening. However, in certain circumstances, it can lead to further health issues or complications.
Cephalohematoma is a medical condition which can develop after a delivery in which birth-assisting tools were used or trauma was sustained. While not considered by doctors to be serious, this condition does involve damaged blood vessels and the pooling of blood between the inner layers of the baby’s skin and his or her skull. The child may also be at an increased risk of developing jaundice.
Cerebral Palsy is a chronic neurological disorder which may be caused by injury or damage to the developing brain. The disorder has been linked to a lack of oxygen to the brain during delivery. The damage significantly impairs motor function, control, coordination, tone, reflex, and mobility. Cerebral Palsy is the most common motor disability in children. About three of every 1,000 children develop cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a life-long condition which currently has no cure.
Facial paralysis may occur during delivery as a result of trauma. The nerve damage sustained can be either temporary or permanent, and symptoms are generally seen when the baby cries. Facial paralysis involves an inhibited ability or lack of control over facial muscles. In many cases, the child will regain mobility over time.
Intracranial or Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
An intracranial hemorrhage is a life-threatening condition caused by bleeding inside the skull. This type of hemorrhage is commonly broken down into the subarachnoid hemorrhage, which involves bleeding between the brain and the tissue covering the brain, and the intracerebral hemorrhage caused by bleeding on the brain. Hemorrhages can be caused when excessive pressure is applied or other injury is sustained before, during or shortly after birth.
Babies who do not receive sufficient oxygen, either as a result of an oxygen deficiency in the blood or an insufficient flow to blood to the fetus or newborn, can develop Perinatal Asphyxia. This condition can cause breathing difficulties, a pale complexion, seizures, shock, or put the baby in a coma. In some instances, it will resolve on its own. However, this birth injury is can leave a child with permanent neurological damage.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are one of the most severe birth injuries caused by traumatic damage to the spinal nerves, cord or as a result of meningeal tears. Spinal cord injuries may arise in difficult or complex deliveries in which forceps or other birth-assisting tools were used. Injuries to the spinal cord can cause temporary or permanent paralysis and significant neurological problems.
Legal Compensation for Birth Injuries
Birth injury cases are often challenging. They may involve complex legal and medical issues. The victim may not be able to communicate about how their injury has affected them. Almost always, expert witnesses are hired to explain what the health care provider did wrong and how their negligence caused the newborn’s injury.
A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can help you pursue compensation for the damages you and your family have sustained, including:
- Medical treatments, now and in the future, including the costs of surgery, rehabilitation, and medication
- Home-care services
- Modifications to the home or vehicle to accommodate the disability
- Additional health care expenses, including occupational therapy, special equipment, and counseling
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
Contact Our Indiana Birth Injury Lawyer
The Indianapolis birth injury attorney at the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson helps families who suspect that their infant has suffered a preventable birth injury. We recognize that a birth injury takes an emotional and financial toll on families and may require ongoing medical treatment. Our Indianapolis birth injury lawyer can help ease the financial burden by pursuing maximum compensation against the negligent health care providers.
We work with licensed doctors and medical professionals to evaluate your medical records and make a determination as to whether a preventable medical error occurred. It’s a service we provide without charge. It’s important for families to have reliable information about what happened so they can move forward.
With over 15 years of litigation experience, Kelley J. Johnson has the dedication and skill to hold accountable doctors and hospitals that have harmed families as a result of substandard prenatal or delivery room care. We will seek the compensation you need to help pay for your baby’s ongoing expenses.
If your infant has been diagnosed with a birth injury and you believe a preventable medical error may be to blame, the compassionate birth injury lawyer at the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson stands ready to assist you. Contact our office today by calling or filling out our online form to have us review your case free of charge.