Often times when birth injuries occur, people feel there is no explanation as to what has happened, and simply assume there is no valid cause. However, in many cases, birth injuries are the result of one or more medical mistakes made during the pregnancy, labor, or delivery that can lead to serious life altering disorders, such as Cerebral and Erb’s Palsy.
Birth Injury Disorders Can Be A Result From:
- Failure to perform a timely C-Section.
- Failure to recognize that the baby is in distress.
- Depriving the baby of oxygen during delivery.
- Using excessive force during delivery.
- Failure to correctly estimate the weight or size of a child before delivery.
Children who suffer from birth injuries often times require extensive therapy and medical attention throughout the course of their lives. These medical bills can become overwhelming and could potentially warrant a birth injury lawsuit, which can be an effective punishment against negligent or inattentive medical treatment.
Pennsylvania Birth Injury Attorney Services
The Stark & Stark PA Birth Injury lawyers will fight to recover all the benefits you deserve. As a result of our experience in representing clients in birth injury lawsuits and through careful assessment and preparation, our PA birth injury attorneys help victim’s families obtain cash settlements for injury, medical expenses and pain and suffering. Sometimes these positive outcomes are achieved only by going to trial. However, in many cases our birth injury lawyers are able to obtain favorable settlements outside of the courtroom, making the experience less stressful for our clients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few questions and answers from our Pennsylvania birth injury lawyers to help you better understand what’s involved in birth injury lawsuits and important steps to follow to safeguard your safety and rights.
Birth Injury PA
While most births have little to no complications, injury to a baby can occur as a result of direct trauma. This is usually due to a mismatch between the size of the baby and the mother’s pelvis (CPD) or as a result of negligent use of instruments, such as a vacuum (ventouse) or forceps.
If a baby is too large to be delivered naturally, medical professionals may augment the labor process with oxytocin or Pitocin to create stronger contractions. However, if used excessively or inappropriately, the pressure from contractions can cause direct trauma to the infant’s head, the devastating effects of which include internal brain hemorrhages as well as skull fractures. The same is true when a medical professional uses a vacuum or forceps inappropriately or excessively. The damage from these instruments can be equally as extreme, as these instruments should be used with caution and only to guide a baby to delivery, not to force a baby through the birth canal.
A typical birth injury case will take between eighteen months and two years from the time the lawsuit is filed until the case settles or goes to trial. This time varies, depending on a number of things, including the county where the suit is filed, the number of issues involved, and the number of experts involved. Over time, medical records and witnesses can disappear and peoples’ memories of what happened fades. Also, every state limits the time to file a lawsuit after an injury, so it’s better to contact a birth injury attorney as soon as possible to get the process started and avoid delays.
The first step in the process is gathering the medical records and consulting with medical specialists and other experts. If injuries and negligence are apparent then a notice of claim is filed. The exact procedure for filing a claim varies from state to state. Once a claim is filed, the defendants answer the claim or “complaint” and the case is now “in suit,” which means active litigation has begun. The suit continues with the longest part of the lawsuit process called “discovery.” This is where both sides exchange documents, answer written questionnaires (“interrogatories”) and oral questions (“depositions”). Depending on state statutes, mediation may occur in order to try and settle the case. If mediation does not resolve the case, a pretrial settlement hearing is held. If the case doesn’t resolve, trial is scheduled. The vast majority of cases do not go to trial.
Birth injuries are any types of injuries that a baby sustains due to complications during the labor and delivery process. The injuries can range from very mild (e.g., head and facial bruising, small cuts) to severe (e.g., nerve damage, brain damage). Sometimes the injuries are a natural outcome of the birth. For example, a baby may have some bruising simply from passing through the birth canal. Other times, however, birth injuries are a result of mistakes made by medical professionals. This includes situations like a failure of a doctor to respond to fetal distress or a failure to order or perform an emergency C-section.
A significant number of birth injuries occur when a baby in-utero suffers from a lack of oxygen and/or blood flow to the brain. This is known as hypoxic-ischemic or anoxic injury. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (“HIE”) occurs when the brain lacks sufficient oxygen (hypoxia) and blood flow (ischemia). When brain cells are deprived of oxygen (anoxia), they begin to die within minutes often causing permanent damage to a baby’s brain and in some cases can be fatal.
When contractions occur during delivery, the baby will naturally be exposed to reduced oxygen and blood flow. However, when a doctor fails to monitor a baby’s heart rate properly, uses excessive amounts of oxytocin (the generic name for “Pitocin”) or other medications to induce artificial contractions, or allows labor to go on for too long, the baby is deprived of oxygen and vital nutrients. At this point, the baby can sustain irreversible brain damage.
A baby can experience HIE if he or she is deprived of oxygen prenatally, during labor or after birth. A number of events can lead to oxygen deprivation and cause serious injury, including, but not limited to:
- Maternal hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia
- Compression of the umbilical cord
- Uterine rupture
- Prolapsed cord
- Placental abruption
- Injury from cephalopelvic disproportion (“CPD”).
The effects of HIE are sometimes noticeable immediately after birth. For example, a newborn may be jittery, have seizures or organ dysfunction. In some cases, however, a child may display signs of cognitive and/or motor impairment later in life, and the extent of his or her injuries from oxygen deprivation is only evident months or sometimes years after childbirth.
The extent of a child’s disability generally depends on how long he or she was deprived of oxygen. If the hypoxic-ischemic event occurred over hours of negligent labor, the body has a coping mechanism that will shunt oxygen from parts of the brain that control higher cognitive functioning over to parts of the brain that will keep a baby alive, such as those that control breathing and heart rate. This type of injury is called a partial-prolonged hypoxic-ischemic injury. In such case, the child may develop conditions such as cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing impairment, problems with physical coordination, or behavioral problems.
If you feel you, or someone you know, can benefit from a birth injury claim, or would simply like more information, please contact an experienced Stark & Stark national & Pennsylvania birth injury lawyer.