The birth of a baby is an exciting time for any family. Setting up a nursery, buying clothing, and preparing for the journey of becoming a parent are all milestones for a new family. Florida welcomes more than 200,000 babies each year, with more than 21,000 births in Broward County and another 31,000 in nearby Miami-Dade.
Majority of births are safe, and the family comes home with a new bundle of joy, but unfortunately that is not always the case. In rare but extremely devastating cases, birth can lead to an injury that can affect your new family member’s quality of life. If your child has suffered from an injury during birth you might have some questions regarding compensation – our Fort Lauderdale birth injury attorneys can help fight your case while you focus on helping your child recover.
Most Common Causes of Birth Injury
Birth injuries are not always the root of medical malpractice or negligence, but some birth injuries are preventable with diligent medical care. Possible birth injuries include, but are not limited to:
- Facial Paralysis: An infant’s face may be placed under extreme pressure during a difficult delivery when forceps or vacuum extraction are used. This may lead to facial paralysis.Early signs of traumatic facial paralysis include inability to close the eye on the affected side of the face or a lack of facial movement. In less severe cases, symptoms may resolve within a few weeks. Unfortunately, more extensive cases can lead to permanent damage.
- Brachial Palsy Injury: There are two major types of brachial palsy injuries: Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy. Each affects a different branch of nerves that control the movement of the hands and arms. One of the most common causes of brachial palsy is shoulder dystocia, a condition in which an infant becomes trapped within the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. Brachial palsy injury can result if a physician pulls on the baby incorrectly or with too much force.
- Fractures: A fracture is most often the result of a prolonged or difficult delivery. An infant may sustain a clavicle fracture if a physician attempts vaginal delivery while the baby is in breech (feet first) position. If the provider pulls forcefully enough, the process might fracture an infant’s shoulder. After a fracture, an infant is often unable to move the affected side, but fractures usually resolve in about 10 days.
- Brain Injuries: Brain injuries during birth are wide ranging and can be devastating, leading to a lifetime of side effects. Brain injuries during the birth process are most often due to oxygen deprivation. This can result during pregnancy, labor, or even after delivery if a health care provider fails to properly monitor vitals, recognize an issue (such as a prolapsed umbilical cord), or hasten a prolonged birth. Even mild oxygen deprivation can lead to serious problems, such as chronic seizures or developmental delays.
- Caput Succedaneum: Caput Succedaneum is a condition that occurs when an infant makes its way down the birth canal. It is often the result of improper vacuum extraction. Infants may experience intense swelling in the tissues of their scalps, which will resolve within a few days.
- Cephalohematoma: Cephalohematoma may appear as a raised bump on top of an infant’s head several hours after birth, signifying a bleed under one of the cranial bones. It may occur as the result of misuse of birth-assisting tools. Generally, it clears up within a few months, but it may lead to other complications, such as jaundice, hypotension, anemia, and meningitis (rare).
- Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder associate with brain injury or malformation during pregnancy. It affects both muscle coordination and body movement, as well as tone, reflexes, posture, and balance. It also impacts a child’s ability to hit gross and fine motor milestone within an appropriate time frame. Oral motor functioning can also be affected, causing speech and eating problems.
- Individuals with CP may have a genetic disposition for the disorder, and it usually develops during pregnancy. The prevailing theory used to be that CP was the result of birthing complications, but now medical experts agree that this only accounts for about 10% of all CP cases. Risk factors for CP can be genetic or environmental. Examples of environmental risk factors include abuse, medical malpractice, accidents, negligence, or certain maternal infections.
- A person with cerebral palsy will show signs of physical impairment, though the extent of that impairment will vary from one person to another. Generally, CP affects a person’s ability to control his muscles – he or she may contract them too much, too little, or in an uncoordinated fashion. Fluctuating muscle contractions can make the affected individual’s limbs shake or tremble. This can affect balance, posture, or coordination. Other complications, such as intellectual impairment, seizures, and vision problems can co-occur with cerebral palsy.
Common causes of hypoxic episodes include:
- Failure of the OBGYN to diagnose prenatal condition leading to in-utero hypoxia
- Inadequate monitoring of the mother and fetus during labor and delivery by nurses or physicians
- Inattention by nurses or delivering physicians
- Failure to identify complications and perform an emergency C-section
- Improperly administered medications during pregnancy, delivery, or immediately following delivery
- Failure to keep baby’s oxygen levels in appropriate range while being cared for in NICU or well-baby nursery
When your baby is injured during labor and delivery, you may find that you have more questions than answers. How could this happen? Why didn’t someone stop this? What will my child’s future be like now? When you discover that your child’s injury was the result of a doctor or medical professional’s negligence, you need someone on your side that can help you find answers to these questions.
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it is important to understand how this diagnosis will affect your child’s life and the obstacles you will now face as a family. Unfortunately, it can take years for a child to be properly diagnosed with cerebral palsy. When they finally are, families are often devastated and left to deal with the long-term complications on their own. If this occurs, an experienced attorney who focuses on medical malpractice can help you obtain the compensation you need to give your child the best medical attention possible.
Are Birth Injuries Preventable?
There is a marked difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. A birth defect is the cause of a genetic disposition and other environmental risk factors, while a birth injury is a condition that an infant sustains during or shortly after labor and delivery. Birth injuries may result from the failure to diagnose or reasonably treat certain medical conditions, such as maternal or fetal distress. In these instances, birth injuries are almost always preventable.
Some parents wonder how they can recognize the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury. The law requires physicians to disclose any potential health issues that your baby may suffer from. If you were expecting a healthy baby but he or she experiences health problems shortly after delivery, this may be indicative of a problem during delivery. Talk to an experienced birth injury attorney if you are unsure.
Do I Need a Brain Injury Attorney?
Birth injuries have a variety of causes, but when they’re caused by medical negligence or carelessness on the part of your provider, you have a legal right to hold such people accountable for their actions. A civil action will help pay for the costs associated with a birth injury, which may include medical bills and the cost of therapy or rehabilitation, as well as the pain and suffering of the experience.
Attorneys who have experience with birth injuries can be valuable partners in this process. They will help you understand your rights and will vigorously defend them to create the best outcome possible. These individuals will help parents create the best possible life for their injured child, providing the financial means to accommodate the child’s needs as he or she grows.
Birth injury cases are both intricate and sensitive, so you should look for a personal injury attorney with specific experience in birth injury law and with a proven track record of success.
Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Birth Injury Attorney
Each state has a different time limit for filing a civil lawsuit, which we refer to as the statute of limitations. The rules vary from state to state, but with medical malpractice cases, there is a special limit that applies called the “discovery rule.” This means that the time limit begins to count down as soon as a parent or child would’ve reasonably discovered it. In certain instances, you may not discover the full extent of a birth injury until the child reaches school age. In Florida, you have two years from the date of the birth injury or when it should have been discovered. Even though you have two years, we recommend meeting with a birth injury attorney as soon as you suspect something. Waiting too long may increase the risk of losing evidence, or you may even run the risk of losing credence with a jury. The Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at Kelley/Uustal are standing by waiting to help your family. Contact us our firm today for free case review and to take advantage of our contingency-fee legal services.