Many parents spend their pregnancies creating their ideal perfect birth plan. The sad reality, however, is that birth injuries can happen anytime and many new parents may suddenly find themselves trying to navigate an uncertain future because of them. Parents experiencing this may ask – are birth injuries always the hospital’s fault?
There are many causes of birth injuries, some of which are the fault of the hospital that provided care. A hospital can be at fault when the injuries are clearly due to medical malpractice or negligence by one of its healthcare providers. When birth injuries occur in these situations, families may pursue a medical malpractice claim to seek financial compensation for injuries the mother or child suffered.
What Else Could Be at Fault?
It’s important to note that not all birth injuries are the fault of the hospital or its medical providers. Natural complications are possible during the birthing process. In order to determine when a hospital is at fault, it’s essential to understand what birth injuries have occurred and whether the hospital has failed in its responsibility to provide quality health care.
What Are Birth Injuries?
Birth injuries are any physical injury that occurs during childbirth. These injuries can affect both the mother and the child and can range in severity from minor scratches or bruising to more serious complications, like brain injuries or death.
The level of severity of the injury will determine whether there are long-term impacts after the fact. Sadly, many birth injuries cause life-long complications that result in years of future medical expenses that fall entirely on the family, especially once their insurance limits have been reached.
What Are the Most Common Birth Injuries?
A mother or child’s injury can take many forms, ranging from bruises to life-long conditions like cerebral palsy. Below are some common injuries during the birthing process. These injuries could be the result of medical negligence and may justify a medical malpractice claim.
Bruises are caused by microscopic damage to the blood vessels that sit underneath the skin. Bruising on a newborn child’s face or head is a common birth injury that often results from trauma as the infant moves through the mother’s birth canal.
Bruising can also occur when medical professionals use forceps or vacuum extraction during birth. Fortunately, in these cases, the child’s birth injury is typically temporary and will heal with time and quality medical care.
Soft tissue swelling
Trauma or bruising during childbirth can also lead to soft tissue swelling. This swelling is often seen on the child’s scalp and can appear quite severe for several days. These types of birth injury cases are common when vacuum extraction has been used by a healthcare professional during childbirth.
Swelling that occurs after birth will often go away after a few days. However, the newborn child may need to be monitored closely during that time to ensure the swelling doesn’t worsen or cause complications.
Broken or fractured bones are another birth injury commonly seen by health care professionals. For infants, the breaks or fractures are usually seen in the clavicle and collarbone. For mothers, broken bones often occur in the pelvis due to trauma as the infant moves through the birth canal.
Most of the broken bones seen in childbirth happen when the infant’s shoulders get lodged during the birthing process. Hospital personnel must monitor the infant closely during birth to help prevent these types of injuries before they happen.
Nerve damage is another common complication and often takes the form of brachial plexus injuries or Erb’s palsy, both of which damage the nerves of the arms and hands. A brachial plexus injury or Erb’s palsy is often seen when doctors have difficulty delivering a baby’s shoulders during birth. This can be serious, given that the condition can cause permanent damage to the arm.
Birth injury-caused facial paralysis is another common complication that happens when too much pressure is put on the baby’s face, which injures the facial nerves. A newborn baby or young child with facial paralysis will often have no movement on one side of their face. This condition may improve within a few weeks, though torn facial nerves often require surgical intervention to repair.
Blood loss by the mother is one of the most frightening injury cases seen by medical professionals. While many women lose small amounts of blood during delivery, excessive blood loss affects the mother’s blood pressure, heart rate, and overall strength; and can cause death in extreme cases.
While many factors lead to bleeding during childbirth, the worst cases result from traumatic deliveries that were too rough or happened too quickly. Every woman should be monitored for bleeding after birth by a medical professional, and immediate intervention should occur if excessive bleeding is detected. Failure to act quickly to stop bleeding can be considered medical negligence.
Brain injuries or spinal cord injuries
Brain injuries or spinal cord injuries can be due to natural complications or medical malpractice, depending on the circumstances. Brain damage during birth is often the result of oxygen deprivation, sometimes due to the infant becoming lodged in the birth canal, asphyxiation by the umbilical cord, or other forms of trauma during labor. Many lifelong conditions like cerebral palsy can be the result of injuries to a child’s brain during birth such as this.
Conditions like cerebral palsy can affect a person’s ability to move and will typically cause permanent muscle weakness. When it happens, brain damage and conditions like cerebral palsy are among the most severe injuries a child can experience at birth.
Severe childbirth complications can lead to the death of the mother or infant affected. Cases where a mother or child’s birth injury has resulted in death should always be assessed after the fact to determine if medical negligence was responsible
When tragedies like these strike, a birth injury lawsuit may be one of the ways the surviving family can hold hospitals and medical providers accountable for such medical negligence.
What Causes Birth Injury?
A birth injury can be the result of naturally occurring factors or medical negligence. The type of birth injury and whether the hospital could have acted to prevent it will determine if birth injury lawsuits are possible after the damage has occurred.
There are many different complications or risk factors that can cause issues during childbirth, some of which happen naturally. While these events may be spontaneous, it is still the responsibility of the healthcare provider to monitor the health of both mother and child closely. By doing so, they may be able to prevent these complications before they lead to a birth injury.
While premature birth alone may not necessarily cause a birth injury, it can greatly increase the likelihood that such an injury will occur.
Babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy are considered to be premature and often are more fragile than full-term babies at birth. This fragile nature can make them more prone to birth injury or birth defects.
Large birth weight
Newborns with a birthweight of more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces are considered to be large babies and are at higher risk of complications.
Large babies can easily experience fetal distress since they are more likely to have difficulty moving through their mother’s pelvis and may become lodged in dangerous positions. This can prolong labor and lead to complications and injuries at birth.
A difficult childbirth process is often one of the most common causes of birth injury to both mother and child.
The rougher and faster a birth is, the more likely it is that trauma will happen during the process. Birth injuries caused by trauma can result in a wide variety of complications, ranging from cuts and bruises to postpartum hemorrhaging or even death.
While many birth injuries are the result of naturally occurring complications, some are clear medical malpractice cases. Malpractice is one of the leading reasons why families pursue a birth injury claim against a hospital, to hold them accountable for the medical negligence experienced during birth.
Mistakes by hospital employees
A doctor’s negligence or a medical mistake is a common cause of birth injury. When a mother or child suffers birth injuries due to the actions (or lack thereof) of healthcare providers, these injuries are considered to be preventable. As such, they may be considered medical malpractice, and the hospital will be at fault.
When it comes to filing a birth injury claim against a hospital, the challenge is often to prove that the injury is due to medical mistakes by hospital employees. This is why having an experienced medical malpractice attorney can be a huge help in birth injury cases such as this.
Prescription Drug manufacturers
Medical negligence doesn’t always come from the hospital, however. In rare cases, prescription drug manufacturers may be responsible for birth injuries due to their products, especially if the manufacturer failed to disclose the side effects of their medications.
Prescription drug manufacturers may also be liable for failing to properly test new medications before they were prescribed to expectant mothers or their children.
Are Birth Injuries Preventable?
When medical professionals routinely monitor the mother’s health and check for fetal distress, they can often catch complications early enough to prevent birth injury from occurring.
Hospitals must do whatever they can to prevent such injuries from happening. Most medical malpractice claims are filed after a mother or child suffered otherwise preventable birth injuries.
When Are Birth Injuries the Hospital’s Fault?
Whether or not a birth injury is the hospital’s fault can be difficult to determine. In most cases, a hospital is at fault when it is clear that the injury was the result of the actions of a hospital employee or if they were negligent and failed to act to stop a preventable injury from occurring.
In cases where it is unclear who is at fault, it is often helpful to speak to a birth injury lawyer or to medical malpractice attorneys who are experienced in handling medical negligence claims.
What Should a Hospital Do to Prevent Birth Injuries?
Hospitals have certain responsibilities to their patients to help prevent medical negligence before it occurs. When hospitals fail to fulfill these responsibilities, they may be liable for any injuries caused by the medical professionals they employ. But what should hospitals do to stop preventable birth injuries?
Vet Their Employees
Hospitals must complete proper background checks on their employees to avoid allowing dangerous individuals to work with their patients. This background check is typically done as part of the hiring process at the beginning of a medical professional’s employment.
Ensure the Proper Education of Their Employees
Hospitals are also responsible for ensuring that their employees have the proper education credentials to safely treat patients. They may also be responsible for providing ongoing training to their employees to ensure they are following the best practices. If they fail to do so, they may be held liable for any injuries caused by their employees.
Hire Medical Experts
It may seem like common sense, but hospitals must ensure that they are only hiring experts who can provide quality care to their patients. Having medical experts who are experienced in childbirth can be the first step in stopping preventable birth injuries to both mother and baby.
Next Steps After a Birth Injury
A birth injury can be overwhelming, and the future may seem uncertain for those affected by it. Many families find themselves needing resources or support and consider pursuing a medical malpractice case against the negligent hospital.
If you are considering this route, there are several important steps that you must first take after experiencing a birth injury due to medical negligence.
Keep Detailed Medical Records
Birth injury cases often require documentation of exactly what caused the birth injury. Keeping detailed medical records of all interactions with medical professionals before, during, and after birth can help to provide the information needed to prove medical negligence occurred at birth.
Get a Second Opinion
Other medical professionals who are unaffiliated with the hospital that originally provided medical care may provide an unbiased evaluation of the injury and whether medical negligence occurred. You may be able to set up a free consultation to discuss the care you or a loved one received during childbirth.
If birth injuries caused by a medical professional were preventable, a birth injury case may be the only way to hold the hospital responsible. Talking to other healthcare professionals is the first step toward determining who is liable for this injury.
Consider a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit or Birth Injury Lawsuit
When more severe injuries occur at birth, many families find themselves facing an uncertain future filled with medical bills. Without legal action, these families may never receive financial compensation in cases where medical malpractice and medical negligence were to blame for the birth injuries.
Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit or birth injury lawsuit may be the best route forward to ensure all medical care and necessary medical equipment is paid for by the healthcare providers whose medical errors caused the damage in the first place.
Birth injuries aren’t always the fault of the hospital. However, sometimes they are. If you or someone you love has experienced a birth injury due to medical negligence, you’ll need an experienced birth injury attorney on your side. Contact Wendt Law Firm, P.C. today at 816-542-6734 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your birth injury claims and what an expert medical malpractice attorney can do to help you get the compensation you deserve.