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steps taken in birth injury cases

Do These 3 Things If You or Your Child Were Injured During Pregnancy or the Labor and Delivery Process

Nearly 28,000 babies are born with a birth injury each year across the U.S. That equates to 2,333 per month, 538 per week, 76 per day, and 3 per hour, according to the National Healthcare Quality Report (AHRQ). AHRQ researchers say about half of those could have been avoided. Medical staff, including obstetric physicians, pediatricians, nurses, technicians and medical assistants, can be responsible for these tragic labor and delivery mistakes that cause life-long injuries and circumstances so dire that a tragic death occurs to a mother or her child.

If you can relate to this situation, you may be wondering who to turn to for help, and if you have the right to make a claim. It is natural for parents of a child who suffered a birth injury also to have many questions. We suggest you start with these three steps.

Cerebral Palsy Remains a Leading Cause of Childhood Disabilities

types of c-palsy

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows the average prevalence of cerebral palsy is 3.3 children per 1,000 live births and is the most common motor and movement disability of childhood. It is defined by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) as a medical condition caused by brain damage. Cerebral palsy can cause a range of disabilities, from mild to severe, and will require a proper diagnosis so that the correct treatments and therapies are provided.

Some of the potential issues a child with cerebral palsy may face include:

The birth of a baby is one of the happiest days in the lives of parents and relatives. While most births happen without incident, unfortunately, sometimes an injury occurs at birth. A woman has filed a lawsuit in Cook County claiming that her daughter was permanently injured due to negligence. The baby suffers from serious brain damage, which is irreversible. The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $50,000.

Neurologic Injuries

Neurologic injuries are those affecting the central nervous system. In this case, the lawsuit indicates that there were complications during birth that caused the infant to suffer a lack of oxygen to the brain. The brain can only survive for a matter of minutes without a sufficient oxygen supply. Oxygen deprivation, also known as cerebral hypoxia, causes severe and permanent brain damage and neurologic injuries. The lawsuit alleges that negligence on the part of the doctor and hospital during the labor and delivery process caused the injuries.

Labor and Delivery Mistakes

Most often, the labor and delivery process concludes without any complications or injuries. However, when there are complications, the doctor and medical team must take immediate steps to resolve the problem and make the birth successful. Sometimes a prolonged labor can cause problems with delivery. The mother and baby should be monitored during labor to ensure that it is progressing as it should. In this case, the mother indicates that the doctors should have known that the baby was at risk and therefore should have performed an emergency c-section.
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A recent birth injury lawsuit is igniting debate about a federal law that limits government liability for injuries to military members. The Feres Doctrine became law in 1950. It prohibits military members and veterans from suing the federal government for injuries that occur during active duty. The doctrine is named for Lieutenant Feres, who died in a barracks fire that occurred in 1946. His widow attempted to sue the government, but lost. The creation of the Feres Doctrine shortly followed.

Controversy has always surrounded the law, and its lack of consideration in cases of gross negligence by a medical professional. Some of the situations covered include:

Prescription of incorrect medications
Medical mistakes Wrongful execution of a service member
Nuclear experimentation on service members
Medical experimentation of mind control techniques Continue reading ›

Over the years, women’s health advocates have applauded advances in birth control options, from the pill to tubal ligation. But as with any medical advancement, such options come with attendant risks, especially when surgery is involved. And until recently, women seeking a permanent fix had no choice but to get their tubes surgically tied.

Today, women looking for permanent birth control options have a surgery-free alternative with Essure, a device that can be inserted by a catheter. But this option is not risk-free. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, health and safety concerns about this product have markedly increased this year. The FDA has received almost 1,000 complaints about Essure since it became available to women. Half of those complaints came in 2013.

How Essure Works

Recent studies have shown that medical malpractice caps on non-economic damages exacerbate inequality in the judicial system. Certain plaintiffs are more likely to have a large portion of their award tied to non-economic damages. In particular, those without large annual incomes or who have injuries that cannot be quantified in dollar terms easily. The elderly, stay-at-home parents, and children are particularly affected.

Children harmed by negligence at birth may also be disproportionately affected by these caps. Obviously, by their very name, economic damage must be tied to quantifiable losses, like lost wages. Children who develop cerebral palsy, erbs palsy, or other injuries as a result of negligence may have a hard time identifying many economic losses, beyond basic medical costs and some potential lost wages. However, they obviously have suffered an immense loss in other terms–as they must live a life plagued by various challenges. Juries have long sought to honor those non-economic losses with proper compensation to account for the pain, suffering, and effect on the individual’s life.

Damage caps, however, take that option away from juries. This is one of many reasons why attorneys who work on malpractice cases, including birth injury matters, rally against these destructive “tort reform” measures.

What do labeling standards for hazardous materials have to do with birth injury lawsuits?

Perhaps not much directly, but legal principles used in one case may eventually impact many seemingly unrelated areas. It all has to do with the many faces of tort reform. Some mistakenly believe “damage caps” and “tort reform” are synonymous. That is not the case. Instead, arbitrary caps on damages are just one of many ways that certain big corporate interests seek to tilt the playing field and make it harder for those hurt to recover for their losses.

Beyond damage caps, and perhaps even more invidiously, tort reform can also take the form of changes in the law which limit who can sue at all, on what grounds, and what legal standards are applied when judging liability. Using a variety of theories, many corporate front groups are advancing arguments in many different types of cases all with the same goal.

The variety of medical malpractice cases is more extensive than most imagine. Considering the total number of births that occur each year, many somewhat unique cases of mistakes, confusion, and preventable harm will occur. That is not to say that there are not clear legal trends when it comes to types of malpractice that lead to lawsuits and accountability. For example, delayed C-sections and use of excessive force are likely the two types of professional negligence that most often lead to the filing of an actual birth injury lawsuit. That is probably because those injuries are the most common, can often be proven in court, and come with significant consequences for those affected requiring compensation

Unique Birthing Malpractice

While excessive force and oxygen deprivation resulting in the development of cerebral palsy are the birth injuries that often make-up newspaper headlines and blog posts–there are others.

It is easy to develop the assumption that all birth injury cases result in a settlement or judgement for the plaintiff. But that is not true. News stories and blog posts are simply far more likely to discuss cases that result in liability as illustrative of the ways in which the legal system works and preventable injuries can affect the birthing process. But just because you hear more about the cases where plaintiffs are successful does not mean that doctors are almost always found liable.

In fact, the opposite may be true. When a case goes to trial, the burden is still on the plaintiff (injured child and family) to produce sufficient evidence to prove negligence. Sometimes that burden is hard to meet, and judges and juries routinely find for doctors. This basic concept is important to reiterate whenever faced with arguments from those seeking to change legal rules as a result of “runaway verdicts” or excessive lawsuits.”

For example, just this month the Press Herald reported on a case in which a birth injury lawsuit verdict went against the plaintiff. According to the report, the case was filed by a mother who essential claimed that excessive force was used during delivery. That force apparently led the child to suffer a brachial plexus injury–the nerve bundle near the shoulder that control’s ones’ arm, hand, and finger.

Tubal ligations, which have been linked to ectopic pregnancies, are among the preventative sterilization services which insurance companies are required to cover under the Affordable Care Act. Ectopic pregnancies occur when the embryo implants outside the womb, usually somewhere in the fallopian tube. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can lead to a life threatening emergency, such as the one experienced in tan Illinois case where a woman from Wheeling died after her fallopian tube ruptured subsequent to her doctor’s failure to notify her that the results of her ultrasound test indicated a strong possibility of an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancies Are Often Misdiagnosed

Ectopic pregnancies sometimes require surgical intervention, but in other instances can be treated with methotrexate, a chemotherapy technique that removes the fetus from the fallopian tube in an attempt to avoid life-threatening complications to the ectopically pregnant woman. However, according to a recent article published by ABC News, roughly 40% of pregnancies diagnosed as ectopic are later revealed to be normal pregnancies. For example, according to the article, one woman who was administered methotrexate after being diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy gave birth to a daughter who had no rectum, vagina or uterus and also had a malformed spinal cord. Per the article, the mother has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit and a jury trial is scheduled for early 2013.

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