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Birth injury cases are civil lawsuits usually alleging medical malpractice. As we often point out, verdicts and settlements in these cases are sometimes higher than other matters, because the consequences of the injury have effects over a lifetime. For example, if a child with cerebral palsy needs special equipment, medical care, and more over the course of five or six decades, then the costs will be incredibly high. For this reason it is possible, though not necessarily common, for these cases to come with verdicts or settlements of seven figures or more.

Types of Damages in Birth Injury Cases

People often associate all large verdicts with “punitive” damages. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate a victim for their specific harm but instead seek to punish the wrongdoer. It is helpful to understand that large verdicts in birth injury cases almost never involve punitive damages. Instead, they refer to compensatory damages–to “compensate” the victim.

Judgments and verdicts in cases alleging birth injuries caused by medical malpractice frequently make headlines. That is not necessarily because these cases occur all the time, but because the judgments are more sizeable than in some other cases. Awards are often large because they are based on compensation over the course of one’s life as a result of the harm. For children just born, the years that they will be affected by the injury are significant, increasing the damages.

Birth Injury Damages

Of course, because of the size of some verdicts, these cases are often pointed to by “tort reform” advocates as a sign of “jackpot justice.” Those wishing to take away the legal rights of injured patients find value in plucking out random birth injury decisions and using them as some sort of “proof” that legal rules have to be changed.

Perhaps the most serious injuries that arise during a traumatic birth are those that affect the brain. Most injuries that are purely physical are obviously damaging, but there are more and more options to treat and account for injuries of a purely physical nature. On the other hand, harm that affects and infant brain is often incredibly debilitating affecting every area of their lives and influencing their long-term capabilities.

Oxygen Deprivation at Birth

Most birth injuries affecting the brain stem from asphyxia–when the brain is deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time. Many birth injury lawsuits have been filed in just these cases, because the prolonged oxygen deprivation is often caused by failure on the part of medical teams to act in a timely manner or to properly pick up on signs of fetal distress. Medical malpractice is not implicated every time that a child suffers a birth injury affecting the brain, but in far too many cases it is actually preventable.

As birth injury attorneys it is easy to focus entirely on medical problems affecting children which were caused in one way or another by negligent medical care. Of course, malpractice is not implicated at any time that a child is born with some complexities. For one thing, conditions may be caused by genetic factors that develop well before the birth itself and are entirely out of one’s control. Similarly, even injuries that arise during the birth itself may in some cases not have been preventable.

Knowing the difference between the injuries that could and could not have been prevented is a crucial skill that attorneys must master. Proving that standards of care were breached leading to a birth injury therefore requires understanding of many other facets of the birthing process in which malpractice was not an issue. Those alternatives are essentially a foil, helpfully illustrating the difference between preventable and non-preventable injuries.

Down Syndrome

It has long been known that the health of the mother during a pregnancy can affect the development of the child and it’s ultimate well-being after birth. After all, careful analysis of eating habits, ordered bed rest, and other common treatments for mothers during pregnancy are all geared toward ensuring her safety and as well as that of the new life growing inside of her. New research is now finding that even more wide-ranging support to mothers during pregnancy may have very strong effects on the health of the child. The data may eventually change the way public support is provided to these women in order to improve health and save costs down the road.

The Benefits Comprehensive Prenatal Care

The latest research effort was summarized in a KSTP News story this week. Researchers examined the effect that increased physical, emotional, and educational support had on childbirth. In this way, the research took a look at the possible benefits of more wide-ranging support–not just bodily treatments (i.e. watching one’s diet). In total, the study suggests that this comprehensive support for mothers may go a long way to ensuring healthier babies are born and less medical care (and cost) is needed down the road.

The legal system is time-consuming and expensive. That is particularly true in medical malpractice cases, including Chicago birth injury matters, because the factual issues are quite complex. Hiring an expert witness, combing through medical records, and interviewing all those involved in a matter takes time and resources. The reality is that if those harmed by malpractice related to childbirth were forced to come up with all those costs at the outset, most people would not have any way to use the civil justice system. The costs would be prohibitive.

Fortunately, in birth injury cases, as in virtually all personal injury matters, contingency fee arrangements are used to ensure justice is pursued for all–both rich and poor alike. Recently the Center for Justice & Democracy released a helpful new report on the subject entitled Courthouse Cornerstone: Contingency Fees and Their Importance for Everyday Americans. It offers a range of helpful information about how these systems work and the value that they provide to the community.

Contingency Fee Basics

An Observer article recently discussed a hearing in a birth injury case that has made its way all the way to the United State Supreme Court. The main issues in the legal matter to be decided by the high court has nothing to do with the underlying medical negligence in the birth injury suit. Instead, the disagreement stems from the application of a state law which affects how much of a settlement in the birth injury case the state can take as reimbursement for medical expenses it claims to have paid to the involved family.

Birth Injury Lawsuit

This case started like so many others. A family went to the hospital for the delivery of their child, only to have terrible complications arise. According to information provided in the article on the case, the main doctor performed a cesarean section. However, he botched the job and the child suffered severe injuries, including a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. On top of that she was born deaf and blind and now, at the age of twelve, cannot walk, crawl, or talk.

Most medical professionals provide top-notch service to their patients day in and day out. All of us rely on the skill and expertise of doctors, nurses, technicians, aides, and others to ensure we live our healthiest and fullest life. That care begins as soon as we enter the world, as medical professionals are responsible for ensuring childbirth goes as smooth as possible.

Yet, recognizing the value of these medical professionals does not mean that one must turn a blind eye to inadequate medical care. At the end of the day, not all medical teams provide the same quality of care. For a variety of reasons there are some professionals and institutions which time and again fail to meet the required standard of care, causing harm to patients. Demanding accountability and ensuring redress following those incidents is the purpose of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Handful of Birth Injury Cases

The holiday season means many things to many different families. For most, it includes traditions of sharing meals, laughs, and making fond memories.

Yet, for the American Tort Reform Association this time of year is when they decide to release their annual “Judicial Hellhole” report. Essentially this junk-science report is nothing more than a headline-grabbing effort by a big interest front group to spread misinformation and stoke fires among the community. This report grew stale years ago, but that has not stopped the ATRA from bringing it back out every year.

On one hand, those of us working in the civil justice shouldn’t be too surprised that the group falls back on the same gimmicks year after year. That is no different from the same stale arguments being made again and again in calls for tort reform, even after those arguments are decisively shown false.

When you are having long conversations with elder relatives this holiday season, you may stumble upon discussions related to the cost of things “in their day” compared with prices today. It is easy to look back at years gone by in wonder, amazed at how prices for the same objects have jumped tremendously over the decades. That is perhaps most pronounced in the area of healthcare.

Much discussion has centered on what actually affects the rising cost of healthcare–including the myth of medical malpractice lawsuit influence. Most serious attempts to understand the rising costs are far more nuanced, ignoring the false “hot button” topics related to malpractice and instead focusing on the areas that might actually account for the price differences.

A recent CNN story on the changing costs of childbirth over the years provides a helpful primer on some of those issues.

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