If you are a new parent, you understand. All of your hopes and dreams for the birth of your child and new family can change in an instant if a doctor, nurse, another medical professional or hospital acted with negligence causing injury to either your newborn baby or the mother. A birth injury is considered a form of medical malpractice and unfortunately, 27 out of every 1,000 births result in some form of birth injury to the mother or child.
The medical professionals responsible for the delivery and care of newborn babies and their mothers have a professional responsibility to do no harm to their patients, adhere to the standard of care appropriate for each patient’s situation, and execute their duties efficiently and with the best judgment possible.
Sadly, not every healthcare professional will meet these obligations during the care of a pregnant woman or during her delivery. Some birth injuries result in permanent, life-changing damage. A San Diego, CA birth injury attorney can be an invaluable resource if you or your family recently experienced any type of birth injury due to the questionable actions of a medical professional. Meeting with an attorney sooner than later enables you and your loved ones to determine if medical negligence or medical malpractice took place and to start building a claim to recover your damages.
Defining and Understanding Birth Injury Cases
A birth injury is any physical injury that occurs during pregnancy or delivery to the mother and/or the child she is carrying or delivering. When birth injuries result from accidents, violence, or other external variables, the matter may evolve into a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. If a medical mistake results in a birth injury, the medical provider responsible for the mistake or any other negligence in treatment is liable for medical negligence.
Proving negligence in a birth injury lawsuit means the plaintiff and their San Diego, CA birth injury lawyer must prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and the alleged defendant. This means the defendant formally agreed to provide treatment to the plaintiff but failed to meet the appropriate standard of care for the given situation. If this failure to meet the standard of care resulted in a birth injury, the defendant is liable for all of the damages associated with the birth injury.
Common Causes of Medical Negligence Related to a Birth Injury
Some of the most commonly seen examples of medical negligence take place during childbirth procedures. Medical professionals who use too much physical force to conduct a delivery, improperly use surgical instruments, or who fail to recognize the need for specific courses of treatment despite apparent signs are responsible for the injuries they cause.
Any medical practitioner involved in the delivery of a baby and who acts with negligence resulting in a birth injury, may be held legally liable for those injuries and losses. Some of the common causes of medical negligence related to a birth injury include the following:
Failure or delay to make the medical decision to perform a Cesarean section (C-section). Traditional childbirth is not always advisable or possible depending on the medical status of the mother, and there are certain situations in which performing a C-section is the safest treatment option available for both the mother and her infant. Doctors must know how to identify the signs that a C-section is necessary and must take swift action to complete these procedures safely and effectively.
Misuse of medical devices, such as a vacuum extractor or forceps. Surgical instruments may assist in the childbirth process, but doctors should only use them when absolutely necessary, and they must use them as carefully as possible. Some surgical instruments are capable of causing grave wounds to an infant during delivery.
Failure to either recognize or treat an infection in either the child or the mother. Infections can progress rapidly, and symptoms can be severe for both a mother prior to, during, or following delivery as well as her infant. A birth injury case can arise if a mother or her child contracts an infection that goes unchecked by their attending medical team for too long. Some infections can progress to life-threatening stages very rapidly.
Entrapment or wrapping of the umbilical cord around the child. An umbilical cord can become tangled. Attending delivery doctors must know how to identify the signs of an infant in distress as soon as possible. Some birth injury cases have arisen from doctors either using inappropriate force and causing umbilical cord entanglement or failing to correct it appropriately. A tangled umbilical cord can cause oxygen deprivation, which results in brain damage.
Any failure to recognize or treat any bleeding, deprivation of oxygen, or physical distress in either the child or the mother. The medical professionals attending a childbirth procedure must know how to identify the warning signs of a medical emergency during treatment. This means consistently monitoring vital signs of both the mother and the infant, addressing sudden changes in their conditions swiftly and accurately, and making calculated decisions based on the individual needs of their patient.
It’s vital to remember that birth injury cases may also arise from prenatal medical care, such as failing to account for the mother’s medical history when prescribing a specific treatment or birth procedure that results in serious personal injury to the patient or her child. However a birth injury comes about, a San Diego, CA birth injury attorney is the ideal resource for anyone with specific questions about a recent birth injury in their family.
Sometimes the evidence of medical negligence isn’t always immediately apparent, or medical personnel may attempt to conceal evidence of medical negligence. Working with an experienced lawyer means you can start examining the facts of your case and comparing them to the standard of care you should have received under the guidance of a skilled legal representative.
What to Do if Medical Negligence Caused a Birth Injury
If you believe that medical negligence on the part of any medical professional resulted in either injuries or losses to the mother or child immediately prior to, during, or after the birth of a child, you should gather as much documentation regarding witnesses and medical reports as possible. Keep all evidence and contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to help ensure the mother and child receive justice and compensation for any injuries that resulted.
Birth injuries to infants can cause lifelong medical complications like cerebral palsy, and mothers may face critical medical complications from negligent birth treatment. Your San Diego, CA birth injury attorney will help you gather the evidence and documentation you will need to prove the full extent of your losses. They will also help with the future medical expenses you are likely to incur as a result of the medical negligence you experienced. In the development of your case, your lawyer may coordinate with professional medical experts. They can testify on your behalf as to whether the defendant named in your claim met the appropriate standard of care for the situation in question.
The “standard of care” refers to the appropriate level and method of medical treatment a patient should receive when they display a certain set of symptoms. Physicians must identify patients’ symptoms and use a logical process of elimination to diagnose the patient. The standard of care informs the physician how to proceed once a diagnosis is reached, and the physician may not stray from the standard of care without solid justification, such as the presence of a unique medical issue within a patient that contradicts the typical course of treatment.
Your San Diego, CA birth injury lawyer can help you build a case that establishes the defendant’s negligence and support it with documented medical data. Expert witness testimony concerning the standard of care in your birth injury claim will also be a central topic of your legal proceedings. The right attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of these proceedings and help you maximize your recovery. It’s best to secure legal representation as soon as possible when you face a complex lawsuit like a medical malpractice claim for a birth injury.
Deadline to File a Claim
Each state has its own statute of limitations. In California, for children under the age of eight, the statute of limitations runs one day before their eighth birthday. For all other minors, the statute of limitations runs three years from the date of injury. For adults, the statute of limitations runs three years after the date of injury or one year after the victim discovers, or reasonably should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first.
For claims against local, state, or federal government defendants, specific time limits for bringing clams apply, which may be shorter than the statutes of limitation for non-government defendants. While this may seem like a long time, a great deal of investigation must occur to file a strong medical malpractice claim and receive compensation for injuries. If you fail to file within this time frame established by the State of California, you will lose your right to file a claim for your child’s injuries.
Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer in San Diego, CA Today
There are few practicing medical malpractice lawyers who are also medical doctors. Ken Sigelman, J.D., M.D., is a doctor who is licensed to practice law in California and Florida, and before the U.S. Supreme Court. For more than 20 years, Dr. Sigelman, an award-winning trial lawyer, has had an exceptional record of verdicts, settlements and arbitration awards. If you suffered any injuries as a result of medical negligence, contact our experienced and compassionate attorneys at 866-971-8956 or online today for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions about Birth Injuries
A birth injury is a serious matter, and your San Diego birth injury attorneys first priority should be to help you approach your case with greater confidence. Families that have experienced birth injuries typically feel a strong mix of frustration and grief when negligence has caused a serious injury to a newborn child and/or the child’s mother. Some birth injuries caused by medical malpractice can lead to substantial medical expenses, permanent disabilities, and even death. It’s vital to understand how birth injury cases work and what to expect from your birth injury case proceedings.
The team at Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates has extensive experience handling all types of birth injury cases for clients throughout the San Diego area, and we understand how difficult of an experience a birth injury can be for any family. Our goal is to provide prospective clients with a firmer understanding of their legal rights and options for recourse and offer compassionate legal representation that gets results.
We’ve compiled some of the questions we hear the most about birth injuries and the lawsuits that can arise from them. Consider the following questions and their answers if you are unsure whether you need to speak with a San Diego birth injury lawyer:
Birth injury claims are medical malpractice lawsuits. Therefore, the plaintiff needs to recognize their burden of proof and gather as much evidence as they possibly can to support their claim. You and your San Diego birth injury attorney will need to establish the defendant’s liability for medical malpractice and your birth injury by proving they did not meet the reasonable standard of care for the birth in question. In a birth injury case, a breach of the standard of care could potentially lead to life-changing or fatal outcomes for the baby and their mother.
A birth injury could potentially impose long-term medical expenses on you and your family. California state law allows any personal injury or medical malpractice plaintiff to claim compensation for any medical expenses they incur as a result of a defendant’s negligence. This includes future medical costs as well. For example, if a newborn sustained a birth injury from negligence and develops any kind of permanent disability, the party responsible for the injury would be liable for the child’s present and future medical treatment until the child reaches maximum medical improvement.
It’s not uncommon for parents of children who sustain birth injuries to quit working to provide necessary in-home care for their child. This is especially true of children who develop permanent disabilities like cerebral palsy from their birth injuries. If a parent must take time off from work to care for a mother and/or child affected by a birth injury, the family can claim this lost income in their lawsuit. If a child develops a permanent disability that will require constant supervision, a parent may be able to claim the income they would have reasonably expected to earn in the future had the injury not occurred and they were able to keep working.
Your San Diego birth injury attorney can provide you with advice specific to your situation and answers to the unique questions your case poses, and they can also help you know what to expect in terms of pain and suffering compensation. California state law allows medical malpractice plaintiffs to receive compensation for physical pain, mental distress, and emotional trauma resulting from medical negligence. A birth injury can devastate a family during what was supposed to be a happy occasion. A judge will recognize the emotional impact of the birth injury and also take the family’s economic losses into account when determining a reasonable amount of pain and suffering compensation for the plaintiff.
When a birth injury results in any damage to a baby’s brain, the likelihood of developing medical conditions, like cerebral palsy, increases. There are innumerable possible outcomes for a child who suffers a birth injury. Some children suffer injuries to the soft tissues of their arms and collarbones, resulting in slowed development of an arm. However, they eventually recover most of their mobility and function and suffer no cognitive impairment. Other children born with cerebral palsy are entirely dependent on in-home medical care and constant supervision. Some children with cerebral palsy experience a blend of physical, cognitive, and developmental impairments.
Parents of children who develop cerebral palsy from a birth injury can potentially have their future medical and rehabilitative costs covered through a successful medical malpractice lawsuit for birth injury. It’s also possible to hold a defendant accountable for the parents’ lost earning potential and other long-term losses.
California offers a generous statute of limitations for birth injuries that affect newborns. Typically, parents have until a child’s eighth birthday to take legal action for any birth injuries the child suffered at birth. The standard statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit in California is two years from the date of the incident in question or the date the plaintiff discovered harm. In any birth injury case, the proceedings may take several months or even several years before they reach a conclusion. Depending on the severity of the plaintiff’s damages and the clearness of liability, it may require extensive litigation before a birth injury case is resolved.
Birth injuries happen for many different reasons, and sometimes they are immediately obvious during childbirth. There are a number of steps a delivery team must complete during a childbirth procedure. This review process is designed to ensure the health of the baby and mother and determine any medical risks or injuries either may face. If the parents notice a birth injury immediately, they can start taking legal action as soon as they have addressed their immediate medical concerns.
In other cases, a birth injury isn’t immediately noticeable. For example, some newborns suffer injuries to the brachial plexus, a cluster of nerves that joins the spinal cord to the nerves of the arm. Newborns do not move very much for the first few days of their lives, but they become increasingly active very quickly. Parents may not notice an impaired limb for the first several weeks or months of a baby’s life. In these situations, the “date of discovery,” or the date the parents noticed the birth injury, would become the start date for the statute of limitations in California.
Depending on the type of birth injury you experienced, one or more parties may bear liability for the resulting damages. If a doctor used excessive force while extracting your child from the birth canal and caused an injury, the doctor is liable for medical malpractice. A doctor may also be liable for an injury caused by improper use of surgical devices like extraction tubes and forceps. If a member of the delivery team responsible for monitoring patient vital signs fails to address any change in the baby’s or the mother’s vital signs, this may also lead to liability for a birth injury. Your San Diego birth injury lawyer will review the details of your case and check hospital records to determine liability for your damages.
In most medical malpractice cases, the determining factor between winning and losing a lawsuit comes down to proving the defendant violated the standard of care for the patient in question. Childbirth is a complex and risky procedure, and every member of the delivery team needs to understand the rules and procedures of childbirth and follow them carefully.
Your San Diego birth injury attorney may coordinate expert witness testimony from professionals in the medical industry to support your claims and help you maximize the compensation your medical malpractice lawsuit yields. These expert witnesses can verify whether a defendant failed to meet the standard of care and provide the court with a firmer understanding of your circumstances. Your attorney can also communicate with insurance carriers on your behalf as necessary and handle your legal proceedings so you and your family can focus on your recovery.
In addition to expert witness testimony, your San Diego birth injury lawyer will use the evidence in your case to establish that the defendant had a professional duty to you as a medical professional and an obligation to uphold the standard of care for your condition. Next, they must establish that the defendant breached or violated this standard of care and subsequently caused the birth injury in question.
Many civil cases, including some medical malpractice lawsuits, settle outside of court. This saves both defendants and plaintiffs significant legal expenses and allows them to negotiate the matter privately. However, some birth injury cases involve substantial damages, unclear liability, or even implications of criminal charges for the defendant. Many medical malpractices will proceed to the litigation process, typically preceded by a formal review from a medical board. Once the review board determines that medical negligence has likely occurred, they will allow the plaintiff to proceed with their legal action.
Your San Diego birth injury attorney will help you build a strong case to send before a medical board for review. Expert witnesses could play roles in various stages of your case, from offering consulting expert opinions on specific details of your case to testifying in court to explain your damages or experiences from an expert’s perspective.
Even if the birth injury you experienced is immediately apparent and liability seems clear, there are countless possible complications and procedural hurdles you will face on the route to compensation for your losses. A San Diego birth injury attorney can handle legal proceedings on your behalf so you and your family can focus on your recovery. This is much better than attempting to handle the stress and demand of a lawsuit unassisted while managing your household affairs and the aftermath of your birth injury.
Investing in reliable legal representation means peace of mind with your medical malpractice lawsuit. Once your legal interests are in capable hands, you and your family can focus on recovering from your experience and forming a plan for the future.
Kenneth M. Sigelman and Associates possesses an exceptional and thorough knowledge of California law, decades of legal experience and a commitment to achieve justice and obtain fair compensation for victims. Click below to learn more about our team of attorneys.
KEN SIGELMAN J.D., M.D.
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