While the significant majority of babies in the United States are safely delivered without injury, far too many babies suffer some type of birth trauma. The causes may vary - from negligent obstetrical care, to the inappropriate use of instruments to assist in delivery, to the improper management of the care of the newborn after delivery. No matter the cause, the impact can last a lifetime.
For any mother, a successful pregnancy and delivery requires an extraordinary financial, emotional, and physical commitment. A mother naturally forms a strong emotional bond with her baby well prior to the time of birth. This commitment and emotional bond makes the thought of her baby suffering any otherwise avoidable birth injury simply terrifying. The parents of a needlessly injured baby are understandably anxious, distraught, and uncertain of what the future holds. Upon learning that their baby must now endure pain, suffering, and potentially life-changing, permanent injuries and damages, they want to know why their baby was injured and that the responsible parties will be held accountable.
If your baby has experienced birth complications causing significant injury through no fault of your own, Bruce Babij and his legal team of Dugan, Babij, Tolley & Kohler are dedicated to your cause. Bruce and his team are focused on protecting the legal rights of all children who have suffered birth related injuries or who have been the victims of obstetrical or neonatal medical malpractice.
Legal Claims in Birth Injury
Birth injury lawsuits are a unique type of legal claim and require special consideration from a knowledgeable, seasoned medical negligence attorney who is both highly familiar with the types and causes of birth related injuries and with the legal arguments needed to successfully pursue such claims in court.
Bruce and his team at Dugan Babij Tolley & Kohler have a significantly successful record of assessing in detail, thoroughly preparing, and then vigorously prosecuting birth injury claims in legal proceedings against those healthcare providers involved in your obstetrical management and your baby’s birth and neonatal care—obstetricians, midwives, obstetrical nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, family doctors, neonatologists, and pediatricians. Like any parent, we strongly believe that anyone who has provided substandard or negligent care to a mother or to her baby that results in injury or damage should be held accountable to the highest degree allowed by the law.
Birth Injuries Rapidly Drain a Family’s Resources
Significant birth injuries will undoubtedly drain a family’s physical, emotional, and financial resources. Babies who suffer birth related complications or injuries resulting from the negligent actions or omissions of medical professionals and hospitals will often require extensive skilled nursing or custodial care. In many cases, the injured baby will require surgery, even multiple surgeries, or other expensive, invasive treatments and therapies. Despite such medical, surgical and therapeutic interventions, many babies suffering birth injuries still sustain significant permanent disabilities requiring lifelong care, treatment, and oversight.
Bruce and his team at Dugan Babij Tolley & Kohler will fight to achieve just compensation for your injured baby, allowing you to provide what is and may be needed to care for your baby, and giving you peace of mind, knowing that your child will be protected.
Representative Birth Injury Verdicts and Recoveries
When a baby suffers a birth-related injury, both the baby, individually, and/or you, the baby’s parent, may be eligible to claim various types of damages, including, for example, compensation for past and future medical expenses, for the loss of earnings and earning capacity, and for physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Bruce and his team at Dugan Babij Tolley & Kohler have the knowledge and experience to prosecute even the most complex birth injury cases, anywhere in the United States. We have helped families of diverse backgrounds and income levels, residing in geographic locations across the country, with one overarching goal: To fight to help their baby secure his or her legal rights now and into the future.
Representative birth injury verdicts and recoveries obtained by Dugan Babij Tolley & Kohler have included:
Over $16 million recovery for baby injured as a result of neonatal E-coli meningitis.
Over $44 million recovery for baby injured as a result of hemorrhagic placenta previa.
Over $30 million recovery for baby injured as a result of traumatic vacuum extraction delivery.
Over $25 million recovery for baby injured during labor as a result of uterine hyperstimulation with Cytotec/Misoprostol.
Over $24 million recovery for baby injured as a result of placental abruption.
Over $27 million recovery for baby injured as a result of neonatal Group B Streptococcal meningitis.
The Filing of a Timely Lawsuit
Although a baby’s birth injury may sometimes be noticeable immediately, the cause of the injury may be unclear and uncertain to the baby’s parents. In other cases, the consequences of birth-related injuries may not even be fully apparent until later in the child’s development. In either case, for parents who are learning to cope with the immediate implications of caring for a baby who has suffered an unexpected injury during birth, the thought of seeking legal guidance and assistance is often delayed. Because the various statutes of limitations (and/or repose) in each State establish firm deadlines for when and how legal proceedings may be filed and maintained, time is always of the essence. Concerned parents must make plans, as soon as possible, to obtain competent legal guidance to protect their and their baby’s legal rights before such rights are lost. What to do and when to do it can lead to a confusing and bewildering array of decisions. We can help you with the decisions of if, when and how to act to protect your child’s legal interests.
How soon do I have to file a suit?
The time limit for when a birth injury claim must be filed varies from state to state. For example, in many states a claim must be filed as early as one year from the date the baby’s cause of action arose, which may be as early as the date of birth. In other states, the statute of limitations for claims that must be brought by a parent on behalf of the injured baby is different than the statute of limitations for claims that can be brought by the baby, directly. The applicable deadlines for filing claims, as established by state statutes of limitations, often change, thus leading to further potential confusion and uncertainty. But once a statute of limitation has past, it may be impossible for a successful claim to then be maintained, regardless of its potential validity.
If you know, or even suspect, that your child may have been injured at birth, it is critical that you promptly obtain competent legal guidance and assistance to protect your and your child’s legal rights before they are forever lost. Contact us immediately to determine if you might have a valid claim.
Understanding the Types of Birth Injuries
The differences between congenital anomalies, birth defects, and birth injuries may be central to whether or not a valid legal claim exists. Birth defects are generally caused by a pre-existing genetic or metabolic disease, syndrome, or condition. Congenital anomalies may involve malformations of the brain or other major organs. But to the legal profession, birth injuries are those otherwise avoidable injuries and complications suffered by a baby and caused by negligent medical professionals. Birth injuries may be caused by or result from professional negligence occurring during a mother’s prenatal care, during her labor, during the baby’s delivery, or during the care provided to the baby immediately after birth.
In many instances, birth injuries can be avoided if the responsible members of the healthcare team reasonably anticipate, recognize, and intervene in response to maternal and fetal medical risk factors during the pregnancy, labor, and delivery, as well as those arising during immediate postnatal care. Reasonable monitoring of the mother’s and baby’s health and wellbeing during pregnancy and labor will typically include physical examinations, fetal heart monitoring, laboratory studies, and obstetrical ultrasonography.
A common cause of avoidable birth injury is fetal hypoxia, a lack of oxygen, or fetal ischemia, diminished blood flow, which occurs during labor and prior to delivery. Many times a baby at risk for suffering injury is delivered and is then negligently resuscitated after birth, leading to an otherwise avoidable hypoxic brain injury. These two events may be related, but either can result in complications sometimes referred to as “asphyxia”, “hypoxia,” or “oxygen deprivation.” Severe birth hypoxia or ischemia may result in a range of significant injuries and resulting disabilities, many of which are permanent, including cerebral palsy (explained in more detail below).
Birth Injury Medical Diagnoses
Perhaps one of the most frightening things for parents is being informed that your baby has had “an adverse outcome” upon delivery and is being rushed off to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or urgently transported to another hospital for intensive care services. The range of medical complications and associated diagnoses that your baby might be described as having is often confusing and complicated by the use of vague and unfamiliar medical terms. The following describes some of the most frequent types of birth injuries reported in the United States, along with their typical causes and treatments.
Caput succedaneum is a condition marked by scalp swelling, typically occurring during or shortly after a vaginal or instrument assisted birth. It is generally nothing to be alarmed about and usually recedes within days or weeks. If it doesn’t, then there may be a cause for concern. A long, difficult labor with prolonged pushing can cause this condition, as well as the use of a vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery. The presence of a caput succedaneum doesn’t necessarily indicate damage to the baby’s brain or to the bones of the cranium, but it can lead to other complications, such as jaundice, especially if it is associated with some degree of bleeding. Though it may be caused by similar factors, caput succedaneum should not be confused with a cephalohematoma, which typically refers to bleeding under the scalp.
Cephalohematoma is an accumulation of blood below the protective membrane that covers a baby’s skull. Cephalohematoma may present as an enlargement or even as “lumps” on a baby’s head or scalp, sometimes several hours after delivery. A cephalohematoma may feel soft and may grow larger during the baby’s first hours if underlying bleeding and swelling continues. In most cases the condition will not require special medical attention and will recede in a few weeks or months without complication. In some cases, however, if the cephalohematoma is associated with significant bleeding, potentially severe complications may develop which must be promptly diagnosed and treated.
Brachial Plexus Injury, or Erb’s Palsy, is a common complication associated with difficult vaginal and instrument assisted births, especially when the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck or impacted during delivery, a condition known as Shoulder Dystocia. When an attending obstetrician or midwife negligently pulls on or twists the baby’s head to dislodge the impacted shoulder, a brachial plexus injury may result. The brachial plexus is the network of nerves connecting the spinal cord to the baby’s arms and hands. When the nerves of the brachial plexus become stretched, partially torn, or even detached from the spinal cord (avulsion), the function of the baby’s arm and hand might be severely and permanently impaired. A common sign of a brachial plexus injury is when a baby can’t move normally, or can’t flex or rotate, the affected arm or hand. The severity of a brachial plexus injury will depend on what nerves were injured and the degree of nerve damage. If the brachial plexus nerves are torn or avulsed, that will often result in permanent nerve damage and the development of Erb’s Palsy and similar conditions. Serious cases of Erb’s Palsy normally require expensive and painful surgeries, treatments, and rehabilitation. Despite these interventions, the disabilities associated with brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s Palsy are often permanent.
Broken Bones and Skull Fractures can be caused by medical negligence. Such injuries can result from:
- The improper use of birth-assisting instruments and devices such as a vacuum extractor or forceps.
- The use of excessive force to rotate or extract a malpositioned baby while in the birth canal. This is usually related to an attempted vaginal birth where the baby does not have a normal presentation. For example when the baby is “sunny side up” or in a breech presentation.
The baby’s collar bone is particularly susceptible to fracture during breech deliveries and will prevent movement on the affected side. Fortunately, fractures of the collar bone and radius typically heal without complication. Skull fractures, on the other hand, may be associated with underlying brain injury and may be caused by the negligent use of forceps during delivery. In rare instances, a medical staff member may drop a newborn after delivery, causing traumatic injury.
Bruising on a baby’s face, head, and/or other body parts may be caused by the baby’s passage through the birth canal or from contact with bones and tissue in the mother’s pelvis. Extensive bruising and related injuries to the baby’s face and scalp may result from a difficult attempt at vaginal delivery, often with associated fetal malpresentation, or by the improper or overly forceful use of forceps during delivery. The forceps can leave marks on a baby’s head or face which, although not injurious, may reflect the misapplication of the forceps prior to delivery. In addition, vacuum extraction can cause lacerations, bruising on a baby’s scalp, or even more serious complications, including a life-threatening complication known as a subgaleal hemorrhage.
Hypoxia or oxygen deprivation before, during, or even after birth can result in neonatal encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, and/or other serious health problems for a newborn. The most common causes of hypoxia and oxygen deprivation to the baby include conditions and complications that impair normal maternal and fetal placental function, the normal flow of well oxygenated blood to and from the baby through the umbilical cord, or other events that cause direct injury or harm to the mother or baby prior to delivery. Fortunately, developing fetal hypoxia and oxygen deprivation can often be detected before the baby suffers any significant or permanent injury, thus allowing sufficient time for appropriate interventions to be implemented to protect the baby. However, in too many instances, hypoxia and oxygen deprivation prior to birth cause significant brain injury when healthcare providers fail to diligently monitor, assess, and treat developing fetal hypoxia in a timely manner.
Hypoxia and oxygen deprivation may quickly destroy brain cells resulting in seizures, coma, and permanent disabilities, including cerebral palsy, cortical vision impairment associated with partial or total blindness, and serious cognitive and learning disabilities. If a baby deprived of oxygen at birth is not rapidly and appropriately resuscitated, it can result in even further injury or may even cause death.
Cerebral palsy represents a group of neuromuscular disabilities that may affect a child’s ability to control movement, posture, reflexes, and muscle tone. A formal diagnosis of cerebral palsy is not typically made until the baby is a few years old. Cerebral palsy is a common complication associated with severe fetal hypoxia or ischemia, causing injury to those areas of baby’s brain responsible for movement and motor control.
Brain damage caused by decreased blood flow, known as ischemia; by abnormally low blood pressure, or hypotension; or, by hypoxia, low oxygen at or near the time of delivery, is considered by many to be the leading preventable birth injury.
The full extent of a baby’s brain damage may not be apparent at birth, or even during the immediate neonatal period. Three areas that all parents need to watch as the infant develops are as follows.
- Temperament and Behavior: Although parents expect that their infant will cry after birth, excessive crying and high-pitched wails combined with other abnormal behavior, such as refusing nourishment or extreme fussiness, may be signs of brain damage. Abnormal feeding and abnormal patterns of sleep may also be symptoms of underlying brain injury.
- Appearance: An infant with brain damage may look physically fine, but in many instances, an abnormal physical appearance is a sign of brain damage. For example, the infant may eventually develop an unusually small head circumference, a condition known as microcephaly, or may have difficulty focusing its eyes or develop other ophthalmologic complications. Early visits to the pediatrician are recommended for all babies, and the infant’s doctor should be able to confirm a diagnosis if the baby’s appearance, development, or behavior do not seem normal.
- Development: Often the full extent of a baby’s brain damage isn’t detected until there is confirmed developmental delay. While developmental milestones vary for each baby, if your infant does not roll over, crawl, hold objects, vocalize, smile, or respond to others appropriately for the developmental range for their age, such developmental delays might be red flags for an underlying brain injury.
Bruce Babij and his team at Dugan Babij Tolley & Kohler are here to help. Remember, each day you delay seeking competent legal guidance for you and your baby is another day your baby will not be receiving the legal services needed to protect his or her legal rights. We will work with you to insure that your baby receives the fair and just compensation they deserves for any birth injuries resulting medical negligence and malpractice. We offer compassionate assistance and aggressive legal counsel in all cases of suspected birth trauma and birth injury. Please call our free Birth Injury & Trauma Help Line to speak to an attorney at (800) 408-2080.