If your child has suffered a needless birth injury because of the carelessness or negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider, you want an experienced personal injury attorney to help you get the compensation you need. In addition to paying for medical expenses, you may need to radically change your living environment to meet the needs of your child.
At McEldrew Purtell, our Philadelphia birth injury lawyers work closely with parents of children who have been hurt during pregnancy or the birth process, helping you get full and fair compensation for the negligent or careless acts of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries may occur when a physician fails to properly evaluate and respond to conditions during labor, or at the time of birth. Injuries can also occur from the use of pharmaceutical drugs. At McEldrew Purtell, we handle claims involving:
- Broken Bones/Infant Trauma
- Delivery room errors
- Erb’s palsy, brachial plexus, or cerebral palsy
- Failure to diagnose or treat high-risk pregnancy issues
- Forceps injuries, such as bruises or lacerations
- Inclined Infant Sleeper and Other Product-Related Injuries
- Lack of oxygen to mother or child and the consequent injuries, such as a hypoxic brain injury and brain damage, or Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
- Medication errors
- Delayed C-Sections
- Metabolic Disorders in Newborns
- Neonatal Injury
- Shoulder Dystocia
- Spinal Cord Damage
- Wrongful Death
Most Common Type Of Birth Injury
Head injuries are the most common type of birth injury in hospitals today. Of course, head injuries can range from mild scratches and bruising, to serious injuries like bleeding on the brain. Some of the common head injuries seen in infants are:
- Swelling, bruising or scratching of the scalp
- Bleeding outside of the skull bones
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- Fracture of the skull bones
What Causes Birth Injuries?
Any birth can result in an injury to the infant. But birth injuries most commonly occur because of a baby’s position during labor, or the size of the baby. The longer and more difficult labor is for the mother, the more likely a birth injury is to occur. Some common conditions which may lead to birth injuries include:
- Large babies: Babies born over 8 pounds, 13 ounces are more prone to cause long and difficult labor, leading to a higher rate of birth injuries.
- Premature infants: Babies born before 37 weeks are more fragile, and thus more prone to injury during labor.
- Cephalopelvic disproportion: If the size of the mothers pelvis is not adequate for the baby to be born vaginally, this can lead to prolonged labor.
- Maternal obesity: This can lead to a greater risk for preeclampsia and fetal distress during labor.
- Abnormal birthing presentation: Breech babies, or other abnormal birth presentations, such as sunny side up, can lead to prolonged labor.
- Shoulder dystocia: When the shoulder becomes stuck during labor, this can lead to fetal distress and birth injuries.
The Risk of a Birth Injury as a Result of Shoulder Dystocia
Certain medical conditions during pregnancy expose the fetus to the risk of shoulder dystocia, a somewhat common problem that occurs when an infant’s shoulder becomes stuck against the mother’s pubic bone or pelvis during delivery. By itself, shoulder dystocia usually will not result in any serious or permanent injury to the fetus or the mother. However, shoulder dystocia does significantly heighten the risk of a range of other birth injuries.
Shoulder dystocia can cause injuries to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord into the arm, and can result in permanent damage to the newborn’s shoulder, arm, and hand. Shoulder dystocia can also lead to excessive or badly judged traction by the obstetrician or midwife on the newborn’s head, neck, or shoulder. This excess force exerted while maneuvering the fetus around the mother’s pelvic bone structure is what can lead to permanent nerve damage.
What Should Doctors Do To Minimize the Risk of Shoulder Dystocia?
The most important steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of negative outcomes related to shoulder dystocia are often those that can be identified during pregnancy. Doctors should:
- Have a thorough understanding of the mother’s medical history, including episodes of shoulder dystocia in prior deliveries
- Properly manage gestational diabetes, hypertension, excessive maternal weight gain or other health risk factors during pregnancy
- Plan for a cesarean delivery in cases of large fetus and small mother
If your doctor failed to take steps to minimize the risks associated with shoulder dystocia, you may have standing to file a claim of negligence against them.
Cerebral Palsy Caused By Birth Injury
Cerebral palsy is a common and permanent type of birth injury that affects the baby’s brain. It can result in a range of disabilities, the severity of which depends on the nature of the brain damage.
Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder, and negatively affects a person’s reflexes, muscle tone, speech, posture, and overall mobility. If the injury to the brain is mild, then usually symptoms of cerebral palsy will also be mild. If the injury is severe, symptoms will typically reflect that severity.
In severe cases, cerebral palsy can cause:
- Cognitive impairment
- Difficulty swallowing
- Impaired eye function
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
Regardless of the severity of your child’s cerebral palsy, if their condition is a direct result of medical malpractice, we encourage you to speak with a birth injury lawyer.
Common Examples of Medical Malpractice Resulting in Cerebral Palsy
Around 10,000 infants every year are born with cerebral palsy in the United States. Though not all are caused by medical malpractice during the birthing process, many instances of cerebral palsy are avoidable if not for the negligence of physicians and other healthcare providers.
Medical malpractice can lead to cerebral palsy in a variety of ways, including:
- Failure to recognize that the baby is in the breech position prior to delivery.
- Failure to diagnose a substantial differentiation between the size of the baby’s head and the mother’s pelvis.
- Failure to diagnose and treat jaundice after birth.
- Failure to properly monitor the health and condition of the baby and mother during childbirth.
- Failure to properly use a vacuum extractor or forceps.
- Delaying the delivery of a baby who is distressed due to oxygen deprivation
Neonatal Birth Injury
A neonatal birth injury is any type of impairment that affects a newborn’s body function that can be attributed to an adverse event during, or following, labor and delivery. Birth injuries of this kind can range from mild, which heal quickly on their own, to more serious injuries that cause severe and permanent damage to the newborn. Specific neonatal birth injuries include:
- Cardiac Arrest
- Infection and Meningitis
- Mispositioned Central Catheter
- Neonatal Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
- Stroke During/Near the Time of Delivery
- Kernicterus and Severe Hyperbilirubinemia
- Placental Abruption
How Do I Prove Negligence Was Responsible For My Child’s Birth Injury?
Of course, not every birth injury occurs due to negligence. Giving birth can be wildly unpredictable, and not every birth injury is preventable, even with all the medical knowledge we have today. But when negligence does occur, it can often lead to serious birth injuries, ones that may cause months or years of hardships for you and your family.
When this happens, you need someone on your side to help you navigate the complicated legality of filing a medical negligence claim, to help compensate you for your losses, and to help prevent this type of error from happening to someone else.
Experienced birth injury lawyers
At McEldrew Purtell, we work closely with medical experts, and can help you to identify and prove negligence by any type of treating physician, including pediatric neurologists, obstetricians, and neonatologists. We also will help you seek compensation for all of your expenses, from the costs of medical care for your child to the expense of retrofitting your home or vehicle to meet your child’s needs. Our attorneys have experience working birth injury cases in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Attorney Jim McEldrew has compassionately helped clients in matters related to birth trauma for more than 30 years. He has been a member of the Birth Trauma Group of the American Association for Justice. All birth injury claims are handled on a contingency basis. We will only bill you legal fees if we are able to recover compensation for your losses. To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at 1-866-357-8614.