Protecting Our Children: Birth Injury Claims

Lever & Ecker, PLLC December 11, 2015 General


When heading into the delivery room, most parents are both nervous and excited, anxious to meet their new child for the first time. The last thought on their mind is that their doctor might make a mistake that could seriously harm their baby.

Unfortunately, these medical malpractice mistakes more happen than doctors like to admit. Nearly 28,000 children are born each year with a birth injury, which can turn a joyous occasion into a time of stress and worry.

Who Is Responsible In Medical Malpractice Cases?

Many believe that only doctors can be named as the defendant in medical malpractice cases. However, there are many medical professionals who should also be held to the standards that their training and licensing indicate they are capable of maintaining. These medical professionals may include nurses, midwives, and paramedics. The hospital may also be held liable in medical malpractice cases.

What Does The Plaintiff Have To Show?

In order to prove they have a medical malpractice case, plaintiffs must show that there was:

1. A Doctor-Patient Relationship

There must be proof that the medical professional named as the defendant did, in fact, treat the mother and child. Medical records, prescriptions, and witnesses may all attest to this fact.

2. The Physician Was Negligent

It must be shown that the physician acted negligently. In the field of medicine, there are numerous examples of negligence, but each one breaches a “standard of care.” This standard of care is the generally accepted standard of treatment based on the patient’s condition and age.

3. The Physician’s Negligence Caused The Injury

The negligent act had to have resulted in an injury in order for the plaintiff to have a valid claim.

4. The Injury Resulted In A Loss

The injury sustained must have resulted in a loss. This may include money spent on medical expenses, pain and suffering, or even emotional trauma.

Common Causes Of Medical Malpractice

Failure To Diagnose

When a doctor fails to properly diagnose a patient the consequences can be disastrous. Left untreated, a disease or injury might progress from something that would have been relatively easy to treat, to a condition that can be life altering, or in the worst cases, life ending.

Anesthesia Errors

When people think of anesthesia, they think of being put completely under. Anesthesiologists, however, are also responsible for giving expectant mothers their epidurals. If the anesthesiologist makes a mistake, both the mother and child may be harmed.

Medication Errors

With so many drugs on the market, doctors have endless options. The wrong medication can easily damage a major organ or cause the patient to suffer due to side effects.

Birth Injuries That Commonly Occur

Fractured Bones

The bones of a newborn are extremely fragile. During the delivery process, if the physician pulls too hard, or if a birth assisting tool is used with too much force, the bones of the baby may be easily broken. The collarbone is the most frequently fractured bone during delivery.  

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy typically occurs when an infant’s head and neck are stretched during the delivery process. This results in an injury to the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves that provide feeling and movement to the shoulder and arm. Injury to these nerves can result in numbness, weakness, and a loss of motion.

Klumpke’s Palsy

This type of injury also involves the brachial plexus, but specifically results in paralysis in the forearm, wrist, and/or hand.

Epidural Birth Injuries

Many women decide to have an epidural due to the pain relief that it offers them during labor. But as with any procedure, there is some degree of risk involved. If the administering physician makes a mistake, the mother could suffer from seizures, nerve damage, back pain, low blood pressure, and breathing issues. This could lead to the unborn child suffering from stroke, brain injuries due to lack of oxygen, coma, and muscle disorders.

Forceps Delivery Injury

Forceps are a type of birth-assisting tool that are placed around the baby’s head. The idea is that the forceps will guide the child out of the birth canal. If this tool is improperly applied, however, the infant may end up with facial paralysis, skull fractures, bruising, swelling, seizures, and brain damage.

How Long Do Parents Have To File A Claim?

In New York, parents must file a claim within the statute of limitations. This statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury or from the end of a treatment that resulted in an injury.