What is a birth injury?

A birth injury is harm suffered by the baby during the birthing process, usually occurring during travel through the birth canal.  Injuries to an infant that result from mechanical forces, such as compression or traction, during the birth process are categorized as birth trauma or birth injury. These are not birth defects, birth trauma occurs during the birthing process, while birth defects are structural changes in the body that occur during growth in the uterus.

Significant birth injuries are not common, but an average of 6-8 injuries occurs for every 1000 live births in the U.S. In general, larger infants are more likely to suffer a birth injury. A difficult delivery, with the risk of injury to the baby, may occur if the birth canal is too small or the baby is too large (as sometimes occurs when the mother has diabetes). Injury is also more likely if the baby is lying in an abnormal position before birth. When these conditions are present, medical care providers should take appropriate steps to minimize the danger to the baby and mother.

The most common birth injuries result from two very different conditions known as cerebral palsy and Erbs (or brachial) palsy. Cerebral palsy is the generic term for a number of disorders affecting a baby's brain function and body movement. Cerebral palsy results from an injury to a baby's brain in the womb, during delivery, or shortly after birth. It can also be caused by a lack of oxygen flow to a baby's brain during delivery.  A treating physician/obstetrician's failure to recognize the need to provide adequate oxygen to the baby or unreasonable delay in performing the procedure may result in cerebral palsy.

Erbs (or brachial) palsy occurs most often during delivery when excessive pressure is put on the baby's head, neck, or shoulder because of difficulty delivering the shoulder area (known as "shoulder dystocia"). The condition occurs most frequently in babies of higher-than-average birth weight, and can happen when forceps or vacuum devices are used with too much pressure during delivery.  In about two out of every 1,000 child deliveries, a baby suffers injury to the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that travel from the spinal cord up the arm, supplying the arms and hands. Other nerves may be damaged during delivery. National studies indicate that residual long-term deficits may include progressive bony deformities, muscle atrophy, joint contractures and possible impaired growth of the limb.

What makes the birth injury case unique?

The vulnerability of your baby and the inability of any effective communication with the infant following the injury make birth injuries particularly challenging for families.  Some birth complications cannot be avoided, but many can be, or at least the consequences minimized. A review of procedures undertaken may reveal the use of potentially injurious instrumentation, such as midforceps rotation and vacuum delivery.  Failure to perform a Caesarean procedure in a timely fashion contributes to many birth injuries.

A birth injury claim, or medical malpractice claim, is not limited to the conduct of medical doctors, but applies also to nurses, anesthesiologists, health care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals. With most births taking place in a hospital, often a hospital’s employee is responsible for the negligent care. Hospitals are corporations that are either public or private entities. In the context of medical malpractice actions, hospitals can be held directly liable for their own negligence, and can also be held "vicariously" liable for the negligence of their employees.

What to expect from a birth injury lawsuit

Most children diagnosed with significant birth injuries require a lifetime of support.  Muscle weakness, muscle spasticity and coordination problems are common and can contribute to a number of complications either during childhood or later during adulthood.  Accommodations are required for all aspects of daily life, including hygiene, mobility, education and recreation.  Extensive resources are needed to adequately provide for the birth injured child.  If your child was injured due to the negligence of a care provider during birth, then give consideration to pursuing a medical malpractice claim.  This may be the only option for insuring the needed resources for your child are available.

You may rightfully seek compensation for the medical expenses you have paid, those that you may incur on behalf of your child in the future and for your loss of wages or income.  But most importantly, you can dramatically impact the quality of your child’s life by securing future support.  Read more about Damages.

For answers about your birth injury claim, call for a free consultation:

If your baby has suffered a birth injury because of the negligence of another, then you should seek an experienced lawyer familiar with the needs of the birth injury victim.  We understand that each birth injury is as unique as each client. We approach each birth injury case from a fresh perspective and learn the detailed facts. Our ability to give the highest level of personal attention to each client is essential to our success. We make it a point to answer all the questions of our clients, and we address each concern in a professional and compassionate manner. Contact a lawyer at our office today and schedule a consultation to discuss your options.

How We Helped a Family Win a Birth Injury Case

Failure to Monitor Results in Severe Oxygen Deprivation

Client was under the care of her OB/GYN, for client’s pregnancy and delivery of Baby A. At birth, Baby A had a slow heartbeat, was cyanotic and flaccid. OB/GYN failed to recognize the signs and symptoms of Baby A’s fetal distress during Client’s labor...

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