Connecticut Birth Injury Attorneys
The birth of a new child can be exciting, but you may need a Hartford County birth injury lawyer if there are complications.
Often, medical issues during childbirth are unavoidable. Complications can arise, and some may require emergency care and lead to lifelong health challenges for the mother or baby.
By law, healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, and midwives, must provide reasonable care during birth. In other words, their actions during a routine birth or one with complications in Hartford, Glastonbury, or Simsbury, CT, must meet acceptable medical standards.
Some problems, such as brain injuries and neurological conditions like cerebral palsy or shoulder (brachial plexus) nerve damage, can result in lifelong health issues. If these problems arise due to mistakes by a health professional, you might have a legitimate medical malpractice case. A birth injury attorney who understands Connecticut’s medical malpractice laws can help you build a case or negotiate a settlement.
What Is a Birth Injury?
Minor birth injuries are common. The baby may have minor bruising or trauma that heals on its own in the days following the birth. Some problems may require routine treatment, while others could cause a severe mental or physical disability requiring lifelong medical care.
These injuries can occur during the birthing process, but they can also happen before or after. For example, the umbilical cord could become wrapped around the baby’s neck or other extremities while still in the womb. Other issues, such as infections or illnesses, could occur directly after birth.
Birth injuries in Hartford, Glastonbury, or Simsbury, that occur because the medical care staff did not provide a reasonable standard of care could be grounds for a medical malpractice suit.
How Common Are Birth Injuries?
Birth injuries occur in 2% of normal births and 1% of surgical births (such as cesarean sections). Head injuries are the most common because the head is the first body part that doctors can use to position the baby. Shoulder injuries are also common as this is the widest part of the body that has to pass through the vaginal canal.
Though birth injuries can occur due to normal pressure or positioning during the birth, they could also be caused by undue pressure or the improper use of forceps, suction devices, or vacuum extractor tools.
Birth Defect vs Birth Injury
Not all conditions discovered during or after birth are caused by medical mistakes. For example, birth defects are unavoidable conditions caused by genetic conditions or problems that occur while the baby is still in the womb. Parents need to understand the difference between birth defects and injuries when deciding if there are grounds for a medical malpractice suit.
According to the CDC, one of every 33 babies has a birth defect. While not all of these are preventable, parents can reduce the risk of issues by adopting healthy behaviors and following their physician’s advice during the pregnancy. For example, drug or alcohol use and other lifestyle choices during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects. Health problems, such as untreated infections or viruses or the use of specific medicines, may also contribute to birth defects.
Most birth defects occur because of multiple factors. These can include the age of the mother and genetics. These factors are beyond anyone’s control. Therefore, birth defects are usually not grounds for a medical malpractice suit. Some exceptions could include failure to treat a diagnosed condition that leads to birth defects or prescribing medication not recommended during pregnancy.
A medical malpractice lawyer typically deals with birth injuries, which are different from birth defects. Birth injuries are traumas that happen right before, during, or after the birthing process. They are acute, meaning they occur at birth and aren’t related to the baby’s development or genetics.
Birth injuries may or may not be linked to medical mistakes. You typically need to consult a birth injury attorney to decide if the trauma was caused by medical malpractice or was unavoidable given other circumstances
Types of Birth Injuries Caused By Medical Negligence
There are various types of birth injuries. According to Stanford Medicine, some of these are common and will heal with standard care in the days and weeks after birth. Examples include bruising, small cuts from the use of forceps, a vacuum device, or other medical tools necessary to assist in the birth.
Other injuries could be caused by negligence or malpractice. A birth injury lawyer will assess the case and decide if you can prove the delivery staff was to blame for the injury.
- Brachial palsy is a common injury that occurs when the baby is stuck around the shoulders during birth. If the delivery doctor does not follow the correct procedures for dealing with this type of problem, it could result in nerve damage that limits the baby’s shoulder movement. With therapy, the range of motion could return. However, the damage could also be permanent.
- Facial paralysis could occur if forceps are used during the birth and put pressure on the baby’s face or head. In severe cases, the paralysis could require surgical correction.
- Fractures to the clavicle or collarbone can occur if the delivery staff is too forceful when pulling the baby with forceps or vacuum devices.
- Brain injuries can occur due to oxygen deprivation, such as when the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the baby’s neck. Medical malpractice could cause brain damage if the doctor or midwife causes unnecessary trauma by forcefully using forceps or vacuum extractor tools.
- Cerebral palsy occurs when a developing brain experiences trauma. Babies with brain trauma from birth can develop this condition, which hampers the development of motor skills that will last for a lifetime.
Some conditions could heal or lead to lifelong complications. An example is newborn cephalohematoma, which is blood buildup under the skull after a difficult birth. The condition could heal on its own. However, without monitoring and treatment, it could exert pressure on the brain, causing lasting damage.
What Are Some Symptoms of Birth Injuries?
Symptoms of birth injuries are almost always visible. They could include the following
- Bumps or swollen areas on the baby’s head;
- Indentations in the skull not attributed to normal bone development;
- An inability to move arms due to nerve damage or broken collarbone;
- Difficulty breathing;
- Inability to move facial muscles;
- Paralysis in one or more limbs;
- Chronic crying combined with specific movements, such as arching the back;
- Difficulties swallowing or other abnormal actions while eating.
Some other symptoms, such as excessive vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation could be signs of birth injuries, but they could also signal other types of illnesses or digestive problems.
How Do These Types of Injuries Occur?
Birth injuries can occur because of the direct or indirect actions of the medical staff or because they neglect to take medically necessary and prudent steps.
Here are some examples of common causes of traumatic birth injuries.
- Improper monitoring: Common problems like birth asphyxia is a lack of oxygen and a common cause of brain damage in newborns. It may be hard to detect, but delivery staff should monitor respiration, heart rate, and other vitals to detect problems when they arise.
- Forceful extraction: Delivery specialists take specific steps to position the baby for a safe birth. The use of tools like forceps is necessary for some instances, but using excessive force that causes lasting injuries could constitute medical malpractice.
- Failure to recognize high-risk pregnancies: Doctors are responsible for taking medically prudent steps to avoid complications. In some cases, they can avoid problems by ordering a c-section (surgically-assisted) birth. This step is common in mothers with previous difficult births, prior c-sections, or other risk factors. These choices can expose the baby to a high injury risk.
- Failure to respond to distress: In many cases, a baby may present distress signals or complications may become evident during the birth. While these complications may be beyond the delivery staff’s control, they are obligated to respond to the in a medically prudent way. Steps could include transferring the mother for surgery, calling a physician or specialist, or employing specific equipment or procedures to respond to the complication. Failure to do this could be considered negligence.
- Failure to provide proper care after birth: Some injuries, such as small lacerations on the baby’s head or bruising, are extremely common, as are infections, jaundice, and other conditions. These problems will get better with proper care. However, failure to make reasonable efforts to detect and treat health problems could constitute malpractice.
While these mistakes could cause birth injuries, you need a birth injury lawyer to build a case that proves negligence caused the injuries.
The Potential Long-Term Impact Following a Birth Injury
Why should you pursue compensation for birth injuries caused by medical malpractice? Though these serious injuries are relatively rare, occurring in 0.6% of births, they will impact the rest of the baby’s life. They may require expensive medical treatments, physical therapy, and equipment. A birth injury attorney can help you pursue compensation that will cover the costs.
Here are some of the long-term issues you may encounter after a serious birth injury.
- Cerebral palsy, a common result of traumatic brain injuries at birth, can affect muscle development, balance, posture, and mobility. It can lead to chronic seizures, sight, and hearing issues, and difficulties eating. Though some people can learn to function normally, others need constant medical care and assistance with mobility.
- Brain damage can also cause developmental problems. Children may need ongoing medical support for physical problems related to brain damage. They could also need special education classes and specialized care in their adult life.
- Brachial plexus injuries can affect movement and cause nerve pain. Though this condition is treatable in mild cases, it can lead to lifelong issues with a loss of motion and feeling in the shoulder, arm, or hand. The condition can limit movement, and employment opportunities, and affect some daily activities.
- Brain injury or oxygen deprivation during birth can cause epilepsy in some babies. Epilepsy involves uncontrollable seizures. Though epilepsy may not last a lifetime, many patients need ongoing medication and care to manage their condition. Severe epilepsy can limit education and job opportunities and disqualify patients from regular activities, such as driving.
A medical malpractice lawyer can help you define the potential long-term costs associated with a birth injury caused by negligence. You can then seek a settlement or proceed to court to get compensation to cover the lifetime costs.
Time Limit to File Your Case
While you do not need to file a medical malpractice claim immediately, you cannot wait too long to begin the process. Connecticut has a statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases and all other forms of personal injury.
A statute of limitations is a time limit to file a lawsuit. The clock starts when the incident occurs and lasts until the limit gets reached.
How long do you have to file a birth injury case in Connecticut? The Connecticut state legal code puts a two-year limit on medical malpractice lawsuits. However, the start of the period may be when you discover the injury caused by malpractice. However, there is still a three-year limit that starts on the date of the negligence in most cases.
There is no limit on the amount you can seek. However, non-economic damages, such as for pain suffering, cannot exceed $1 million unless a judge approves the amount.
Because of these limits, it is vital to contact a birth injury lawyer as soon as possible after you become aware of your baby’s condition.
Connecticut Accident Attorneys
At Hassett & George Law Firm, we provide legal advice and representation for clients throughout Connecticut. Our expertise includes auto accidents, personal injury cases, and medical malpractice.
Our team of lawyers boasts a combined 350 years of experience. We are fully committed to each client. Even though our work has earned us a national reputation, we still strive to bring the attention and integrity of a dedicated local law firm to each of our clients.