When it’s time for the birth of your baby, you are excited to welcome them into the world. You hope your baby is healthy, but the doctor tells you that your baby has an injury. However you may be feeling, know that you are not alone.
Every year, thousands of babies are born with injuries. While some are from genetic defects that are not anyone’s fault, other injuries may result from negligence from the doctor or other health care provider during the pregnancy, labor and birthing, or just after birth.
If your baby was born with injuries and you need help moving forward, turn to the birth injury attorneys at Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys. We can help you prove the doctor’s negligence caused the birth injury and recover compensation for medical bills, emotional suffering, and more.
What Is a Birth Trauma?
Birth trauma is an action resulting in the death or injury to a fetus or newborn. It can be a life-altering event in the life of a family expecting to celebrate the joys of parenthood.
Common Types of Birth Injuries & Trauma
Some common types of birth injuries and trauma include:
- Brachial plexus: The cluster of nerves in the neck, chest, and armpit area is called the brachial plexus. This cluster controls the arms and hands. Difficult deliveries could tear, stretch, or compress this nerve bundle, causing loss of muscle function, feeling, and paralysis.
- Erb’s palsy: This brachial plexus injury causes full or partial paralysis of the baby’s arm, which causes muscle atrophy. Erb’s palsy happens when the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis, usually when the baby is too big for the birth canal. The condition results from shoulder dystocia, which doctors can anticipate and avoid by performing an emergency C-section.
- Klumpke’s palsy: Klumpke’s palsy occurs when the lower nerves in the brachial plexus become compressed, stretched, or torn. It affects the hand, fingers, and forearm.
- Caput succedaneum: When a baby doesn’t turn, or a doctor doesn’t turn the baby, the pressure from the vaginal wall or uterus causes bruising and swelling of the baby’s head.
- Cephalohematoma: Cephalohematoma refers to blood that accumulates under the scalp. It’s caused by shearing forces on the skull, usually when the baby is delivered head first. When blood accumulates under the scalp, it separates the periosteum from the calvarium, which causes ruptured blood vessels.
- Facial paralysis: When the seventh cranial nerve sustains damage before or during delivery, the baby won’t have control of muscle movement in the face. Use of forceps, epidurals, and other medications can cause this condition.
- Fractures: Collarbone fractures are common during delivery when the baby is breech or if a shoulder gets stuck. The fracture heals quickly, though a lump may form on the clavicle.
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage: When a blood vessel breaks in the eye, it causes a bright red spot in the white of the eye. Doctors believe pressure changes cause it during the birthing process.
Common Causes of Birth Injuries
The vast majority of birth injuries, no matter how severe, are preventable. There is no single overlying cause of birth injuries in the United States. However, some of the common causes include:
- Exposing the mother to certain drugs before and during pregnancy
- Improper use of forceps and other assistive devices during childbirth
- Improper positioning of the fetus prior to birth
- Failing to adequately monitor the vital signs or condition of a mother and child
- Failing to perform a necessary medical procedure in a timely manner
Often, the causes listed above stem from medical negligence and a lack of oversight. Some medical facilities also create environments in which such negligence is likely to occur.
The risk factors that contribute to congenital disabilities and injuries include:
- Premature birth: Babies born before the 37th week do not have fully developed muscles and nerves, making them more likely to sustain birth injuries.
- Birth weight: If a baby is too large for the birth canal, doctors may need to use surgical instruments during the birthing process, which increases the risk of injury.
- Dystocia (Difficult birth): Large babies, women with small pelvises, or babies born in the wrong position are more likely to suffer from dystocia and potential birth injuries.
- Presentation: Babies born in the wrong position, such as breech babies, are more likely to sustain birth injuries.
- Placental issues: When the placenta becomes damaged, such as in a fall, car accident, or through high blood pressure, and the doctor doesn’t catch it, the baby could suffer brain damage and other injuries due to a lack of nutrients. The mother could also sustain injuries.
Birth Injuries Versus Birth Defects
It’s important to note that birth injuries and defects are not the same. A birth defect occurs when the fetus is still forming in the womb, while birth injuries occur while the baby is being born. In Michigan, you can file a lawsuit against a hospital, doctor, or health care provider if either the birth injury or birth defect was caused by medical negligence.
Why Work With a Birth Injury Attorney?
Proving a medical professional or facility is guilty of malpracticecan be immensely difficult without the help of a seasoned birth injury attorney.
To successfully file suit, a claimant must prove the physician failed to provide an acceptable standard of care. In other words, they must prove the physician or medical professional consciously made a decision that was not in the best interest of the patient. To hold a medical facility liable, the claimant must establish the facility created an environment conducive to malpractice. Other parties, such as nurses, pharmacists, and physician assistants can also be held liable.
Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys provides aggressive representation for all types of birth injury cases in Michigan; our birth injury attorneys will help you understand current legislation surrounding medical malpractice in Michigan, prove negligence, and determine potential damages you could recover.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Laws surrounding birth injuries can be complicated. In our FAQ below, we’ve covered some of the most common questions we’ve received regarding birth injury cases in Michigan.
Are There Any Limitations on Damages?
Yes and no. Birth injury cases are typically a subset of medical malpractice. In medical malpractice cases, an individual can recover two primary types of damages: economic (monetary) and non-economic (pain and suffering).
There are no existing caps for economic damages, but there are current caps for non-economic losses in medical malpractice litigation. According to MCL 600.1483, if the plaintiff can prove that one or more defendants involved in the case were medically negligent, there can be a non-economic damage award of up to $280,000. If the negligence of one or more defendants involved resulted in a death or permanent loss or damage of a vital organ or bodily function, the non-economic damage cap is increased to $500,000.
What Could I Recover?
In a birth injury case, you can likewise recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to any losses that have a monetary value, including medical expenses and physical rehabilitation. Non-economic damages refer to losses that don’t have a set monetary value and are associated with pain and suffering, emotional distress, and a decline in quality of life.
Calculating economic and non-economic losses can be challenging, as many factors will impact what you could recover. You will need to seek a complete case evaluation from an experienced birth injury attorney to determine whether and what you may possibly recover in your specific case.
How Do I Prove Medical Negligence?
To prove medical negligence, you must first establish the relevant standard of care and establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the health care provider or facility failed to meet that standard of care. Then, you must prove that your child’s injury or defect directly resulted from that breach of that standard of care.
Proving negligence in any medical malpractice case is complex and requires the assistance of one or more expert witnesses. When you work with a birth injury attorney, they can help you find evidence to establish negligence and find and retain the expert witnesses needed for your case to move forward to trial.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Claims?
In Michigan, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years after the date of the incident. However, if a child has not reached their eighth birthday as of the date of the malpractice, then any medical malpractice claim must be commenced within two years after the date of the incident OR before or on the child’s tenth birthday.
Generally, it’s best to file a claim as soon after the incident as possible. If you think your child’s injury was a direct result of medical negligence—contact our law firm today for a free case evaluation.
Is It Expensive to Hire a Birth Injury Lawyer?
Some personal injury law firms, including Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys, work on contingency fee basis. In such an arrangement, the law firm takes no fee unless and until you obtain a financial recovery, whereupon the firm takes a percentage of the recovery (typically one-third) net of costs.
Do I Have a Case?
If you believe your child’s injuries were the direct result of medical negligence, it’s always advisable to consult with a birth injury attorney. Determining whether or not you have a viable case will depend on a variety of factors. All case evaluations at Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys are free. Fill out our online form today to get started.
Request a Free Case Evaluation Today
As a parent, we know your child’s well-being is your top priority. If a negligent health care provider has caused your child to suffer, turn to Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys. We’ve been helping clients in Michigan settle birth injury claims for nearly four decades.