Birth injuries are tragic, regardless of the cause. However, when they’re caused by medical negligence, it’s almost unfathomable. A medical error can have a lifelong impact on a child, robbing them of their quality of life and can result in costly medical expenses.
If you believe your child has suffered a birth injury due to medical malpractice, contact the Chicago personal injury lawyers with Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates. We have extensive experience in these cases and will help you get to the bottom of why the injury occurred and will help you obtain maximum compensation for your suffering.
What you should do if you or your baby was injured
The first thing you should do if your baby was injured during birth is to make sure that your baby receives any and all necessary medical treatment. In Chicago, you may consider visiting the UI Child & Youth Center or Children’s Healthcare Associates with additional offices in Northbrook.
After your child is stable, call a Chicago personal injury lawyer as soon as you can, even if you are unsure if you need legal help–during your consultation we’ll help you determine if you have a viable malpractice action.
It’s also important to keep all documentation related to your child’s birth, including their injuries and the costs associated with the birth injury such as bills, receipts, and prescriptions.
Write down everything you can remember, including any conversations you had with medical personnel. If someone was in the delivery room taking photos or videos, make sure you have a copy of them and that no one deletes them.
Common causes of birth injuries
There are many cases where a birth injury occurs due to a mistake made by a doctor, nurse, or another medical professional. These mistakes can happen before birth, during delivery, or after the child is born. Here are a few common examples of those mistakes.
Failure to diagnose maternal or fetal condition
If a doctor fails to see a problem with the mother or the fetus, it could lead to serious harm for both of them–the mother could suffer a seizure or severe heart or liver damage. The baby could suffer permanent brain damage or some other problem that will lead to a lifetime of debilitation.
A Cesarean section is a surgical procedure where the baby is delivered through an incision made in the mother’s the abdomen and uterus as an alternative to vaginal delivery either by choice or medical necessity such as if a vaginal delivery could pose a risk to the child and/or mother, or if either of them is in medical distress and the baby needs to be delivered immediately.
If either the child or mother are harmed because the doctor fails to order a C-section for any reason, including because the hospital refuses the procedure due to insurance concerns or because the doctor missed signs of complications due to a lack of proper prenatal monitoring, the doctor could be held liable for medical negligence.
Improper use of vacuum or forceps
Doctors sometimes use a vacuum extractor or forceps during a difficult vaginal delivery such as when the mother has a physical condition that makes it too exhausting for her to push, if the baby is stuck in the vaginal canal, or if the baby is in some type of distress.
It takes a great deal of skill in order to safely use either one of these devices. Any mistake could lead to the child suffering a permanent injury.
Inadequate fetal heart rate monitoring
Proper heart rate monitoring is critical, both before and after delivery because that’s typically the first sign that the baby is in distress or of a serious issue. Failure to properly monitor the heart rate can lead to serious complications, and could be considered medical negligence.
Oxygen deprivation (asphyxia)
When a child’s flow of oxygen is interrupted, it can result in permanent brain damage, and possibly organ damage such as to the lungs and kidneys. Failure to timely identify an infection or a problem with the umbilical cord can contribute to asphyxia.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
There are many reasons a baby can suffer from brain damage during birth, including asphyxia or physical trauma due to the improper use of medical devices or delayed medical care and attention.
Cerebral palsy is one of the most common birth injuries often caused by medical negligence. This disorder makes it very difficult to control muscle movement and can cause problems with speech, heating, vision, and cognition. Cerebral palsy may require lifetime medical treatment and physical therapy.
Brachial plexus injuries
The use of forceps is closely associated with injuries to the brachial plexus, a group of nerves near the bottom of the neck that play a critical role in helping the arms, hands, and shoulders work properly. If they’re damaged, the affected child may have problems using those limbs for their entire life.
Umbilical cord compression
The umbilical cord serves as a child’s lifeline while the fetus is in the womb, providing blood, oxygen, and nutrients. If the cord becomes compressed during pregnancy or delivery, that supply is cut off, putting the baby at risk for severe brain damage or even death.
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
HIE is a disorder caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain which can occur during pregnancy, during labor and delivery, or after birth. Medical negligence can play a role in the development of HIE. For example, when a doctor fails to notice that the mother’s blood pressure is too low or doesn’t see that there’s some sort of issue with the umbilical cord.
A baby’s shoulder can sometimes become lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone. This is known as shoulder dystocia, and if a medical professional fails to react appropriately to this emergency, the child’s clavicle or collarbone could be broken. Applying too much force to the baby’s shoulder could lead to serious damage.
There are other types of fractures that can occur in a newborn as well. The humerus, the long bone located in the upper portion of the arm, can be broken when doctors try to rush a delivery. A broken thigh bone, or femur, can occur in a difficult delivery. Broken bones can often be avoided by ordering a C-section in a timely manner. The improper use of forceps and vacuum extractors can also lead to skull fractures.
Make sure you file a claim in time
In Illinois, the statute of limitations, or deadline to file a claim, is typically eight years from the date the birth injury took place. However, there are sometimes exceptions to this eight-year rule.
For example, if the child suffers a severe disability due to the birth injury, the statute of limitations may extend to their 22nd birthday because some injuries may not be apparent until long after their birth.
Although this statute of limitations is longer than in other personal injury claims, you should speak with an attorney as soon as you can because proving medical negligence can be an extremely complex undertaking that requires a significant amount of evidence. Gathering that evidence and proving negligence can be a very time-consuming process.
The earlier you speak with a Chicago personal injury lawyer with Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, the sooner we can get to work on behalf of you and your child.
Damages and compensation you may be entitled to
The parents of a child who has suffered a birth injury may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against those responsible for their child’s suffering. In such instances, they may be able to obtain compensation to cover the following:
- All medical costs, including surgeries, time spent in the hospital, tests, x-rays, labwork, doctor’s visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, and other medical expenses, including those needed in the future.
- Children with severe birth injuries might need mobility aid, such as wheelchairs or walkers, or they might require that special accommodations be made to their home so that they can move within their home, such as adding ramps, chair lifts, or widening doorways to facilitate the mobility aids.
- Children may go through a great deal of emotional and mental anguish, as well as pain and suffering. They may not be able to make a living due to an inability to work. A medical malpractice lawsuit could provide compensation for these damages, too.
Cost of hiring an attorney
When you work with a Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates Chicago personal injury lawyer, you won’t pay us out of pocket. Instead, our firm works on a contingency basis which means that we won’t receive any money unless you win your case, and if you do, we receive only a predetermined percentage of your settlement or jury award.
You may be hesitant to take legal action because you don’t want to go to court, however, a lot of these cases are settled outside of court. If the defendant refuses to make a fair settlement offer, we’ll be more than ready to take your case to trial and win.
Our Chicago birth injury lawyers are here for you, every step of the way
The Chicago birth injury lawyers with Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates are ready to provide the expert legal representation you need to achieve the justice you seek. We’ve recovered more than $1 billion in settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients and have won many cases for clients whose cases were viewed as “lost causes” by attorneys who wouldn’t represent them.